Saving the Universe, One Dimension at a Time
It’s more than likely that any Playstation fan has dived into one of Ratchet and Clank’s many adventures over the franchise's almost 20 year history. The planet-hopping, gun hoarding, bolt collecting duo have saved the universe from pirates, robots and alien monsters more times than they can count. Without missing a step, our heroes jump to the Playstation 5 is a triumphant one that will satisfy long time fans and be the perfect entry point for newcomers. Rift Apart captures all the nuances of what makes this iconic franchise special while adding in new characters and mechanics that I couldn’t imagine not having in future instalments. Insomniac Games has built the duo's best venture yet, with methodical and satisfying gunplay, a brilliant new protagonist, a genuinely funny story that pulls on your heartstrings and visuals unlike ever seen before. Rift Apart is not only an incredible video game but is a showcase for why you need a Playstation 5.
Rift Apart wastes no time getting you into the action, opening with a joyous parade celebrating the heroes past victories before unravelling into a multi-dimensional battle. Clank has rebuilt The Dimensionator, a gun that allows travel between dimensions, and offers Ratchet a chance to find his long lost Lombax ancestors. Before Ratchet can process what this means, long time nemesis Dr Nefarious steals the weapon and chaos ensues. After an opening sequence that serves as the game’s tutorial and a fantastic set-piece that shows off the PS5’s super-fast hardware, Ratchet and Clank become separated in an entirely new dimension where Nefarious is the Emperor. Ratchet must find a way back to his best friend in this dangerous dimension while a damaged Clank is picked up by a new playable character, Rivet.
Ratchet’s alternate reality counterpart is absolutely the best part of this game. The last Lombax in her dimension, Rivet is a resistance leader, fighting against Emperor Nefarious’ forces. While she shares some personality quirks with Ratchet, Rivet is a lot more than a mere gender swap. She’s a determined, kind and endlessly charming character with her own unique history and goals. Rivet’s arc across Rift Apart is layered with heartfelt and heart-wrenching moments accentuated by a memorable performance from voice actor Jennifer Hale. Her banter with Clank is smile-inducing, her bravery borders on badassery and some late-game scenes unexpectedly take on issues like trust and trauma in a way that the franchise has not done before. Rivet is not only an extremely well-written character but future games in the franchise would be worse off without her.
While Rivet’s busy repairing Clank and fighting the good fight, Ratchet’s journey is that of self-discovery. There’s a nervousness in him at the idea of meeting another Lombax and throughout Rift Apart he uncovers things that explore his Lombax heritage. There are also scenes that dive into what it means to be a hero and doing what’s right. Whether it be encountering alternate versions of beloved side characters or some new additions, the duality of Ratchet reassuring the people he’s saving whilst being unsure of himself is fascinating. Clank and Nefarious, amongst others, also have full arcs in the game, with Clank learning the philosophical side of metaphysics and Nefarious reacting to his newfound power.
Swapping between Ratchet and Rivet is on a planet to planet basis. One moment Rivet is battling dinosaurs in a jungle swamp, the next Ratchet is jetting around a robot-pirate island. Each planet is filled with vibrant lore and detailed environmental storytelling. Their denizens have their own quirky looks and personalities, enemies feel like they belong and environments are all distinct and fleshed out. Watching our heroes react to these planets and engage with their people not only enrich their character but the world around them. All this is to say that Rift Apart tells a fulfilling narrative in incredibly well-designed worlds, both elements working conversely to express charming writing, emotional conflict and a diverse array of memorable characters.
Rift Apart’s moment to moment action sequences are as tight here as they’ve ever been. Blasting waves of enemies with a huge arsenal of weapons while ducking and diving around enemy fire is just as fun and rewarding as series veterans would expect. The addition of a dash mechanic keeps these fights feeling fluid and the new Rift Tether, a tool that allows you to quickly jump to rifts around the battlefield, make even the smallest fights feel like epic encounters. Swapping between weapons is necessary to do well in fights and, thanks to plentiful ammo crates scattered across battlefields, watching how every weapon synergises with each other is a visual delight.
As per usual, weapons level up as you use them, maxing out at level 5 before changing shape and adding a new mechanic to them. There’s a great mix of weapons to choose from and you can purchase them quite rapidly. When a new weapon becomes available, they are accompanied by a short and hilarious video tutorial outlining what they can do. The usual suspects like the Warmonger and the Glove of Doom make their return, while old favourites like Mr Zurkon, now Mr Fungi, are flavoured with new designs, names and personalities. New additions to the weapon wheel like the Topiary Sprinkler, which turns enemies into hedge art, feel right at home and swapping between all your weapons in a huge battle is as simple as it is satisfying. Gathering bolts from the enemies you defeat and crates you smash are used to purchase these weapons while the collectable crystal Raritanium is used to upgrade their skill trees. There is no shortage of these resources and it’s exciting to find out what’s new to buy every time you visit the weapon vendor. Thankfully, there isn't a deficit to playing as two protagonists, as any resource you collect or weapon you unlock is shared between Ratchet and Rivet. The PS5’s Dualsense controller is expertly integrated with each weapon. Triggers softlock to assist your aim and utilise alt-fire mechanics and each weapon has a specific sound associated with them that plays through the controller’s speaker.
Rift Apart isn’t all intense shootouts and boss battles however, mixing in platforming sequences and puzzle minigames to break up the action. Insomniac’s spin on the 3D platformer genre utilises the PS5’s hardware to create huge set-pieces that rival even the biggest blockbusters. From rapidly flying through multiple dimensions in one big sequence to whole levels designed around jumping back and forth between two versions of itself, these elements are breathtaking and showcase what the hardware can do without the limitations of load times.
The Lombax’s don’t get to have all the fun, as Clank and a new AI ally named Glitch become playable during a small scattering of challenges. Clank takes on physics-based puzzle rooms that are reminiscent of the Lemmings games while Glitch, who is an adorable and endearing little hacker-bot, plays more like an arcade shoot 'em up. These sequences are surprisingly satisfying, filled with introspective and utterly charming dialogue. Completing these short segments are needed to progress through the campaign but can be skipped from the pause menu.
Traversing each planet feels continuously fresh as you’re rewarded with gear and gadgets along your adventure. You start with series mainstays like the Grind Boots and the Swingshot before unlocking equipment that lets you wall-run, hurl through the sky or even glide across terrain incredibly fast. The platforming sections in each of the game’s planets are progressively built to utilise the gadgets you unlock and experimentation with these tools only strengthen the wanderlust brought on by the vibrant environments you travel in.
Scouring every nook and cranny in each level rewards you with an array of collectables. Golden Bolts unlock aesthetic changes, cheat codes and new photo mode options, Infobots play an audio file that reveals planet lore and unlocks a blueprint piece for a rare weapon and pieces of armour can be collected into sets that, when fully equipped, give the Lombax’s defence and resource buffs. Finding these collectables are relatively easy, either being just hidden from sight or as rewards for optional quests, and most can be collected during your first visit to a planet. Some are hidden in pocket dimensions, which act as small challenge rooms that explore Rift Apart’s platforming mechanics without breaking the rules set in each planet’s aesthetic. Collecting these items not only rewards you with fun unlockables and world-building lore, but are attached to exciting and creative easter eggs that are definitely worth your time. Although finding these collectables is a visual and mechanical treat, I do wish there was more to do. Aside from story missions, occasional side quests and finding the collectables, there isn’t a reason to revisit a planet once it’s time to leave.
Enemy variety is consistent for the most part with each world offering a mix of local fauna, bounty hunters and Nefarious’ android army. Enemy dialogue is full of wit and they react with detailed animations when shot with different weaponry. Boss battles can shift from combat arenas to floating platforms in a different dimension in seconds and the Battle Arena challenges provide familiar but unique battles that earn big rewards. Rift Apart isn’t a particularly hard game when played on the recommended difficulty, though near-instant load times upon death keep the action going.
It took me just over 18 hours to 100% Rift Apart and, aside from a few tedious trophies, it was an easy Platinum to earn. Finishing the main story unlocks a new game plus, which carries your resources and unlocked weapons over to a new save, and offers a bolts multiplier, a higher challenge difficulty and the ability to upgrade weapon levels further. There are a few weapons only purchasable in the post-game but the wildly creative arsenal available on your first playthrough will have you spoilt for choice.
Visuals and Audio
There are no two ways around it, Rift Apart is the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. Everything you see and hear in the game screams quality. Lighting effects dazzle through treelines and shine atop of water, detailed foliage and fierce weather demand attention and every character and creature are expressive and full of life. Insomniac's use of colour gives each planet a unique tone and the art direction has been methodically curated to craft vibrant and immersive worlds. Each level also has distinct audio themes that alter and change depending on where you are. Metropolis sounds shift to modern techno music before becoming a high-intensity action score, all in one sequence. There are countless moments in Rift Apart where I just stopped in awe as my senses were overwhelmed with the craftsmanship on display. Action sequences flourish on the screen as weapon particles illuminate the battlefield. 3D Audio is precise and engaging as the electric score, quick dialogue beats and the sound of flurries of bullets whizzing by all enhance an already heart-pumping experience. The voice over performances are perfect across the board, with even the smallest of roles being expertly performed. Whether being played in 4K/30 FPS or Raytracing Performance mode, Rift Apart is an endlessly engaging feast to the senses that rivals even the most beautiful Pixar movie.
Conclusion Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a system seller. A visual and audio treat from start to finish, Rift Apart tells an emotional, exciting and hilarious story packed with creative set-pieces, wondrous worlds and some of the most diverse gunplay around. The game fully utilises its hardware to bring each planet and dimension-hopping sequence to life. A brilliant script performed by incredible actors presents characters we’ve known for nearly two decades in a new light and introduces Rivet, one of the sharpest, warmest and fully realised characters seen in Insomniac’s library. Although touring each planet can be short-lived, every aspect of the game is lovingly detailed and incredibly memorable. I can’t wait to see where Ratchet, Clank and Rivet will go next.
So, why should you play it?
This is one of the best Playstation games ever made.
You want more strong female representation in your video games.
You’re a long time Ratchet fan or enjoy 3D platformers.
You love the beautiful detail and emotional storytelling of a Pixar film.
You want some cartoony comedy in your sci-fi adventure.
You want to play something really special.
But why shouldn’t you play it?
You don’t have a PS5. That’s the only reason. Play this game!
James is a writer and absolute dork who is as passionate about making puns as he is about video games. From Melbourne, Australia, when he's not playing Dungeons and Dragons or rocking out at karaoke, you can usually find him engaged in some kind of story.