In hindsight, there is no doubt that Ratchet and Clank have truly forged their way as one of the most iconic duos in the PlayStation era of gaming. Since their 2002 debut, they have gone on to be the stars of multiple sequels, a remake, and even a movie! To say that they are iconic figures synonymous with the likes of Kratos, Nathan Drake, and Crash Bandicoot would be fair to its legacy, all thanks to a fanbase that continues to support the franchise through thick and thin.
So it is no wonder why in the first year of a tumultuous yet hopeful next generation of gaming (no thanks to pandemic difficulties and the threat of scalpers), Ratchet and Clank were given the honors to be one of the big-name titles on the PlayStation 5’s maiden year with Rift Apart, the first new game in the franchise since the 2016 remake of the first game for the PlayStation 4. Spoiler alert: it is absolutely one of the best action platformers to ever come out of any gaming generation, and should be the new benchmark to succeeding action platformers that want a piece of that pie. While this statement alone carries a significant amount of weight, it’s a statement that, thankfully, Insomniac Games was able to back up in spades.
The Story So Far
The story takes place sometime after the events of the 2013 game, Into the Nexus. We see the titular combination being celebrated for their past heroics by a raucous crowd, which eventually led to Clank revealing that he has fixed the Dimensionator (a major MacGuffin in past games) in the hopes of helping Ratchet find his fellow Lombax kin. Unfortunately, Dr. Nefarious made his return to lead an assault on our heroes in the hopes of securing the Dimensionator for his own, well, nefarious deeds. The chain of events in the prologue resulted in the device getting wrecked, which resulted in a dimensional instability, causing all three of them to get pushed into an alternate dimension where another version of Nefarious rules the universe with an iron fist. Now it is up to Ratchet, Clank, and two new friends, Rivet and Kit from this alternate dimension, to stop both Nefarious(es) and bring stability to the universes.
For newer players, if you are interested in getting into the lore before Rift Apart, then having a PlayStation 3 and access to a copy of Into the Nexus would help. But if not, you can absolutely give the Ratchet and Clank remake a try on the PlayStation 4. While it is the first game in the series, it does give enough introductory background to get you started. Thankfully, this game is available with the PlayStation Plus Collection for PlayStation 5 owners as long as you’re a member.
There is absolutely a lot to talk about when it comes to this game’s production as a whole. But first and most importantly, we need to talk about the story and how much heart was put into this. Being able to explore more of Ratchet and Clank’s relationship as well as getting to know the new protagonists, Rivet and Kit, made for a story that balanced both hearty and humorous adventure, and personal introspection. While they nailed the story as a light-hearted space opera seen in previous games, it is the personal stakes and struggles of the characters that made me realize how vital it is to have them in the spotlight. These characters may be heroic to a tee, yet at the same time, they feel relatable with their own worries, such as Ratchet’s wanting to reunite with friends and family, and Rivet’s coping with the past (which we won’t spoil). It felt like you are watching an animated film by Pixar, which caters to the “children at heart.” And in a time like today when gamers come in all shapes, sizes, and upbringings, this is always welcome. All of the above is greatly complemented by a soundtrack that, while familiar to franchise veterans, will never be out of style, if you will.
If there was any game that made full use of the PlayStation 5’s hardware and capabilities besides Returnal, Rift Apart is it. Resolutions can be run between Fidelity mode (with 30 FPS that runs on 4K and full ray tracing), Performance RT (with 60 FPS that uses limited ray tracing), and Performance (with full 60 FPS that purely focuses on game performance). I personally tried all three modes during the game, and I’m personally amazed at how they made Fidelity mode look fantastic during different segments, especially with a lot of things going on in the background. I didn’t feel that there was any slowdown at all while playing in this mode and made for an immerse experience with the visuals just popping out. Personally, I prefer to make use of Performance RT so I can get the best of both worlds with 60 FPS and a bit of RT, but you cannot go wrong with choosing any of the three depending on your preference as there is no negative consequence in deciding between them.
A lot can be said about hoping for games to be released exclusively on the PlayStation 5, and there is a very good reason for that: the SSD. Much like the other PS5 exclusives that came before it, there is no loading times at all. Everything is seamless when progressing through different segments of the game. Teleporting and moving from a rift or separate segment to the open world is so continuous that, thinking about it now as I’m writing this piece, I don’t think I ever encountered a loading screen at all. This, of course, means that with nil loading times, you can focus more on the gameplay and the action right in front of you. Demon’s Souls, Godfall, and Returnal are good examples of PS5 exclusives making full use of the hardware to virtually eliminate loading times, and I’m glad Rift Apart followed suit. To add, just like with games such as The Last of Us Part 2, accessibility options are also available to make it easier for as many people as possible to play the game, which is always a good thing.
Another plus while playing through the game is the use of Dualsense’s haptic feedback to offer a unique sensory experience. From the vibrations caused by the environments to the alternating soft vibrations between the left and right side of the controller when walking, as cliché as it may sound, it really does feel like you’re feeling what the characters are feeling. They managed to make full use of this technology throughout the campaign, and it will feel like you are making progress as you jump, shoot, and wall climb your way to the stages. The last game that made use of this technology to its fullest was Returnal, and from the looks of things with Rift Apart, we can expect more of this from the PS5 exclusives in the future, but I digress.
It should be noted that during my estimated 15+ hour playthrough of the game, inclusive of earning a platinum trophy in the process by collecting and clearing as much of the content as possible, I did encounter a very few number bugs, one of which instantly killed me when I was at the edge of a certain area. But they are otherwise negligible and not so much as game-breaking to the point of becoming unplayable. There is a patch that came out just less than 24 hours at the time of making this review, so things could change by then in regards to bugs.
If you played the most recent Ratchet and Clank game on the PS4, then you’ll be already be somehow accustomed to the mechanics by now. But for those who are new to the series, the gameplay mostly revolves around making use of your various weapons to shoot every hostile you can see while having the option to use your melee weapon as needed. It’s generally fast-paced, meaning you’ll be relying on your dashes to avoid getting hit, as well as the newly added ability to jump between dimensional portals in an area via Rift Tether. Honestly, if there was one mechanic that makes you realize that you are playing a next-gen title, it’s the feeling of just teleporting via Rift Tether and feeling like the transition is as smooth as butter.
The gameplay style makes no difference whether you are using Ratchet or Rivet, so you can thankfully make progress on leveling all your weapons with no hassles. And speaking of weapons, the variety is astounding to say the least. From a pistol that shorts three bullets at the same time and a bomb that shoots out additional bombs (bombception), to a portal gun that drops a ton of debris (and occasional PlayStation staples such as the Thunderjaw from Horizon Zero Dawn), the plentiful weapons allow for different strategies to be employed when facing against multiple enemies or the occasional boss fight. These can be leveled up by continuing to use a specific weapon as well as using up Raritanium (aka weapon upgrade currency) to unlock various stats, employing a bit of an RPG element in its leveling system. You’ll be encouraged to use different weapons to level them all up, which encourages variety and experimentation in dealing with the enemies available in the game.
Personally, the best part about using weapons this time around is how they make full use of the Dualsense’s adaptive triggers, adding a new depth of immersion during combat. For example, using the game’s default Blast Pistol weapon, pressing the R2 button halfway shoots bullets one by one (useful when trying to shoot down objects one by one), but pressing the R2 button all the way down allows for rapid-fire, which can help whittle down hordes of enemies when needed. The game’s version of the machine gun, the Blackhole Storm, has a sort of recoil sensation as you hold down the R2 button while shooting, making it feel like you’re using said heavy artillery. It’s these little touches that drive down the fun and immersive combat experience offered by this technology.
Like most platformers, there are also moments of exploration, which involve collecting Raritanium for upgrades, teddy bears (because why not), spybots to unlock arguably the best weapon in the game, and even gold bolts that unlock additional fun options to spice up the experience. Puzzles and sort-of mini-games are as fun as ever, with the use of Glitch as a virus-eliminating program and Clank to solve rift-based puzzles in certain segments. It’s a good way to balance out the intensity of the gameplay with a few moments of mental exercise.
Thankfully, the game also included activity cards via the home button function that provide various tips, from solutions to puzzles if you are stumped to locations of collectibles. I found it useful when I’m absolutely stumped at a few times where I need to know how to get that collectible. But for the most part, it’s easy to locate and collect these items since it will immediately show after revealing the map’s shrouded portion. Do note that you will need a PS+ subscription to make use of this feature, which is highly likely something you would have anyway if you’re active in online gaming and you’re making use of the monthly free games anyway.
In an era of gaming that’s partially defined by the concept of live service and online continuity experiences, it is a breath of fresh air to know that, it is a single-player game that offers a good amount of side quests and exploration aside from doing your main quests. Throughout my playthrough, I had enough time to do the game’s side quests, which are hilarious and a fun diversion while taking a break from the main quests. It is a game that knows what it wants to be, all while giving fans enough content that would help justify the $69.99 price tag. And yes, in case you’re wondering, while we can debate on the justification on the said price tag for some of its titles, you cannot deny how much effort and content was put in to make it feel like it’s worth the price of admission.
In fact, the 15-hour playthrough for my experience doesn’t even include Challenge Mode, Rift Apart’s version of New Game+. There is a lot to look forward to for those who want to get into the game again, with a difficulty spike for a greater challenge while having most of your weapons carried over from the last playthrough. If there is any additional incentive to give this playthrough a go, it’s that you will be able to unlock the final form of your weapon’s upgrade tree through this mode, so there’s really more mayhem to be had if you so choose.
Honestly, if we have to talk about features, then intrinsically, this will involve re-emphasizing how the PlayStation 5’s hardware has benefitted the game in many different aspects, which we’ve already talked about earlier. If anything, Rift Apart only helped solidify the argument on PS5 exclusivity further in light of Sony’s recent announcements on certain titles being made available to both PS5 and PS4 consoles instead of being exclusive to PS5 only. While this arrangement could not be helped given prevailing market circumstances, you can imagine that this game is made with the PS5 infrastructure in mind made all of the aforementioned improvements possible.
Although, if there is one feature that I had a good time using, it’s definitely the Sony PlayStation staple, Photo Mode. At this point, everyone knows that Photo Mode is a trap: once you get into it, you’ll probably never get out. Taking the best in-game shots is a satisfying trip that you can end up spending a good amount of time on, and doing so with a game made for the PS5 is just the proverbial chef’s kiss. IF you don’t want to lose track of time, probably try to avoid Photo Mode, but you are probably going to end up trapped one way or another.
If there was a game that has to be a staple in every PS5 owner’s library, a game that can be played by gamers of all ages, with satisfying gameplay and a story that’s full of humor and heart, you really cannot go wrong with Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. This is a game that, for me, helped raise the bar for future action platformers to strive for, making full use of the current generation’s technology in spades while retaining what made this franchise great in the first place. Yes, it does sound like tremendous high praise, especially with the games that came before it such as the legendary Crash Bandicoot. But when you look at how Rift Apart works so well with the PS5, from the outstanding visuals and sounds to the combat and exploration experience compounded by the Dualsense’s technology, you will see why this is such a must-have.
The $69.99 price tag for some first-party exclusives may be a point of contention for many fans ever since the PS5 era began, which is a very understandable concern given a few of the misses compared to the hits as well as competition across the board. But I personally felt like this, if it is of any consolation, this game in particular made sure that it was going to justify the price tag. You can clearly see how Insomniac Games, coming off their success with the Spider-Man games on the PlayStation 4 and 5, was going to make sure their next game was going to be one of their best, an effort that clearly paid off in the end.
Overall, I really wish everyone can get their PlayStation 5 units safely and with no difficulties because I feel that if there was a game, aside from Returnal, that really represented what the PlayStation 5 can truly do, this is it. No question, this game gets a 5/5.
Game review by Lance Tan Ong