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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: June 11, 2021


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PS5 Review - 'Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart'

by Redmond Carolipio on June 8, 2021 @ 7:00 a.m. PDT

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a brand new intergalactic adventure where players will seamlessly travel through different dimensions in mid-gameplay.

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I don't have any firsthand accounts of this on the record, but I get the feeling Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was really fun to make. It's a blast. There's joy here. In a sea of big-time releases that bowl over gamers with sackfuls of emotional weight, artsy ennui or open-world mega-odysseys, this newest entry into the Ratchet & Clank universe is what happens when a game devotes its entire experience for the sole purpose of simple, adventurous fun.

Ratchet and Clank have long been one of contemporary gaming's more enjoyable and accessible odd-couple hero pairings for nearly two decades, taking players who have followed them on a variety of cute, innovative and wholesome adventures that have mostly ranged from solid to truly great. As they saved the universe over and over, they were also a vehicle for Insomniac's style of touching storytelling, design and versatility. Look back at their games, and it's no wonder something like the Spider-Man series hit people the way they did. Insomniac's ownership of the way it tells tales is refreshingly simple, and it appeared to return to Ratchet and Clank's world with extra fervor.

Rift Apart starts off with our retired heroes Ratchet, who is the last of his species (Lombax) in the universe, and Clank, his brainy and low-key powerful/useful robot buddy, about to be honored at an epic appreciation festival to commemorate all the times they've saved the universe. The celebration (which also serves as a small tutorial for basic controls) gets cut short when one of their oldest foes, Dr. Nefarious, crashes the party with hired bro-talking mercs and steals a dimension-splitting device that was meant as a gift from Clank to Ratchet.

You can guess what happens next: The device, called the Dimensionator (seen in past games), gets fired, misfired and damaged, causing interdimensional chaos and "rifts" to start appearing out of nowhere, and things from other dimensions falling through. Dr. Nefarious uses the confusion to eventually teleport to a dimension where he reigns supreme. Ratchet and Clank give chase but end up getting split up en route to this alternative dimension. So begins another winding romp toward cleaning up a mess that threatens the universe. However, they are not alone in their fight.

Where there are stories of other dimensions, there will be alternative-dimension counterparts, and Insomniac handles this beautifully with the introduction of Rivet, a female version of Ratchet, and eventually Kit, an adorable alternate robot version of Clank. While Ratchet and Clank may be in the title, the game belongs to all four of them. Each character gets chances to shine in both narrative and gameplay, and the story doesn't shy away from mixing and matching the Lombax/robot combos. Without giving away anything, I enjoyed how Insomniac managed to weave in the backstories of all four characters with this massive but easy-to-follow arc about the universal dance among dimensions.

What I appreciated about Rift Apart is that it didn't stretch its interdimensional premise so far to the point where it dominates every waking moment of the experience. I think it's tempting for designers to go all in and possibly confuse people with these concepts, but Rift Apart actually makes the experience feel somewhat linear, even on levels where a set of heroes bounces from one dimension to the other. That becomes apparent on one planet, where flipping to another dimension actually helps our heroes go from one end of a broken space mine to another.

Visually, the game is gorgeous. Anyone walking by your screen while you're playing this title might think you're watching a high-level animated movie or series. The collective journeys of the heroes in Rift Apart take them to places like Nefarious City, which gives off a "Blade Runner" or even "Night City" vibe with its abundance of synthetic light and claustrophobic futurism. There's even a Nefarious Day Spa you end up battling in, complete with steamy baths. You'll also see a gastropub/battleplex, a lush jungle planet, strange "pocket dimensions" and even a pirate-oriented theme park, complete with bored attendant at the entrance saying, "Arrrrr ye having fun?"

Another high point of Rift Apart deals with how many different gameplay elements and actions work together seamlessly for the main characters. At its heart, the Ratchet & Clank games has been an action/shooter and platformer, but the gunplay is very heavy here to the point that I was getting Returnal vibes, without the bouts of hopeless death and crushing difficulty. Throughout your journey, Ratchet and Rivet will use "rift tethers" as ways to zip, like a Batman-style grappling hook, to different parts of a battle area or to traverse obstacles. They'll get hover boots to zoom across landscapes and build up speed for breathtaking jumps. They'll run across walls. One beautiful sequence showcased grinding on rails to avoid a robot titan angrily processing an episode of existential doubt, which leads him to destroy everything around him. For the robots Clank and Kit, their moments to shine include extra-dimensional puzzles that involve spheres with different powers and guiding streams of their "possibilities" to a target.

I still keep coming back to combat with this game, and that's mostly because of the sheer amount of ridiculous weaponry available. If you know anything about Insomniac, you should know that gadgets and weapons are its jam, and the weapons in the Ratchet & Clank series are where the developer flexes a lot of its creativity. Making great use of the PS5's haptic half-pull/full-pull trigger system, these buyable and upgradeable weapons are the straws that stir the flaming drink of Rift Apart's hectic and silly battle ethos. You start out with a mere blast pistol but eventually get the chance to acquire things like a double-barreled shotgun that can evolve into a four-barreled version. There's a weapon called the Pixelator that blasts enemies into 8-bit pixelated form, who can be broken apart on contact. There's a weapon that ends enemies with the appearance of a small black hole. You have lighting weapons; single-shot sniper rifles that slow down time; and a weapon that launches enemy-seeking, exploding robot-dogs. It was half the fun just seeing my weapons level up into more outrageous and powerful versions. For the sake of replayability, you can acquire "omega" versions of some guns to evolve them even more to see what forms they take.

That kind of tongue-in-cheek energy extends throughout the entire experience, and it fuels the kind of warmth and humor that can be enjoyed comfortably by anyone who comes across it. The voice work and writing for each of the characters is well done, whether it is Ratchet dealing with the prospect of finding other Lombaxes, Rivet trying to lead a long-outgunned resistance effort against "Emperor" Nefarious, Clank trying to wrap his head around self-doubt and his understanding of interdimensional dynamics, and Kit suppressing her immense power and dark past to come to terms with having actual friends. I even like the minigames with Glitch, a cutely voiced computer program who fights off virus-infected devices to open doors for Ratchet. I liked the personalities and quirks of the villains and supporting characters, as they all helped enlighten and add next-gen color to a world that's been built for years.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart could be one of the first true all-encompassing showcases for the PS5. Every time I sat down to play it, I felt like I was about to start a really long episode of a good show. If there's one small nitpick, it's that I felt that some of the larger confrontations got slightly repetitive — I mean, how many versions of "juggernauts" am I supposed to fight? Also, one might get the sense that not enough risks were taken and that the game's design, as cool as it is, feels comfortable and safe. That feels like a discussion for the artists among us, and this doesn't feel like the time for a literary salon. I am on my third playthrough of Rift Apart, and I'm enjoying it as much as the first time I went through it. Sometimes, all a game has to be is fun.

Score: 8.9/10

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