Ratchet & Clank are back after a 5 year hiatus and they've met new friends so get ready to blast your way through a new adventure.
Wrench meets hammer
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is quite a departure for the iconic platforming duo as not only are they jumping between dimensions; they also made a bunch of new friends. The most notable of which is the hammer-wielding Rivet who's a Lombax just like Ratchet although she's from another dimension. The pair goes on an epic journey to save the universe (or, is it multiverse in this case?) from the aptly-named nogoodnik Doctor Nefarious who's at it again after his antics in Up Your Arsenal and A Crack in Time. Along the way, they'll meet many new and familiar faces; some of which will surprise and delight and I definitely don't want to spoil anything in this review.
Anyway, the new characters blend seamlessly into the world of Ratchet & Clank and you'll alternate between playing as Rivet and Ratchet. Heck, they even share progress when it comes to level, weapons, upgrades, and such which doesn't really make much sense but I'm grateful that they do nonetheless. Sometimes, I'd even forget who I was playing as and was reminded via the in-game dialogue. Some may be disappointed that the 2 characters don't really have any distinguishable gameplay differences but quite honestly, I didn't mind as it made the campaign much more cohesive. Plus, it shows how similar they are although they come from very different places.
Not like the good old days
As I was playing through Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, I caught myself almost constantly thinking of the old-school games in the series. I got into Ratchet & Clank right after the first PS2 game debuted as I received it as a Christmas gift back in 2002. This was after I rented the dreadful Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly while thinking that would be the next awesome 3D platformer. Needless to say, I was hooked and absolutely loved every single Ratchet & Clank game since, even the PSP ones. So, let me describe how Rift Apart is different.
One thing I loved about the original games was their irreverent sense of humour with titles like Going Commando and Size Matters as well as each of the 4 original games being rated Teen by the ESRB. There was even an issue of the Ratchet & Clank comic called Multiple Organisms! The franchise also posed some truly impressive challenges that made solving supremely tricky puzzles and working through frantic enemy-filled fortresses an absolute thrill. Figuring out the right strategy and powering through these segments was satisfying stuff. As the years went on, Ratchet & Clank started catering more and more to children and began to look more like a Pixar film.
Do I have a problem with the direction that the series has taken? Absolutely not. Appealing to the masses and making video games accessible is where the industry is headed full-steam so who am I to say that it shouldn't? Rift Apart is an awe-inspiring game that anyone can enjoy with its lighthearted inoffensive humour, hand-holding gameplay mechanics, straightforward campaign, and there's even a difficulty setting that makes you invincible. These aspects make me miss the visceral challenge and irreverence of the older games and I'm sure some long-time fans will agree but that certainly doesn't take much away from the incredible journey that Rift Apart offers.
Up your arsenal
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart looks absolutely stunning. It's the sort of game that you can play with your family in the room as they munch on popcorn and watch you tear through robotic enemy forces while occasionally taking in the impressive cinematic story. Speaking of which, the plot goes to many different planets and each one has a story to tell with its own cast of characters from adorable fuzzballs with Minnesotan accents to yoga-posing monks. The voice cast in incredible, the orchestral score is spot-on (although I kind of miss the quirky electronic vibes from past games), the environments are breathtaking, and the animation rivals big-budget animated films. To think that it's all seamlessly presented with no load times or noticeable issues is mind-boggling. What a time to be a gamer. 🎮😄
Now that I mention cinematic qualities, there are some segments that really stand out such as a part where you have to run from an invincible beast who relentlessly chases you around an abandoned laboratory. I imagine that part could be frightening for kids. Also, when you get the hover boots and soar through the environment, the sense of speed is outstanding as you watch the scenery whip by while leaping over chasms and maybe even performing a trick here and there for show. It looks awesome and plays incredibly, too.
Of course, along with the graphical upgrades, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart features a wealth of newfangled weapons and gadgets including a Rift Tether that allows you to warp through rifts after targeting them. All of the gadgets are handled intuitively in that you don't have to swap them and can just deploy them whenever needed. Meanwhile, the array of selectable weapons includes things like mushroom helpers that float around and shoot enemies, a topiary sprinkler that transforms enemies into trees, a drone that drops bombs, and many fan favourites. I personally love the Doom Blades although they're not as powerful in Rift Apart as they were in previous games.
Attention to detail
Clearly, a lot of work was poured into Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart's world and there are many fun subtle things I noticed as I played. For example, enemies will sometimes react to your current weapon with appropriate animations while you attack them as well as voiced lines about the specific weapon. Although it's a very different game, it kind of reminded me of how the enemies react in The Last of Us Part II albeit much more comically. Also, if the characters are in mid-conversation when you enter certain menus, the one you're controlling will say something like "Just 1 sec" then "Sorry, what were you saying?" when you resume playing. Now, that's pretty cool.
With all of that being said, I wish a bit more attention to detail was applied to the lighting and camera. First of all, whenever you enter a dark alleyway or corner, it can be very difficult to work out the walls. Seeing as Dark Souls got this right about a decade ago by lighting up dim areas as you approach them, I don't understand how a AAA game doesn't handle it well nowadays. The camera can be annoying, too, such as parts where you have to aim up yet you're on a small platform that you can easily fall off. There are also invisible walls which I noticed when I tried to climb the scenery and during a part where some folks are captured, I quickly dashed over only to stop in my tracks because I guess the game didn't want me to dash at that moment although I could have saved them if it wasn't scripted.
Bells & whistles
Before wrapping up this review, allow me to discuss some odds and ends. First, the cool things. There's a good amount of extra content packed into Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart so even if you blaze through the campaign, you'll still discover much more to do afterwards. Whether you're maxing out your weapons, mastering the Battleplex arena challenges, completing the rewarding optional missions, or collecting armour pieces, gold bolts, spybots, trophies, and adorable CraiggerBears; you're bound to have a great time. Plus, I enjoyed the glitch hacking mini-game a lot which acts as a gravity-defying third-person arcade shooter and the Clank puzzles are pretty nifty, too.
One aspect that makes collecting goodies much more intuitive is the map which highlights all of the items that you may have missed so covering as much ground as possible in order to fill out the maps is the key to collecting everything as efficiently as possible.
When it comes to less desirable aspects, I'll start by saying that you'll end up fighting the same kind of boss so many times throughout the campaign that it starts to get incredibly tedious. This boss comes in a handful of varieties but it's essentially the same; just a hulking robot that jumps around while firing missiles and creating shockwaves. If they made this kind of boss look different, why didn't they have it behave differently, too? Another annoyance is that a character transforms into a giant version of themselves which reminded me of the super-fun Giant Clank segments in the original games but you can't actually play as them here which is a letdown.
Once Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart's credits rolled, I was impressed by the adventure that I just went on. With that being said, I couldn't help but want to dive into the original games again to have a more visceral and challenging experience.
- + Excellent action-packed gameplay with tons of kooky weapons to utilize
- + Gorgeous visuals and cinematic qualities
- + Decent amount of upgrades and collectibles
- - Straightforward campaign with challenge that plays it a little too safe
- - Repeated bosses can be tedious
- - Some lighting and camera issues