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access_time July 2, 2021 at 11:17 AM in Reviews by David Poole

Review | Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

It’s amazing to see that the Ratchet & Clank series continues to go strong nearly 20 years after its debut. Between your Spider-Man and Resistance games, Insomniac Games always finds the time to release a new adventure starring our favorite Lombax and robot duo. After the success of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, there was no time to slow down for the PlayStation studio. With the PlayStation 5 bringing new hardware to the table, Insomniac took this as an opportunity to flex their talents. The result was Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, the 16th installment in the long-running series, and it truly showcases what the PS5 is capable of.

Rift Apart’s story starts out in an unfamiliar setting; so unfamiliar that it’s not even our usual dimension. We see an oppressed city full of robots, where organic life is forced to disguise themselves and fight back as part of a resistance. It doesn’t take too long till we meet Rivet, a new Lombax protagonist that acts as Ratchet’s dimensional counterpart. After our brief introduction, we soon return to our regularly scheduled dimension where Ratchet and Clank’s heroism is being celebrated. As the celebration plays out, the villainous Dr. Nefarious crashes the party to steal Clank’s gift to Ratchet: a Dimensionator. Using this, Ratchet would be able to find his fellow Lombaxes in another dimension. Of course, Nefarious has other plans, wanting to move to a dimension where he always wins. After obtaining the device, Nefarious begins to open up dimensional rifts, causing chaos in the city.

After landing in a new dimension, the Dimensionator ends up destroyed, stranding the group and separating them. Of course, Dr. Nefarious isn’t complaining, as this dimension happens to be one where he, or at least his dimensional counterpart, is the ruler. Clank gets picked up by our new Lombax, Rivet, while Ratchet ends up on a search for his best friend. This starts a new adventure for both Ratchet and Rivet, working toward their own goals until they align. The story is full of charm and really gives off an interplanetary adventure with a dimensional twist. There’s some legitimately funny moments, and while the story is generally uplifting, there are a few strong dramatic moments as well. If you’ve been a fan of the stories in the past, you’ll likely get enjoyment here too.

Fans of the series gameplay will be happy to know that the game uses the previous installments as a foundation to build upon. You’ll have your traditional platforming gameplay, including double jumps, gliding, and grind rails. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart moves a bit further by offering more traversal options. The Phantom Dash is a new ability that allows you to dodge on the fly, and even grants a nifty wall running mechanic. Things get even better when you unlock the Hover Boots, making you much faster on your feet. This really helps out when you’re in the large and wide open area of Savali, but it even helps in other situations like combat. Honestly, there’s a bit too much freedom with the platforming, and it can actually lead to some issues down the road.

One of the other new traversal elements of Rift Apart comes with the Rift Tether. During several moments of the game, you’ll find yellow rift portals. Using the Rift Tether, you can latch onto this portal, moving yourself through it in an instant. It’s like a teleporter, but it looks much cooler. These portals are all throughout the game, in combat sequences, and even on optional paths. While you can’t actually manually travel to alternate dimensions with them, it adds a unique element to the gameplay. I personally wish that Insomniac played with this idea a bit more. While you can definitely surprise the enemy with this maneuver, I wish you could somehow get enemies involved with it too. Using it made me want to somehow launch enemies into the rift or do other interesting things. Either way, it’s still a fun traversal feature in the thick of battle.

For the combat, you’ll have Ratchet’s trusty omniwrench or Rivet’s powerful hammer for melee attacks. Of course, the main star is the guns and various other weapon types. Ratchet & Clank is pretty notorious for having some of the most creative weapons in the industry, and Rift Apart is no different. Fans will get some returning favorites like the Warmonger rocket launcher or the Buzz Blades to destroy their foes. Other than that, the majority of weapons will be entirely new though, offering new ideas and remixes of old ones. Shoutout to the RYNO 8 for being awesome. These weapons will level up through use and get more powerful as time goes on. You’ll also be able to add upgrades manually by using Raritarium resources found throughout the game. Thankfully, the arsenal is shared between Ratchet and Rivet, so you don’t have to worry about doing upgrades twice.

Utilizing a series of 20 weapons that you collect over time, it pays to be thorough. Destroying crates and collecting bolts will give you the means to acquire most weapons in the game. You’ll also get additional bolts from defeating enemies and even beating various challenges at Zurkie’s bar. Raritarium will be a bit more elusive to collect, as it’s often off the beaten path and hidden in nooks and crannies. On top of that, you’ll have the iconic golden bolts to find, which will unlock special features in the game. My personal favorite is turning bolts into the Overdrive soda can from Sunset Overdrive. Of course, you’ll also have alternate weapon looks, infinite health and ammo, and even additional features for Ratchet & Clank’s first photo mode (which is easily one of the best in the industry).

Rift Apart also offers a series of more puzzling segments starring Clank, his new counterpart Kit, and even a little spider robot named Glitch. Clank and Kit share the same style of segments, entering a dimensional anomaly to repair it. This will involve gathering a series of orbs with special properties like speed or electricity, using them to activate various nodes. The goal is to use these orbs in a sequence to make possible versions of the robots move on a Lemmings style path to the end of each stage. As for Glitch, her segments are a bit more straightforward. Players will guide her through an obstacle course inside a computer to destroy viruses. Using her guns and rockets, you’ll have to defeat several virus spores to eradicate the virus completely. These are fun little challenges that change up the gameplay and add a bit more thought to the process.

Of course, there will be other challenges along the way, including discovering Spybots, collecting food for a dragon-like creature, and even defending a machine as it gathers honey. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is never short on interesting activities, and while some are optional, many are part of the main story. A lot of these activities can even bring a pure sense of joy for how creative they are. I personally loved the pirate challenge on Skull Mountain for its humor and overall concept. Even Zurkie’s bar challenges spice things up like randomizing your weapons, or even limiting you to a single weapon. All of this gives the game plenty of variety, making it a fun romp over the course of roughly 15 hours.

It definitely helps that Rift Apart has such a stellar presentation. Everything from the beautiful animation, the colorful details, and even the cool little Easter eggs elevates the game even higher. The menus and maps are easy to navigate, and there’s plenty of details in the collectible and character gallery to explore. Load times are basically nonexistent, making it even faster to jump right into the action. The life the game has in every step of the way is simply astounding too. Whether it’s the many citizens of each planet, the indigenous creatures, or even just the many unstable rifts around each setting, the work that went into each world shows a lot of love and care. Of course, The Ratchet & Clank series has always been very good about this, but thanks to the PlayStation 5, Insomniac can really cut loose.

The additional power of the PlayStation 5 also allows for some fantastic looking visuals. The fur effects on Ratchet and Rivet alone are gorgeous, looking great even during rainy weather. Draw distances are vast and areas are large in scale for all the action to take place in. The lighting is phenomenal, with environments like Nefarious City full of lights to a stunning effect. We also get some amazing lighting from the weapons as well. Perhaps the best feature of all is the beautiful ray tracing, which can be used in 60fps with the newer performance mode. The sheer amount of reflective surfaces during the game are truly stunning. Those that want a true native 4K can still opt for 30fps, or even lower the resolution for optimum performance. Honestly, the performance RT mode was so good looking, I had to play the entire game with it on.

While the game definitely takes advantage of the new hardware, the developers also get more creative with the controller. Using the DualSense controller, Insomniac utilizes the haptic feedback to play with the rumble and immersive features. It makes you get a sense of the surroundings and the actions when you’re dealing with constant explosions, or even taking a direct hit. The controller pushes out unique signals that make sound, and even make the triggers react to certain weapons. Some weapons will use halfway trigger pulls while full trigger pulls will perform differently. Between the DualSense and the graphical performance, Rift Apart truly showcases the PS5. The folks at Insomniac are probably wizards, because they work their magic to do some amazing feats.

Obviously, the DualSense controller isn’t the only cool sound element. The game has some excellent music and sound design throughout the adventure, and it really adds to the planetary experience. We also have a great cast, with James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye reprising their roles as Ratchet and Clank respectively. Even now, the dynamic duo hasn’t lost their touch. There’s also the always wonderful Jennifer Hale portraying our new Lombax heroine in Rivet, and even Debra Wilson as Clank’s counterpart, Kit. On top of this, you’ll have Armin Shimerman and Robin Atkin Downes as the Nefarious duo, having an interesting dynamic that’s a lot of fun. All the other counterparts get new voice actors to give a different take, and it really plays up the alternate dimension aspects. Of course, we can’t forget Sara Amini as the ever-so-charming Glitch.

Now, for the bad news. As amazing of an experience Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is, I have to be honest and mention the bugs. This is one of the buggiest experiences I’ve played in recent years. These issues range from minor to some entirely game-breaking, which really disappointed me. At one point, I died and respawned at a checkpoint in a different part of the map. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but my current objective was now behind a locked door. With this moment softlocking the game, I had to start over from a backup save just to redo the segment. Other moments involved clipping into objects and getting stuck, boss health gauges not loading, and even crashing the game entirely. Insomniac is still working out issues with patches, but it feels like this game could’ve used a little extra polish.

Despite the numerous bugs I faced, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is still a fantastic adventure. The quality of the game is so high, that my many issues didn’t detriment my enjoyment of the experience. That’s definitely a testament of Insomniac’s abilities as a developer, and the overall work that went into crafting this experience. With more fluid and engaging combat, cool set pieces, and tons of great weapons, this may be my favorite Ratchet & Clank game. The visuals are breathtaking and the overall presentation is fantastic, making for a true test of the PlayStation 5 hardware. Whether you’re a hardcore fan or new to the series, this is one wild Speetle ride from start to finish. Now when do we get our Rivet & Kit spin-off?

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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