Archives by Day

Ratchet & Clank

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: April 12, 2016 (US), April 20, 2016 (EU)


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS4 Review - 'Ratchet & Clank'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 20, 2016 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Developed alongside the major motion CG-animated picture, Ratchet & Clank marks the debut of intergalactic heroes on PS4, as they battle to save the Solana Galaxy from the evil Chairman Drek.

Reboots are hard to do. Their intended goal is to modernize a dated story for a newer audience, but a successful reboot needs to balance change while keeping things familiar enough to not alienate fans of the original. A bad reboot can sour people just by being too different. Ratchet and Clank, a remake of 2002's similarly titled Ratchet and Clank, has an even tougher task ahead. It's technically a tie-in to the upcoming "Ratchet and Clank" movie. That's right:  It's a video game based on a movie that's based on a video game. (The game is self-aware enough to joke about that.) Despite those odds stacked against it, Ratchet and Clank is an example of a reboot done right. It's modernized just enough to be accessible and more than familiar enough to be a great addition to the franchise.

Ratchet and Clank follows the story of Ratchet the Lombax, a good-hearted (if explosion-prone) young would-be hero who dreams of joining the Galactic Rangers. Unfortunately, his small stature and lack of obvious heroic qualities means that Captain Qwark, leader of the Rangers, wants little to do with him. This changes when a small robot named Clank shows up on Ratchet's doorstep. Clank is fleeing the Blarg, a race of dimwitted and malicious ne'er-do-wells who ruined their home planet and are seeking a replacement. Ratchet must help Clank reach the Galactic Rangers and save the universe. The story is told by Captain Qwark, who is reminiscing about the story after the events of the game — a cute justification for some of the story changes.

Ratchet and Clank is a cartoon, and it feels like it. The original game had a rougher edge to the characters, but that has been smoothed out for more good-natured humor. It works well here, as it puts Ratchet more in line with his character in the later games. While the plot structure is roughly similar to the original title, there are new elements that help flesh it out. If there's one place the story suffers, it is that Captain Quark's narrative only gives the "highlights," perhaps to avoid eclipsing the upcoming film. As a result, the plot is rather disjointed because it introduces characters and then drops them. Fortunately, the characters who get focus (Ratchet, Clank and Quark) are funny and likeable, and you can ignore the somewhat-truncated narrative since you get their snarky wit. Quark's narration of the story is a near-constant source of laughs.

The best way to describe Ratchet and Clank's gameplay is a combination of old-school 3-D platformer and third-person shooter. You control Ratchet, whose starting arsenal of powers involves jumping, shooting guns, and smacking things with a wrench. He's joined by Clank, who spends the early part of the game being a quiet voice on Ratchet's shoulder rather than an assistant. You effectively have two modes: a running around mode and a shooting mode. Running around is done in the traditional 3-D platformer style. Holding down the aim button makes Ratchet aim his gun, strafe around, and dodge rather than jump. It's nice and simple, and players of all ages should be able to quickly adjust to the controls.

While the game starts off simply, it quickly gets more complex. Ratchet finds a bunch of different gadgets that alter how you can approach things, and each new gadget can unlock hidden areas in previous stages. Some are gated to specific areas, like the magnaboots, which allow you to walk on specific walls, or the jetpack, which needs refueling stations. Others, like Clank's helicopter upgrade, can be used anywhere and significantly change how you play the game. Ratchet and Clank is no Metroid, and the level design is pretty linear, but the sense of getting more powerful is a nice bonus.

Speaking of getting more powerful, Ratchet and Clank has always been about over-the-top guns, and that is still true here. While you start with a simple handgun equivalent, you'll quickly amass new weaponry that puts it to shame. Some of the weapons are the epitome of excess, such as the Predator Launcher that fires lock-on explosives or the Warmonger, which can only be described as a multi-barrel rocket launcher. Others are on the more comical side of the spectrum. The Pixelizer converts enemies into low-resolution versions who are vulnerable to extra damage and explode into pixels when defeated. The Groovitron forces them to dance until they can't dance no more (because you shot them). Mr. Zurkon is less of a gun and more a free-floating robot with a lust for death who delights in mowing down your foes. Some of these return from the original game, but others are from sequels or are completely new.

On top of that, each weapon levels up as you use it, so you unlock upgrade slots that can be filled with Raretanium, which gradually increases weapons stats. Despite the name, Raretanium isn't particularly rare, and there is no reason to save it for a weapon you like. Maxing out a weapon can change it to a new and stronger form with better upgrades. Ratchet's flamethrower evolves into a lava-spewing death machine, the sniper rifle slows down time, and the rocket launcher spawns mini-rockets. It's a neat system because it keeps weapons feeling fresh and new throughout the game.

You're encouraged to swap out weapons often. Ammo for most weapons is relatively sparse. Stronger weapons with more limited ammo only get a handful of shots before they're empty. Fortunately, the game is free with the ammo, and you'll find chests of semi-randomized pickups around every corner. It's a delicate balance, but as long as you're swapping weapons regularly, you'll never run dry. Some weapons are better than others. The Pyrocitor can shoot for days and is a good fallback gun because it can easily clear waves of enemies. The only real flaw is that you do have to swap weapons or learn to rely on your wrench for melee encounters, which might annoy those who prefer to stick with a single weapon.

Combat in Ratchet and Clank is fun. It's not overly difficult once you get an upgraded weapon, and it's well designed enough that it doesn't feel too simplistic. The goofy variety in weapons helps avoid the feeling of "been there, done that." Death is relatively rare. As he kills enemies, Ratchet gains levels, which increase his total HP, so the enemy damage also slowly scales up. Generally, you can take 6-10 hits before you die, but backtracking means you're more durable, so it can make some tough challenges easier. Falling off a cliff is an instant death, but you'll respawn very close to where you died, so it's never a far jaunt.

I spent a lot of time on Ratchet and not much on Clank, but that's because the game does that as well. There are times when you take control over Clank, but they're few and far between. Unlike his Lombax pal, Clank isn't really a fighter. He can smack small enemies, but his missions involve sneaking through air vents or other small areas and solving puzzles to open doors or find items. Clank can pick up small bots in the environment and move them around (later, he can transform them into other types), which is the primary method of puzzle-solving in his arsenal. Figuring out how to get a Power Bot to a power switch or use a Spring Bot to jump to a high ledge is key to advancing in the Clank segments. None of these puzzles are overly taxing, but they're a nice diversion. I wish these segments delved deeper, as Clank plays second fiddle in the game in a lot of ways.

There's a good amount of content in Ratchet and Clank. The main story is about seven hours long, and there's some additional side content. As mentioned, there are hidden areas you can access by backtracking, and the areas contain two major kinds of collectibles. Holocards, which are also dropped by defeated enemies, are collectible cards based on various characters. Each card comes in a set of three, and collecting three unlocks bonus features that range from character upgrades to new weapon versions. The more important collectible is Golden Bolts, which are hidden in cunning places. There are about 28, and finding them unlocks new costumes, concept art, and cheats like infinite ammo or a slowed-down version of the game.

There are also side missions that range from fun to annoying. The Hoverboard championships are a cute minigame that encourages the player to master high-speed gameplay. On the other hand, the task to collect 100 monster brains is one of the most tedious experiences. Fortunately, the missions are mostly fun and entirely optional, and mostly are a way to get additional weapons or optional upgrades. Finishing the game unlocks Challenge mode, where you can access special Omega variations of the weapons to take on harder versions of foes.

Ratchet and Clank is a tremendous visual update over the original game. It's bright, it's colorful and it's well animated. The worst thing I can say is that the cut scenes can be inconsistent; some are taken directly from the upcoming film, and others involve poorly animated talking heads. By and large, it's an incredibly charming-looking game with bright colors and even brighter explosions. The voice acting is generally solid and well done, but a couple of actors sound absurdly stiff. Fortunately, the primary voice actors are delightful, and Jim Ward's Captain Quark continues to steal the show.

All in all, Ratchet and Clank is a reboot done right. It captures the same feel of the original game but is bigger, more polished and offers more content. A few awkward spots aren't enough to detract from the entire experience, and it's easily the definitive version of the game. Die-hard Ratchet fans might feel conflicted about some of the plot changes, but they help the story flow better and make Ratchet more likeable. Add into that the budget price of $40, and it's a solid addition to any PS4 owner's library. The kid-friendly atmosphere makes it a great game for parents and kids to play together, and it's one of the rare movie tie-in games that's well worth the cost.

Score: 8.5/10

More articles about Ratchet & Clank
blog comments powered by Disqus