I'm a sucker for Ratchet & Clank. I have been for as long as I remember and assuming Insomniac Games plans to produce high quality games, I will remain so for the foreseeable future. You could say that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was one of my most anticipated titles of 2021, and having that honour to me meant that it also had a lot to live up to. Following around a week of being absolutely consumed by this game, I feel comfortable saying that Insomniac has once again delivered a charming title, packed with incredibly engaging and exciting gameplay that will make you never want to put your DualSense controller down.
The storyline for Rift Apart is set in murky waters, shall we say, as it doesn't take place after the events of the 2016 reboot. Rift Apart instead picks up as a continuation of the original timeline, and starts by seeing Ratchet and Clank honoured with a massive parade detailing all their heroic deeds and exploits. It's during this parade that Dr. Nefarious, a legacy foe and the villain of the reboot makes another appearance, stealing the Dimensionator that has been repaired by Clank so that Ratchet can explore the dimensions to find the Lombaxs. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose when the Dimensionator is once again destroyed, causing dimensions to collapse and Ratchet and Clank to end up, split from each other, in a parallel world - the very same dimension inhabited by our new protagonist, the silver Lombax, Rivet. Rift Apart sees Ratchet, Clank, and Rivet working to stop Dr. Nefarious and his dimensional counterpart from destroying the universe in an adventure that isn't limited to a single dimension.
As you would hope for a Ratchet & Clank game, the majority of the gameplay will see you wielding a wide array of crazy weapons, to destroy any foes that get in your way along your adventure. Whether that means packing the explosive grenade glove Shatterbomb or an over-the-top shotgun called The Enforcer, the options are once again incredibly plentiful, and every weapon is highly enjoyable to use. Weapons can be levelled up to unlock new upgrades, some of which are obtained by spending Raritanium (a gem-like currency used specifically for upgrades) at the Ms. Zurkon shop, whereas others are unlocked by simply levelling up gear. The Blast Pistol for example gets three barrels when fully upgraded, rather than the measly one it starts with.
You can look to grab new weapons by spending bolts dropped from enemies and found in crates at Ms. Zurkon's shop, although new weapons will only pop up as you progress the storyline.
In regard to where the story takes our protagonists (and yes, plural. A lot of the game will be played as Rivet rather than Ratchet), the planets and the level design is again exciting and packed with depth. Each location features new enemies to tackle, and no planet looks the same. For the most part, levels are quite linear in that there aren't many alternative paths to take, but there are a few locations where you have more freedom in how you explore, in a sort of semi-open world design. It's very typical Ratchet & Clank up until this point.
This even extends to the collectibles, which for the most part involves grabbing Gold Bolts to unlock customisable options (such as changing the colour of Ratchet's wrench), and nabbing Spy Bots to unlock the incredibly powerful Ryno weapon. You can also unlock new armour to fit on Ratchet or Rivet to change their appearance, armour that will even provide passive stats as you unlock it, including increased gain of bolts or damage mitigation against certain enemies.
There are a few new features here and there, including when you get to play as Clank, which this time around are small encounters where you are expected to solve an interdimensional puzzle by guiding Clank Possibilities to a large doorway by using orbs of various powers. And then there are also the Glitch encounters that see you play a digital spider bot who is tasked with eliminating a computer virus from a terminal. They are interesting ways to expand on the gameplay, but they are a fraction of the usual, and more engaging, strafing and shooting that makes up the bulk of Rift Apart.
Where Rift Apart sets itself aside from its predecessors however, is in its utilisation of the PS5 and DualSense hardware. The game loads incredibly quickly (from start up to being in the game takes seconds from my experience), looks absolutely stunning and plays well (granted I have only played on the 30FPS Quality mode. The Performance mode that jumps to 60FPS is slated to arrive in a day one patch), and the new features including the Rift Tether that allows you to teleport by latching and yanking yourself through a rift, make the game and its world feel more alive than ever.
The Rift Tether and being able to travel through rifts is marked as one of the biggest new features of the game because it essentially allows you to travel between locations (and occasionally planets) without even needing a loading screen. Then there is the DualSense integration that sees certain weapons get alternate fire modes thanks to the adaptive triggers, and also have unique sounds that play through the controller's speaker when you switch to it - a neat little feature that is hard to appreciate when using a headset to experience the Tempest 3D audio system also in play. I will say that the haptic feedback wasn't as impressive as I'd hoped, and for the most part just felt like more intense vibrations, not quite along the likes of what was delivered in Housemarque's Returnal.
Being a single player storyline, Rift Apart isn't all that long, and you can probably bash it all out, picking up all of the goodies along the way in around 10-12 hours. But, to make up for that, it does feature a Challenge mode that is essentially New Game +, and allows you to take all of your gear, and the upgrades you have amassed back into a new playthrough of the storyline to be able to unlock further new upgrades and gear. It's a fun way to re-explore the title and from my experience of running through the game in this mode, it's even more enjoyable the second time around thanks to your expanded array of weapons and gear.
With this being said, a personal niggle of mine is the difficulty. The game is tailored to younger audiences, and is a breeze to play through on the hardest difficulty, which is even more apparent when looking at the Clank puzzle encounters, for example. To me, this is a bit of a shame, considering I am part of the age group who grew up playing this iconic platforming series, and would love to have a more challenging mode designed for older players who are looking for a bit of a 'tougher go of it', shall we say.
I'd be remiss to mention the technology and performance issues I have faced so far. A day one patch is one its way, but so far I've experienced multiple crashes, one that even forced me to disconnect the power from my PS5 to be able to close down the game, as well as a few funky other problems, including glitched audio, and enemies getting trapped without the initiative to move or reset themselves.
But, these issues don't change my opinion that this is once again a great instalment into the Ratchet & Clank universe. The new features, the utilisation of the PS5 and the DualSense, and the new cast, including Rivet make me even more excited for the future of this franchise. Platforming fans will struggle to not become charmed by Rift Apart and anyone who is lucky enough to own a PS5 and is looking for a way to put it through the ringer, will find this as a great way to see what the future of the console and this generation holds.