When a series has been around for nearly twenty years, it can start to feel tired, in need of a complete overhaul. While the Ratchet & Clank games have always been fun action platformers, the last few games felt like they had lost something. Even the 2016 remake of the original title, though pretty and fun, felt like it was going through the motions. At what point are you remaking an old game instead of creating a new one simply because you’re out of fresh ideas? That remake was notably the only Ratchet & Clank to appear on the PS4.
It turns out, though, Ratchet & Clank didn’t need a complete overhaul. The core of this series still works, even after all these years. The developers at Insomniac Games found something even better in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. The power of the PS5 to make something old feel brand new again.
Up Your Nostalgia
Rift Apart starts out feeling pretty familiar. Ratchet and Clank are being honored for their past heroism with a huge parade, even as they wonder whether they’re still worthy of it. Their concerns that they’re past their prime and just getting by on former glory are a wonderfully meta take on things. When old foe Dr. Nefarious interrupts the festivities, they’re thrown back into action. An accident with a dimension jumping device called, of course, the Dimensionator provides a twist, however.
The core gameplay of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will feel familiar to long-time fans. You’re still running around blasting foes with a wide variety of wonderfully creative armaments. You have a wrench for melee attacks. Now and then, things get broken up by a mini-game. This is the stuff this series is made of.
Tools Of The PS5
Where things differ, this time around, is in your new dimension-hopping abilities. These show up in a few different ways. Rifts around each level allow you to flash your way from one side of an area to another. These are used frequently in platforming sections to reach areas you otherwise couldn’t get to, but they’re also super useful in combat. Appearing right behind an unsuspecting enemy or slipping out of danger feels great and is incredibly smooth.
Rifts also appear out of nowhere at times, sending you spiraling into another dimension. These are all at set locations or times, so it isn’t quite like the system has to be ready to transition at any time, but seeing one hugely detailed area replaced by another with only a second of transition is mind-blowing, truly showing off what the PS5’s SSD is capable of doing not only from a convenience and comfort standpoint but for actual gameplay. A move like this in past generations would have required significant load times, to the point where it broke up the game. Here it feels completely natural and is tons of fun. This is one of those moments that ten years from now, new players won’t get because they’ll grow up with this just being how gaming is. For me, though, it shows why I own a PS5.
New twists on gameplay aren’t the only change this time around. Ratchet and Clank aren’t alone on their journey. They’re joined by a new set of characters, headlined by dual protagonist Rivet. A Lombax like Ratchet, she’s had a tough life and is ever missing an arm. She’ll join with Ratchet and Clank, however, to try and save not only the universe but universes.
Rivet plays the same as Ratchet. Everything you unlock and collect carries over between them. She provides a fresh perspective, though, and by mixing up the pairings, she allows for Ratchet and Clank to feel fresh as well. She’s a welcome addition to the series, and I hope we haven’t seen the last of her. These new characters, as well as our old friends, are wonderfully voiced with a ton of personality. They look great too. It’s easy to miss how beautiful everything here is considering the style but take a minute to absorb the sights. Looking at the fur on the Lombaxes, or the textures on the rocks or the outstanding reflections using raytracing really drives home that this is the next generation.
Into The Gameplay
While the core gameplay is still traditionally Ratchet & Clank, the PS5 helps Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart feels fresh. Jumping between planets is super fast, so you never feel like you’re taken out of the action. The Dualsense allows for multiple commands to be set to each trigger, one for pulling it partway and another for fully pressing it. This gives the huge variety of fun weapons even more utility. Sometimes it’s as simple as one mode firing a single shot and the other firing a burst. The game does a great job of letting you power up early weapons to keep them viable but also making new guns later in the game feel powerful and worthy of giving up your favorites to try. I found myself scouring each area to save up the resources needed to buy more because I couldn’t wait to try each new weapon.
There’s plenty of variety available via mini-games too. There are times you’ll have to ride a fast-moving snail around. Other sections put you in control of a hacking bot to cleanse infected machines. You’ll also handle Clank directly in a series of puzzle sequences where you have to guide copies of yourself through an obstacle course. None of these are incredibly deep, but they provide welcome variety, particularly the Clank sequences.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart doesn’t try to teach an old Lombax too many new tricks. The core of the series still works and is a ton of fun to play. The PS5 provides just enough to make it feel fresh while new friends provide new possibilities. I’m glad to say that the team at Insomniac has this iconic duo back on track. There’s no better game to show off the power of the PS5.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PS5 (reviewed); Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment; Developer: Insomniac Games; Players: 1; Released: June 11th, 2021; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $69.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.