'Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart' Review: Perfection With Portals
Featured Image Credit: Insomniac Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is magical. It's like stardust. As someone who grew up with the franchise, it has been nothing short of a delight to revisit my two old pals and some new friends in this intergalactic space adventure on the PlayStation 5.
The premise of the game is that after capturing the Dimensionator in 2013's Into The Nexus, the robotic Clank has configured it to allow Ratchet to find his people, the Lombaxes. However, the pair's longstanding foe Dr. Nefarious appears and steals it to catapult himself, along with Ratchet and Clank, into a dimension where the villain always wins. It's there we meet another one of our protagonists, Rivet - the female equivalent of Ratchet who never found her version of Clank.
Frankly, playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart feels like playing a Pixar film. The gorgeous environments, cheesy dialogue and buttery smooth transitions from gunplay to cutscenes is nothing but a marvel. It's incredible to see what developers Insomniac Games have got the PlayStation 5's SSD doing, from quick loading to literal jumps through the universe.
That being said, the game is pretty cutscene heavy. In its first few hours, it feels like every time you're just getting into the swing of the action, you have to stop and watch Rivet or Ratchet having a chat. These cutscenes are very pretty and really do solidify this awesome feeling of playing through an animated film - but sometimes I simply wanted the game to let me fight more and talk less.
Which brings us neatly onto guns! As long time fans know, guns are paramount to the Ratchet & Clank experience - I'd even argue the story is often just set dressing for these weapons and how you want to use them. Picking up a new weapon may be the most exciting part of these titles, and Rift Apart has a pleasant mix of friendly - by which I mean deadly - faces, and brand-new weapons that are sure to become favourites.
The DualSense controller guarantees that not only will you see the effects of these weapons on screen, but you'll also feel them in your hands. My favourite weapon was the sniper rifle, the Headhunter. The left trigger not only aims down the sight but pulling it back further slows time, while your right trigger fires an explosive round. I get giddy just thinking about performing a clean headshot with that rifle.
To go with the guns is the all-important manoeuvrability of Ratchet and Rivet. When talking to Rift Apart's game director Mike Daly, we asked if Insomniac learned any important lessons from Marvel's Spider-Man and Miles Morales. He mentioned the team tweaked Ratchet and Rivet's movement to flow better, and I think Insomniac have pulled it off perfectly.
The controls and jumps, and dodges available to you are so good, that it makes other traversal methods obsolete at times. The game offers cool solutions during fights, but attempting the clever thing often leads to death. When wall-running - which looks so cool - you're very open to getting shot and subsequently falling. The safer and better option is frequently, but awkwardly, hopping to your destination to not die.
The same goes for rifts. To avoid getting shot when surrounded, it would seem sensible to tether yourself to a rift and pull yourself to another part of the level, but the animation leaves you vulnerable for a second or two. The safer option is often just spamming Cross and Circle and hoping you survive that way.
Though there is a huge amount of new tech involved in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, long-time fans will feel right at home. I laughed hard as I recognised some familiar enemies falling through rifts towards me, I followed my hunches to where gold bolts were inevitably hiding, and I got stuck into the arena battles. I even delighted in the fact that although the game doesn't need to show your ship flying towards your planetary destination, it lingers on that cutscene just enough to remind you of the necessary loading screens of older games.
Those planets, by the way, are beautiful. Somehow Rift Apart manages to take you places you never would expect this game to go. At one point, I was stopped in my tracks when I realised I was in an Alien-like situation, in an underground facility that should be bustling with activity, and yet was abandoned and broken. You wonder if something really is creeping around these halls, stalking you. Another planet somehow feels like I landed in Borderlands, while a third is so wide and free that it's like an open-world adventure all on its own. The variety of environments and new areas to explore left me really wanting more.
Rift Apart comes with five difficulty levels - Rookie Explorer, Rookie Recruit, Rebel Agent, Resistance Leader, and Renegade Legend - so a wide scope of gamers get to play at their preferred level. I played the entire game on Resistance Leader, which is the game's way of saying hard, and I found it to be well balanced. After playing through on that setting once, heading back into the game on the highest difficulty, or the Challenge mode, should be no problem, and I recommend that difficulty to anyone who's serious about Ratchet and Clank games or shooters in general.
And speaking of appealing to a wide audience, one of Insomniac's main focuses was making sure that Rift Apart could be played by as many people as possible, which is why it has a huge range of accessibility options. Colour contrast settings, customisable HUDs, aim and fire assists, the ability to slow the game for those that need more time, and more options are all available. That makes this the most accessible the series has ever been.
I must note I experienced a few crashes in my review playthrough, including an entire game-breaking bug on one planet. A reload to a previous game save file fixed it with no problems though, so if you face a similar issue, that solved the problem for me.
As I finished the game for the first time I felt like I wanted to relive the whole thing again, but this time with more fighting - and turns out the developers at Insomniac are mind readers. For those like myself that wanted to play more of the awesome combat and environments, there is Challenge Mode.
Challenge Mode allows players to hop right back into the start of the game but this time with all of the weapons already available (minus a couple of gadgets) and fight even harder enemies to your heart's content. Immediately they offer two new weapons and the Omega versions of your arsenal. Get your guns to level five and then spend a bunch of bolts to make them stupidly powerful and somehow even more fun to use. This encourages using the weapons you neglected in your first run and focusing on bolt collection as you go. You now also pay far more attention to your health as avoiding damage gifts you bolt multipliers, so you can afford these ridiculous upgrades. It's here where many Ratchet & Clank lovers will feel most alive, and for the first time in any game I've covered, I feel compelled to say that two playthroughs will probably give you the best experience, here.
I can thoroughly recommend Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart to, well, anyone. This is the sort of game that everyone can play and enjoy, and although it's a shooter through and through, it's not violently graphic and the storyline is lighthearted and easy to get along with. The world, characters, and gameplay are all gorgeous. It's maybe the most impressive game I have ever played. I look forward to the future of Ratchet and Clank and Rivet, and Insomniac's plans for the trio.
Pros: Beautiful graphics, incredible gameplay, shows off the true potential of the PlayStation 5
Cons: A little cutscene heavy at times, some tools underutilised, minor bugs
For fans of: Any Ratchet & Clank game, Pixar films, a good time
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is released on June 11, 2021, exclusively for the PlayStation 5. Review code provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.