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Somewhere within the walls of Insomniac is a dossier all about the crates in Ratchet & Clank.
The crates are found in almost every area of the game and filled with collectible bolts. Sometimes the stacks are huge, sometimes small, sometimes explosive crates are involved, and each one follows strict guidelines around position, shape, size and make-up. It’s this dossier that ensures that smashing these boxes remains one of the most satisfying things you can do in video games.
Ratchet & Clank is a series that has always focused on how it feels to play, which is what makes the PS5 and its DualSense controller an ideal match. The controller, with its adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, is put through its paces in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
The sensation of firing the game’s various, ludicrous weapons differs significantly from one to the other, whether it’s the crack of electricity, the force of explosive or the gentle sprinkling of weaponised moss. The surfaces, too, have an impact on the game’s rumble, from pacing over soft snow, running down hard surfaces, or scampering through grass. The game just feels wonderful.
The feedback really complements the audio, too. We played primarily with the 3D Audio headset, but even with the basic TV set-up and DualSense Speaker, the combination of rumble and audio is truly convincing.
As for the adaptive triggers, they’re used for firing weapons, with a slight squeeze resulting in one attack and a full press delivering something a bit more significant. The game’s battles are so hectic and fast-paced that it’s easy to default to hard presses, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting the functionality exists.
Of course, the game makes use of more than just the DualSense, but let’s start at the beginning. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the first fully original game in the series in almost eight years. There was a (genuinely excellent) PS4 remake of the original in 2016, but this game follows on directly from the series last seen on PlayStation 3.
The story centres around the Dimensionator, a device that was previously destroyed in the 2007 masterpiece Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, and allows people to jump through dimensions. Clank has fixed the weapon as a gift for Ratchet, who hopes to use it to find his lost people; the Lombaxes.
Of course, things immediately go awry when the comically rubbish villain Dr Nefarious shows up and the Dimensionator explodes, causing the walls between dimensions to break down and sending our heroes into a new universe. It’s here where we meet Rivet, a female Lombax, who is doing battle with a Nefarious all of her own.
“The sensation of firing the game’s various, ludicrous weapons differs significantly from one to the other, whether it’s the crack of electricity, the force of explosive or the gentle sprinkling of weaponised moss.”
What follows is a game that alternates between characters as they fend off dinosaurs, funny robots, greedy space pirates and little annoying green things. So far, so very Ratchet & Clank.
The big new gameplay mechanic is the rifts that have opened up in the game, which allow Ratchet and Rivet to jump across areas instantly, and walk seamlessly into entirely new areas. It’s something that clearly makes huge use of the PS5 SSD drive, and although it’s not quite as significant as the early trailers suggested, it’s nevertheless an impressive demonstration of what the console can do.
Then there’s the sumptuous graphics. Ratchet & Clank has often been compared to Pixar for its impressive cinematic visuals, and it continues to go toe-to-toe with the big Hollywood animations. It’s a colourful and busy game, with gun fights happening in the distance, ships dropping enemies in front of you, dog fights going off overhead and civilians cowering in corners.
In fact, the visuals, audio, rumble and movement can feel a little disorientating to begin with, a bit like playing in VR for the first time.
We mentioned the way the game moves there, because traversal is one of the best things about Rift Apart, with a few tricks borrowed from Insomniac’s other hit series: Spider-Man. There is wall running, zipping to dimensional rifts, hover boots that allow you to race through areas at speed, rail grinding and mid-air dashes. Some of those were in previous games, but they’re so much faster here and — like with everything in this game — they feel fantastic.
Much like previous Ratchet & Clank games, the game switches gears repeatedly. One minute you’re racing through the swamp on the back of a snail, then shooting down enemy ships, then jumping through a portal to complete a platforming challenge, then leaping into another to partake in a game of 3D Lemmings, then taking control of a digital spider to kill a computer virus, then leaping across rails to avoid an angry giant robot. It’s relentless, and this variety extends to tone and setting.
In a number of levels, Ratchet and Rivet can switch dimensions at certain points to discover an alternate version of that world. In one memorable level, a busy, combat-heavy station has a broken and abandoned counterpart, complete with an unkillable monster that stalks the halls. One second you’re in Die Hard, and the next you’re in Alien.
“This is very much a Ratchet & Clank game. Look back at reviews for any previous entry and you’ll see similar sentences to the ones we’ve typed here.”
It’s a joyful, varied game, and there are a plethora of little gems to discover, too. Perhaps taking further notes from the Spider-Man team, the game is filled with references to past games, and one memorable side quest features numerous nods to other famous PlayStation titles. It’s these little details that will delight the game’s more ardent fanbase.
We sound effusive in our praise for Rift Apart, and it is an exhilarating ride, but it’s not perfect. Although much of the game is polished to perfection, there are a few moments that could do with a bit of extra TLC, including one prolonged battle against lava creatures and a somewhat confusing flying segment. The platform challenges are a little too easy, some levels stretch on too long, and outside of aesthetic differences, Ratchet and Rivet are effectively identical, with the same moves and weapons.
And this is very much a Ratchet & Clank game. Look back at reviews for any previous entry and you’ll see similar sentences to the ones we’ve typed here. The capabilities of the PlayStation 5 enhance and improve a pre-existing game series, rather than give us something altogether new. This isn’t a bold reinvention for Ratchet & Clank, but the same relentless, varied, sometimes funny, always charming, fun action game, only with some fancy new tricks and a higher price tag.
As long as you go in with that expectation, you’ll have a blast.
A true showcase of the PS5 and its DualSense controller. Ratchet & Clank has never felt so good.
- A true showcase of the PS5 and its controller
- Charming characters and comical enemies
- Immensely satisfying to shoot, jump, dash and smash crates
- At its core, it’s the same Ratchet & Clank you’ve been playing for nearly 20 years