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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review - A dimension above the rest

When two lombaxes come together on a new console, there's not much that can stop them from achieving greatness. Our review.

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The last time PlayStation owners saw Ratchet & Clank, the heroic duo was at a bit of a crossroads. Insomniac had just taken the team back to their roots, rebooting their original adventure for a new generation on PS4. Now that Insomniac firmly reestablished Ratchet & Clank's place in the PlayStation pantheon, the question became "What's next? What comes after reestablishment?" The answer is "expansion." Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the next big step in the series, exploring the lombax's world through a whole new other-dimensional lens. If the PS4 Ratchet & Clank was a return to form for the series, Rift Apart on the PS5 is a display of excellence.

You're like me... I thought I was the only one

Rift Apart's story starts with a celebration of Ratchet & Clank and their various heroics. As their home world throws them a parade, Clank gives Ratchet a gift in the form of a rebuilt Dimensionator, a dimension-hopping device seen in a couple of previous Ratchet & Clank games. The festivities are soon interrupted by Dr. Nefarious, who takes the Dimensionator and hops into a totally different dimension, dragging Ratchet and Clank along for the ride until they're both separated.

Clank finds himself in a world ruled by Emperor Nefarious and is ultimately found by this dimension's version of Ratchet, a female lombax named Rivet. Rift Apart's story is a memorable one and the reasons for that start with Rivet. She's more than a mere "girl Ratchet" and a big part of that is because of the circumstances of her surroundings. With Nefarious having taken over her dimension, Rivet is driven underground to lead up a resistance. The resistance has become a major component of her identity. She's given everything, including her right arm, to try and stop Nefarious. However, while her dimension is a far drearier one than Ratchet's, she's still fueled by optimism, friendship, and the hope that her efforts will ultimately pay off. Rivet's interactions with Clank, the ultra-polite Morts of the planet Sargasso, the various patrons of Zurkie's, and the game's other main characters are a highlight and she'll likely go down as one of 2021's best new characters.

Rivet's dimension, as a whole, makes Rift Apart feel like an epic story. Players will encounter parallel counterparts to many of the Ratchet & Clank supporting cast and those meetings often don't go the way one would expect. There are a couple of characters in the late game, in particular, who manage to deliver some big laughs, as well as evoke some unexpected emotion. The whole story plays out like a Saturday morning cartoon on a much grander scale and it's a joy to watch unfold.

Into the Ratchet-verse

Insomniac is coming off giving the original Ratchet & Clank a visual overhaul and those who liked what the PS4 did for that game will marvel over what the PS5 accomplishes with Rift Apart. The PS5 version of the game pulls off many of the feats of the series' PS4 predecessor, like gorgeously detailing the game's characters. Even outside the beautiful cutscenes, the level of detail on the lombaxes is stunning, from their facial expressions to their fur textures. The game's supporting characters and its many enemies get the same kind of love. The movements of the Goons and the Pirates, in particular, are astounding, though Insomniac somehow manages to illustrate some wacky movements on the Emperor's robots, giving them their own injection of personality as you blast them.

Rift Apart's worlds are richly detailed and no two look the same. Without spoiling some of the game's later stages, it's a wonder how Insomniac was able to differentiate stages by their look and size, but also by their objectives and overall tone. While all of the stages will utilize Ratchet & Clank's typical 3D platforming formula to an extent, some will require different sets of objectives to go along with the series' signature shooting gallery sequences. Some objectives will involve grinding on rails, others will involve racing on Speetles, others might require some skill jumps with Hoverboots, and others will require bouncing back and forth between dimensions.

In fact, it's the dimension-hopping element where the PS5 gets to flex its muscles. As a result of the unstable dimension rifts, Ratchet and Rivet can tether entire dimension rifts to execute one of gaming's fanciest teleport moves. The rift tethers are most often used for traversal, but they'll also be available when up against waves of enemies. Amazingly, there are no performance hitches during these sequences, including near the end of the game, when Rift Apart throws dozens upon dozens of enemies onto the screen simultaneously. With no performance hitches and no loading screens of any kind, Rift Apart feels like a technical feat and something that should hopefully be an industry standard moving forward. I did hit one or two technical hitches with objectives not loading over my 12 hours, but the quick reload made that feel like much less of an annoyance.

While Ratchet and Rivet don't quite fall through the voids between dimensions as much as Rift Apart's trailers would have one believe, that doesn't make their worlds feel any less impressive. These are beautifully detailed landscapes with a lot happening, whether it's the bustling metropolis of Nefarious City or the rocky mining colonies of Blizar Prime. They made me want to go off the beaten path and explore, which is a good thing, as it turned out, because there are pocket dimensions and other hidden collectibles for those who take the extra time to look around.

Bringing the big guns

Ratchet & Clank has great 3D platforming and Rift Apart is no different. However, the series is mainly known for its selection of weaponry. I'm happy to say that Rift Apart's weapons are a hoot and a half.

Beyond the standard Blast Pistol, Rift Apart has dozens of weapons (enough to fill two weapon wheels) that all bring hurt in different ways. Some are straightforward, like the Warmonger rocket launcher and the Blackhole Storm gatling gun. Others bring the creativity that's almost expected of this franchise. Examples include Mr. Fungal, a remote mushroom turret that draws attention by trying to annoy enemies; the Topiary Sprinkler, which stuns foes by growing hedges all around them; and the Glove of Doom, which summons multiple ankle-biting robots to attack any enemy in their sight. Rift Apart's weaponry stands out because the PS5's DualSense controller allows for players to utilize different functions, depending on how much pressure they apply to the trigger. A half-press will attack in a different way, compared to a full button press, allowing for different approaches to enemies.

All of Rift Apart's weapons can be upgraded by using the Raritonium currency, which is used to purchase buffs on a weapon's skill tree. I will comment that deciding which weapons to give a boost to can sometimes be stressful. Every single fallen enemy will drop bits to spend with Ms. Zircon, but even that won't often be enough to buy everything on a lombax's wish list. Buying every weapon and getting every upgrade are worthwhile goals for those looking to play through the game multiple times, but I sometimes wish the upgrading process was a little more straightforward.

Rift Apart isn't all just shooting at enemies, though. The action is occasionally broken up with some all-new puzzle sequences. In order to close particularly dangerous rifts, Clank will sometimes have to break off into his own puzzle sections, where players will have to navigate dozens of Clank "possibilities" to a goal. This involves the use of various orb types, which can either launch, speed up, or weigh down the possibilities. They're fun brain teasers that aren't too difficult and don't often get in the way of the main gameplay loop.

There aren't too many sequences with Ratchet's miniature computer buddy Glitch, either. However, this is probably for the best. Players will have to sometimes use Glitch to clear out computer corruptions by blasting viruses. It's a decent idea with the series' action-heavy spirit in mind, but Glitch's slow and awkward movements didn't strike me as particularly enjoyable. To reiterate an earlier point to Insomniac's credit, though, Glitch sequences can pack in dozens of enemies at a time and players won't notice any performance hiccups at all. At least that's something.

Rift-acular

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a masterpiece. It would have been enough for Insomniac to keep the series' core spirit alive and add a few new ideas that take advantage of the PS5 hardware. This game certainly does do that. However, it's the creativity in the game's weaponry, the lovable characters, the engaging story with its Saturday morning cartoon atmosphere, the exciting worlds, and the game's penchant for clever humor that made Rift Apart feel special.

Whether you've had adventures with Ratchet & Clank in the past or not, Rift Apart is not a game to be missed. It's one of the best games you can get for your PS5 and one of the best games of 2021 so far, period.


This review is based on a PlayStation 5 digital code provided by the publisher. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will be available on the PlayStation Store on Thursday, June 11 for $69.99 USD. The game is rated E10+.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

Pros
  • Exciting all-ages action story with lovable characters
  • Amazingly detailed characters and worlds
  • Healthy variety of objectives sprinkled into lots of shooting
  • Weaponry mixes the effective and the creative
  • Weaponry makes good use of the DualSense controller
  • No loading screens or performance hitches
  • Hidden pocket dimensions are worth tracking down
  • Clank puzzles are clever
Cons
  • One or two objective glitches led to forced reloads
  • Glitch sections feel slow and awkward
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