In the past five years, Insomniac Games has been on a winning streak of releases for PlayStation. From 2016’s Ratchet and Clank to two web-swinging adventures in Spider-Man (2018) and Spider-Man: Miles Morales (2020). It is fair to say, Insomniac knows what they are doing and their latest release, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is no different. This game maintains a track record of energetic, playful and frantic fun, that’s a blast from start to finish.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart follows our heroes at a time of relative calm, when The Galactic Rangers haven’t seen much action in a while. That is until Clank gifts Ratchet The Dimensionator, only for Dr Nefarious to get his hands on it, ripping up time and space into multiple dimensions, leading our heroes on a planet-hopping adventure to save the world once again.
The game is visually stunning. Whether you are playing in Fidelity mode or Performance RT mode, Insomniac has clearly used the PlayStation 5 hardware to its full potential, with densely-populated cities and stunning sandy landscapes which rival that of a Pixar movie. This is complemented by a beautifully well-crafted story that strikes a masterful balance of the hilarious comedy that is expected from a Ratchet and Clank game, with an emotionally impactful story about belonging. Insomniac also implements some of its most eye-catching set-pieces yet, which are a clear evolution from their Spider-Man games. These blockbuster moments were truly memorable and flaunted the game’s scale.
The game is filled with several familiar faces for fans of the series; however, it is the new characters Rivet and Kit (alternate versions of Ratchet and Clank from another dimension) that steal the show. You play as Rivet for half of your time in Rift Apart and she comfortably holds her own as a charismatic and witty character whose origin story was extremely engaging, to the point that a standalone Rivet and Kit game wouldn’t be far from the realm of possibilities. Rusty Pete’s counterpart, Pierre La Faire, a fancy French space pirate, was one of my favourite characters during my play time, with some of the funniest moments in the entire game. In addition to the quick-witted comedy that comes expected from the Ratchet and Clank series, there were also some fantastic character moments between individual characters that are emotionally heart-warming, in the same vein as Pixar films such as Soul (2020) and Onward (2020).
Rift Apart maintains the smooth feel of 2016’s Ratchet and Clank game with some welcome new mechanics and quality-of-life inclusions. Dashing and wall-running, alongside the addition of speedy hover boots, enhances the fluidity of movement as well as combat. When these abilities are chaining together, combo moves becomes an exhilarating joy which, once mastered, can make the world of difference when fighting off the chaotic bombardment of enemy fire.
Ratchet and Rivet both share the same move sets and weapons. If you purchase a new weapon with Ratchet, Rivet will also have the same weapon when you play as her later. Although it would have been nice to have a slight variation between the two characters. It would have allowed the player to maintain a sense of momentum they may have had while playing the other character. All the weapons hold a purpose, and I never felt the desire to stick to just my favourites. After a few hours in, I found myself implementing particular combinations into my combat strategy to fight off enemies.
There are also a number of anomaly puzzles that have you play as Clank (or Kit), using several coloured orbs to get through dangerous paths to get to the other side of a room. These puzzles were a welcoming breather from the chaotic action that feels non-stop at times. They are challenging enough to have to put some thought in but weren’t hard to the point that I wanted to skip them altogether. There are also optional mini-games to unlock secret doors. You play as a small robot named Glitch, fighting against a computer virus. Although optional, these mini-games combined into a series that created an enjoyable mini story-arc for Glitch.
Even the hardware had its place. The PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller enhanced my experience dramatically. One gripe that I had with the PS4’s Ratchet and Clank, was that some weapons did not feel effective enough. However, in Rift Apart, weapons feel more equally powerful thanks to the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. I was impressed by the indescribably realistic metallic feeling the controller gave when hitting Robomutts with your wrench/hammer. However, I very rarely used the melee weapons in comparison to the last entry, due to the increased scale of combat arenas that incentivised mid to long-distance combat.
The adaptive triggers also allowed Insomniac to add new dimensions to the game’s combat. Pressing in the triggers halfway on a selected few weapons (including the Executor) provided a different command to pressing them down fully. The feedback given in the triggers when shooting was extremely satisfying, and truly shows off the possibilities of this console generation.
Insomniac’s latest adventure in the Ratchet and Clank series is a beautifully crafted game that oozes charm and charismatic warmth, telling one of the series’ best stories yet. Its chaotic combat is addictively fun, and combined with the DualSense’s haptic feedback, makes an amazing game even greater. It really made me feel like a kid again, and that’s the highest praise I could give it. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a system-seller, and if you’re lucky enough to have a PlayStation 5 or grab one in the future, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is the perfect place to experience the console’s capabilities.
Words by Max Sunnar