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‘Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart’ Review: The Wrench-and-Robot Duo Has Never Looked So Good

By Dave Trumbore

Published 18 hours ago

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The PS5 exclusive takes full advantage of the next-gen console’s processing power, and more.

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Nearly 20 years ago, Insomniac Games first introduced the world to Ratchet & Clank. The inauspiciously named duo — a furry, wrench-wielding Lombax and a sentient, pint-sized warbot — got off to a rough start when they first met. Ratchet, the last of his kind, was a thrill-seeking mechanic and pilot in search of adventure; if only he could get his ship to work. Clank, labeled as defective, had more than one horrible secret in his memory banks; if only he could trust someone enough to help him stop a corrupt business executive from destroying untold planets. Turns out that Ratchet and Clank, despite their less-than-impressive names, didn’t just possess the stuff that heroes are made of, they were actually made for each other, too.

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Their buddy-buddy relationship has worked so well, in fact, that Insomniac Games turned that 2002 hit into a full-on franchise, now totalling 17 games across a variety of platforms. The latest game, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, is the first new title in eight years and the most recent game overall since the original’s reimagining in 2016. And in a very clever storytelling twist, the latest game is also a retelling of the origin story of Ratchet and Clank but from a very different perspective. Rift Apart asks what could have been if that first meeting of the title team had gone differently. What would that future hold? How would not just our protagonists but their friends and allies and enemies change? And what would happen if, somehow, those two alternate histories crossed paths?

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart delivers those answers and more in a stunningly gorgeous and out-of-this-world adventure that takes players to a variety of far-out planets and locales. It’s a title that stays true to what makes the franchise so much fun — its heart, its humor, its button-mashing mechanics, and more — while honoring its origins and forging a new path forward. That’s impressive enough. But the tip-to-tail visuals of this game are second to none, really embracing the processing power of the PS5, to the point that the game had me wishing that more animated movies looked this good. All in all, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the total package for both returning fans of the franchise and newcomers looking to dive in for the first time.

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Let’s dig in a bit more.

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Image via Insomniac Games

The story of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is simple, straightfoward, and super-fun. It’s something that should be very familiar to long-time players of the franchise but also welcoming to new players. Rift Apart sees our title heroes enjoying their well-earned accolades as galactic heroes, along with a little self-reflection on their adventures together so far; all of that’s done in a fantastic intro sequence that also acts as a tutorial … if you can tear your eyes from the absolutely gorgeous visual tapestry on display. (I honestly wish I could play this game on a movie screen; it’s that big and packs that much eye-candy into every scene, so much so that I feel like I missed more than I took in during my first playthrough.)

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Inevitably, however, bad guys are going to do their bad guy thing. And in the many worlds of Ratchet & Clank, there’s no one badder than Doctor Nefarious. His plan this time around is to get his clickity-clackety hands on a Dimensionator, one of the many zany weapons in the game, in order to banish the pesky heroes and all organic life in the process, in the hopes of finally achieving victory. Whether Nefarious wins or not is, of course, up to you as you play, but the not-so-good doctor’s scheme also destabilizes reality, creating rifts to other dimensions and alternate realities pretty much everywhere you turn. These ever-present and sometimes chaotic portals allow players and NPCs to travel to places as vast and varied as the imagination. And it’s an incredibly clever way to work some new blood into the familiar story of Ratchet & Clank.

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Image via Insomniac Games

Enter: Rivet. Much like Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time featured a mad scientist messing with the fabric of reality and creating multi-dimensional portals that allowed alternate timelines and characters to mix and mash together, so too does Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart use this narrative device to shake things up a bit. Rivet, a female Lombax in a universe that’s not quite as cheerful as the one Ratchet & Clank hail from, is a fierce fighter, but she’s also going it solo. A member of a small but scrappy group of rebels, Rivet does her best to take down Emperor Nefarious and his minions. However, she’s fighting a war of attrition, and her friends are few and far between. So when Doctor Nefarious’ scheme Swiss-cheeses the various dimensions, Rivet might just find that the breakdown of reality might just be her salvation.

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Rivet’s journey is the core of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, though players will be able to divide their time quite evenly between the two Lombaxes. (Lombaxi?) It’s a familiar story of struggle, rebellion, personal growth, and letting down barriers (or not) to allow others to get close to you. It’s a story that has a sharper edge than that of the original Ratchet & Clank, a tale more fitting for our modern era, but still family-friendly and full of feels. (The characters that I did not expect to hit me directly in the heart did just that.) So if you enjoyed the original tale of how Ratchet and Clank became fast friends, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this slightly skewed story told from a different perspective. I sure did, and the hits kept coming all the way up to the insane ending and right on through the credits.

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Image via Insomniac Games

Ratchet and Rivet are two sides of the same coin, so if you’re comfortable with one’s melee and ranged-weapon mechanics, it’s an effortless switch to battle as the other. Part of me wishes that Rivet had a slightly more differentiated set of skills, but aside from her heavier hits with her powerful hammer, Ratchet and Rivet are pretty much the same. They even share weapon upgrades and collected armor and loot throughout the game, so you won’t have to worry about double-dipping at Mrs. Zurkon, who is now your friendly neighborhood shopkeeper, merchant, and arms supplier (with a little help from Zurkon Jr.)

Rift Apart absolutely nails the bonkers weapons system that Insomniac and the Ratchet & Clank franchise has become known for. The shining star here is the haptic feedback from the PS5 controller’s adaptive triggers; every weapon that integrates that new feature does so exceedingly well in an intuitive way. And the sound design of the weapons themselves, along with everything they’re aimed at and blow up? Simply fantastic. It’s also a delight every time you pop over to Mrs. Zurkon’s to see what new insane weapon awaits you. And it’s probably the only game where I’ve actually played the demo for every single new weapon that pops up; it’s that good.

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Image via Insomniac Games

Ratchet and Rivet are going to need all the weapons they can get their furry hands on, too. Rift Apart throws a lot at you. Like, a lot. There are Nefarious minions from multiple dimensions, plus pirates, creatures great and small (and occasionally undead), bounty hunters, and much, much more. (I’d highly recommend upgrading your weapons ASAP, which you can also do through Mrs. Zurkon’s shop.) But that action-packed gameplay is also balanced out and integrated with the classic platforming puzzles R&C players have come to know and love. You’re assisted in your traversal of some truly massive areas by gadgets that will either let you grapple-hook, super-swing, dash, or even rift-hop; you’ll also get some creature assists to help cross dangerous territory or even soar high into the sky. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end, so don’t blink.

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As for Clank, if you loved the time-controlling puzzles from Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, you’re probably going to enjoy the new version of that similar idea here. Unfortunately, these required yet less action-based minigames are pretty much the only time you’ll get to control Clank. It’s Ratchet and Rivet’s story for better or worse, and 99% of the action stays with them as the player-controlled character. However, somewhat making up for this lack of robotic action is a new character by the name of Glitch (yes, get your “Ratchet & Clank glitch” jokes out of the way now), one of my favorite new additions who also features in a shoot-’em-up minigame that’s a literal blast. So cute, too!

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Image via Insomniac Games

If I had any gripes at all about Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, aside from a couple visual glitches, the occsaional OoB soft-lock, and some depth perception issues while platforming, it would only be about the story’s pacing. I loved every second of it and honestly wish I had had the time to slow down and explore a bit more; I highly advise players to do just that because not only will the game reward your exploration with loot, you’ll get to appreciate just how beautiful every corner of the many worlds really are. But the story itself both wants to rush you through encounters while also messing with your sense of progress a bit.

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About two-thirds of the way through the game, it’ll ask you if you want to polish up your skills, earn some experience, and upgrade your gear, making it seem like the end is soon to come. It’s not, not really. So that messed with my perception of the overall story’s pace a bit; not a major strike but a minor ding. To its credit, Rift Apart does then make it very obvious when you’re about to fly into the final battle, giving you the chance to go back and finish your looting, shooting, and upgrading. And when it’s all said and done, the sometimes-silly and sometimes-serious story is absolutely worth the journey.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart delivers everything fans of the franchise want while offering something new and interesting to old and new players alike. It’s drop-dead gorgeous no matter what world you’re on, which character you’re playing, or which baddie or beastie you’re taking down. The PS5 shines in both the visual department and the technical one thanks to intuitive haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, making the actiony experience fire on all sensory cylinders. And perhaps best of all, Rift Apart introduces compelling new characters that, while certainly feeling like a product of our contemporary times, are also whole, charismatic, and downright adorable. I genuinely hope that Rift Apart is both the continuation of the franchise and the start of something new, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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Rating: A-

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About The Author

Dave Trumbore

(9217 Articles Published)

Senior Editor – Games | Former Editor of Animation, Streaming Content |Author of “The Science of Breaking Bad” from MIT Press | Twitch Affiliate: twitch.tv/drclawmd | Co-host of the Saturday Mourning Cartoons podcast | Community manager for Ironface Studios | Former science freelance writer for Nerdist.com |

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