It’s not easy for any property, be it a series of books, movies, or video games, to get better over the course of 20 years. Eventually, the creative rot sets in and things get samey and dull. As such, it is a testament to the sheer genius of Insomniac Games that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is arguably the best game in the series to date, and further evidence that Insomniac Games might just be the truest trump card Sony has.
For anybody out there who, like me, was waiting for a game to show up and finally show the true potential of the new generation of consoles, this is the game — for the PlayStation 5 at least. Finally, we have a title that justifies the fuss, with hints at systems and features that you feel never could have happened on the past hardware generation.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart opens with our titular heroes enjoying a celebration in their honor. They have saved the universe a lot by this point, and a commemoration is underway. Not to be forgotten, Nefarious arrives and shatters the very fabric of existence in his attempts to drag Ratchet and Clank into a universe where he always wins.
Partially successfully, Nefarious ends up as the Emperor in this new reality, while Ratchet and Clank are split up. Ratchet goes solo until he meets up with another robot named Kit, and Clank ends up being found by another Lombax, the apparent new star of the series, Rivet. Voiced by a perfectly on-form Jennifer Hale, Rivet becomes something of the emotional heart of the story as it unfolds.
Players alternate between controlling Ratchet and Rivet, but it’s Rivets sections that stand out for the simple reason that it gives Insomniac more room to work with one of their chosen themes, the idea of self-doubt. While Ratchet often wonders if he can live up to the legend of his ancestors, Rivet has suffered near endless defeats at the hands of the Nefarious in her universe. Ratchet is a superstar compared to her, holding a constant string of victories near and dear in his memory. Rivet has no such padding to help her overcome her self-doubt, and even more importantly, she does not have a friend like Clank.
Rift Apart manages to do a fantastic job of giving you all the action you expect from Ratchet and Clank along with a meaningful tale of self-belief, friendship, and overcoming the hardships that life can throw at you.
To say that Rift Apart looks good is to undersell it to an almost criminal degree. With a multitude of performance modes, players can prioritise strict looks, frame rates, or a mix of both that drops the raytracing from the equation. It legitimately makes no sense that a game that looks this good can be pumped out of a box that costs $500. While it not the first “oh wow” moment of the new Sony generation, it is the most impressive one yet.
Diving through the marvelously realised environments, especially the opening section of the game that is designed to wow and delight the audience with some jaw dropping visuals, is a real wake up that we are actually finally getting up to speed in a whole new era of gaming.
The added power of the PlayStation 5 is not used just to make things prettier, however. Load times are so short to basically be nonexistent, and the game’s use of portals to either zip around areas or dive between worlds is inspired and feels delightful. Instead, the higher enemy counts in fights also give Rift Apart it’s own feel compared to other games. Fights can get incredibly hectic due to sheer enemy numbers, and there have been some important feature changes this time around.
Chief among them is the introduction of an I-frame-abusing dodge. This Phantom Dodge allows players to dart in any direction, leaving a ghostly trail behind them. You can dash through incoming projectiles, but you cannot shoot while doing it. It combines with the more traditional jump-dodge to offer players some strategic options during the frantic fights that always make you feel like your split-second choices have weight.
The dodges combine with wall-running and the series’ traditional mechanics like grinding and swimming to really make exploration or chase sections fun. Darting through some of the environments feels like a perfectly choreographed dance, all while the game’s engine churns out beautifully polished visuals.
Intergalactic arms dealers
The weapons in Rift Apart are very much characters in their own right. The usual mix of weird inventive and addictively fun tools of destruction is up for grabs. This time out we have fungi that will fight alongside us, weapons that turn enemies into plants, and all manner of other strange devices.
Weapons level up along two different tracks. The first is through simple use, where the more you kill with a weapon, the higher the level will grow until it eventually reaches a final form. Each level will also unlock new upgrades that can be purchased with a resource called raritanium that players can find by exploring the levels.
The weapons also showcase Insomniac’s use of the DualSense controller, using haptics to set up weapons with multiple firing options depending on how much the trigger is pulled. It feels intuitive and natural, and it adds a lot to the moment-to-moment feel of the game.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the best game released for the PlayStation 5 so far, and largely cements Insomniac’s place as one of the premiere development teams in the industry today. The finished game is almost flawless, polished within an inch of its life, and contains such small downsides that bringing them up feels like monumental nitpicking. The only real issue is occasional pacing problems, as it introduced mechanics designed to break up the main run of the story, but that is it.
There is also the fact that, at this point, Ratch & Clank is the result of extreme levels of polish rather than real innovation. While the game is visually stunning, and the pocket dimensions feel like a magic trick that the developers have managed to pull off, it doesn’t truly feel like it innovates with regard to gameplay.
Holding this against such a wonderfully grafted experience feels petty however, especially in the face of everything that Ratch & Clank: Rift Apart does so incredibly well. Anybody who has purchased a PlayStation 5 and is on the fence about this game is doing themselves a disservice. It is the best use of that hardware to date, and it deserves to be played.
9.5 / 10
|The best looking console game ever.
|The story manages to be both meaningful and jovial, balancing both aspects perfectly.
|Combat is, as always, incredibly fun, made even more so by increased density of enemies.
|Every aspect of the game is just top-notch and polished within an inch of its life.
|Very occasionally, the game loses control of its own momentum and drags ever so slightly.