Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review – PlayStation 5 is off to a strong start

Eric Abent - Jun 8, 2021, 9:00am CDT
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review – PlayStation 5 is off to a strong start
Editors' Rating: 10/10
Pros
  • Wonderful characters go on a dimension-hopping adventure
  • Beautiful graphics, particularly in Fidelity mode
  • Interesting, balanced weapons
  • Combat is a ton of fun
Cons
  • Ratchet and Rivet don't feel different enough in terms of gameplay

It’s been a while since we last heard from our buddies Ratchet and Clank. Not only has it been five years since the last Ratchet & Clank game, titled simply Ratchet & Clank, but that one was only a reimagining of the original game from 2002. To find the last proper Ratchet & Clank release, you have to go back all the way back to 2013 and the release of Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus. Back then, I remember hearing some question of whether or not the Ratchet & Clank series had worn out its welcome after a packed 13 years of releases. After some time off, the pair are back to usher in the PS5 era along with some new friends in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

I’m not the best person to ask if the Ratchet & Clank series had been milked to death by the time Into the Nexus came out simply because I did an awful job at keeping up with the series after playing the first game on PS2. I’ve dabbled here and there throughout the years, but I’m certainly no Ratchet & Clank die-hard. Everything Sony showed us of Rift Apart in the lead up to release definitely caught my attention, so now that it’s here, does the game deliver?

Spoiler: it absolutely does. If Ratchet & Clank needed to make some kind of grand comeback after their poor showing in cinemas in 2016, then Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is unquestionably that comeback. From start to finish, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a fun, engaging, and even kind of addicting game. While I’m sure other games that come later on down the line will make better use of the PS5’s hardware from a graphics standpoint, Rift Apart makes a good case for the console’s SSD, and it still manages to look excellent in the process.

Story

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart follows the titular duo on a journey between dimensions after their arch-nemesis, Dr. Nefarious, steals a weapon (tool?) called the Dimensionator from Ratchet and Clank. In the ensuing battle, the Dimensionator is damaged and starts ripping apart reality. Ratchet, Clank, and Dr. Nefarious are thrown into an alternate dimension where Nefarious is a vicious, totalitarian emperor and faces resistance from a group of freedom fighters, one of whom is Rivet the Lombax. The three heroes team up in an effort to stop Nefarious and get Ratchet and Clank back to their own dimension.

That’s a quick and dirty synopsis of the story, and I will say that I did enjoy the game’s narrative quite a bit. For me, however, what makes Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart particularly great from a storytelling perspective is less its overarching narrative and more its fantastic cast of characters. Since I don’t want to spoil anything, I don’t want to talk about them much outside of Rivet, but I do think Rivet is a great character and I hope she’s in future games in the series – that’s a hope that applies to many of characters I met on my way through Rift Apart.

You’ll actually play as Rivet for about half the game, and oftentimes it can feel like the story is primarily about her instead of Ratchet and Clank. Players get control of Rivet early on, as she’s the one who rescues Clank when he and Ratchet are separated in Rivet’s dimension, and from that point on, players will change between playing as Rivet and playing as Ratchet regularly.

Those are all of the story details I’ll get into for now, because I don’t want to spoil anything outside of the game’s opening. We’ll leave it at saying that the story is solid and is elevated further by excellent characters.

The writing is good as well; there are some genuinely funny moments and others that might induce an eyeroll or two, but on the whole, the script is enjoyable more often or not. The voice acting, on the other hand, is consistently top-tier. Between the quality of the voice acting and the graphics, someone walking into the room in the middle of a play session would be forgiven from thinking they were watching an animated movie from one of the giants like Pixar or Disney.

Gameplay

So the story is good, the characters are great, and the voice acting is on point, but none of that really matters if the gameplay isn’t up to snuff. Gameplay, as a matter of fact, is more than up to snuff – it’s excellent. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart feels very good to play and controls very well.

There are five difficulty modes in the game: Easy (Rookie Recruit), Normal (Rebel Agent), Hard (Resistance Leader), and Very Hard (Renegade Legend), along with a Very Easy mode (Rookie Explorer) where player characters can’t die during combat. I completed the game on hard mode and collected nearly everything there is to collect on the way through.

Hard mode, to me, felt like the perfect amount of challenge, as battles with standard enemies required at least a little concern for self-preservation and boss battles could be difficult fights requiring multiple attempts. For most people who have played these action/adventure/platforming games like Ratchet & Clank, I would say that hard mode is the way to go if you want a challenge that isn’t overwhelmingly difficult.

A full playthrough of the game took me right around 25 hours according to my PS5, so this is a good amount longer than 2016’s Ratchet & Clank for PS4. I had 25 hours with a specific focus on collecting as many secrets as I could find too, so those who barrel through the main story with little regard for finding collectibles can probably expect around 20 hours.

From start to finish, playing this game is a fantastic experience. I enjoyed using each and every weapon in the game, and another perk of hard mode is that the enemies can often feel like bullet sponges, which makes you use and upgrade a wide variety of weapons instead of focusing on just a few. I certainly had my favorite weapons, but you can use any combination of weapons you want to get through the game, and that’s a sign of good balance in my opinion.

The weapons are all creative and cover a good range of playstyles too. If you want to spray and pray with fast-firing automatic weapons, you’ve got plenty of options there; there are also plenty of high damage, slow-firing weapons and even a couple of weapons that summon minions for you. I would have liked to see some more precision weapons, though I suppose given how hectic many battles can be, you don’t often have a ton of chances to use weapons that make you slow down and aim carefully.

The PlayStation 5 means more power to render more enemies on screen, and Insomniac makes good use of that fact in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. There are times where you’ll be overrun by enemies and need to blast your way out, or even moments where different factions of enemies duke it out with each other and ignore you entirely. The world feels very alive thanks to interactions like that, and in the later stages of the game you’ll definitely notice the increased number of characters on screen at any given time.

Even though the game is split between Rivet and Ratchet, both of the characters play identically. Rivet uses a hammer and Ratchet uses his trusty wrench but, functionally, both tools are the same. Both characters also use the same arsenal of weapons, so there really aren’t any differences between them aside from looks and voice.

Movement in this game is fantastic, and it’s so enjoyable that I can already tell speedruns of Rift Apart are going to be nuts. The Rift Tether not only allows you to teleport through Rifts you find in the world, but it also allows you to perform quick, fluid dodges. Moving around a battlefield feels really great in the game, as you’ll be bouncing over laser beams and dodging melee attacks with your Rift Tether while you return fire with all sorts of ridiculous weaponry. Combat in this game is pure cartoon chaos in motion and it never gets old.

You get even more movement tools as you progress through the game too, so by the end you’ll be zipping around planets and literally running circles around your enemies. Rift Apart has a surprising sense of speed to it, and the movement is part of what makes scouring each planet for secrets fun rather than a boring grind.

The DualSense controller really shines in Rift Apart, just as I hoped it would. Not only does the game make ample use of the controller speaker – which is particularly great when used as a supplement to playing the game in 5.1 surround – but nearly every weapon has some kind of alternate fire mode that’s activated by pulling the trigger halfway down instead of all the way down. On paper that might sound like a hassle but you’ll get the feeling down very quickly and will be switching between alternate and main fire modes on the fly like a pro in no time.

I cannot praise the gameplay in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart enough. I was always having fun while playing this game: none of it felt like a slog, even when I was bouncing from planet to planet trying to get all of the collectibles I missed on earlier passes. Completing the game opens up challenge mode, which is basically a New Game+ mode that lets you play through again with all of your weapon upgrades, money, and collectibles unlocked. I can already tell you that I’ll be going through challenge mode on the hardest difficulty in pursuit of a Platinum Trophy because I had so much fun on my first time through the game.

Presentation and Performance

Just as all of the pre-release trailers suggested, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart looks wonderful. I played most of the game on Fidelity mode, which sets the framerate to 30 fps and maximizes graphics quality and resolution. The game looks great in Fidelity mode and I recommended that everyone play through at least a portion of Rift Apart with that graphics mode on because our eyes need to be treated from time to time.

A couple of days ago, two other graphics modes went live: Performance and Performance RT, both of which will be available in Ratchet & Clank’s day one patch. I haven’t spent as much time playing in these modes as I have with Fidelity mode, but both bring the framerate up to 60 fps in exchange for a resolution hit, with Performance RT making a bigger compromise to turn raytracing on.

I haven’t noticed a huge difference between the Performance and Performance RT modes when it comes to lighting, but that could just be a matter of not spending enough time with them yet. I will say that playing at 60 fps makes combat feel a lot smoother, so consider one of the Performance modes if you’ll be playing through on Rift Apart’s harder difficulties.

While there is a noticeable increase in graphics quality when playing in Fidelity mode, the game looks good in every graphics mode. My advice is to decide if 60 frames per second is important to you then play in the corresponding graphics mode; the game will look great no matter which mode you play it in.

We also need to talk about the PlayStation 5’s SSD, because Rift Apart really sells that thing. I made a special note to keep an eye out for any loading screens throughout my playthrough and I remember none. The worst you’ll see is the occasional fade to black as you transition between planets, but even that only takes a second or two. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart makes me truly excited to see what developers do with the PS5 in the future, because if something like Rift Apart can be so seamless when we’re only six months in, developers will probably be able to do some impressive things with that SSD later on in the generation.

There are two things that deserve special shout outs: the first is the soundtrack, which was composed by Marks Mothersbaugh and is the perfect companion to this game. The second is the sheer number of accessibility options available in Rift Apart. Not only do you have standard features like camera and aim sensitivity, but you also have much more specific toggles and settings that will do things like automatically slow time when you approach hazards while grinding on rails, or apply single-color shaders to allies, enemies, the player character, and intractable objects.

I love seeing accessibility options like these in video games because they simply mean that more people get to enjoy them. I hope every Sony game moving forward has features like these and that other developers and publishers strive to include as dense a list of accessibility options in their own games.

What I didn’t like

This section is going to be short because there wasn’t a whole lot that I didn’t like. I think it’s a bit of a shame that Rivet and Ratchet have identical playstyles and use identical weapons. It would have been cool to see Rivet have her own collection of weapons or have a different combat style that was uniquely hers. I understand why Insomniac made them identical since they’re supposed to be alternate dimension versions of one another, but it would have been nice to see some distinction between the two outside of their looks and their voices.

I also encountered a few bugs as I was playing through the game, but there was nothing too big. I saw some visual glitches and noticed one instance of pop-in. There were also some terrain glitches, but those were pretty rare. The worst bug I encountered stopped progression of a story segment, but that was fixed by reloading to a checkpoint. Beside those items, I have no major complaints regarding Rift Apart.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart verdict

What a wonderful game. I really enjoyed my time Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and at this point I’m wondering if Insomniac can be stopped. Rift Apart is a joy from front to back that does a good job of ushering in the new generation for Sony. I’m already looking forward to the next game in the Ratchet & Clank series.

Rift Apart has so much charm and heart between its characters, its rock solid gameplay, and its colorful, beautiful graphics that it’s hard for me to imagine anyone sitting down to play this game and not having fun with it. I don’t think Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is going to be the game that drives many people to get a PlayStation 5, but I think it nonetheless deserves a spot in every PS5 library. Wait for a sale if you must – I’m not one to deride smart spending – but Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a must-play game for anyone who owns a PS5.


Must Read Bits & Bytes