Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review: Specs
Release Date: June 11, 2021
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is one of the PS5’s most highly anticipated games, and with good reason. The series has always delivered tight gameplay, gorgeous graphics, and stories that deftly balance humor and heart. To satisfy fan expectations, Rift Apart has to do all that, in addition to showcasing what a true big-budget PS5 exclusive can do.
Fans of the series will be pleased to know that Rift Apart succeeds with flying colors. Newcomers will also be pleased to know that the game does so without alienating first-time players. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart gets just about everything right. It has fun gameplay; it has an interesting story; it has sky-high production values; it has well-executed PS5 features; it has a stellar voice cast; it even has excellent pacing, which is hard to pull off in an era of overstuffed big-budget games.
Granted, Rift Apart isn’t perfect, but not for lack of trying. The game suffers from bugs and glitches, some of which disrupt gameplay to a genuinely irritating extent. There are also just a few moments in the ambitious story that don’t quite jell with what we know about our two heroes.
Still, Rift Apart is a superlative game, both on its own merits and as a demonstration of what the PS5 can accomplish when it’s firing on all cylinders. Read our full Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review for more information on what is easily one of the best PS5 games.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review: Gameplay
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart may look sleek and futuristic, but underneath, it’s still the same basic formula that fans know and love. As they’ve done since 2002, players take control of Ratchet and Clank: two best friends and partners in adventuring, who have saved the galaxy again and again. Together, they’ll jump, shoot and rail-grind their way through 10 expansive planets in their quest to mend a series of dimensional rifts.
If you’ve played a Ratchet & Clank game before, you might be surprised at just how little has changed in Rift Apart. The game is still an exploration-based platformer with a lot of combat along the way. The core gameplay loop goes like this: you’ll set down on a new planet, and receive both a main quest and a side quest to complete. From there, you’ll explore the huge, open-ended level, completing your quests and discovering helpful hidden collectibles along the way. Some, like Golden Bolts, are mostly for bragging rights; some, like Spybots and Raritanium, can help you get more powerful weapons.
And you’ll need powerful weapons. When you’re not jumping, swinging or hoverboot-dashing from one platform to another, you’ll be fighting a variety of robots, pirates, goons and predatory native fauna, along with the occasional horror from another dimension. Combat feels both tight and chaotic, as you dash around large battlefields, whittling down foes’ health and trying to pick the best weapon for the job. The game also has a variety of challenging boss fights, although quite a few of them are with generic-looking robots that simply have a lot of health.
In these segments, Ratchet & Clank’s signature combat style is alive and well. You can buy dozens of weapons, each of which levels up with constant use. You can also use Raritanium to upgrade your favorite weapons to be even more devastating — more ammo, better accuracy and so forth. Just be aware that it’s a finite resource in each playthrough.
As usual, the weapon variety is the real star of the show here. While you’ll get an energy pistol, rocket launcher, personal shield and other sci-fi staples, it’s much more fun to use the bizarre tools in your arsenal. The Topiary Sprinkler, for example, roots enemies in place and makes them sprout leaves and flowers. The Glove of Doom dispatches tiny, murderous robots that will gnaw away at your enemies’ ankles. The Negatron Collider shoots a gigantic beam of energy that can stop almost any foe in its tracks. Learning each weapon’s ins and outs is a real joy. Getting to customize your favorites also lends Rift Apart a level of personalization that most platformers don’t offer.
It’s also worth pointing out just how thoughtfully Insomniac has integrated DualSense functionality into the game. Almost every weapon takes advantage of the PS5 controller’s adaptive triggers. With bomb-type weapons, for example, pressing a trigger down halfway aims, while pressing it down all the way fires. With a shotgun equipped, pressing the trigger halfway down will fire a single shot; pressing it all the way down will unload both barrels. Even when you’re simply exploring, the DualSense emits tiny haptic pulses when you collect Bolts (Rift Apart’s currency), or clamp down with magnetic boots in zero-G. Other games have done interesting things with the DualSense, but Rift Apart is arguably the first game that integrates it seamlessly.
While the gameplay in Rift Apart is simple for the most part, it also exhibits the level of precision and polish you’d expect from an Insomniac offering. Whether you’re swinging across a perilous chasm, blasting a faraway alien with a Shatterbomb or riding a speeding beetle across a deadly swamp, Rift Apart simply feels fantastic to play.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review: Clank, Glitch and Rivet
Of course, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart isn’t all combat and platforming, all the time. Like previous games, it occasionally breaks up the action with puzzle sections where you play as either Clank or Glitch: a minuscule arachnoid robot, designed to defeat computer viruses.
The Clank sections this time around have a distinct Lemmings feel. Clank directs a series of auto-running “possibilities” through a variety of obstacle courses, using gravity and speed spheres to alter their paths. Some of the puzzles are suitably challenging, and the sections never drag on for too long.
I wasn’t as keen on the Glitch sections, which are basically shooting galleries where you can walk on walls and ceilings to advance through sections. Glitch herself, though, is an extremely charming character, with an eager “can-do” attitude and a miniature character arc of her own.
The big new gameplay feature in Rift Apart, however, is the introduction of Rivet: the fan-favorite female Lombax from the game’s trailers. Rivet is the fifth playable character in the Ratchet & Clank series, and it’s fun to step into her stylish Hoverboots. She controls identically to Ratchet; they even share the same weapons and upgrades. Part of me wonders what Rivet would have felt like with a more distinctive playstyle, but part of me also appreciates how seamless it feels to transition between Ratchet and Rivet as the game progresses.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review: Story
If there’s one thing that both newcomers and veterans should appreciate about Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, it’s the game’s narrative. This story picks up where the acclaimed Future trilogy on PS3 left off, but also gives newbies just enough exposition to hit the ground running.
Rift Apart begins where Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus left off eight(!) years ago. Clank has finally repaired the Dimensionator: a device that can open portals between realities. The villainous Dr. Nefarious quickly appropriates the device, transporting himself and the two heroes to a reality where the ruthless Emperor Nefarious runs the show. Separated from Ratchet, Clank teams up with a rebellious Lombax named Rivet, and the three adventurers set off on a quest to repair the realities.
To be frank, Rift Apart isn’t exactly where I expected the Ratchet & Clank story to go next. Insomniac has teased “Ratchet searches for his family in other dimensions” for years, and while Rift Apart touches on that plot point, it’s not the crux of the tale. Instead, Rift Apart is very much Rivet’s story, focusing on her ongoing resistance against Emperor Nefarious and how observing Ratchet and Clank’s unbreakable bond gives her a new perspective on things. While Rift Apart doesn’t wrap up every plot thread from the Future trilogy, it does end with some enticing ideas about where the story might go next.
Without spoiling anything, the story is excellent, running at a fast clip and introducing a variety of likable characters. If you’ve wondered what any given character’s alternate-dimension self might look like, rest assured that Insomniac has wondered the same thing. Seeing the bloodthirsty Mr. Zurkon as a peaceful bartender or the goofy Skidd McMarx as a resistance leader are as jarring and delightful as you’d expect.
My only criticism here is that Clank has a few out-of-character moments that don’t quite fit with what we know about the dry-witted robot. At one point, a one-armed Clank has a conversation with Rivet, who also lost her arm while fighting Emperor Nefarious. I understand what Insomniac was going for, but Clank has cycled through plenty of parts in the past with absolutely no qualms. It also seems strange to project human ideas about disability onto a machine, where full repairs are both easy and commonplace. Toward the end of the game, Clank also has a moment of intense self-doubt during one of the puzzle sections — which is odd, considering that in previous games, he approached similar puzzles with a sense of optimism and fun.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review: Performance
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart looks impressive. The game employs a cartoony art style and a vivid color palette to bring its creative characters to life. Whether it’s the fine patterns in a Lombax’s fur, the sheen of sunlight off of Dr. Nefarious’ translucent dome, or the improbable geometries of a pocket dimension, Rift Apart is one of the best-looking PS5 games so far.
Since Rift Apart is a big-budget, first-party title, that’s probably not shocking. What is shocking is just how fast the game loads. In spite of sprawling cities, dozens of detailed characters, hundreds of Bolts, huge bosses and blast after blast from your bizarre weaponry, Rift Apart loads everything within seconds, and never staggers during gameplay.
During some of the trailers Sony showed off, Ratchet would jump through dimensional ports, traveling from one fully-loaded level to another in only a few seconds. This does indeed happen during gameplay. It isn’t present in every level, and the transitions are often limited to relatively small spaces with much bigger worlds hinted at in the background. But the PS5 really can load and render complete areas in only a few seconds, and Rift Apart is arguably the first game to take full advantage of that.
What’s less impressive is that the game contains a variety of bugs and glitches, some of which actually impair gameplay. In the very first level, an enemy got stuck inside a pillar, and nothing I did could coax him out. I eventually had to reload my last checkpoint. This happened about half-a-dozen times during the game, across various levels. The game froze and crashed more than once, costing me a good five-to-10 minutes of gameplay each time.
The worst bug, however, was in Challenge Mode: a postgame option that lets you replay the adventure, but with access to tougher enemies and more powerful weapons. One side quest didn’t spawn the right resources, but assumed I’d finished the mission anyway, since I did so in a previous playthrough. The game locked up — then autosaved, locking me into an eternal crash cycle. Sony has promised that a Day One patch will iron out a lot of these problems, but in the meantime, be ready to reload.
The music and voice acting are top-notch, at least. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame composed all the music, which combines sci-fi vibes with techno, rock, or orchestral scores, depending on the scene. James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye as Ratchet and Clank, respectively, make the duo’s friendship and struggles as believable as always.
But it’s Jennifer Hale as Rivet who really steals the show. Rivet has a lot of ground to cover, and Hale does a wonderful job juxtaposing her desire to make friends with her reluctance to trust anyone. Debra Wilson also turns in a stellar performance as a character who shows up a little later in the game, but that would be getting into spoiler territory.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review: Bottom line
Ever since Sony first announced the PS5, the company has hinted that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart would be the system’s first flagship game — and it is. Rift Apart is a beautiful combination of satisfying gameplay, riveting (hah) story, striking graphics, spirited sound and innovative features. It’s an excellent continuation of a 19-year-old story, as well as an inviting jumping-on point for newcomers. And, with a 15-to-20-hour playtime, the game occupies the sweet spot between “too short” and “the only game you’ll play for months.”
It’s a shame that our build of the game had so many bugs, because they’re the only major drawback to this exhilarating title. If you’re one of the lucky few who can find a PS5, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the game that it was built to play.