Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a spectacular showcase for the PS5 with Pixar-quality animation
“What if we’re washed up?” asks Ratchet to Clank in the opening of their latest adventure. Rift Apart proves this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is spectacular. Its rush of an opening, which recaps the series, sets the thrill ride pace and it barely lets up until the end. As a showcase for PlayStation 5 and the next generation of gaming, it’s a must-have.
That begins with the graphics. It’s no overstatement to say Rift Apart is one of the most beautiful games yet released. It’s in the details of the character models and the soft touch of their fur. It’s in the ray-traced lighting and reflections that adds shimmer and life to every surface. It’s in the particle effects of bolts and explosions. It’s in the sheer amount of stuff happening on screen.
And it’s in the way the game seamlessly shifts from cinematics to gameplay, all accompanied by a glorious orchestral and spacey synth score. More than the series did before, Rift Apart feels like a high quality Pixar animated film – except you’re in control. Story scenes play out and then the camera turns as you immediately take control, take in the stunning vistas and try not to gasp.
But the key to the next-gen feel? Loading. That might sound boring, but booting up the game and being in control within seconds of the title screen is a delight.
More than that, it’s how the game integrates loading and gameplay with its rifts and dimensions. The loose plot is essentially an excuse to go on an exciting adventure; here, the evil Dr. Nefarious steals the Dimensionator weapon, causing the world to split apart and our heroes to travel through parallel dimensions in pursuit.
In gameplay terms that means using rifts to teleport instantly across levels in the middle of a firefight. It means opening rifts into small pocket dimensions – mini levels within levels. It means hitting crystals that shift the environment to an alternate dimension that’s not just a small section, but instantly loading an entirely new level around you. It means boss battles and exploding set pieces and grinding rails in pursuit or escape, all while you’re thrown through rifts to shift the level at the same time.
None of this would be possible on previous consoles without the power of the PlayStation 5’s SSD. And it’s an example of technology and gameplay in sync to hugely impressive effect.
The game also makes great use of the controller’s haptic feedback. That’s not only in varying rumble features like a heartbeat on low health, but in different uses of the triggers to access aiming and alternate fire options of weapons that soon becomes second nature. And the game’s accessibility options are up front from the beginning, so that everyone can have access to play how they want to. Kudos to Insomniac for that.
It’s all too easy to race through the Rift Apart rollercoaster with its high octane action and constantly shifting fresh ideas. There’s platforming, there’s shooting, there’s grinding, there’s chase sequences, there’s bosses. Then there are the pocket dimensions to explore, Clank dimensional puzzles that play out like 3D Lemmings, Glitch shooting sections inside electronics. The pace is electrifying.
Fans of the series will enjoy seeing twists on familiar locations and characters. The parallel dimensions allow the writers, with trademark humour, to put an amusing spin on series regulars, but also introduce some new characters. That includes new protagonist Rivet, who’s a chirpy nerdy counterpart to Ratchet. The two Lombaxes do share moves and weaponry, though, so in gameplay terms there’s sadly little to differentiate them.
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Familiarity is the game’s biggest flaw. Rift Apart is a prime example of what the Ratchet & Clank series is all about, now with flashier graphics and set pieces. But abilities are the same as always, weapons aren’t quite as whacky as the series’ best, and the flow and feel and collectibles of the game are exactly as you’d expect.
For some this might be disappointing. But the familiarity of Rift Apart is also comforting, now wrapped up in a must-have next-gen experience that simply wouldn’t be possible until now.
It’s good to have the duo back. Ratchet and Clank washed up? I don’t think.
5 / 5
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is released on PlayStation 5 on 11 June.