As more and more Rift Apart press comes out, I can’t help but think back through my journey with the Ratchet & Clank series and how absolutely consistently fantastic it is; it’s been a long wait and we haven’t seen a “new” title in 8 years (2016’s “Ratchet & Clank” was a reboot / remaster to the original game, and while absolutely awesome and you should play it right now, it was saddening that no true “new” R&C title was released on the ps4) the ps3 having seen 3 games, as well as the ps2 remasters.
So I’m super stoked that there’s more coming. And it’s always been about seeing more.
*Cue shitty time-warp visual effects* The year is 2002; my older brother brought home a PS2 and a folder full of games. I land on Ratchet & Clank and decide to try it out. My brain could not handle what came next.
Ratchet and Clank instantly struck me as a great comedic duo; a happy go lucky mechanic with a penchant for gadgets and guns? Hell yeah. A straight laced robot who transforms into a helpful backpack? Right on. The way the characters play off each other and subsequently help each other has always been extremely endearing. Supported by a cast of fun and interesting characters (even a Britney Spears parody in one of the earlier games) has always made the storyline pop.
While there have been female Lombaxes (Ratchet’s species, running theme is that he’s the last Lombax in the universe) the inclusion of a female Lombax and the progression of Ratchet’s lonely storyline is something I’m keen on seeing from another dimension / reality. It helps that she looks to be the more-capable female version of my favourite video-game character (With a robot arm!!) from a more serious, apocalyptic alternate dimension.
Ratchet & Clank paved the way for different gameplay mechanics far ahead of it’s time; the biggest of which was how they treated levels as different planets with unique biomes, enemies and gameplay elements. My tiny prepubescent brain could not believe the amount of vibrancy in the many different planets you get to visit.
While nothing new in the platforming space (see: every Megaman) to explore and interact with these highly detailed planets in 3D was kind of mindblowing at the time, and the levels have gotten better and more detailed with each installment. You never get tired of that first time you encounter a world (There’s even a beauty camera angle whenever you first land where the camera zooms out for you to admire the stunningly art-directed vista) and have a whole new area to explore. It kept things interesting, exciting and fresh.
Rift Apart seems to take that excitement to the next level with the coolest gameplay mechanic yet; with the ability to jump through rifts to different snackable-sized instances (or alternate versions of the same planet perhaps?). Seeing fresh new worlds is one thing, but seeing alternate versions of them is… sigh. It’s awesome. And knowing it’s coming out on the powerhouse that is the ps5, I’m so goddamn hyped to see what zany worlds they’ll be working on. Also, for fans, there’s the added nugget of knowing a lot of old planets will be revisited / reimagined from this alternate timeline.
GADGETS, GUNS, GAMEPLAY
While the market eventually caught up with the planets / biomes concept of level design, there hasn’t been a game that has matched how Ratchet and Clank treat the humble inventory; making the progression and collection of each tool and weapon part of the game entirely.
Gadgets are a self explanatory gameplay mechanic and act almost as “keys”, preventing you from accessing an area until you’ve acquired it. What makes this different to other games is that every gadget has a puzzle solving aspect to it, offering a break in the combat to just do something cool. While some are common throughout the series (grindboots, the swingshot) the other gadgets are often so well disguised into the gameplay, you don’t really feel that you’re solving a puzzle; you’re simply trying to get from one place to another. That being said some are hardcore puzzles which I absolutely delight in.
But the guns, oh my lord the guns. It was a completely new and exciting experience back then, saving enough bolts (the in game currency) to buy a new weapon, as it has been for every installment of the game. The FPS staple of single, burst, rpg, to kooky guns that turn enemies into sheep, yet another “same same but different” is getting bonkers guns each installment that are always fun to use and combo with. Again, games have since caught up, but none quite scratch the itch of satisfaction when it comes to variety and combat satisfaction. The mechanic that hasn’t changed is every kill you get with a gun gives it XP, eventually levelling up and becoming stronger. In some installments, the gun completely changes into a different, more awesome gun upon hitting the XP cap, as well as having different upgrade mechanics to further alter / modify all the guns.
The game within the game here is then getting all your guns to that max level; a very satisfying process that naturally guides you to trying out all the guns. Rift Apart is going to be INSANE because of the new DualSenses adaptive triggers; imagining all the different types of weapons and how the triggers reacts; I mean Astro was a great demo but I honestly can’t think of a better game that would be the perfect fit for checking out how adaptive triggers work.
Finally the gameplay – tying RPG elements, puzzle solving, platforming and fun action with a litany of guns across various playstyles, the ability to adapt and change your play style mid combat, and the concept of mastering every gun in your arsenal makes for a game that is constantly rewarding your endeavours so that nothing really feels like a waste of time. Which I think, ultimately, is the secret sauce that just plain works. Everything you do progresses you a little further; every puzzle solved holds a reward, hell even every enemy killed gives you bolts and your gun XP for better guns.
With that gameplay loop in mind, wrapped in beautiful, vibrant worlds and wonderful pixar-esque character design and art direction, tied together with an entertaining storyline, playing through a Ratchet & Clank game becomes an exercise in simply grinding out a certain gun or progressing the story simply because you want to see more.
More worlds, more guns, more everything.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart launches June 11, and I can’t wait to see more.