Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Review — Into the Future
I can't sit down with a Ratchet & Clank game without being whisked away to the hazy age of nine years old — when I often sat starry-eyed in front of my parents' old CRT TV, holding a DualShock 2 in my lap. As I jetted across the Solana Galaxy and assisted its whacky and lovable denizens for the first time, I developed a rich, unshakeable bond with that world.
Out of every other video game series, even Final Fantasy — which my repeat readers know I'm quite fond of — I most associate Ratchet & Clank with the pinnacle of childhood gaming nostalgia. Much in the same way that a lifelong Nintendo fan might point to a Super Mario or a Legend of Zelda game as their own childhood favorite.
Almost two decades after originally getting snagged by the series' charm, I've played the latest installment. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is everything that I wanted and expected.
Insomniac has recaptured the magic of playing Ratchet & Clank for the first time in its first new mainline R&C game since 2013. Being the first in the franchise to land on the sparkly new PS5, Rift Apart shows exactly what the newest generation of games consoles can deliver.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Review — Into the Future
The fantastic 2016 PS4 reboot of the original Ratchet & Clank was an enjoyable retread on its own, but it was iterative — it walked so that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart can run. And boy howdy, does it run.
Rift Apart gives the PS5 a hefty workout. It delivers sweeping visuals, character models, and lighting effects that wouldn't look out of place in a 3D-animated feature film, and its slick combat can spotlessly feature tens of enemies and projectiles on screen at once without a hitch (if you're using the Performance visual mode).
Getting bugs out of the way early, there are a small handful of bugs throughout Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, but they're pretty minor. At most, I found myself occasionally jumping up onto a ledge and getting snagged in some geometry, leading to a quick death. But since quicksaves are so well-placed and there's almost no penalty for dying, these slight inconveniences didn't bother me even slightly.
My brain stayed deadlocked on the visuals, the story, and the combat, all of which weave together effortlessly and are so engrossing that it's hard to get mad when something goes wrong.
There are about nine planets in Rift Apart, but each one is sizeable and chock-full of opportunities to run off and grab non-essential collectibles like Gold Bolts and Spybots. These unlock a whole smorgasbord of cool features in the Collectibles menu, such as alternate weapon skins and photo mode filters. Still, they aren't necessary to have an enjoyable or complete experience across Rift Apart's roughly 12-hour campaign.
If you want to enhance your performance in combat in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, you can go hunting for Pocket Dimensions that contain pieces of armor, each of which has its own bonuses and can be customized however you see fit. It's layered perfectly; you don't need these sets to be effective or useful, but the bonuses you get are well worth the extra time spent digging for them.
Each Pocket Dimension is relatively easy to find anyway, and each one contains an interesting puzzle that takes less than a couple of minutes to complete.
As usual, you'll gradually purchase and collect a full arsenal of unique, inventive, and upgradeable weapons that can harmonize with one another in countless ways, and each one makes great use of the DualSense's adaptive triggers and haptic feedback functionality.
One such weapon is the Topiary Sprinkler, which launches sprinklers (yes, sprinklers!) that stun enemies in place and turn everything nearby into a living garden. That's just one of several — I counted 18 weapons in my arsenal by the end, but I didn't unlock everything — and they all do something different and equally special. Even the basic ranged weapon, the Plasma Pistol this time around, has its own unique advantages that remain useful until the very end.
It’s wonderful that, much like in Returnal, you can alternate your weapon's firing mode by pressing the right trigger halfway or pushing it all the way in for the fullest effect.
Rift Apart is generous with its weapon upgrades. You can level them up to increasingly more powerful versions of themselves by earning XP from combat, and you can purchase further upgrades with Raritanium that you find scattered liberally around the world. You rarely go into a fight feeling like you're underpowered, and you can choose which weapons you like and which ones you want to invest into, just as in previous Ratchet & Clank games.
The mind-blowing visual fidelity featured in Rift Apart depicts movie-like scenery and character graphics so well that you can clearly see how much effort went into bringing the whole cast to life. Without spoiling anything, everybody from returning villain Dr. Nefarious to the newly introduced protagonists — Rivet and Kit — are animated with excruciating detail.
Speaking of Rivet and Kit, the two are natural foils to Ratchet and Clank themselves. The voice performances by and chemistry between James Arnold Taylor (Ratchet), Jennifer Hale (Rivet), David Kaye (Clank), and Debra Wilson (Kit) are excellent and instill tons of life into these characters, making each new addition fit seamlessly into the cast that we already knew and loved.
Most importantly, I didn't once get the Uncanny Valley feeling from any of the character performances.
It goes without saying that Rift Apart is a real treat on a modern TV. It features ultra-smooth 60 FPS gameplay that looks fabulous on a 4K HDR screen in Performance RT mode, and each moment of action is sheer eye candy. The best part is that it does this all without any hitches, minus a few moments where the visual quality degrades just a little bit to keep up with the action. But it's so difficult to notice that minor degradation at such high speeds that I wouldn't lose sleep had I left that critique on the table without mentioning it.
Like any Ratchet & Clank game, there's a heavy platforming element here, but it's all delightfully woven into the cinematic storytelling. Each moment is hand-crafted to keep the pace feeling fresh throughout, and there were a handful of moments that simply left me astounded at how it all came together.
For instance, there's a sequence where you Swingshot, rocket jump, and grind your way through a giant robot's path of devastation, all as you leap onto its back and then through its massive metal hands. That's just one of many highly memorable sequences that Rift Apart pulls out of its hat, and most of the campaign is also directed just as tightly.
Some of those sequences lean on a neat interdimensional travel mechanic that flexes the PS5's M.2 NVME storage. At any moment, you can jump through a portal or strike a "Blizon" crystal to instantaneously travel to another zone with zero loading time. It's used throughout the campaign in different creative ways, each evoking the feeling I had when I played Titanfall 2's famous "Effect and Cause" level in 2016.
There are some puzzles and side-adventures here too, but none are that difficult to solve or invasive in any significant way. At several points in the campaign, you'll have to solve easy and simple puzzles to end dimensional "anomalies," or you'll have to step into the shoes of Glitch — a new character, charming in her own right — to unclog a few computer viruses. These sequences are short-lived and set far apart from one another. But they end just shy of overstaying their welcome, ultimately helping Rift Apart pace itself between action-heavy moments.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Review — The Bottom Line
- Ratchet & Clank is back, baby!
- Mindblowing visuals and cinematic platforming weave together with fast and fun combat
- Powerful and unique weapons that feel great to use
- Rivet and Kit are delightful new additions to an already delightful cast
- Wonderful performances across the board
- Puzzles and sidequests don't overstay their welcome and give balanced rewards
- Bugs exist
- Puzzles and sidequests also exist, which may be a turnoff for some
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a masterful game in every right. It pulls out every stop to deliver a memorable and deeply enjoyable experience from start to finish, featuring dynamic and diverse combat, exhilarating platforming, an emotive and relatable cast of characters with tons of chemistry, and some of the wildest level design I've ever seen in a game.
And it looks fantastic on the PlayStation 5, where it flexes the system's every muscle to deliver a true 4K 60 FPS experience with minimal loading screens and fantastic usage of the DualSense controller's interactive features.
[Note: Insomniac Games provided the copy of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart used for this review.]