Review: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Ratchet & Clank has had a tremendous track record as a key PlayStation franchise. First appearing on PS2, the series has had adventures on a wide range of PlayStation hardware. Its mix of charm, engaging gameplay and arsenal of insane weapons have kept players coming back for more. It’s the type of franchise Sony needs for their six-month-old PS5. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart isn’t just the franchise’s first leap onto the PS5; it’s also a showpiece for the new hardware. Does Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart successfully balance being both a great game and a showpiece for the new hardware or should this adventure be banished to another dimension?

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart takes place several years after the events of Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus. During a celebration for the titular duo, Doctor Nefarious manages to get his hands on a Dimensionator and causes a dimensional collapse as he opens a portal to a dimension where he always wins. Following the destruction of the Dimensionator, Ratchet and Clank are separated. Ratchet ends up on his own, and Clank is discovered by Rivet, a female Lombax and member of this dimension’s resistance. Left with no options, Ratchet and Clank must team up with Rivet to fix the Dimensionator, repair the dimensional collapse, and defeat Doctor and Emperor Nefarious.

Rift Apart’s story’s strength lies in its writing and characters. The overarching plot isn’t too surprising, with telegraphed plot twists. Despite this, the story remains compelling, providing great character moments across the core cast. The focus on camaraderie, finding one’s place in the world and forgiving yourself are strong themes that culminate in some great moments. Rivet stands as a great addition to the franchise, lending the story a dose of humanity and serving as a strong contrast for Ratchet. While Ratchet has enjoyed the limelight and is celebrated as a hero, he isn’t sure he wants to find more Lombaxes. On the other hand, Rivet has lived under authoritarian rule her whole life and is desperate to find her people.

Though Rift Apart explores heavy themes, it wraps it all in comedy. Insomniac Games’ writing for the franchise has always been consistent and Rift Apart is no different. The game is hilarious, poking fun at the franchise, Insomniac and pop culture. While the four members that comprise the main cast are the focus, it’s the side characters and creatures that steal the scenes they’re in, especially the alternate dimension versions of well-known franchise characters. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s narrative may not offer many surprises, but it sure is fun. Filled with plenty of great character moments, comedy, and plenty of heart, Rift Apart tells a compelling story that sinks its hooks in and keeps you going to the credits.

It helps that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a meaty game. A first run can last anywhere between 10-15 hours, depending on the side activities and missions you choose to pursue. From an arena to the hunt for Gold Bolts to side missions, there’s plenty of content to keep players busy during the main adventure. Even after the credits roll, there’s still new content to pursue, thanks to Challenge mode, which allows you to replay the story with your current set of weapons and unlock brand new ones. Those familiar with the Ratchet & Clank formula shouldn’t have much trouble jumping into the game. Like previous titles, players will travel across a wide array of planets completing story objectives, exploring for secrets and causing general mayhem. It’s a tried-and-true design that continues to make Ratchet & Clank games enjoyable.

As the first entry on PS5, Rift Apart does take advantage of the new hardware to switch things up. While the PS5 enables larger, denser, and more gorgeous landscapes than previously possible, it’s how Rift Apart uses the SSD that makes the most impact. The PS5’s ability to quickly draw in assets is a game-changer that manifests itself in large open locations where Ratchet and Rivet can travel at breakneck speeds and linear locations where dimensions are instantly swapped by hitting a crystal. Both Ratchet and Rivet can even use their Rift Tethers in combat and platforming to immediately pull themselves into a new area. The SSD use is an impressive effect that wows in the earliest moments and continues to impress through to the finale.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s
gameplay doesn’t stray too far from the franchise’s roots. As Ratchet and Rivet, you’ll strafe, shoot, collect bolts to buy more guns and collect Raritanium to upgrade weapons. At its heart, Rift Apart remains a fun third-person shooter with platforming elements, and none of the new additions do anything to tarnish that. Likewise, the introduction of Rivet, a female Lombax, isn’t a game-changer. Weapons, movesets and progression are shared across both characters, and both have an equal number of levels. The only fundamental differences are cosmetic, such as her usage of a hammer versus a wrench. What has changed are new additions to combat and traversal. Rift Apart ups the speed of combat and traversal, giving Ratchet and Rivet enhanced mobility with Hoverboots and Speedles to race across the largest of the maps at blistering speeds. Wall running sections open up new possible pathways and play a part in some of the high-octane chases. Finally, and most importantly, is the Phantom Dash, which allows Ratchet and Rivet to phase through enemy attacks. It’s a quick and effective way to escape enemy attacks or access secret areas. The result of these mobility-focused additions makes Rift Apart the fastest, smoothest playing Ratchet & Clank game yet.

Insomniac Games’ penchant for developing inventive, fun weapons is well regarded, particularly in its Ratchet & Clank titles. Rift Apart is no different, with a vast arsenal of creative toys to collect. Ranging from basic weapons like a pistol and shotgun to exotic firearms like the Topiary Sprinkler that immobilizes enemies by turning them into topiary bushes, there’s a good selection of inventive weapons. A good portion of the weaponry uses the DualSense’s adaptive triggers, placing regular and alternate fires on the R2 button. A half-pull activates a weapon’s alt-fire mode, and a full pull unleashes that weapon’s power. It is a weird sensation that takes time to get used to, and not every weapon uses this feature, but the additional functionality it provides is nice. Overall, Rift Apart provides a great roster of weapons to play with, but not much to use the weapons against.

Where Rift Apart hurts is in its enemy variety with only a handful of basic goon types Doctor and Emperor Nefarious lob at the player and some animal enemies native to the planets types. Unfortunately, the combat never evolves much beyond these goons. More detrimental are the boss enemies that consistently repeat throughout the runtime. Rift Apart’s solution to this problem is to throw multiple of the same boss at you, but that doesn’t alter their moves or force you to alter your strategies. Playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is fun thanks to the enhanced mobility, creative arsenal of weapons and the pure fact that the franchise’s formula continues to work so well, but it would have been nice to see a grander scale of variety with the enemies.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart isn’t just a new entry in the beloved franchise. PlayStation has positioned the game as a showpiece for the PS5 since its initial reveal. Does the game live up to its promise? Yes, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a showpiece for the PS5, showcasing the versatility of the console’s power. On a surface level, the presentation is leaps and bounds higher than what we saw in Ratchet & Clank (2016) on PS4. The worlds are more extensive and densely packed with detail, particle effects are plentiful and pop with vivid color, and the hair rendering on Ratchet and Rivet is some of the best seen yet in a video game. It’s fair to say that Rift Apart is the closest a video game with this art style has gotten to matching the graphics of a 3D animated film.

The game also serves as a showpiece for the console’s flexibility. Want to experience the best graphical options? Turn on Fidelity mode for a 4K resolution, enhanced effects and ray-tracing. The game does drop the frame rate to 30fps, but the ray-tracing is superb, popping up on nearly every glass and metal surface. Those who don’t mind sacrificing resolution and some effects can opt for the Performance RT mode, which trades them for some ray-tracing and 60fps gameplay. Finally, there’s the pure Performance mode, which strips out ray-tracing in favor of 4K at 60fps. It’s a wide range of options that scales to what you find most important in your presentation. You can’t go wrong with any of the options, which are all stable, though the impressive use of ray-traced reflections makes a strong case for opting for Fidelity or Performance RT. For those waiting for a PS5 showpiece that isn’t tough as nails like Demon’s Souls or Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart delivers across the board.

Closing Comments:

Those holding out for a showpiece title for their PS5 now have it. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart utilizes the power and functionalities of the PS5 to deliver a must-own experience while also standing as an excellent game on its own. Rift Apart follows Insomniac Games’ tried and true Ratchet & Clank formula, providing excellent gameplay, plenty of content and the signature humor that’s made the characters so endearing. The story and its plot twists may be generic and overly telegraphed, but the intelligent writing and great character moments help keep the plot moving at an incredible pace. Meanwhile, new mobility additions to the game make this the fastest and smoothest a Ratchet & Clank title has ever played. An outstanding roster of fun weapons mixed with great gameplay helps mitigate the disappointing enemy variety. As a marquee PS5 title, the presentation excellently showcases the system’s power and flexibility. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart may not stray too far from the franchise’s established formula, but Insomniac Games has crafted a fantastic game that builds on its legacy and charts a new path forward.