Release Date : June 11, 2021
Developers : Insomniac Games
Publisher : Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms : PS5
It’s been a while since Sony has released an all-ages exclusive of this scope. In addition to being the expected sequel to one of the Japanese company’s iconic franchises, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is also a technical showcase for the PlayStation 5. However, limiting it to these qualifiers would be reductive, because in the end, this platform action game is much more than that. Rift Apart proves to be a must-have for the owners of the console and nothing less than the best episode of the Insomniac license.
While all of Megalopolis is celebrating our two heroes, the evil Nefarious comes to spoil the party. By grabbing the Dimensionator, a weapon that opens dimensional rifts that would allow Ratchet to find his family, the villain sows chaos in the whole galaxy. Countless portals destroy the balance of their world. In pursuit of Nefarious, Ratchet & Clank find themselves separated in a parallel world where the big bad dominate the entire galaxy. Wounded, Clank finds a strong ally in the person of Rivet, Ratchet’s dimensional double. This Lombax, Ratchet’s race, has a strong personality and overcomes her distrust of robots to help Clank and save the galaxy. Can the two sidekicks reunite to restore the balance?
If we won’t tell you how the adventure unfolds and the main lines of the scenario, we can however confirm that the whole thing is a pleasure to follow. Using with relevance the codes of Buddy Movie and animated films from Pixar and Dreamworks studios, Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart tells an engaging story. If it uses known narrative springs, we have to admit that they are very well used here.
Thus, the characters in the grip of doubts overcome their fears for the common good and emerge from their adventure grown up. Our adventurers meet the dimensional doubles of their allies and each one is a pleasure to watch. It’s hard not to fall under the spell of Rivet, even more reckless and resourceful than Ratchet, as the Lombax has a string of bravura moments. For good reason, her dystopian universe is much more dangerous than our companions’. So she had to learn to survive on her own. The new players work wonderfully and Rivet fits perfectly into the plot of the title. Moreover, Rift Apart makes us alternate between Rivet and Ratchet throughout the adventure to make us cross the whole galaxy and maintain a steady pace.
Writing has always been an important aspect of the saga and this episode is no exception. Rift Apart doesn’t fall into the ways of the 2019 reboot that tended to never want to shut up. The jokes are well balanced and never defuse the moments of tension. We may regret that some characters, such as Captain Qwark, are underused, but for the rest, this episode offers a very satisfying scenario and funny dialogues that often hit the mark.
The whole is carried by an absolutely perfect cast. James Arnold Taylor obviously takes over the role of Ratchet that he has played since 2007. Clank is played by David Kaye who has not left him since the first episode. The hilarious Armin Shimerman is back as Dr. Nefarious, and Rivet is played by Jennifer Hale. This five-star cast is perfect from beginning to end and contributes to the appreciation of the scenario and the jokes thrown around.
FEAST FOR THE EYES
The biggest stars of this Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart are undoubtedly the dimensional rifts that give the title its name. For good reason, these quantum anomalies serve multiple purposes. They are the trigger of the whole story and are therefore at the heart of the scenario. But that’s not all, because they are also integrated with the gameplay. By making our heroes travel instantly from one world to another, they allow the game to keep a breathtaking rhythm and to alternate the different gameplay with great simplicity.
It’s hard not to mention the technical aspects of the title right away, as they are directly linked to Rift Apart’s proposition. These flaws are not only there to praise the benefits of the SSDs adopted by this new generation of consoles, but also fulfill a playful and thematic role. If we could doubt that everything would work as expected and that the loading of new zones would be instantaneous, we have to admit that the bet is kept. The most attentive will notice one or two sudden transitions here and there during a change of the universe, but this remains very rare. Overall, these universe transitions are extremely impressive.
Playing Rift Apart is like fighting with giant robots before being thrown on the back of a dragon in another dimension to come back to the first one by grinding on a ship that is about to crash. The technique and visual rendering of Rift Apart are far from trivial and contribute greatly to making it an experience that is hard to put down. No, the trailers did not deceive, Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart is sublime.
Displaying a visual rendering rarely reached in our medium, it offers impressive panoramas, detailed textures, furry effects more real than life… It is probably one of the most beautiful games we have ever seen. If a well-informed eye can spot some more angular rocks when moving away from the path traced by the developers, it will be hard to make another reproach towards the visual rendering of this episode. Taking advantage of these new graphic possibilities, Rift Apart alternates fluidly between cut-scenes and gameplay phases. Where the previous episode used CGI movie clips, this episode uses the game engine to tell its story. And even if we still have a step to go before reaching the rendering of a Pixar movie in CGI, it is undeniable that we have never been so close. In the end, the illusion works, it feels like it.
The same can be said for the animations, which are simply amazing. If Insomniac has already made us used to high-quality work, the studio takes it to a new level. Each character moves with credibility while the attacks of our heroes have never had so much punch. Each enemy benefits from specific animations for many weapons. The ricochet sends opponents tumbling from left to right while in case of electrocution each of them contorts into hilarious positions.
But in the end, what impresses the player the most if he takes the time to observe his surroundings, is the astronomical amount of extras enjoying detailed animations. Just walk into Zurkon’s club and look at any onlooker to appreciate the work being done. A reptile mixes his cocktail before sipping it, two mobsters play shoulders on an arcade machine, a pirate robot sleeps on the bar while snoring… Watching the inhabitants of this universe is a pleasure at all times.
All these technical qualities make this new episode a constant visual treat that amazes as much with its impressive dimensional flaws as with the quality of its animations or its fine and detailed models. The whole thing runs in 4K 30FPS without ever shuddering in Fidelity mode and with a dynamic resolution in 60 FPS in Performance mode. The RT Performance mode keeps the Ray Tracing of the Fidelity mode and adapts the resolution in real-time to reach 60 FPS. This mode offers a good compromise because the visual quality is good, but it still allows you to enjoy the comfort of 60 FPS. We can easily recommend it to players who do not have a 4K monitor.
We would like to take this opportunity to point out that the visual quality gain in Fidelity mode is really significant. Even on a 1080p monitor, the difference is obvious. In this mode Rift Apart is the expected slap. In addition to the resolution gain, the display distance expands, visual effects are more impressive and lighting gains credibility. In Performance and RT Performance, it is a superb and fluid game in all circumstances, but a little less impressive all the same.
These visual changes have a direct impact on the cutscenes which show us finer models in Fidelity mode. Moreover, the framerate capped at 30 FPS brings the experience of watching these cutscenes closer to an animated movie, usually shown at 24 FPS. The visual appreciation remains subjective and all modes have their advantages, so you’ll be the judge. However, if you want to be amazed, play the title in Fidelity mode, you won’t regret it. Note that we found some bugs: we had to reload a control point for a script to be triggered, although very rarely, and some 3D models sometimes move more than they should.
A SUCCESSFUL FORMULA, MORE EXCITING THAN EVER
For the rest, this episode always links shooting, platforming, and puzzle phases. Everything is perfectly paced and the player has no time to get bored. And if a good part of the game is largely staged with explosions or dimensional rifts, the title does not forget its roots and has the good taste to leave the field free to the player. The player can go to the planet of his choice whenever he wants to complete side missions or go in search of golden bolts. These are not the only collectibles, as the player can get his hands on Lombax Orbs or Inforobots that allow him to learn more about the universe.
Dimensional rifts are scattered here and there and allow access to platform challenges that reward our heroes with pieces of equipment. These armors give various nice, but completely optional, stats boosts. This traditional structure is largely dynamited by an explosive setting and energetic fights. The latter punctuate the adventure throughout and the constant gameplay variations make Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart a particularly difficult title to put on hold. Shooting phases, exploration in Hoverbots, platforming challenges, boss fights, wild chases… This episode is full of exciting situations and has a masterful rhythm.
As for the gameplay, the license doesn’t evolve spectacularly, but there are some pleasant additions. Our two Lombax can use a dash at will, which allows them to dodge enemy fire easily or cross ditches. Hoverbots allow them to move even faster than before. The grappling hook opens rifts scattered all over the place to move at full speed on the battlefield. For the rest, this episode remains on known bases. The shooting phases are at the heart of the title and the crazy weapons are still central to the experience. From the watering can that freezes the enemy to climbing plants, to the Ricochet that sends opponents flying in all directions to grenades that deploy mini-robots ready to devour the asses of anyone who comes near them… There is plenty to do. And if this episode is perhaps a little wiser than its predecessor, no disco ball or pixel mush in Rift Apart, it is also much more exciting.
If the sound design is as efficient as ever, it’s the Sony DualSense controller that makes the difference here. The haptic feedback works perfectly, and the most attentive will notice that when changing weapons, every little movement of the bolt has its own specific vibration. The triggers, on the other hand, resist more or less strongly depending on the gun, but they also integrate into the gameplay. Like the analog trigger in Mario Sunshine, Ratchet has access to different shooting modes depending on the pressure of L2 or R2.
For example, by lightly pressing R2 equipped with the assault rifle, the player sends out highly accurate single shots. Pressing it hard will increase the rate of fire at the expense of accuracy. The Exterminator fires one round at a time when pressure is low, but empties its entire magazine when pressure is high. Even better, the triggers offer no resistance when the player’s magazine is empty. What could be considered as a gimmick is finally fully integrated with the fights and gives a feeling of power never reached by the title before. And if these features are meant to be forgotten over time, we can’t deny that their integration here is very successful and that they bring a real added value.
It was expected by many people to be the new graphic standard for the PlayStation 5, but in the end, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is more than that. It doesn’t reinvent its own license, but it’s definitely its most accomplished episode. Racing at a furious pace across the galaxy, Rift Apart impresses and engages the player all the way through. Its high-flying direction and its confrontations that gain in panache, mainly thanks to DualSense, will seduce even the most resistant to the series. Funny, wonderfully animated, sublime, and impossible to leave once you get into the adventure, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart offers exactly what you’d expect: a delightful space trip through dimensions, suitable for the whole family.