The first original full-length Ratchet & Clank adventure in nearly 12 years is about to launch on PlayStation 5. Just like you, I’ve been curious to see what would happen following the events of Into the Nexus. In the nearly 20 years the series has been around, I’ve been front and centre for each release, enjoying the adventures of a Lombax and his best friend. Throughout the years, Ratchet & Clank has been a crucial series for both PlayStation and me. They helped me when I moved to a new city and helped me meet new friends at school. The pair have been with me through girlfriends, ex-friends, and some of the worst times as a young adult.
Was the wait worth the decade-long sabbatical? I’d say yes simply because I can’t imagine any of what Insomniac Games does in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart to even work on older console tech.
To put it simply, playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is exactly playing a Pixar film. This bold claim has a lot to do with the wizards over at Insomniac Games really pulling their punches with the power of the PlayStation 5. For the first time, we’re seeing what Sony’s console can really do when we look past the obvious speed boosts the SSD powering the PS5 has.
Rift Apart Delivers a Satisfying Follow-up
A lot is riding on Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s success and I’m not talking sales but legacy – there’s more than a decade between the last game in the series (Into the Nexus) and Rift Apart. Fans have waited years for one of the longest-running PlayStation franchises to return and I’m happy to say the wait was completely worth it.
I firmly believe the time away from the series helped the studio evolve into the Insomniac Games we’ve seen in recent years. You see the DNA of Sunset Overdrive and Marvel’s Spider-Man in Rift Apart and it is better for it. You see the inspiration in the move sets of Ratchet and Rivet, in particular, the implementation of the Phantom Dash is both welcome and necessary to stay alive. With more enemies on screen and things often turning chaotic, being able to get out of a sticky situation is now more than ever crucial to the gameplay.
The first time you set eyes on Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is memorable. There’s so much detail packed into every aspect of the game and it most certainly commands your attention. It shouldn’t need to be said but what Insomniac Games delivers with its newest title, does not feel possible on last-generation technology. No, this is a headliner for PlayStation 5 and deservedly so, we’re almost seven months into a new generation of hardware and it is finally time to showcase the power new hardware offers.
Insomniac’s latest entry brings the series into a new generation of consoles with the PlayStation 5, they are trying to tell a more personal story. The idea is to focus on internal struggles and how characters relate to one another. Rift Apart incorporates modern storytelling techniques that Insomniac hopes will help players empathize and relatable. With an alternate dimension, we get to see how these disparate characters are different due to their circumstances but how they are true to each other.
Newcomer Rivet fits far better into the mythology than I expected her to. Jennifer Hale is a legendary voice actor and her performance as Rivet is one of the best things about Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Rivet is scrappy, independent, and a smart ass and relies as much on her wit and charm, she is never mean-spirited and is loyal to her friends and chosen family but she’s also vulnerable and she knows it. We see her personality throughout the game, from helping the Morts near the beginning of the game to attempting to fix The Fixer and well into the ending hours of Rift Apart.
Secret Agent Clank
Clank on occasion will be forced to deal with puzzles. Investigating each Dimensional Anomaly is a series of puzzles frequently taking place in the Metaverse. Solving these puzzles is easily some of the most fun I had because they are genuinely exciting to figure out and solve on your own merit. Nothing is ever excessively difficult and a lot of the puzzle encourages trial and error.
In Rift Apart, there will be a dimensional fissure to navigate through. In this case, Ratchet & Clank need to work together again, Clank enters the dimension’s support to figure out a way to channel the dimension’s energy. You can use orbs that incorporate physics which use Clank Possibilities, these are used to open new pathways for Clank to explore. One sphere might make you move faster to the end of the room while the Lift sphere moves you upwards and over any obstacles.
Furthermore, the new Glitch levels are a great break away from the main story. These short levels put you in control of Glitch, a robotic companion who hacks into consoles and systems for you. Each time you control Glitch, you need to wipe out a dozen or so Virus Nests. By taking out the Virus Nests, you can restore power to consoles in a level for example or in some cases new portals. Glitch has a mind of its own and speaks freely about what it’s doing and the enemies it faces, the colourful commentary is a great way to add to the already fun gameplay using Glitch offers.
Dubbed Sync Planets, there are two versions of the same planet in two dimensions and you’re jumping back and forth between them, each with full fidelity and taking advantage of the memory available to use with the console. There is no trace of the location when you aren’t physically there and when you switch between them, it happens in the swing of your hammer.
Blizar Prime’s map is one of the most interesting and showcases a great example of the PS5’s SSD capabilities. In one dimension Blizar Prime is a factory planet, with rivers of lava covering the surface. The other dimension is a supernova planet, you’re left navigating a place devoid of life and resources.
And you’ll switch back and forth between two dimensions where gravity is heavier due to the planet’s destruction. Normal actions like jumping and moving have a heft to them and making sure to time jumps between moving platforms offers some navigation challenge. Ultimately, seeing how Insomniac deftly uses Sync Planets to great success, I’ve never seen a planet load so quickly and then swapping to another so seamlessly.
And because of how the level uses Mag Boots to move vertically and horizontally, moving about on the planet is a highlight of how bombastic gameplay in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is. Swiftly shifting between dimensions and maneuvering to the next section makes the experience more cohesive and filmic, bridging the divide of filmic quality within gameplay.
Each world is a massive open area teeming with boxes to break, gold bolts to collects and lots of enemies to take on. A lot of the fun in Ratchet & Clank focuses on taking on enemies and using your arsenal in fun and creative ways. Rift Apart dials things up to an 11 and hits the throttle with combat by sticking to what works and fine-tuning mechanics. Blasting enemies with the Topiary Sprinkler and watching them turn to shrubbery is something you’ve never seen before and it is likely not something you’ll find capable on older hardware.
Also, every alien planet is considered its own thing with its own unique story, with players feeling like they are visiting alien-like planets, each with its action set pieces. Insomniac’s planet stories are meant to weave with the bigger story being told overall, and I generally found that these contained stories were a great way to showcase each world before circling back to the bigger narrative at hand.
Up Your Arsenal
I’m hard-pressed to imagine half of the available arsenal working so well on PlayStation 4. There’s so much often happening at any given moment that even combining this on any other system would send the PS4 console’s fans into overdrive. There’s an absurd number of weapons to unlock and purchase from throughout the game and each one is masterfully rendered on PlayStation 5. Some of the standout guns like The Tichochet offer this satisfying sound every time you tap R2 and the bullets bounce from one enemy to another, same goes for the Lightning Rod, the Scatterbomb, and the Void Repulsor, each gun offers satisfying results when taking on a wave of Goons-4-Less.
A fan-favourite feature returns in Rift Apart and is one of the best places to utilize the full arsenal of guns you’ll have command over. In Zarkie’s, an intergalactic bar you will periodically visit is an elevator that brings you to the arena. The arena offers several challenges you have to complete with specific weapons but it also offers up challenges with any gun of your choosing. Some offer thousands of bolts for completing a trial, or a piece of armour, or a golden bolt.
As I mentioned, the arena is the perfect place to see which weapons you prefer and to acclimate to the gameplay. Thankfully, the natural progression of the gameplay will grant you mastery over your enemies by simply playing through the campaign, the arena is just extra content where you can play with the dozens of guns available to really understand how they work in a controlled setting.
Insomniac Games has done a lot to make combat feel impactful and modern, including auto-strafe and chunks coming off the enemy to convey damage states and ammo bar to the reticle so you’re aware of how much ammo is left. Adjusting the position of the strafe and aim camera and is uniquely based on the weapon type and the team has made improvements to the core combat that make the gameplay better.
From the tessellation to the sparks shooting out of The Enforcer, the level of graphical details is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Each new weapon you unlock offers a surprising amount of depth. With every new unlock, I’d jump into the upgrade menu and see what was available to upgrade. Insomniac has done a great job at making each gun feel impactful, fun, and game-changing. In some battles, I often felt overwhelmed and by utilizing the full arsenal of weapons I had to be swift on deciding what worked and what didn’t for me. It’s clear after spending time with each weapon that the developers put a ton of effort into developing each weapon to make it worth using. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is one of the few video games I found myself experimenting with every weapon.
You’re encouraged to try out every weapon to figure out what you like, you can map weapons to the weapon wheel and select between them by holding Trianable and tapping R1. Every gun you unlock is readily available in battle and if you ever run out of ammo, it’s easy to stock up or switch to another weapon.
A great way for players to use all the gadgets Rift Apart offers is through Pocket Dimensions – stuff from all over the galaxy has been sucked into these portals, leading to the off-the-rails level design. A lot of the portals are found off the beaten path. In these portals, you’ll find armour pieces and the armour system lets you mix and match three types of armour, giving you a lot of control over how your character looks. In addition to mixing and matching, you can adjust the colour palette and feeds right into the expansive photo mode available.
Insomniac Games continues to elevate the video game experience by masterfully implementing the DualSense haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Running on a wall, for example, offers satisfying controller feedback every time. Shooting the Blast Pistol or Ricochet never ceases to amuse me, even the smallest feedback from your footsteps enhances the experience. Insomniac’s attention to detail extends to how the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback is implemented, big or small, all actions you perform have their own profile to them and it is a testament to how much the developers care for their craft.
From the way the Mag Boots rumble on magnetic surfaces to how the Hover Boots react by tapping L2 repeatedly while holding R1, the whirring of each new gadget will put a smile on your face. But what I adored most was hearing Clank’s Heli-pad rotors reverberate out of the controller. When you double jump and hold X, helicopter-like propellers pop out of Clank’s antenna and hands, these small details are some of my favourite things about Rift Apart.
Insomniac Games released a new patch before the release on June 11 that includes both Performance Mode, which offers dynamic 4K at 60 frames per second, and Performance RT Mode, which offers dynamic 4K at 60 frames per second with ray tracing enabled. I’ve spent the majority of my playthrough in the standard Fidelity Mode but once I switched to Performance RT Mode, I decided I couldn’t go back.
Everything about Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is astoundingly gorgeous and deserves to be examined thoroughly, no doubt about that. However, I’ve switched teams this generation and am wholly on team frame rate as playing at a higher FPS makes a huge difference especially in an over-the-shoulder game like Rift Apart. Taking a small hit on graphical fidelity to have a smoother experience will be my recommendation for this generation. I’m excited to see Digital Foundry’s breakdown on the technology powering Rift Apart.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the first game on PlayStation 5 I can believe is only capable with current-gen tech. From the Sync Planets to the dimensional rifts, Insomniac Games has delivered an experience that incorporates the power of the PlayStation 5 to great success. For what has been over a decade in the making, the return of Ratchet & Clank delivers everything I wanted and more. Adding a tertiary protagonist is a bold risk but one that pays off thanks to Rivet being a perfect addition to the team (and Jennifer Hale doing what she does best).
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a triumphant return that has been over a decade in the making and is the one game you shouldn’t pass up if you own a PlayStation 5.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]