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“Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart” Review

Ratchet and Clank (R&C) jump to the new generation. Is their new adventure worth the wait - and the added $10 US price tag?

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Overview

In my review I wish to address these main points that I feel affected my personal enjoyment of the game and that I think will be major for most people.

– Visuals and Gameplay
– Characters and Story
– Value and Price

I’m not going to waste your time so let’s jump right into it.

Visuals and Gameplay

If you’ve seen a trailer for this game, you already know that it is gorgeous. In practice, Insomniac provided 3 visual modes to choose from – Performance, Performance with Ray Tracing (henceforth RT), and Fidelity.

I personally played 99% of the game with the Performance w/RT mode, and I suspect that most people can and – dare I say – should do the same. I spent a few minutes with each and quickly settled on Performance w/RT; Fidelity mode was the shortest experience for me as the higher resolution and full array of RT is just simply not worth the tradeoff for a higher frame rate.

RT is a nice feature in itself and it does add an extra layer of visual eye candy that helps scream “next gen” in motion, but for me the jump to 60 fps is what really sets this game and (hopefully) the new generation of consoles apart. Where I’d willingly give up RT, I am much more hesitant to want to play my games at less than 60 fps anymore. Especially now that the new generation of consoles is more than capable as evidenced by this game, Demon’s Souls, Spider-Man Miles Morales, and a slew of previous-gen games with or without an optimization patch.

Stepping aside from the highly generalized statements about performance, there is clearly a lot of work and care that went into the visuals here. Insomniac continues to push ahead with their particle effects expertise that started in this series even back on the PS2. Bolts and sparks fly everywhere during the most chaotic battles, almost reaching a level of visual overload. Each planet you visit is visually distinct and, to my personal pleasure, supremely colorful. Even in the backgrounds there is a lot of superfluous detail and movement that give just a little bit of extra life into the game.

Fantastic eye candy is all well and good, but personally I need a game with solid gameplay mechanics to keep me engaged. Fortunately, R&C is up to the task and clearly shows the polish and finesse expected of a multi-decade franchise.

For those unfamiliar, you get a series of standard and non-standard weapons to go along with your 3rd person shooting and platforming. These range from “simple” pistols and rocket launchers, to “grenades” with a range of effects from spawning temporary allies or turning enemies into harmless shrubberies (“Ni!”), blocks of ice, and more. Most of the weapons are a lot of fun to use with only a couple of duds to me.

Layered on top of the weapon variety is an RPG-esque leveling system that also ties in with a series of collectibles in the game. The more you hit and kill enemies with a particular weapon, the stronger it can become. Once it levels up – up to a maximum of Lv. 5 in the main game and Lv. 10 in the NG+ mode – you can spend additional “Raritanium” to improve various aspects of it, which generally is scattered fairly liberally across all levels and at worst only a little off the beaten path. You really are meant to upgrade your weapons and get more powerful – and have more fun – at every step of the game. Upgrades are about as standard as you might expect, so I won’t spend any additional time on it. Suffice to say, the arsenal in this game is almost always a blast to use, and swapping between them mid-battle is quick and seamless.

Aside from combat, there’s a fairly standard assortment of platforming moves. Jump, double jump, and hover come standard, and you quickly also unlock a dodge move both on ground and in-air, and a wall-running move that is mostly just visual eye candy. You also get a pair of rocket boots to fly along the ground at a faster speed, though these are often not too useful outside of a few specific levels and instances. There are also magnetic boots that carry over from the previous game which are fine but do little more than help provide visual variety. Similarly you will use and upgrade a grappling hook-like item, though this is also largely relegated to eye candy status with exceptionally few important hidden areas to reach. This is obviously not a Metroidvania game, but a little more reason to visit previous planets could have gone a long way.

These tools are only as good as the characters who wield them, which is I suppose as good a segue as any into the next main topic…

Characters and Story

The game opens with the titular heroes Ratchet and Clank receiving a parade in their honor from previous heroic endeavors, ostensibly from the most recent previous game in 2016. Ratchet being the hitherto only known lombax, and Clank, a faulty warbot that joined him in his endeavors. These details are important as the story plays out, but it’s a lot easier to forget about Clank’s background as there is little to no time spent on it in this game.

Despite the multiple titles across PS2 and PS3, this seems as far as I can tell to be a direct sequel to the series reboot released on PS4. For longtime fans this may seem upsetting to dismiss a multi-generational continuity, but it also keeps things chugging along with what is likely the most familiar setting for many players. Especially as the game was recently given away for free by Sony for its Play At Home promotional campaign, and is currently available for “free” with a PS+ subscription for PS5 players.

Soon things go wrong – as they are wont to do in a video game like this – and the two are separated after being transported to an alternate dimension.

Enter Rivet – another lombax! She finds Clank shortly after the duo’s multi-dimensional kerfuffle and carries him off for her own means despite being outwardly skeptical of accepting the help of a robot. Ratchet, meanwhile, sees what he understandably believes to be a kidnapping and sets off to try and rescue his partner.

From this point there are a variety of comical characters introduced.  Starting off the main set of villains are a goon-for-hire squad that taps into the exaggerated stereotype of bro-culture of bodybuilders and other lunks/muscle heads. There are the Morts, an entire species where everyone is named Mort who see lemonade as a special drink for special occasions. Then there are the space pirates who are themselves a comical caricature of pop-culture pirate sentiments rather than an actual band of swashbuckling ne’er-do-wells. Never mind a handful of other unique and fairly well characterized individuals you come across in your dimension-hopping adventure.

While there aren’t necessarily any wholly unique plot points along the journey, I won’t go into any spoilers from here – aside from an offhanded mention 2 paragraphs down. If you’re interested in playing the game for the story then I think you will appreciate no further details. And frankly, the overall story isn’t the draw here. Suffice to say that the characters play off of each other nicely, there’s some personal growth, and overall perhaps even a (slight) redemption for the bumbling villain. While it’s not the main focus of the game, it is all pulled off very well and has a satisfying resolution.

If that sounds pretty generic, you’re right. Just to emphasize the point, from my perspective this is a series for the gameplay first and foremost. That the game does have enjoyable characters and a solid-if-often-generic sci-fi story are just a bonus.

Somewhat as an aside, fairly early on there’s a lovely series of easter eggs for longtime fans of the PlayStation brand. I’ll leave the specifics of each reference and where you find them out of my review, as discovering them is most of the fun there, but I think it’s a worthwhile aspect to mention and to be on the lookout for.

That’s all to lead into my final point – is this game worth your hard-earned disposable income?

Value and Price

Let’s address the $70 US elephant in the room. Quite a few games have been released at a higher MSRP in the new gen compared to the PS4/Xbox One by many publishers; Sony Included. This started right out of the gate with Demon’s Souls, then Returnal, and now R&C. So – is it worth the added $10?

Before I attempt to answer that, let’s take a quick look backwards. R&C 2016 released as a budget title at $40 US vs. the normal $60 US of the day. For the price it offered fantastic gameplay iterating on the previous games and excellent visuals for the generation (now enhanced with a 60 fps patch for those of us that own a PS5), all contained in a drastic remake of the original game that has some new bits, but is otherwise a standard R&C game iterating on and following the footsteps of the PS2 generation. A great value for what is offered, but nothing revelatory that (IMO) would have warranted a then-full-price tag of $60.

With this point of comparison in mind, for me the value prospect has not kept pace with this new game. At nearly double the price you get… another R&C game. Granted it’s a lovely game that flows at a solid 60 fps and offers perhaps the best visuals this gen after Demon’s Souls. But still, it’s a game that has inflated in cost to almost double the previous iteration, matching a general increase that is otherwise in comparison only roughly 16% its now-full-cost brethren.

If you watched the trailers, you likely noticed the focus on dimension-hopping. Unfortunately, these are largely relegated to on-rails segments, usually for a major boss battle. A phenomenal visual spectacle and something that technically couldn’t be replicated on the now-previous generation, for sure. But effectively still not much more than simply a visual highlight.

More practically, there are some spots that offer you a “tether” to warp a relatively small distance during battle. This mechanic is satisfyingly quick; almost disarmingly so. Similarly, traveling from planet to planet is incredibly fast; levels load in a few scant seconds. Even after completing the game I was still not used to how fast everything loads. That said, it still at this point feels like a quality of life improvement over an actual gameplay enhancement.

I generally don’t like to use hours of gameplay as a metric for value, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a useful measurement for many. I obtained the Platinum trophy for this game in roughly 16 hours of gameplay. This also includes leveling most of the weapons up to Lv. 5 and not playing the NG+ mode.

That all said, I also feel like I got everything out of the game that I had wanted. Playing through the story again at a slightly higher difficulty and to further level my already overpowered-feeling weapons doesn’t really hold much appeal to me. After completing effectively everything the game has to offer, I honestly don’t think I will ever revisit it.

Conclusion

I’m not going to make a blanket statement that “you shouldn’t buy the game” for its current price. I’m sure many people have and are enjoying the game without waiting for a discount.

Never mind that, I truly did enjoy playing it and I’ve seen a lot of positive buzz, especially on the r/PS5 subreddit for example. (Whatever a biased source like that site is worth to you.) But I hope that the information and overview I provided at least helps to determine if the current price is worth it to you. Assuming, of course, you are one of the “lucky” few to currently even own a PS5 given the situation with scalpers and bots ruining the market. And chances are, if you bought a PS5 already – especially if you’re one of those who bought it at inflated prices from a scalper – then you probably have the disposable income to afford it. But of course, that still doesn’t say whether or not that amount of disposable income is worth it for you; that’s a choice up to you and you alone.

While this currently feels like a showcase of what the PS5 is and can be capable of, as of now it still largely feels like just a glimpse of what we will see on this console in the next few years. The future of PS5 is bright and full of 60 fps and RT tech. How much you want to pay for a preview of that now, wrapped up in what is truly a great – if not quite groundbreaking – game, is up for you to decide.

That all said, I really am hopeful for another R&C game to hit this generation. I think that the very good groundwork laid here can be used to build something very special. While I’m doubtful, the next attempt may even be worth the full price tag they are asking.

 

 

Disclaimer – I played this game via a $1 GameFly subscription promo. I received no compensation for this review or the time that I spent playing it; playing the game and writing the review were purely for my own entertainment. I do not endorse any products or services.
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