Review: Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
Updated: Jun 28
Reviewed on: PS5 Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games Available on: PS5
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is an unlikely system seller, but with a PS5 launch line-up devoid of big releases besides a remake of the decade-old Demon's Souls and expanded DLC Spider-man: Miles Morales, its likely to do the job. No doubt Insomniac's latest instalment in the now almost 20-year-old franchise makes excellent use of the new hardware. With alternate fire modes tied to resistive triggers, often breathtakingly pretty ray-tracing and a core game mechanic built around the PS5s ultra-fast load times, this is clearly a game designed to show off what the new console can do. But how does it hold up as a game in its own right?
In 20 years, little of the core gameplay of Ratchet and Clank has changed. Mixing platforming, sci-fi action set pieces and third-person gunplay with ridiculous weaponry, the core of the series is still here and still going strong. The levels are bigger and the particle effects prettier, but fundamentally Rift Apart still has all the addictive action-adventure charm it had back in 2002 that has kept fans (and Sony) coming back to the well all this time.
So what is different this time? Well, the story is a little more involved, following the titular Ratchet and Clank as they zip between alternate dimensions, encountering Ratchet's female, interdimensional counterpart Rivet along the way. Despite the names in the title, you probably spend about two-thirds of the game playing as Rivet, but given that the two characters share a weapon loadout, bank balance and move set, the shift isn't unwelcome. After decades of playing as various variations of Ratchet and Clank, a change in perspective beyond putting Ratchet in a gladiator tournament or Clank in a tuxedo is welcome.
The other big new thing here is the new gameplay mechanic, the rift tether. For sci-fi technobabble reasons, the Ratchet and Rivet can, in very specific spots at very specific times, latch on to breaks in the dimensions and pull the level towards them to close large distances. Functionally, this is a fancy teleport that is taking advantage of the PS5's SSD storage to quickly load the environment around you seamlessly, but it's still ultimately just a teleport tool. It's visually impressive certainly, but it's used pretty sparingly, most often as part of scripted action set pieces, as a way to hide collectables just out of reach, or as a way to spice up a combat arena. Fun? Definitely! Revolutionary? Not really.
Rift Apart's grand narrative about putting together a ragtag resistance to fight back against this dimensions surprisingly effective version of long time series villain and serial incompetent Dr Nefarious is engaging, but often at odds with the series trademark comedic tone. The wackiness that gives you garden sprinkler and pinball themed guns and a planet of robot pirates complete with an animatronic theme park ride can often clash with the over-the-top sci-fi dystopia and themes of found family. Generally, it's all pretty cohesive. Occasionally though, a wild tonal shift can take you out of the experience.
Maybe it's because I've played so many of these games, but Rift Apart, while certainly keeping with the series' usual tone, does feel a little less zany than usual. That's not a bad thing, some previous games in the series definitely thought they were funnier than they actually were, but Insomniac seems to have dialled back the silly a little in order to tell a better story, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Technically, Rift Apart is very impressive. Running at either a smooth 30 FPS with all its graphical bells and whistles enabled or an even smoother 60 FPS when toned down a little, the game is visually vibrant and it's often difficult to differentiate between cinematics and gameplay in terms of quality. That's not to say things are perfect though. Collision is all over the place (as is fairly common for the series if every Games Done Quick event is anything to go by) and I did encounter one crash so bad it froze my entire console until I disconnected the power. Another glitch left a side quest unfinishable, which is extra annoying when 100% completion is so encouraged. Hopefully, these are teething issues because for the 99% of the time it's stable, Rift Apart is a joy to experience.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is not some killer app that you need to buy a PS5 to experience (I suspect that will be Horizon: Forbidden West or God of War 2's job), but it is nonetheless a really fun time made better by the PS5's technology. For fans of the series wanting to spend more time with the characters, they've gotten to know over the last two decades, and newcomers wanting a rare linear, single-player genuinely good time, Rift Apart might as well be a killer app. It's not perfect, and it's not as ground breaking as its own marketing seems to think it is, but it is just a really fun time.