Mere months after releasing the PlayStation 5 launch title Spider-Man: Miles Morales, beloved Sony developer Insomniac Games brings us a brand new game in the Ratchet & Clank series: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Ever since the very first trailer, it’s been clear that Rift Apart has been designed as a showpiece for all the major selling points of the console. The obscenely quick loading times, 3D audio and DualSense controller all feature heavily throughout the game, with the load times in particular being directly woven into the gameplay. The number of essential games for those lucky enough to have secured a PS5 remains small, so is Rift Apart the latest addition to that list or are you fine to keep waiting?
Bookending the soft reboot that was 2016s Ratchet & Clank, Rift Apart takes place sometime after the 15 (!) other games in the series. The titular heroes are being celebrated for their years of service to the galaxy when their archnemesis Dr Nefarious turns up to steal the Dimensionator, which is accidentally destroyed in the ensuing chaos, causing dimensional rifts to appear all over the galaxy. After falling through one of these rifts into a dimension where Nefarious has already successfully conquered the galaxy the pair meet Rivet, Ratchet’s dimensional counterpart, and together they set about trying to repair the Dimensionator and stop Dr Nefarious from teaming up with the far more competent Emperor Nefarious.
Almost immediately Rift Apart dazzles with pure spectacle. The visuals are truly stunning and the sheer amount of objects, NPCs and effects on-screen at any one time (while maintaining a steady 60fps in performance mode) is staggering. The real star of the show is the PS5s new SSD allowing for unprecedented load times. This is more than just the time it takes to get from the PS5 dashboard to playing the game, with dimensional rifts there are essentially two completely different areas loaded at once and you can walk between them seamlessly. These usually take the form of platforming diversions to get a new cosmetic armour piece, but going from a sci-fi mega-city into a surreal realm of floating platforms and back again with no loading screens or disguising of any kind is super impressive.
These rifts will also interrupt certain boss fights, completely changing the aesthetic and layout of the arena in a matter of seconds. In specific spots, the rifts can be used as essentially a teleport with Ratchet and Rivet whipping onto one and pulling it towards them, which actually pulls them to it. It’s a genius bit of game design that turns a familiar concept in video games, teleporting, into something new and exciting.
Similarly, there are certain levels with special crystals that, when struck, instantly transport you to an alternate dimension of the same location. An example of this is Blizar Prime which has been destroyed in one dimension, featuring shattered chunks of rock in a zero-gravity environment but in a parallel dimension, it remains a thriving mining facility. The first time I whacked one of these crystals with Rivet’s hammer, instantly transporting to an entirely different version of the same place, I was gobsmacked. This is something that is simply not possible on last-gen consoles.
More than this, the visuals and audio are both a noticeable leap forward over last-gen. Each gun sounds incredible and so does the cinematic soundscape of explosions and spaceships and everything in between. Aside from the character models approaching a Pixar-like level of quality, the chaos of every combat encounter and scripted setpiece is just glorious to behold. There’s also little things like the sound being muffled when moving through the vacuum of space or tiles detaching from underfoot and floating away in zero gravity as you pass by. There’s even one post-game weapon that makes music just by using the controllers’ haptics.
The story does its job, feeling at times like a light-hearted space opera and others like a Saturday morning cartoon. But the true heart of the game lies with its characters and the connection they form with one another. Ratchet and Clank get separated after arriving in Rivet’s dimension, allowing her and Clank to develop their own friendship. Along the way you’ll learn about Rivet’s journey and, without spoiling things, there are some fantastic emotional payoffs towards the end that should come as no surprise to fans of Insomniac. They’re exceptional at crafting characters and stories that have a real emotional impact regardless of their characters relative simplicity. Shout out to Jennifer Hale’s performance as Rivet, she does a fantastic job here and is a huge part of what makes this brand new character such an immediately welcome addition.
The level design is a huge improvement over the 2016 reboot, with some levels being mini-open worlds in their own right. Whether they introduce a new mechanic like the dimension swapping crystals, large open areas to blast around in with your jet boots or a battle arena to level up your weapons, each planet feels unique and fun and I was always excited to see what was coming up next. There’s usually at least one side mission per planet to distract yourself with, but they’re always brief enough to be incorporated into the one play session. Another way they break up the pace is with mini-games where you play as Clank or a new character called Glitch (a tiny spider bot that Ratchet sends into machines to clear out viruses), each of these sections is a welcome diversion and are entertaining on their own, but are also completely skippable if you just want to get back to shooting bad guys.
Speaking of shooting, it’d be remiss of me not to talk about weapons in a Ratchet & Clank game. The variety is almost overwhelming at first, it seems every time you visit Ms Zurkon’s store there’s a new weapon to buy and upgrade. You will eventually wrap your head around each weapon and levelling them up is very satisfying. A lot of work has clearly been put into how these weapons work together in combat, certain weapons are more about defence like the Void Repulser which generates a force field, others are used for crowd control, like the Topiary Sprinkler that turns a group of enemies into… a topiary. Then there are the numerous offensive weapons whose names should give you a tantalising insight into what they do without spoiling the joy of discovery: Drillhound, Lightning Rod, Shatterbomb and the Negatron Collider.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel when it comes to the story it tells or the gameplay it offers, nor is it necessarily trying to. It’s pure fun and spectacle, hearkening back to the PS2 origins of the franchise as well as the faint memory of getting up early to watch goofy cartoons. What elevates it is the absurd level of polish and absolutely cutting edge visuals, audio and controller feedback. It may feel somewhat familiar, but there’s no doubt Rift Apart is an essential purchase for anyone with a PS5.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by Sony.