Although the PlayStation 5 has only been on the market for six months, Sony’s first-party studio Insomniac Games is already proving to be a core asset for console support. The upcoming release of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is not only one of the few true next-gen exclusives, but it’s also the second game to come from the studio since November.
Anticipation for the latest Ratchet and Clank game has been building since its first reveal last June. Insomniac Games emphasized how the game would fundamentally take advantage of the PlayStation 5 hardware to deliver a more impressive and immersive experience to players.
We’ve seen more and more of the game recently. In the latest State of Play from Sony, Insomniac Games showed an in-depth gameplay demo, lasting 15 minutes. Sony and Insomniac Games invited us to get a further look at the game and preview some new footage. Fair warning: this preview contains spoilers for some early game story moments.
The long-awaited follow up
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is set after 2013’s Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus. As creative director Marcus Smith explains, this entry finds the titular duo being celebrated for their accomplishments. The two arrive in Megalopolis where the galaxy’s capital is set to throw a lavish parade. Clank has also been tinkering with a new gadget dubbed the Dimensionator. This fascinating invention, as you can imagine, is quickly stolen by series baddie Dr. Nefarious.
As Insomniac Games have already revealed, Ratchet and Clank get separated through inter-dimensional portals. Ratchet ends up in Nefarious City, a cyberpunk-esque alternate version of Megalopolis, taken over by Dr. Nefarious. Clank, on the other hand, finds himself in a separate dimension, where he crosses paths with a “cosmic coinflip” version of Ratchet, Rivet.
The majority of new content Insomniac Games showed followed Clank and Rivet on their journey to find a giant robot named The Fixer, in order to retrieve an item called a Rift Shard. The duo embarks across a bright and sun-soaked mining colony. A large portion of the gameplay demo was used to highlight the game’s combat and traversal mechanics.
A whole new world
As Rivet and Clank begin their journey, we were given a chance to see how moving around the map works. Insomniac Games have been known to implement leading traversal mechanics, going all the way back to the initial entries in the franchise. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart has notes of Sunset Overdrive. Rivet is seen grinding on minecart rails and leaping between them fluidly. The traversal looks frenetic and familiar, but there is a lot to discover still, as wall-running mechanics, grappling, and rift-travel have been added to the mix.
Naturally, as Rivet and Clank progress, they come across numerous pirates. The enemies are led by an alternate version of Rusty Pete, the space pirate. Once stumbling across Rivet and Clank, he sends a small battalion of enemies their way, and this is where we get into the game’s combat system.
Upping your arsenal
Rift Apart delivers on the expectation that you’ll be swapping between an array of interesting weapons throughout each combat scenario. Using the weapon wheel, swapping between guns is fluid and fast. At no point during the gameplay preview did it seem like the momentum of combat suffered when switching weapons.
The studio highlighted a small assortment of new weapons players can look forward to. One of the weapons emphasized in the gameplay is The Enforcer shotgun. Seeing as though Rift Apart will be taking advantage of the DualSense controller, lead gameplay programmer Adam Noonchester has stated that weapons will use adaptive triggers in various ways. When using The Enforcer, players can shoot one barrel of the shotgun by pulling the trigger halfway. Pulling down through the tension will fire both barrels, delivering heavy damage. The same is said to be applied to the Burst Pistol. A partial pull of the trigger will fire at a steady rate, and pulling all the way down on the trigger will increase the rate of fire.
Not every gun will follow the same formula. Insomniac Games have approached each weapon differently to experiment with how the DualSense could add to the experience. The Negatron Collider gun, which charges before sending out a powerful blast, is a good example of this. To charge the shot, players will have to pull down until they feel resistance on the L1 trigger. Pulling past that will activate the shot and fire the weapon.
Noonchester noted that the creation of the weapons needed to hit on three major pillars. The team evaluated each gun’s humor, level of spectacle, and strategic integration. Another weapons highlighter was the Topiary Sprinkler, a gauntlet that when fired at enemies covers them in shrubbery, and slows them down.
More up your sleeve
Guns aren’t the only items players will use in combat. Rift Apart centers on the use of interdimensional rifts. Although grappling and pulling them can be used in progression and traversal, they also play a role in combat. Using the Rift Tether, players can latch on to rifts found within combat arenas and pass through them. These can be used strategically as they can help evade enemy attacks. Players can also use them to flank enemies and get the upper hand.
Rift Apart will also introduce the Phantom Dash. This ability allows the player to flow in and out of reality with a speed burst. The Phantom Dash can be really handy while evading attacks in combat, and dealing with hazards around the map.
Seeing as though players will swap between playing as Ratchet and Rivet intermittently throughout the campaign, Insomniac Games confirmed that progress and abilities will be shared between the characters.
Make way for Rivet
Rivet, the new Lombax character introduced in Rift Apart, has been a focal point not only for the studio but the community as well. It’s been revealed that industry legend Jennifer Hale is lending her voice to the character. Lead writer Lauren Mee said that Hale “brought emotional depth that was exciting to watch” in her performance.
Rift Apart is said to tackle many themes. A mainstay of the franchise has been exploring the relationship and friendship of two unlikely heroes. Rift Apart leans into that, but incorporates a story of characters in search of belonging and finding empathy.
Rivet’s introduction adds a new dimension to the story. In her world, she’s a freedom fighter, who’s been isolated much of her life. She’s scrappy, independent, and as senior animator Lindsay Thompson describes her, a “smart ass.” Rivet’s personality shined during conversations with Clank as the two banter back and forth during the demo. Although their relationship is new, the two share an interesting dynamic.
As an alternate version of Ratchet, Rivet shows similarities, but is unique in many ways. She’s shown to have a metal prosthetic arm. Although Marcus Smith did not divulge any details, he did hint that Rivet’s ability to overcome obstacles will tie back into the game’s theme.
Built for a new generation
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a true next-gen experience built for the PlayStation 5. Taking full advantage of the hardware, Insomniac Games were able to go big on their level design. The worlds feel lived in, with lots to see in the background. The levels also contain Pocket Dimensions where players can take on optional objectives for new gear and buffs.
During combat, the screen comes to life in a spectacle of particle-infused destruction. The screen is always filled with small bits to look at, all adding to the immersion. When looking at character models, it’s hard not to compare the visual style of Rift Apart to a Pixar film. That’s because Insomniac Games was going for cinematic quality. This can be seen on the fur of characters like Ratchet and Rivet. Clank, who is made of stainless steel, has stretched reflections. This will bring a heightened sense of realism to his body. Raytracing has also been enabled on character models.
The PlayStation 5 hardware and SSD have allowed the developers to make use of rifts and load new worlds instantaneously. There are portions of the game where players will travel between Sync Planets: realms where the game instantaneously loads two versions of the same world and renders it at the same time. Loading into the game should take mere seconds. Seamless cinematics intertwine with gameplay throughout. Players can run through combat, and then in an instant be brought into a full cinematic scene.
Rift Apart uses the DualSense adaptive triggers as well as the controller’s haptic feedback in many instances. Insomniac have confirmed there will be two creatures to ride in the game. The haptics will improve the immersion and make the experience come to life.
Insomniac Games have confirmed that the game will offer a 30FPS Standard mode and a 60FPS performance mode at launch. The game will also incorporate a Photo Mode and have a slew of accessibility features including control modification and a time slow option.
Music to a Lombax’s ears
On the audio side, the PlayStation 5’s Tempest 3D audio plays an integral role. While navigating, audio queues will help direct players. In the case of when Ratchet must locate a club in Nefarious City, following the music’s beat will help uncover the club’s location. The use of rifts will also trigger a unique bit of audio, amplifying the moment when players yank themselves towards a rift.
The game’s score has been created by renowned composer Mark Mothersbaugh, whose work can be heard in Crash Bandicoot as well as Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok. In fact, Thor: Ragnarok was used as a touchstone for the game’s music.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart will be available on PlayStation 5 on June 11.