Insomniac might just be the best game development studio on the planet. In November they launched Spider-Man Remastered as well as Miles Morales and just 7 months later they released their masterpiece, Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart. This game is a masterclass in graphics, platforming, shooting, story and fun. It is a triumph of the highest order. If you play this and don’t feel pure joy, you might not have a soul.
It’s clear that everything which Insomniac has learned in the almost three decades it’s been around has culminated in this game. The gameplay formula of Ratchet & Clank was perfected on the PS2 with the second entry, Going Commando but each subsequent entry has refined that gameplay more and more and this is the apex. Simply put, everything you do in the game feels perfect.
Throughout the game’s 10-15 hour runtime, you’ll be spending most of your time shooting enemies with wacky weapons, doing some light platforming and going through a couple puzzle areas as Clank. There’s also a couple sections that will have you flying a dragon like creature Panzer Dragoon style as well as sections where you play as a nanobot purging computer viruses like a third person shoot em’up.
The platforming consists of jumping, wall running, swinging and using rifts. It’s all pretty simple but it works incredibly well. Ratchet and new character Rivet control beautifully. Their movement is Nintendo level precise and it’s more fluid than even Spider-Man. They move with style and with grace, they are the complete opposite of Lanky Kong. Every movement in the game, every combination of maneuvers is seamless. Going from running to a wall run to swinging to grabbing a rift mid-air before falling to your death almost feels on-rails. It’s not, and a mistimed button press with spell failure but it all flows together so well that it feels like a cutscene.
The real star of the show is the shooting. This is as good of a third person shooter as you’re going to play. As I said, movement is incredibly fluid which allows you to maneuver around enemies, dodging and flipping past their bullets like Neo. All the enemies are satisfying to kill and while the variety isn’t huge, there’s enough different combinations of them to keep you on your toes. Weapon variety on the other hand is magnificent. Insomniac consistently comes up with fun and creative weapons and this is no different. There’s over a dozen weapons to acquire from classics like the BuzzBlades which shoot saw blades that continues attack enemies once hit, to new ones like the Topiary Sprinkler which drops a sprinkler that shoots enemies and turns them into hedges.
Every weapon is fun to use and level up, every enemy is fun to kill. Zipping, flipping and jumping around to dodge enemy fire while hitting them with your own never got old. There’s few things in life as joyful as clearing an area of enemies in Rift Apart and hearing the sound of all the bolts they drop get collected. I had a smile on my face the entire time. If you boiled the concept of fun down to it’s simplest form. It would be this game.
The other stars of the show are the story and presentation. Mascot platformers have always existed as a gaming proxy for Pixar. Whether it’s Crash Bandicoot or Spyro or Mario or Sly Cooper, they all come with the promise of playable Pixar. Well with Rift Apart, Insomniac has finally realized that dream. Graphically, Rift Apart is as good as anything Pixar has ever done. During my entire playthrough, there wasn’t a single time I was prepared to start playing after a cutscene because I never knew when the cutscenes ended and when the game began. This is one of, if not the, best looking game I’ve ever seen. The level of detail is impeccable and it runs flawlessly at a steady frame rate. The first time you see Ratchet, it’s with an extreme closeup and it’s clear why. That’s Insomniac showing off and frankly they earned the right to show off because when you first look at that closeup of Ratchet, you will be in complete awe.
The story is also extremely well done. On this adventure, the evil Dr. Nefarious gets his hands on the Dimensionator and goes into a dimension where he never loses. This causes the fabric of all the dimensions to go haywire and rifts start popping up that start mixing the dimensions. Ratchet and Clank get separated in the Nefarious ruled dimension and Clank ends up partnering with Rivet, a female Lombax who is Ratchet’s dimensional counterpart. Together, they have to stop Nefarious and repair the dimensions. It’s a story packed with action and set pieces that would make Marvel blush. It’s also incredibly funny, not in a try hard way that a lot of comedic games are where they want you to know that they are funny. Ratchet and Clank has always been good at balancing it’s humor. It’s not packed with jokes but the ones that are there all work and they flow naturally in dialogue and character moments. You’re not gonna be seeing any instances of a joke being shoehorned in for the sake of it.
Underneath the dimension saving adventure is a story about friendship, togetherness, and self-doubt. It’s all very sweet and earnest. This is a story that wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and is perfectly okay with it’s themes being as in your face as the explosions and it works. The reason it works is because it’s kept simple and it rests on the extremely likeable characters to convey. Every character in the game is incredibly well written and performed, especially Rivet voice by Jennifer Hale who is so good in the role, I would never have known it was her before the credits rolled if someone didn’t tell me. Her character arc takes more of a role than Ratchet’s but it’s also a mirror of the struggle Ratchet is going through. There’s also Kit, Clank’s dimensional counterpart who has her own arc of self-acceptance and is just as loveable as everyone else. Even the side characters are likeable, from Glitch, a self-doubting nanobot made to kill computer viruses, to the Morts who all talk in a midwestern accent. Even all the maintenance bots have distinct personalities that make them all likeable.
Simply put, everything and everyone in this game is likeable. Yes, even the villains are likeable. There isn’t a single second of Rift Apart where I didn’t have a smile on my face. It’s an experience that takes full pleasure in being pure, earnest, bombastic fun with a heart the size the PS5 itself. I struggle to think how Insomniac will top themselves after this but I have full faith that will but until then, this is their masterpiece. This is the reason to get a PS5, this is a masterclass of graphical design and gameplay mechanics. Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart is why I love video games.
Rating: Hopping Into Paddington’s Dimension
This review used our old rating system, The Paddington Scale. To learn more please read this post