Report Card: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (REVIEW)

Ratchet & Clank has been my favorite PlayStation IP since the series began in 2002. I loved the action-packed, weapon-focused gameplay of the PlayStation 2 games. When Ratchet & Clank came to the PlayStation 3 with the Future series, I adored the introduction of more story elements and lore. When I got my PlayStation 4, I couldn’t wait to see what was next for my favorite lombax and his little robot pal. For the first time, I was disappointed. There was just one Ratchet & Clank game for the PS4, and it was a “reimagining” of the first game in the series tied to a movie that didn’t seem to understand what made Ratchet & Clank special in the first place. Then…nothing. When Insomniac delivered the smash hit Spider-Man, I was relatively sure that I had already seen the last of Ratchet. Then Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was announced, and not only did the game blow me away visually, it picked up the story I had enjoyed in the Future series! Instantly, I felt like an excited teenager again, waiting for my chance to unleash a massive new arsenal and save the universe in what I thought would surely be the “next-gen” experience the PlayStation 5 needed.

Right away, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart sets out to blow you away with its visuals, and oh MAN does it succeed. The game takes place across a multitude of planets and environments, and each and every one is positively gorgeous. From the neon-soaked dystopian capital of Nefarious City to the junktown of Monolith Gulch, every location is a delightfully detailed feast for the eyes. Not only does everything look fantastic, but it animates in a wonderfully expressive way as well. The “playable movie” comparison has been made hundreds of times online, but I really can’t help but agree with it. Rift Apart is a visual triumph on par with the most sophisticated CG animated films of today, it really is a showcase for what the PlayStation 5 is capable of.

Visuals aren’t the only thing that make Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart feel like a “next-gen” game. The game’s central idea of dimensional rifts really puts the speed of the PlayStation 5’s solid-state drive on display. Grappling through rifts to get a new vantage point or firing position is seamless. “Pocket dimensions” are scattered throughout the adventure, letting you simply walk into (and sometimes rush out of) bonus challenge areas without so much as a stutter. Set pieces on par with the likes of Uncharted and God of War unfold across multiple planets. There are even a couple of planets that center around switching between two dimensional variants of the same place! Rift Apart shows, perhaps better than any other game available as of its release, just what solid-state drives can do to enhance the experience of playing a video game.

I’ve gone on for a bit longer than I meant to about how “next-gen” Rift Apart feels, but I’m going to ask you to indulge me a bit longer so I can talk about how the game makes use of the DualSense controller. Nearly every weapon in the game takes advantage of the adaptive triggers. The trigger has two stages, indicated by a bit of resistance that’s just enough to let you pause without stopping you from powering past it when you need to, that let you choose between firing methods (typically halfway for slower, more accurate firing and all the way to unleash hell). The haptic vibrations of the DualSense are also used to great effect, really enhancing the experience of both intense firefights and just exploring the environments.

It’s not enough for a video game to be a technical showpiece, it has to play well, too. Fortunately, playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is an absolute delight. Jumping, strafing, and shooting is as smooth and satisfying as it has ever been. New players can expect a gentle introduction into an approachable combat system, and series veterans can expect more of what they’ve come to love about Ratchet & Clank. Rift Apart’s biggest addition to combat is a new “phantom dash” move that allows players to dodge through most attacks and penetrate certain barriers, which can really open up firefights when used properly. But combat is only part of the Ratchet & Clank formula, exploring the many planets is just as important. The new Rift Tether and Hurlshot gadgets can make getting to far-off places a whole lot faster, and if used in conjunction with classic gadgets like the Swingshot and Hoverboots, can make moving around fast and fluid enough to make even Spider-Man jealous at times.

There are a few breaks from running and gunning, in the form of special puzzles where players are asked to take control of Clank and a virus-blasting minigame. I won’t spoil the exact setup for the Clank puzzles, but the object is to get a bunch of little robots from point A to point B using a system of switches powered by various orbs. I, personally, found the puzzles to be pretty simple, but not so simple as to be a burden. The virus-blasting minigame, however, I found to be a lot of fun! Players take control of a microscopic robot named Glitch to blast through waves of enemies with missiles, lasers, and a special exploding barrier. Both of these side activities are used pretty sparingly, with only a handful of occurrences each, which made them feel like a welcome break from the action rather than obstacles between me and the rest of the game.

I’ve touched on combat a little bit, but you just can’t talk about a Ratchet & Clank game without giving the arsenal of weapons its due. Rift Apart features a large array of weapons, as is series tradition, spread across a myriad of types. From simple blasters and shotguns to sprinklers that turn enemies into hedges and sentient mushrooms, if you can’t find at least one weapon to love in Rift Apart, your heart might just be made of stone. Each weapon levels up through use, and can be improved by investing the element raritanium, which can be found throughout the game. Raritanium upgrades provide enormous boosts to power and ammo capacity, but can also add special modifiers like ricochet shots or increased area of effect. Even the simplest of weapons feels like an instrument of destruction by the end of its upgrade tree.

Running and gunning across dimensions is a lot of fun, it’s true, but I do prefer my games to have a story to bring everything together. Rift Apart has a pretty typical story for a Ratchet & Clank game; Dr. Nefarious has caused the dimensions to become unstable by breaking the Dimensionator, and Ratchet and Clank have to fix it. The unique twist for Rift Apart is that Ratchet and Clank spend most of the game, well, ripped apart. Enter Rivet and Kit, new characters from a new dimension with more than a few similarities to Rift Apart’s namesakes. Dr. Nefarious has always been my favorite Ratchet & Clank villain, and his role as primary antagonist here is responsible for most of the game’s humor. There aren’t really any major plot twists to Rift Apart, making for a pretty predictable story overall. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s story probably isn’t going to strike a deeply emotional chord for you, but it’s enjoyable enough not to detract from the overall experience.

Rivet was one of the focuses of Rift Apart’s pre-release marketing, and I like her well enough, but I do feel like she represents something of a missed opportunity. Rivet is mechanically identical to Ratchet, she has access to all of the same gadgets and weapons (yes, she has a hammer instead of a wrench, but that just means she uses lever switches instead of cranks to open doors sometimes). Any weapon purchased by either Ratchet or Rivet is added to both character’s arsenals, and upgrades are universally applied regardless of which character purchases them. In practice, this makes for seamless transitions between the two protagonists, but it really would have liked to see Rivet have more unique abilities. I would have even settled for smaller arsenals if it meant each lombax had unique weapons. It didn’t bother me at all when I played through the game the first time, but in hindsight I do find myself wishing Ratchet and Rivet felt a little less interchangeable.

I do have a couple issues with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, the interchangeability of Ratchet and Rivet chief among them, but I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. None of the issues I have detracted from my experience at all, I had an absolute blast from the moment I started playing Rift Apart to the moment the credits started to roll. As a long time fan of Ratchet & Clank, Rift Apart felt like a return to what I loved most about the series. The tight, action packed gameplay and massive selection of weapons had me smiling the entire time. If you’re a fan of action or platforming games of any sort and have a PlayStation 5, you owe it to yourself to give Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart a try. At the time of writing, Rift Apart is the finest example of what the PS5 is capable of that you can find. If you’re looking for that “next-gen” experience, something that feels like it wouldn’t be possible on older hardware, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

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