It is quite rare for a franchise to last two decades in the gaming space and still maintain a high level of quality, much less a mascot platformer like Ratchet & Clank. But since its debut in 2002, both the Lombax Ratchet and reformed Warbot Clank have been tearing it up across the galaxy with epic adventures that have crossed time and space. Aside from the reimagining of their origins back in 2016, we last saw the duo in 2013’s Into the Nexus and Insomniac Games has once again outdone itself with the impressive Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Continuing where things left off, this latest entry not only manages to upgrade the tried-and-tested action-platforming gameplay of the series, but also tells a story that is fetching and charming in every single way.
With the inter-dimensional catastrophe brought upon by a malfunctioning Dimensionator, our heroes have to save the world once again from both Doctor Nefarious and his infinitely more competent counterpart, Emperor Nefarious.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart does not just let you loose with insane weaponry and galactic escapades to fulfil its gameplay promise, as it takes all of that and wraps it all up in an endearing package, finished off with the cherry on top that is new heroine Rivet.
It is impossible to talk about Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart without mentioning the female Lombax, who is introduced as an alternate dimensional version of Ratchet. Alongside our hero, this plucky resistance fighter more than holds her own in what could have easily become a contentious inclusion. Yet, her backstory and part to play in the wider conflict more than make her an important part of the adventure. In fact, Rivet is undeniably the breakout star of Insomniac’s latest game.
Heroes In Every Right
Written with nuance and care, and helmed by an imperious performance by Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect, Marvel’s Avengers), Rivet allows players to see what a shift in dimensions could have meant for Ratchet, and brings into focus the entire history of Ratchet & Clank.
She is instantly likeable, her motivations clear, and the more you begin to peel away the layers as you progress, it becomes even more obvious why Insomniac felt so strongly about introducing another main character into a series that has traditionally been about a dynamic duo.
That is not to say that Ratchet and Clank are mere bystanders in this tale. The simple fact that our usual heroes still bring their A-game in terms of being the heart and soul of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and still have Rivet be the highlight bodes well for the series as a whole. From the start all the way to the end of this monumental adventure, you are in for an emotional rollercoaster of the good kind.
And just as how Ratchet has Rivet, Clank also has KT-7461 aka Kit as his inter-dimensional counterpart. The adorable Kit may start out as just a dimension-hopping apprentice, but she quickly grows into one of the best characters in the history of the series. Her varying interactions and developments with Rivet in particular help open up a world of possibilities, as it also adds another layer for fans to reexamine how they have looked at the relationship between Ratchet and Clank, resulting in even more refinement of these characters.
Throughout the 12 to 15 hours romp, you will get to enjoy all four of our heroes immensely. The rifts have also given players a glimpse at even more alternate versions of staple characters that have graced the games. Longtime fans will spot plenty of references and nods to the lineage of the franchise, and the expanded cast does invigorate the proceedings, even if they appear so fleetingly.
Needless to say, this is an all-star cast when it comes to protagonists for a video game. Even as you find yourself splitting time between a pair at any given moment, Insomniac has managed to pace things out where everyone gets their time to shine, and develop as more well-rounded characters.
When it comes to running and gunning, few are going to do it better than Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. With an arsenal of 20 conventional and out-of-this-world weapons, combat is an integral and utterly enjoyable part of the entire experience. Controls are tight, and there is always a crazy amount happening on-screen to keep you on the edge.
Be it native wildlife or the robotic forces of Nefarious, our Lombaxes have at their disposal competent weaponry to even the odds. Why settle for a traditional firearm when you can trap enemies as artistic lawn art with the Topiary Sprinkler? You can then finish them off with the destructive power of the Warmonger rocket launcher or a pack of explosive, burrowing pups from the Drillhound.
Depending on the battlefield, you will always find the best tool for the job. Close-quarters call for the Executor shotgun, while nothing keeps you safer than the Void Repulser and its useful shield. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart brings together some of the old favourites and complements them with new additions, and fans would be happy to see the return of the likes of the Glove of Doom, now made even more chaotic in its latest form.
Of course, the weapon of mass destruction that is the R.Y.N.O is back, and it is well worth the effort to hunt it down. The way it takes advantage of one of the core mechanics in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is as impressive as it is destructive but just make sure you get enough bolts in your travels to afford the weapons and seek out Raritarium to unlock more upgrades.
While it is always nice to have variety, it will soon become clear that not all of the weapons in the game are made equal. Players will most likely gravitate towards the more effective firearms, and that is no surprise.
The series has always been noted for its imaginative yet still effective weapons, which may disappoint players in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart as turning foes into pixelated versions of themselves is good for a laugh, but it sure pales in comparison to turning them to dust with just one explosive shot.
At least, you will always have plenty of ammo lying around to refill your arms, otherwise, Ratchet’s wrench and Rivet’s hammer are also always good for a melee attack that brings the hurt.
In terms of enemies, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart does rely heavily on the crutch of Nefarious’ armies when it comes to battles. It makes sense in the narrative, but having more varied encounters would have made the experience more fun and exciting. At the very least, creatures outside of the robotic army do come in all shapes and sizes, which does help freshen things up.
As for the boss encounters, the set-piece moments are certainly worth the wait as you continue to make headway into stopping Nefarious. The scale and grandiose nature of these fights are great ways to show off everything awesome about the game. The weapons, the combat, the visuals, and the musical score by Mark Mothersbaugh do make for a potent blend of entertainment.
A Galaxy Of Surprises
Destroying things is always fun, but you will definitely get bored if you are always looking at the same things. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart remedies that with nine unique and interesting planets, each with its distinct style, environments, and even gameplay hooks.
One moment you could be fighting pirates on their stronghold on Ardolis, the next it could be a puzzle-heavy section that carries with it a horror game vibe on Cordelion. If you prefer large open areas with secrets to find, the monk homeworld of Savali should be your next port of call.
Just like the arsenal, Insomniac has created a healthy variety of worlds to draw players. Players have plenty of reasons to immerse themselves in each of the planets, taking in the sights, and uncovering more Gold Bolts, Spybots, and hidden Craiggerbears to feed that completionist itch. The game also introduces new optional armour sets to hunt down, offering you a way to customise how your hero looks while providing useful passive bonuses.
Other than the Lombaxes, Clank and Kit also get their time to shine in dimensional puzzles. Mastering how to manipulate copies of themselves while wrestling with the elements of speed, electricity, and more is a great break from the more kinetic nature of things. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart spices things up further with virus-busting sections starring Glitch, a construct that can help open up new avenues of exploration and is equally charming as most in this universe.
Even without the mayhem of combat, these are areas teeming with life with natives and creatures running about. Every new area is always worth a second look, not just for secrets, but also just to marvel at the work that went into bringing them to beautiful life. Whenever you need a fix of that excellent third-person shooting, there is always the arena challenges to put your skills to the test. Better yet, you can enjoy the entire game once more in Challenge Mode, Rift Apart‘s version of a new game plus.
There is little doubt that all of these were made possible with the technical innovations of the PlayStation 5 console. It has been made clear that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart required the added power and advancements of the PS5, and at first glance, it is quite obvious.
Aside from a short one to two seconds sequence of flying into any planet, there is no visible loading in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart whatsoever, as action folds into cutscenes, and before you know it, you are right back into the thick of the action. When it comes to the quality of the visuals on show, the game is simply mesmerising in motion.
In Fidelity mode, which prioritises resolution at 30FPS, it truly looks like a big-budget animated film that you can play. Ray tracing is phenomenal, with reflections hitting surfaces in a manner console games are just not used to offering. Insomniac has always stated that they want to produce quality on par with Pixar films, and judging from Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, they are certainly up there in the discussion.
Even in Performance RT/Performance mode, recently made possible with a new patch, the game still looks jaw-droppingly good, but at a buttery smooth 60FPS. This will certainly come in handy in the more chaotic moments, which is a dime a dozen on higher difficulties, and let players enjoy full control of the Lombaxes like never before.
The new Day One patch also fixes one of the more annoying problems that constantly reared its ugly head during the review process – the planet of Ardolis was prone to crashes at various junctures. While the first jaunt through the pirate planet went off without a hitch, subsequent visits caused hard crashes that require the game to be closed. Now, everything is all resolved and fixed, and players can even skip cinematics now!
The DualSense implementation in the game is not exactly a revelation for a first-party title. The resistance in the adaptive triggers does allow for secondary uses, such as firing one barrel instead of two for the Enforcer weapon, but overall, it feels unnecessary and can actually make combat less enjoyable. Certain weapons are prone to this, making it a chore to fire continuously.
The haptics does not fare that badly, however, increasing the immersion with every step taken felt via the rumble in the DualSense. It is not on the level of Astro’s Playroom, but it is not a deal-breaker either.
In the audio department, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is no slouch either. Every sequence in the game is punctuated by a score that reflects the mood perfectly, and pumps up when the action gets heavy. With a compatible headset, the 3D audio also works great in conveying where enemies are relative to the player, which can get you out of a tight bind. In the unfortunate circumstance that you perish, the SSD will have you back in the game in an instant.
A Rift In Expectations
As for the headlining feature that is the Rift Tether and the instantaneous travel between worlds in different dimensions, it comes largely as advertised. On the planets of Blizar Prime and Cordelion, you can hit Blizon crystals that transports you to an alternate version of the same world. That is essentially two entirely different worlds on one level, a spectacular realisation of that very vision of dimensional play.
The same applies to sections that throw together moments of dimensional travel in quick succession, showing off just how Insomniac is taking advantage of the tech to create something refreshing in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
However, these showcases are too sporadic and short-lived, and will leave players wanting more. Instead of just two planets where dimensional shifts can occur, what if you could do that for every single planet at any moment? It is without a doubt a tall expectation, but one which would have cemented Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart as a true harbinger of the PS5 era.
As the curtains fall on yet another successful outing for Ratchet and Clank, fans and newcomers alike should be buoyed by the star turn of Rivet and Kit, and the consistency of Insomniac Games at delivering hit after hit.
With its gorgeous visuals and infinitely replayable gameplay, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart gives you every reason to enjoy your adventures with the four heroes. More importantly, it heartily proves that narrative need not be sacrificed in the name of fun, but instead can be a core component that elevates a property to never before seen heights. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart easily cements its place as the best game in the series, even with some hiccups, and a great reason to get a PS5 this year.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart represents the zenith of a long-running series, and paves the way for a bright future full of possibilities.
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Story - 10/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 9/10