Ratchet & Clank Review0 Comments
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also available on: N/A
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Ratchet & Clank is a series that likely doesn't need an introduction. The games have been a staple for Sony hardware since the PlayStation 2 era, seeing some 13 entries on both consoles and portables since its debut back in November of 2002. Nearly every game in the series has garnered its fair share of praise, and for good reason — all presentation and polish aside, it sports some of the best platforming action seen since the days of Super Mario 64.
This latest game, named for the original PS2 title as well as the movie that the game is based upon, shares exactly the same kind of features fans have come to expect from the series. That's really not much of a surprise, as this entry serves as a reboot of sorts (in this case called a “re-imagining” of the original title), but as a longtime series fan I was somehow expecting to find a bit more substance. I wouldn't say I'm disappointed, however: this is a thoroughly-refined game, and that's primarily because Insomniac Games haven't strayed too far from their tried-and-true formula. And what a formula it is.
As it has always been, the bulk of the action in Ratchet & Clank focuses around shooting, platforming, and solving puzzles. Players are able to run through the game's story, taking out aliens and robots and other ne'er-do-wells across a series of lushly-designed planets of increasing difficulties. True to form, numerous weapons are available, each with their own series of upgrades, as well as several gadgets that help players traverse the environment, get through locked doors, and so on. Ratchet starts the game with his most-common gadgets, the Omniwrench and the Swingshot, and goes on to earn all the rest on a largely as-needed basis.
Like with other entries in the series, the list of gadgets to be acquired is considerable. Throughout the story, Ratchet finds his signature Grind boots and Magneboots, the water-displacing Hydrodisplacer, a hoverboard, and the lock-picking Trespasser. Clank gets a few upgrades too: one in the form of a chip that helps him assign roles to little helper robots for the Clank-specific puzzle areas, and two that help Ratchet jump higher and further. As it so happens, the latter of those upgrades is the jetpack, which is making a glorious return after its debut in Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus back in 2013.
Of course, the gadgets are secondary to the fun found with the game's weapons. Ratchet & Clank features 14 different weapons with which players can end their foes, and each has its own distinct upgrade path. Like with other games in the series, guns and other offensive gadgets gain experience through use, and, when fully-leveled, become upgraded versions with new or slightly-altered functionality. Players will also collect Raritanium, finding it both littered around environments as well as falling from the ruined remains of their enemies, and these crystals are used in upgrading weapons through a hex grid-based upgrade path.
Though its functionality is largely the same as any other upgrade system, the hex grids are pretty fun to fill out. This time around, each hex on the grid provides a distinct benefit, like adding to ammo capacity, or rate of fire, or even increasing the drop rate of bolts or Raritanium. There are also special ability hexes grouped together, and when all adjacent hexes are filled, new abilities for the weapon unlock.
Along with the bolts, which are only used to buy weapons, and Raritanium, which is only used to upgrade weapons, players also collect cards. They're new to the series, and they can be found around areas and falling from enemies just like other collectibles, but they don't serve as a currency. Instead, cards are used to build card sets, and when sets are completed, they bestow the player with various attributes. Card sets for locations and characters generally convey a bonus to bolts or something similar, while card sets for weapons unlock the Omega variant of the weapon in Challenge mode, which adds increased functionality and raises the weapon's level cap from 5 to 10.
One of the primary differences between this entry and the 14 year-old original title is that of presentation. Put simply, the duo's latest outing looks incredible. No one will be surprised that the game looks better than the PlayStation 2 title it's based upon, but it is surprising that Ratchet & Clank looks better than many (if not most) of the games available on PlayStation 4 right now. The worlds are packed to the brim with detail, and the game manages to keep a silky smooth frame rate even when players are surrounded by exploding enemies and showered with bolts.
It's hard not to consistently compare Ratchet & Clank to other games in the series, because they all do sort of the same thing. Each one is loaded to the brim with upgrades and collectibles and secret areas, and this latest entry is no exception. It really is just more of the same, and making a recommendation with that knowledge in mind is tricky. For any game fan who hasn't yet jumped in on the Ratchet & Clank series, picking up this game would be a no-brainer. It's incredibly fun, it has loads to do, and despite being reasonably short (roughly 15-30 hours, assuming players stick around long enough to complete a Challenge mode play through) it never once manages to feel like a grind.
As for existing fans of the series, the recommendation is a bit more complicated. There's no doubt that this is the best looking and best playing entry to the series, but there do seem to be a few oversights. There's only one of the open-arena collection-focused stages, which are generally where players can take some time out to explore and gun down massive baddies, and that doesn't feel like enough. There's also only a few places where Ratchet can make full use of the jetpack, which is probably the most interesting and downright fun gadget ever brought to the series. Again, it didn't feel like enough. And, disappointingly, there is no battle arena to be found. The biggest battles players will find in the game happen through the storyline, and once they've concluded, there's nowhere for players to go when all they crave is some good old-fashioned shooting.
This is a game in a well-defined and understandably formulaic series, but in this specific case, much of the plot and many of the areas have actually been featured in a previous game. Players expect Ratchet & Clank to feel like a Ratchet & Clank title, and it does, but seeing old stories and characters re-emerge from the depths of time is a little uncanny. It may be perfect for those fans who've already forgotten (or never discovered) the details of the original game, but for someone intimately familiar with the series (or for those who have recently gone through the Ratchet & Clank HD collection on PlayStation 3), the familiarly compounds upon itself, which has the effect of making the story feel much, much less compelling.
Don't misunderstand – this is a great game. Any shortcomings it has are likely only in comparison to the breadth and depth of the features found within its brethren. Compared to past titles, it's unlikely that anyone will say this is the best Ratchet & Clank game yet — it may be that the series' fans have been exposed to top-notch gameplay for so long that our standards have become impossibly high. However, judged solely by itself, this is still one of the finest action/platformers available for PlayStation 4. The visuals, the presentation, the polish, the action, the platforming, the controls, and the satisfaction of tracking down loads of collectibles; all of these elements are of the highest quality. As such, Ratchet & Clank is a game for all manner of gamers, and easily ranks as another in a long line of titles presenting the very best that video games have to offer.
The review copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
A fresh new start for a proud series.