Ratchet and Clank are synonymous with the PlayStation brand. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart continues the duo’s lineage on PlayStation, which transcends console generations. While supporting the PlayStation 5 in its infancy, Insomniac Games’ latest title leads the charge as the true next-gen experience we’ve been waiting to get our hands on.
We’re half a year removed from the launch of the PlayStation 5. Although many games built for the hardware have been released, games that cast a wide net to players are few and far between. Sony’s PlayStation Studios umbrella has provided Demon’s Souls and Returnal as PlayStation 5 exclusives; though, both speak to very niche audiences.
Insomniac Games steps in to deliver a game that is accessible to a variety of players and impressively showcases the hardware. As I began playing Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, I was shown that it was undoubtedly a PlayStation 5 game. This is a title that’s built from the ground up to take advantage of new hardware.
And yet, as much as Insomniac Games flexes their prowess and development chops, it never overshadows the franchise’s core philosophy. Rift Apart is a story of friendship, a story about characters who yearn to belong. It’s the follow-up to Into the Nexus that fans have been waiting for since 2013, yet Rift Apart can also grip newcomers and pull them in. This is partly due to new characters, especially Rivet, the already-beloved female Lombax.
As I began my run of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, I found myself engaging with its wholesome story. Yet, my stay was solidified thanks to the frenetic moment-to-moment gameplay and Pixar-like animation, both pushing the bar for console gaming.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart picks up almost immediately after the events of Into the Nexus. For the uninitiated, the 2013 title concluded with the duo once again saving the universe. Clank had obtained a device called the Dimensionator. He snagged it to help Ratchet, the last Lombax in their universe, find more of his species in other dimensions.
Rift Apart opens with the two arriving at the galaxy’s capital, Megalopolis, where the two are welcomed by a big parade in their honor. On cue, series villain Dr. Nefarious arrives and steals the Dimensionator. As an early scuffle ensues, Dr. Nefarious opens a rift to a new dimension and the three are transported to a “cosmic coinflip” universe.
Now separated, Ratchet and Clank race across the galaxy to find each other and get back home. To make matters worse, the universe they find themselves in is one where Nefarious has successfully taken over, and rules with an iron fist. There’s only a small group of freedom fighters determined to put an end to Nefarious’ reign.
Now, two long-time companions find themselves separated are drawn into this emerging battle. Ratchet and Clank have worked in tandem for so long, and to have them separated from the start is an interesting angle to take for a franchise nearly 20 years old.
Rift Apart does a good job establishing the characters and universe early on. Some of the dialogue can come across as surface level or campy, yet it still has the usual trappings and heart you’d expect. Although there are plenty of nods to previous titles, newcomers should feel right at home, and come along for the same ride as the diehard fans.
A new perspective
Ratchet’s alternate character, Rivet, is played by industry veteran Jennifer Hale. Rivet is an isolated and independent character; she’s witty, tough, and has an interesting and often relatable backstory. Naturally, Clank and Rivet quickly join forces.
While we’re so used to seeing the dynamic between Ratchet and Clank, the bond between these two characters adds a lot of texture to the established narrative. It’s often hard to introduce a new character and have players immediately embrace them as they do the mainstays.
Fans had already begun attaching themselves to Rivet through previews and trailers, but Rift Apart‘s narrative backs up the fact that Rivet is a strong addition to the cast. She’s not a simple copy-paste of Ratchet. She has her own vulnerabilities and aspirations. They are all explored with satisfying payoffs.
As the story of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart unfolds, we’re introduced to more new characters, and the stage is set for an engrossing play. However, by the end of it, Rift Apart largely felt like a prologue to another story. Over the course of 20 hours or so, all the chess pieces were put into place for the next interstitial. The Ratchet and Clank franchise is clearly drawing a path. Rift Apart wasn’t the destination, but merely laid the groundwork for the road ahead.
Brand new arsenal
Ratchet and Clank have consistently told remarkable and uplifting stories about two contrasting characters. However, the series has become so beloved partially due to Insomniac Games’ solid gameplay experience. As expected by a game built specifically for the PlayStation 5, Rift Apart fires on all cylinders to showcase what next-gen gaming is all about.
Rift Apart is without a doubt the most refined Ratchet and Clank game to date, both in terms of scope and how the game felt mechanically. It’s been five years since the Ratchet and Clank reboot, and the studio has cut its teeth working on improving that core gameplay loop.
Rift Apart features a wide variety of unique weapons to use and level up. You start with the Burst Pistol, which has little flair to its attacks. Though as you purchase new weapons and add them to the broad weapon wheel, the offerings become more and more spectacular. You’ll soon use weapons like the Negatron Collider with its powerful charged shot, the Topiary Sprinkler which immobilizes enemies in shrubbery, or my personal favorite:the Ricochet gun.
Through the DualSense controller, each weapon reacts differently when using the adaptive triggers. For the Ricochet, firing a shot from the gun can be quickly followed up by pulling through the tension on the L1 trigger multiple times. The shot will then bounce off the enemy, applying more damage. Rift Apart’s use of the DualSense brings a creative element to the combat that we’ve yet to see from other games.
A big focal point in the gameplay is the use of rifts: portals between dimensions. Rifts will appear throughout each level, and they have various uses. Since Ratchet and Rivet both carry over all their experience and tools, they both have access to the Rift Tether. Using the tether, players can pull themselves into the rift and be instantly transported to the other side. The animation and gameplay transitions instantaneously. The seamlessness is all thanks to the low loading times granted by the PlayStation 5’s SSD.
You can use rifts to instantly maneuver behind enemies and flank them. Additionally, rifts are often used during traversal. Using Ratchet or Rivet’s hover boots, players can also grind on rails. This is always such a blast, specially when the set pieces heighten and incorporate the rifts and other traversal options.
Rift Apart sees players navigate between self-contained planets, all with mild open-world elements. These maps are by no means as open as those of Marvel’s Spider-Man or other recent games, but they are certainly the most expansive seen in the franchise. Each planet is very unique. Nefarious City is a cyberpunk-esque version of Megalopolis. There are various planets with their own unique biomes including desserts, swamps, volcanic plains, and so on.
Above all the rest, Blizar Prime holds the torch as one of the most engaging planets. The level is broken up into stages where players must use rifts to travel between dimensions. What makes this so impressive is that the game renders these two instances instantaneously. There’s no smoke and mirrors involved. As you progress through the level, you travel back and forth and the differences between each instance are apparent right away. It’s a clever use of the fast load times and power the SSD offers. On older hardware these mechanics simply couldn’t exist as they do on the PlayStation 5.
You win again, technology
Playing Rift Apart, I was astounded by how the game looked. It truly felt like the graphics of Rift Apart reached mainstream animation. Insomniac’s latest title feels like a playable Pixar film. There’s a high level of detail that’s gone into rendering the cinematics and gameplay portions, from seeing individual strands of hair on Ratchet and Rivet, to the silvery raytraced reflections coming off of Clank.
Every time I came back and picked up the controller, I was reminded of how beautiful the game is. We see photo-realistic games and games with unique art styles, and yet I can’t think of another game that captures that filmic quality Rift Apart does.
Adding to the feeling of controlling a stunningly rendered animated film, Rift Apart seamlessly transitions between cutscenes and gameplay. It’s a feeling that never got old in my two playthroughs of the game. After rolling credits, I immediately felt compelled to jump into the Challenge mode (New Game+) to hunt for collectibles.
The game literally throws a lot at you via on-screen particles and debris. Individual bullet casings and shrapnel are littered about as you engage enemies. Bolts and various particles fill up the screen as you race around. It creates a chaotic atmosphere, but never slows down the pacing of the game.
During my extensive time with Rift Apart, I had access to the Fidelity Mode, which looked stunning. However, I was fortunate to also spend a bit of time with the Performance Mode, available through the Day One patch. Combat and traversal felt velvety smooth in 4K 60FPS. This was also when I saw how well the ray tracing elements were integrated into the game.
Sounds like a good time
The audio and music of Rift Apart are riveting. The score airs between sci-fi, blockbuster epic, and more poppy elements. This is largely thanks to composer Mark Mothersbaugh, who’s worked on the Crash Bandicoot franchise as well as Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. The music conveys the game’s shifting tone perfectly: it can sound heroic and uplifting, yet just as easily it can be somber and convey drama when it needs to.
Outside of the score, Rift Apart elegantly utilizes 3D audio. When battling enemies, you can pinpoint the location of each one when using the Pulse 3D headset. Different weapons also emanate their own unique sounds that add a nice pop to the soundscape.
Into the future
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is the quintessential next-gen experience PlayStation 5 owners have been waiting for. Insomniac Games not only upholds what makes the franchise unique and stands out over nearly two decades, but pushes it forward. The inclusion of new characters was welcome, and the twists on old ones should please longtime fans. That said, the story ultimately felt more like a setup to a larger story that’s being planned.
Beyond all else, Rift Apart takes advantage of Sony’s new hardware and makes a compelling case for this console. It’s beautiful to look at and satisfying to play. There are action set pieces that stand as some of the strongest of this year so far. Although the current console generation is still young, Insomniac Games’ Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart has set the standard next-gen games should strive for.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart will be available on PlayStation 5 on June 11.
A copy of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart was provided by PlayStation Canada for review purposes.