Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart Review
In preparation for this review, I had to play the 2016 Ratchet & Clank remake again. Overall, I liked the action of the game, but the cartoony bits took some time to get used to. One thing I very much enjoyed was the moment to moment gameplay – the shooting and platforming mechanics were good, and the collectibles really got me invested in the series.
Enter Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Rift Apart starts as the universe is enjoying an extended period of peace, which gives Clank enough time to build the “Dimensionator”, a gun that allows the user to traverse different dimensions. He wanted to gift it to Ratchet in order to find other Lombaxes, as Ratchet is the last of his species. As expected, long-time foe Doctor Nefarious steals the Dimensionator and in the ensuing battle, the weapon gets damaged, trapping Ratchet, Clank, and Doctor Nefarious into a dimension where the evil doctor “always wins”. Separated, Ratchet now must find Clank, escape the dimension, stop Nefarious, and restore order in the universe.
That’s a quick premise, but personally it sells the game short, because it leaves off many of the aspects that I loved about this release and how much it has improved over its predecessors. I won’t beat around the bush and will say right away that the main draw is not the plot, but its fantastic cast of characters. When mixed with the many enjoyable elements of the game, Rift Apart shines bright.
A feel good, look good next-gen adventure
Rift Apart introduces whole new worlds to explore and with that, a new protagonist that’s caught everyone by storm. Rivet is the rebel leader of a resistance group that is aiming to defy Emperor Nefarious, who rules the universe with an iron fist. Right away, Rivet is charismatic, full of spunk, and brimming with personality. She cares for her friends and puts herself in harm’s way to do right by them. She’s a lot like Ratchet, but for some reason, I really like her better, and is a great and crucial addition to the cast. Dare I say that she really is the star of this show.
It certainly feels like Rivet doesn’t need any warming up to do – We see enough of her right away to get us to like her, and even without having played any previous games, Rift Apart is a self-contained story that will surely hook newcomers within minutes of playing.
While prior exposure to the series is certainly not required, one thing series veterans will enjoy is spotting out the parallels and the return of some characters and weapons. It’s great for those who are looking for Easter Eggs and provides a bit of an “a-ha” moment, which gives back to the fans who have stuck by the franchise.
The game has moments of heart, and even though it feels a little bit darker (in a Ratchet & Clank way) than the previous game, Rift Apart is very lighthearted in nature. It doesn’t feel “cartoony”, but more like watching a Pixar film with a believable journey and characters that tug at your heartstrings. A colleague described the game to me as an animated movie turned video game, in presentation and style, and I couldn’t agree more.
The level of artistic detail in the game is ridiculous. From the hustle and bustle of the various locales to the amount of fur that both Ratchet and Rivet have which you can actually see if you look close enough, Rift Apart is a stunning showcase that looks sublime from any angle, prompting you to stop often to appreciate the lovely views.
This is not an exaggeration – the game looks absolutely gorgeous, and it makes the 2016 Ratchet & Clank feel washed out and pale in comparison. There’s almost no sign of texture pop-in at all, which is an impressive feat in itself. Rift Apart really stands out with its vibrant visuals, and when matched with these charming characters, it’s a real looker that could be the prettiest game of the generation thus far.
Being one of the truly next-gen exclusive games, the PlayStation 5 does wonders for Rift Apart‘s performance. Upon turning on your PS5 from a cold boot, you can load the game, load your save file, and get playing in about 15 seconds. Speaking about how Insomniac have touted the game to have near-instant loading times, they’ve succeeded in doing just that. From missions to cutscenes to the next level, loading time is virtually non-existent, even when hopping between rifts in the game.
If we want to be nitpicky, there’s a bit of waiting time when travelling between planets, but negligible in the grand scheme of things. Its become crazy to think that you can’t even drop your controller to get a quick gulp of water, because Rift Apart loads the next scene even before you can pick up your cup.
The snappy and responsive controls really make the action-packed world come alive, but I could argue that the gold standard of haptic feedback and adaptive trigger use still belongs to Returnal. While the half-press/full-press features do add to the action, it wasn’t as integral as Returnal‘s function where the alt-fire really plays an important role to the game. At times while playing Rift Apart, the adaptive triggers felt like a bit of a nuisance especially with certain weapons like the Warmonger, which may prompt some players to just turn it off or toggle certain accessibility options to tweak behavior.
One more thing that really stands out is the top notch voice acting in the game. Led by Arnold Taylor (Ratchet) and the legendary Jennifer Hale (Rivet), both of these characters burst into life with catchy writing and stellar performances. Jennifer Hale, in particular, can really do no wrong, and is such a magnificent talent that brings Rivet to the forefront of the game. Armin Shimerman as Dr. Nefarious also deserves a nod, bringing that snarky personality to the beloved villain through hilarious scenes and his trademark infectious laughter.
When you put everything together, including the blockbuster style set pieces that make everything larger than life – such as traversing planets while being attacked by a giant robot, boss battles that cross multiple dimensions, and even riding mounts that takes you on a roller coaster ride – Rift Apart will remind you of how Uncharted 4 used cinematic set pieces to dazzle the players, making each level and world truly memorable.
Bigger, bolder, and better
Rift Apart takes what we already know and expect from the Ratchet & Clank games and cranks it up to 11. Targeting is smoother, button mapping feels more efficient considering the new abilities, and many of the new tools like the Hoverboots and the Hurlshot allow you to traverse and platform with ease.
The whole dimensions schtick doesn’t feel gimmicky and is woven into the game well. If it’s not part of the story choreography, they’re there as bonus levels where you can collect extra Raritanium and armor pieces, or a way to get to where you can collect gold bolts and Lorbs. It’s a great addition that doesn’t conflict with other mechanics, making it feel natural.
Speaking of collectibles, gone are the cards from the 2016 remake, replaced by a more streamlined interplay between the Gold Bolts and Armor sets. Collecting the elusive Gold Bolts in Rift Apart immediately unlocks rewards to enhance your gameplay experience, and armor pieces need not be completed to acquire its various benefits. There’s immediate gratification here in Rift Apart, and the game is better because of it.
Side quests and weapon progression work mostly the same way – you collect bolts to purchase weapons, raritanium to upgrade them, and side quests don’t go away after you’ve completed the game to finish them up. Hoverboard racing has been replaced with a much more accessible and enjoyable distraction in Arena Battles, pitting you in pocket battles with certain conditions to overcome.
Another big improvement are the Clank side-missions, which have turned into levels where Clank would fix dimensional rifts through a series of simple yet creative puzzles. The addition of another side-mission would launch a virus cleaning program, Glitch, to access computers. Both of these have replaced the pesky and cumbersome Trespasser Puzzles from 2016, giving the game a fun break from the mainline missions.
There are a lot of weapons in Rift Apart, and while they each have their own usefulness, they lack the outrageous designs and concepts which made the previous game stand out, like the Groovitron, Sheepinator, and Proton Drum. Some favorites also make a comeback, albeit in slightly different forms, like the Buzz Blades and Mr. Zurkon.
The action really feels simple yet dynamic, and it’s easy to shoot, dodge, and switch weapons when necessary. Boss battles, while fun and epic, fall a bit short in variety, and I’ve fought way too many forms of the Nefarious Juggernaut boss type that they just either increase in number or change the color style and name. Enemy types, on the other hand, are as fun and varied as they come, involving robots, creatures, pirates, and even the undead.
Overall, the moment to moment action retains the same formula as with previous titles, but all the changes made have ensured that the game remains fun and frantic.
Run it back
Similar to other Insomniac Games titles, the main campaign doesn’t take too long to complete, around 10 hours or so on Rebel Agent (Normal) difficulty depending on how you play. A platinum run of the game could add a couple of hours more, so the game is rather short even at 100% completion. There is a Challenge mode, which is a new game plus where you can carry over all your progress to a higher difficulty level to acquire upgraded weapon versions with double the bolts earned.
Raritanium isn’t obtained through enemy drops, so this will push you to do another round to upgrade all your weapons. Just like the armor pieces, gold bolts, and lorbs, they are located in specific areas of the map for you to discover. For trophy hunters, this should be motivation enough, but for those not really in it for the trophies, many of these collectibles as mentioned do have in-game bonuses and flavor text for better understanding of the lore.
That said, there is some replay value in Rift Apart, but we reckon that a huge chunk of your time will be used with the photo mode, which can lead to stunning screenshots from the community that we’re certainly looking forward to seeing.
Similar also to other Insomniac Games titles, one does not simply judge the quality of the game based on the amount of content, but on the actual quality of content. While some players may find the game a little bit too short for their taste, especially when considering the price tag, the overall experience of Rift Apart is such a treat.
Prior to getting the day one patch in, we noticed a couple of bugs that would directly affect player progress. One bug hindered the questline from proceeding, and the other would result in crashes when leaving from a certain planet. Upon playing with the day one patch installed, which include stability updates and other features like the much anticipated Performance / Performance RT mode, the game performed admirably, and the bugs that we experienced before which we tried to replicate were gone. Do yourself a favor and install the Rift Apart day one patch before playing!
Speaking of the visual modes, Rift Apart supports 3 of them – Fidelity (4K 30fps), Performance (Dynamic 4K 60fps without RT), and Performance RT (Dynamic 4K 60fps with RT). There’s a temptation to take Fidelity mode to maximize the visuals because even at 30fps, the game still runs fine. If you’ve played Miles Morales though, Performance RT is where it’s at, dishing out a rock-solid 60fps with Ray Tracing while slightly toning down other visual sliders, almost negligible unless you look really closely. Insomniac have done a great job of balancing details and making compromises here, and the results are fantastic.
Here are a couple of Ray Tracing examples taken in-game via the DualSense Create Button.
In terms of accessibility, which has become increasingly important with every new release, Rift Apart delivers a variety of options in spades. The usual suspects of high contrast mode and simplified traversal are present, but it’s impressive to note the number of toggles that you can switch on or off, like auto-pumping your hoverboots or grind assist, as it really makes the game much more playable for a wider audience at any skill level.
What we liked:
- Top notch visuals make the world feel vibrant and alive with almost no texture pop-ins whatsoever.
- Armor as collectibles are great, giving the protagonists in-game benefits and a neat cosmetic.
- Rift Apart has memorable and fantastic characters that grow on you as you traverse through the game.
- Improvements to past game mechanics that further game progression and fun factor.
- Near-instant loading times.
What we didn’t like:
- Needs more varied bosses and fewer of Nefarious Juggernaut variants.
- Weapon concepts aren’t as playful as before.
- Players looking for a longer game to match the price may be disappointed.
- It’s hard to play another Ratchet & Clank game after all the quality of life features from this one.
Verdict: Buy It!
Well deserved commendations are in order for Insomniac Games and Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, as they’ve preserved the integrity and charm of the franchise while introducing fantastic quality of life improvements to make the game feel like a massive improvement from its predecessor. In a way, it’s definitely the same Ratchet & Clank flavor but wrapped in a shiny and technically masterful package. The addition of new characters like Rivet and the multiple dimensions dynamic is icing on the cake for such a must play, next-gen feel good experience.
Being the next fully exclusive game for the PS5, the hardware really brings to life the many set pieces the game has in store for you. Backed by a story full of heart and memorable characters combined with seamless gameplay, Rift Apart is rather short and sweet but definitely worth the playthrough.
If you’ve never played a Ratchet & Clank game before and if you only have to play one title in your lifetime (why though?), Rift Apart is certainly the best that the franchise has to offer. It gets harder to experience the past entries after this one, which is the only downside to making Rift Apart your first foray into the series. Either way, Insomniac went all out for this, and I’m really looking forward to a sequel or spin-off, especially if they’re led by the new characters introduced in this game.
*Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart was reviewed on a PlayStation 5 via a review code from the publishers.