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Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart – Much More Than A Gimmick

By: Devin Rardin

PLATFORMS: PlayStation 5

RELEASE DATE: June 11, 2021

DEVELOPER: Insomniac Games

PUBLISHER: Sony Interactive Entertainment

MSRP: $69.99

ESRB: E for Everyone

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The 17th Ratchet & Clank game takes full advantage of the PlayStation 5's Solid State Drive by implementing dimensional rift tearing. Even though the storyline and gameplay revolve around the PS5’s super-fast loading, Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart is more than a glorified tech demo - it's a jubilant reinvigoration of the cartoony and whimsical era of games. The rift tearing mechanic, for the reinvigoration device it is, elevates the Ratchet & Clank storyline to new, emotional levels while adding a strategic albeit chaotic element to gameplay.

A Cute, Deep, And Whimsical Story

The rift tearing contrivance, which loads new worlds in an instant, arises when Ratchet receives a rebuilt dimensionator as a gift from Clank. The villainous Doctor Nefarious ruins the surprise when he swoops in with a maniacal laugh and steals the powerful device. In a desperate attempt to stop the evil automaton, Ratchet creates a rupture between two dimensions. The tear could collapse the two dimensions, resulting in a planet-hopping adventure for Ratchet and his dimensional counterpart, Rivet

This violet-haired Lombax fits right into the established universe thanks, in large part, to Jennifer Hale’s cheerful and confident take on the character. She’ll dodge a giant robot’s massive laser beam with a self-assured smile and that’s why we love her. Ultimately, her courageous and selfless attitude makes Rivet an enticing character on par with her counterpart, Ratchet. The most formidable part of Rivet’s character, though, is her evolving desire for companionship. 

Clank's inquisitive and helpful inclusion challenges her Batman-like desire to rely solely on herself. In fact, every character undergoes an emotional journey of enlightenment, from Ratchet’s complicated thoughts on the Lombax to Kit's unfounded confidence issues. If Kit doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because he’s a newly introduced and adorable robot. Along with Rivet, he is the center of Rift Apart’s highest emotional moments, making him a valuable member of the cast. 

Suffice to say these characters undergo an emotional journey that’s coated by a whimsical lightheartedness. This is perfectly encapsulated in a cute scene where Ratchet, Rivet, Clank, and Kit meet for the first time. The scene overflows with awkward and cute energy that perfectly illustrates their development thus far. Of course, the yellow, bug-eyed Kit embodies the cuteness with his fist bump gesture and playful swing at Clank’s antenna. On top of the mainline cast, the alternative dimension gives Insomniac Games a chance to revisit some fan-favorite characters. 

The impetuous Captain Quark, for instance, is now Captain Quantum, a hero with a pirate persona. In reality, he wears a bucket and exudes a less than believable pirate laugh. His “har har har’s” don't fool anyone, especially Ratchet. These wacky characters illustrate Rift Apart’s innocent humor, encompassing an overall, lighthearted tone. All in all, the storyline will trigger a smile as its good feelings mixed with deep characters are anything but contagious. With the amazing story in mind, Ratchet & Clank is still renowned for its frantic gameplay, which can only be examined with a thorough exploration of its technical achievements

Rift Tearing Is Much More Than a Gimmick - (Gameplay)

Rift Apart's dimensional antics have a surprisingly positive impact on gameplay. However, we have to admit that its central conceit is rather limited. Advertisements imply that Ratchet and Rivet are jumping across worlds at will, but that’s rarely the case. Big moments such as jumping to several worlds in an instant are limited to a few handheld set pieces. When these world-hopping events take place, it acts more like a glorified cutscene than an interwoven gameplay element. Such scenes are very impressive and invigorating, and we hope this doesn't take away from that.

When the dimensionator first malfunctions, Ratchet is sent on a dimensional rollercoaster through different worlds. He rail grinds through the mountainous region of Torren IV and falls through a portal only to land on a skyscraper’s glass roof. After sliding off, a portal instantly transports him back to Torren IV before finding himself among the flying cars of Nefarious city. This is a breathtaking sequence that impressively loads new worlds in the blink of an eye, which is probably why its gameplay implementation is limited. 

Another earlier sequence has Ratchet fighting a Neferous Juggernaut when the two combatants are immediately teleported to a new world. The PS5’s ability to load a new environment in the middle of a boss fight without any noticeable load screen is quite impressive. Big set-pieces like these are few and far between, greatly limiting the dimensional hopping we were promised. Consider an animated show where important fight scenes look better than the average episode. Rift Apart follows the same rules except the PS5’s most strenuous excursions are saved for those few, big-budget set pieces. Most of the time, the rift tearing contrivance is used in a smaller yet still impressive scale. 

At its most rudimentary level, Ratchet and Rivet can use a rift tear to transport themselves across a battlefield. The heroes can teleport to specific locations via floating rifts. The character is pulled toward an environment like a grappling hook, but it appears more stylish as a result of the visual spectacle. These rifts are used to escape a cluster of enemies or reach a strategic position. 

There's nothing better than transporting behind some crocodile bros and taking them down with the Enforcer. For the most part, this glorified grappling hook boosts the already solid Ratchet & Clank combat except for some disorienting transportations. As such, Ratchet will occasionally face away from the enemy after plopping out of a rift. By the time he turns around, the enemy can already blast a few laser bolts into our big-eared friend. 

In addition to combat, these rifts serve as tools in the ever-increasing traversal handbook. With that said, Rift Apart also adds a wall running and phantom dash ability. The phantom dash, in particular, allows the character to easily dodge incoming fire or add extra length to a jump. Platforming segments often combine all three of these for an extra layer of a platforming challenge. For instance, players often dash out of a wall run to reach the appropriate distance for a rift tether execution. This is all the more exciting when combined with classic Ratchet & Clank platforming and impressive set-pieces.

During one exciting scene, a colossal robot named The Fixer is swiping and firing upon a rail grinding Rivet. The player must jump to other rails at a second's notice, wall run to avoid falling, swing across chasms, and teleport via the rift tether. The combined usage of traversal mechanics is all the more exciting when The Fixer is destroying the landscape with his monstrous hands and boulders are plummeting down from an overhead mountain top. Essentially, Rift Apart made the tried and true mechanic of platforming an exhilarating endeavor. 

Speaking of platforming, characters can find optional pocket dimensions for mini-platforming challenges. Undergoing such challenges rewards the player with a new piece of armor, but are mostly fun quick detours. Since our heroes enter a pocket dimension, random artifacts from across the game are floating about. This makes for both an interesting environment and creative platforming. As an example for both, one pocket dimension has a huge Captain Quark balloon floating across the purple-hued sky while another one tasks players with jumping on and over explosive crates. 

Dimensional Rifts are more than increased traversal mechanisms though. They also serve as a clever excuse to diversify enemy combatants, except in the case of annoyingly similar boss fights. Ratchet can be fighting Neferious’s robotic goons when a portal suddenly drops a slurry of ravenous Sandsharks onto the battlefield. Enemies in general of a great range of varying attacks, causing the player to think on their feet. 

A Nefarious Slugger guards like a boxer and jabs with wrecking ball hands. A Sniperbot, on the other hand, stays at a distance and fires a strong laser. These enemy variants make it all the more frustrating when the player is poised against the same mini-boss over and over again. The Nefarious Juggernaut is a large, floating machine that devastates the surrounding area with a continuous laser blast. This enemy manifests so often that the upcoming fight is an annoyance rather than an added challenge. 

The last major use of the dimension catastrophe is Titanfall 2 inspired missions where players can switch between two dimensions at will. Rift Apart's main contrivance has many uses, explored above, but this is the most satisfactory by far. Rivet finds herself on Blizar Prime but is surprised to see it in a state of destruction. The area is covered by floating debris and embodies a dark, eerie atmosphere. 

Upon hitting a purple crystal, the surrounding environment is transformed into a sunny setting with clear skies. It’s basking with life as compared to the empty dimensional counterpart. Above being an impressive feat from a technical perspective, it also puts a new spin on gameplay. Rivet, for example, cannot escape a collapsing cavern, so she must go to an alternate dimension where she can escape via floating debris. As always this is a clever illustration of the PS5’s SSD, which we’ve explored thus far, but it would be a crime to downplay Rift Apart’s overall visual prowess. 

Ray-tracing has been a selling point for the current generation of consoles but has never been executed to the extent of Rift Apart. Nefarious City is the show stopper thanks to its neon lights and reflective surfaces. Ratchet’s reflection stares back from the puddles and lights are reflected off the shiny floor. All the more impressive, the bright purple portals are ray-traced as well. 

Ray Tracing Galore - (Technical Prowess) 

A smart usage of depth of field goes a long way in upgrading visual fidelity as well. The slightly blurry mountain gives an accurate sense of distance when exploring the more open areas. Lastly, every texture is incredibly detailed from each piece of grass to each Lombax fur. It’s so visually appealing that we opted not to cover Ratchet’s head with optional headgear. Every visual setting is an impressive feat, whether it's the 60 FPS mode or the ray-tracing alternative. Even if the 60 FPS variant has lower quality textures, it’s never such a downgrade as to be bothersome. Overall, Rift Apart is the best-looking game for the current generation of consoles. 

A Traditional Ratchet & Clank Experience - (Final Verdict)

Though Rift Apart is upgraded via graphics and load times, it remains a Ratchet & Clank game at heart. The heart of Ratchet & Clank are the guns and Rift Apart delivers with a total of 20 firearms. Though they are not as wacky as previous iterations, they are still diverse enough to create a fun, ever-changing combat experience.

The Topiary Sprinkler immobilizes enemies with an overgrowth of flora while the returning Glove of Doom unleashes a slurry of robots that attack enemies at will. The Ricochet is another unique weapon that does exactly as the name implies - ricochets to cause increasing damage from a single shot. Combat is most fun when players switch between weaponry constantly, confusing enemies by becoming electrified then frozen mere seconds later.

As one could suspect, combat scenes are chaotic as gunfire, explosions, and several enemies bombard the screen at one given time. It’s so chaotic that we’re continually impressed that the frame rate can handle so much activity. This is the Ratchet & Clank gameplay we know and love, but it looks and plays better than ever.

As per Ratchet & Clank tradition, Clank must go on puzzle-solving adventures of his own. This time around, the shiny companion must enter the realm between realms in a desperate attempt to stabilize the fracturing dimensions. In Clank’s mind, this manifests as a game of Lemmings where he must guide several other Clanks to an intended destination. Mini-games like this could grow tiresome, especially when they’re required, but these Clank puzzles are quick and easy. If anything, they are an entertaining distraction from the otherwise relentless shooting and jumping.

Insomniac Games kept the very elements that made Ratchet & Clank special - Clank puzzles, diverse weaponry, whimsical charm - and expertly collided them with the current technological prowess. There are only a few imperfections with Rift Apart, the biggest criticism being a limitation of the dimensional shifting’s more extravagant functionality. Despite this under-executed mechanic, what we did get was a euphoric experience in both gameplay and storytelling. Rift Apart exudes a specific charm and innocence that is needed in this day and age and serves as an enjoyable exclusive for PlayStation 5 players. 

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FUN FACTOR
The story and the gameplay exude an euphoric charm that will always provide a fun excursion for players
VISUALS
Rift Apart proves itself as the best looking game for current generation consoles
AUDIO
Each new setting provides a unique and entertaining soundtrack
REPLAYABILITY
A challenge series may urge players to undergo the adventure for a second time
GOOD
8.5