Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – A Ripping Adventure
Being the poster child for the birth of a console generation is no meagre thing, and being the shining gem amongst the crowd of new-gen titles has often been a title too great for many over the years (think The Order 1886 for example). Insomniac Games though are a team clearly unphased by the prospect of being the tentpole launch window title, they’ve done it time and time again with Resistance: Fall of Man for the PS3, and Sunset Overdrive for the Xbox One. They’ve become accustomed to putting themselves out there early-gen, but with the launch of the PS5 in late 2020, Insomniac went even bigger launching the generation-spanning Spider-Man: Miles Morales, while following up mere months later with the biggest PS5 exclusive title so far – Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Insomniac has been on a tear these last few years, so can Ratchet’s grand return, his first new adventure since the PS3, excel in ways worthy of the external buzz in its lead-up?
Expectations can always get a bit carried away, and that’s certainly what happens to kick off Ratchet and Clank’s latest adventure. The city of Metropolis is hosting a larger-than-life celebration for Ratchet, Clank and all they’ve accomplished over the years. With the city, as well as its two greatest heroes distracted, of course, the bumbling, and frequently failing Dr Nefarious decides the time is now to launch his latest attack, thieving the Dimensionator, a device Clank had poured his heart and soul into, to repair for Ratchet so that he might finally get the chance to meet other Lombaxs. Nefarious’ intentions mirror his name, with the evil doctor using the Dimensionator to blast a hole in space and time, ripping himself, as well as both Ratchet and Clank into a new dimension, one where Nefarious “always” wins. Dragged into a new dimension and separated from his best friend, Clank is found by Rivet, Ratchet’s dimensional counterpart, a female Lombax who has been living under the rule of another Nefarious, Emperor Nefarious who has been far more accomplished than this cross-dimensional dimwit. Clank, lost and feeling guilty for the damage his Dimensionator has caused, sets out with Rivet to find Ratchet, reclaim the Dimensionator and bring peace to two broken dimensions.
The narrative certainly has a grittier edge in Rift Apart, and while the trademark banter is still present, it’s undoubtedly diminished somewhat. When humour is injected, it’s guaranteed to elicit a smile, but while the quality is high, the quantity is much less than prior entries, with the humour suffering due to Ratchet and Clank’s separation, as well as many of the dimensional counterparts being more serious due to their oppressive surrounds. That aside, the plot is strong, and despite being a fairly straightforward, linear romp, the narrative’s momentum remains steady throughout, supported by incredibly moving dialogue. Rivet’s backstory takes centre stage multiple times highlighting character flaws and giving her ample opportunity to grow as the story plays out, Ratchet and Clank’s prior experiences providing sturdy support for the long-oppressed Lombax. Whether or not Rivet and her other alt-dimensional companion Kit (who has a wonderfully engaging background itself) will ever feature in the future of the franchise remains to be seen, but the foundations that have been laid for the duo are incredibly strong, ensuring that the pair are deserving of more screen time in the future.
Of course, before the stories of Ratchet & Clank were as broad and powerful as they are in 2021, people first fell in love with the franchise’s moment-to-moment gameplay, and that moment-to-moment has never felt better than it has in Rift Apart. Ratchet/Rivet glide across the terrain, while the level design itself is superb, guaranteeing that players will need to be constantly accounting for environmental hazards, incoming enemies, or platforming opportunities. The way the designers have masterfully paced the way enemies emerge, obstacles are presented, and weapons are dispensed is astounding. The arsenal itself boasts an alt-universe twist, with some familiar faces making seamless transitions and others getting cosmetic and mechanical overhauls courtesy of the new setting. Other new weapons such as the Topiary Sprinkler and the Ricochet present new strategic possibilities, with every new addition complementing the others in your weapon wheels. The parallel dimension has also given Insomniac the license to make some little surface-level tweaks, but the core of the franchise has remained well and truly intact, with the gunplay, rail grinding, and other platforming elements all feel instantly comfortable to franchise veterans.
As well as refining the old systems, there are a number of neat additions as well. Some levels, as well as a few scripted narrative moments, feature mounts, both of the ground and aerial varieties to complete certain objectives and reach otherwise unreachable portions of the map. Occasionally you’ll come across corrupted computer terminals that need restoring; this is where the new companion Glitch comes into the picture. Glitch, a tiny spider-bot handles like a dream given his tank-control origins. More nimble than what you’d expect from old-school tank controls, Glitch’s goal is to destroy viruses that are corrupting the system you’re looking to bypass in tankish combat. You’ll contend with some massive waves of ground-based enemies that, if you’re not careful, or a bit too complacent, can quickly overwhelm you, but it doesn’t take too long to get comfortable in this setting and understand the necessary strategies required to succeed. Armour sets are being introduced for the first time in the franchise, and while each different piece, or set, adds handy statistical perks, none of them feel essential in any way. The pocket dimensions you pass through in order to unlock them, however, offer a quick platforming challenge that does a great job of changing the pace and rewarding the inquisitive player.
There are also a number of collectibles to find, the universal gold bots, and the mysterious Craiggerbears, while a number of planets boast their own exclusive collectibles such as Zurpstones and Lorbs to find. There are just enough additional items to find without any being thrust upon you too excessively. Players can also jump into the arena to extend their combative abilities in a range of challenges that will stretch players if they’re not proficient with their entire arsenal.
As well as being a treat to play, Rift Apart is an assault on the senses. Visually the game is stunning, the franchise getting closer again to that Pixar benchmark that so many have claimed the IP has been tracking towards. Watching the way light interacts with Clank’s stainless steel exterior or every strand of fur on Ratchet rippling in the breeze is something to behold, but this attention to detail in the visual space is matched in the realms of audio too. The SFX team at Insomniac have delivered their best work to date, with the explosions of guns sounding and feeling better than ever, meanwhile, the soundtrack soars, and the voice-acting, from old faces and new, is of the highest standard. The PS5’s Dualsense does its bit to add to the immersion as well with the incredible haptic technology of the controller making its presence felt when collecting bolts or navigating the varying environments, meanwhile, the resistance in the triggers plays a part in gameplay as your shots differ depending on whether you push through the trigger’s resistance or not.
Though the attention to detail needs to be marvelled at, in the visual space, in some of the most heated moments of combat, the screen can get a bit cluttered. Whether you’re playing in performance of fidelity mode, during the most heated combat sequences, especially in the game’s opening as Metropolis is under siege, the amount of activity going on can overwhelm your eyes as you try and focus on a single opponent while other enemies charge at you, other NPCs flee, the environment shakes and changes, with bolts come flying around you too. There are only a few small scenarios where this occurs but the collision of colour and massive amounts of activity may make it hard to track your current target in the chaos. That said, Insomniac has done a fantastic job at implementing a host of accessibility features to give players every chance at success no matter the situation they find themselves in. Struggling to execute in heated combat or fast-paced platforming sections? Global Timeslow is for you. Having issues identifying certain targets in the environment? A range of visual filters have been introduced, on top of the suite of accessibility features present in Miles Morales, to give players, no matter the difficulties they may be having, the opportunity to succeed and progress further, without any form of consequence.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is every bit the shining gem in the PS5 launch crown. There are a couple of extremely minor drawbacks in the form of a sometimes cluttered screen, the sense of humour taking more of a backseat, and some very rare crashes, but Rift Apart delivers one of the strongest entries in the franchise to date. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a must-play title, one for players of all levels of experience, and ability. It looks sensational, it plays like a dream, and has an understated, yet constantly engaging narrative. The PS5 has had a strong start to this point, but Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the next-gen diamond standard.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was reviewed on the PlayStation 5 with code kindly supplied by PlayStation Australia. For the purpose of this review, the game was played in both Performance and Fidelity modes. Screenshots come from Fidelity mode gameplay.