REVIEW – Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is one of those rare action games that lets you relive that feeling of getting out of bed on a Sunday morning and watching your favourite cartoons on Cartoon Network while munching on some sweets.
It’s one thrill ride after another of incredible adrenaline-pumping action as you race down the rails at reckless speeds, take on vast hordes of evil alien creatures with ever more ridiculous weapons and fly through dimensional rifts in the Rift Tether. When you pause for a breath to buy a new gun or hunt down a collectable, you can take a moment to marvel at how damn beautiful this game is. Ratchet the “lombax” has never looked so shockingly realistically furry, but Clank the robot never looked so… robotically shiny that even C3PO would turn pale with envy.
The dynamic duo had a big problem this time. Thanks to a device called the Dimensionator and the intervention of Dr Nefarious, the world as they know it is on the brink of a dimensional catastrophe. Rifts have opened up into alternate dimensions, the brave duo is split apart, and the Dimensionator is destroyed. It’s the perfect preparation for a bit of inter-dimensional madness and a clever way to introduce Rivet, Ratchet’s counterpart, in a version of their world run by a much more successful Nefarious. And yes, this one will have big guns that do funny things.
Two is even better than one lombax!
The story is Ratchet and Rivet: alternate between the two lombax as you travel between different planets to find a way to build a new Dimensionator and stop the whole world from collapsing. There’s a primary series of missions to follow, optional side missions (which you’ll complete because somehow Insomniac Games has managed to make them all a bloody gaming experience), and the usual collection of rare stuff and ingredients to upgrade weapons and gold bolts to unlock extras like visual filters to brighten up the scenery. This time there are also pocket dimensions, tiny puzzle boxes with platforming where, if you get to the end, you’ll be rewarded with a new armour piece for Ratchet or Rivet.
A little robot buddy called Glitch lets you fix broken computers, and you’re transported to a miniature world where you can blow up viruses and bring down firewalls. In addition, Clank is often faced with Lemmings-style logic challenges, where he has to guide tiny versions of himself through a series of mindless obstacle courses. Honestly, there’s so much packed into this game that you’ll be left scratching your head.
The planet lombax on new planets
The variety also extends to the main game. Each planet has its own unique atmosphere and environment, and the game throws up something new to explore every turn. You could be flying on dinosaur-like horseback or using rocket boots and your rope to speed through ancient mountain trails before they collapse. My personal favourite moment was crawling through a dark space station where something angry and nasty was chasing me, but thanks to dimension-hopping, I made it through safely.
The only problem with the game is that enemy creatures sometimes get stuck in landmarks or doors. Some enemies that needed to be cleared got stuck on the edge of a lava puddle in one side-mission. In another, a nightmarish beast that needed to be found and destroyed got stuck somewhere, and in yet another, another enemy. I heard them, but I couldn’t get to them to eliminate them and move on in the story. I would swear loudly (much to my girlfriend’s delight…) and then restart our checkpoints, by which time I had managed to shoot the foolish enemy before the door closed.
“Guns… more guns!” (Matrix)
Of course, the series has always been famous for its weapons. While I’ll always miss the Groovitron disco gun from Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, the new Topiary Sprinkler glove sticks with me. This quirky weapon fires a sprinkler that will turn any enemy into a beautiful garden hedge, complete with flowers and falling leaves until you hit them with your wrench. There’s something especially perverse and satisfying about turning a giant, evil spaceship into garden stuff that would look great on Grandma’s lawn.
On the other hand, the more you play, the more you realise a strategy for adequately upgrading and replacing weapons. After all, it doesn’t matter which killing tool you use to take out a particular evil alien. We’re not talking about Counter-Strike-level tactical awareness, but it doesn’t hurt to have an excellent tactical sense when it comes to changing your weaponry because it’s not enough to blast and blast and blast. You have to experience the weapons. Otherwise, you can get bit by the dust very quickly. The ability to use dimensional rifts and dimensional ropes on the battlefield adds a little something extra, so you can quickly get behind enemies, dodge mega-attacks and reach platforms with the speed of a button press.
Like a Pixar film
The series has always been the benchmark for what PlayStation exclusives can do with the power of a new console, and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart upholds that tradition. Even at the fast pace, the game looks outstanding all the time. Cliché or not – it’s “like a Pixar movie” – it’s pretty stunning to look at. The characters are colourful and expressive, the world unfolds in staggering detail no matter what planet you’re on, and I often found myself stumbling across a collectable just because I was wandering around to see as much of the landscape as possible.
On the other hand, the game is also the perfect tech demo for DualSense’s adaptive triggers, which give you more realistic feedback on weapons and actions, sending signals to your brain that you don’t even realise you’re receiving. You fire a shot, you feel resistance under your trigger finger, and you know that if you keep squeezing, you’ll get a bigger shot. I’m still a massive fan of the potential of haptic feedback on the PS5, and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is an excellent testament to how when a game really does support DualSense capabilities, what an incredibly immersive experience it can be and how much more immersive it can make you feel in the action and adventure.
Aside from the looks and the fancy technology, I feel that the storytelling of the series has really improved with Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved lombax and his robotic sidekick, but this was never a series that I was emotionally invested in beyond longing for the next unlockable weapon. However, this time, I was totally into it, especially when it came to the story of the depressed robot sidekick, Kit. With his sun-kissed yellow body and sombre mood, he is an icon of our times, and I was really excited for him to have a happy ending to his story.
I feel like Insomniac’s writers were inspired by the latest Marvel movies because the fast-paced action and great story go hand-in-hand in this game. I, who am not a fan of the series, to say the least, am more hooked than ever, and I hope to see much more of the next instalment soon.
+ Stunning, Pixar-like visuals
+ Revolutionary teleportation technology
+ Two separate lombax
– A bit repetitive at times
– The logic parts are a bit tedious
– Some boring bosses
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Genre: TPS action-adventure
Release date: June 11, 2021