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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Review (PS5) – A Visual And Gameplay Theme Park Dragged Down By A Poor Story And Neglected Characters

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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart PS5 Review – After the hugely enjoyable Ratchet & Clank reboot in 2016, I and many others were expecting Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart to be another slam dunk, this time offering a visual feast only possible on PS5 and gameplay moments that we have never seen before.

Whilst, some of this is the case, Rift Apart is actually a more mixed experience. Insomniac have delivered a visually arresting experience that is as beautiful as it is smooth to play, creating some cool gameplay set-pieces that make use of the PS5’s SSD. But, in prioritizing that focus on using the PS5’s hardware, the characters in Rift Apart feel largely left behind in a different dimension and disregarded, with a narrative so threadbare that you would have thought you were playing a game for toddlers.

Rift Apart has its highs, but there are a lot of reasons why it doesn’t hold up to what we have seen before from PlayStation Studios and Insomniac itself. The game feels like a scrapbook of action sequences and cool moments rather than a coherent platforming adventure.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart PS5 Review


Stumbling Into Another Dimension

I’d rather I didn’t have to kick off my discussion with a negative aspect of Rift Apart, but there really is no way to discuss a lot of the game without first setting the scene.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart kicks off by introducing us very briefly to Rivet and her escapades in her own dimension, before dropping us right back into the shoes of Ratchet. Celebrating during a parade, things quickly go awry and Nefarious’ goons show up to ruin the day, before showing his robotic face himself.

From there he uses the Dimensionator to send both Ratchet and Clank into an entirely new dimension where both the pair and Nefarious himself are stuck. Split up, Clank ends up stumbling into Rivet who takes the robot for herself and Ratchet is left to find Clank and make his way back to his own dimension, stopping Nefarious in the process.

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Did that sound jarring and abrupt to you? Whether it did or not, this all takes places within the first 15 or 20 minutes of the game and is the most perplexing opening to a game I have experienced in quite a while.

You are quite literally thrown into the middle of an event, which already feels like it has begun taking place and given no backstory or set-up to the world or characters. All the work done setting up the world in 2016’s game is basically thrown out the window. While yes, this game is a continuation of Into The Nexus, it really has nothing that ties it to the end of that game in such a way that Insomniac couldn’t have just created a sequel to the 2016 game, with the themes, items, and plot points from Into The Nexus, leading us to this dimension-hopping adventure.

Adding to that, a lot of the key cliff-hangers from Into The Nexus, such as Ratchet trying to find the other Lombaxes aren’t progressed here. Instead, they are relegated to brief nods and moments during cutscenes that to new players feel bewildering as to why we shifted to talking about the other Lombaxes out of nowhere.

Multiple characters like Qwark and Ms. Zurkon are just placed into this world without any explanation for lapsed fans or newcomers leading to me just feeling incredibly, incredibly confused when I began playing (and as I continued to play).

A lot of this game from a set-up point is done in a game from 2013 that most people won’t remember or have played and those long-time narrative threads aren’t even meaningfully delved into, besides a sequel-bait ending that leaves you with the impression that the next game is “the real continuation” of Into The Nexus. Which, by result left me feeling like Rift Apart was a pointless adventure that didn’t even need to exist.

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Other key flaws with Rift Apart from a narrative and story perspective are that the writing here is just not good. Dialogue has never been Ratchet’s strong suit but 2016’s was much better and the humor brought by Qwark really added to that experience for those who were over the age of 12.

All of that has been sucked out of Rift Apart, Qwark is barely in the game (granted the voice actor is ill) but there is no outlet like him in this game, something that helps keep the story entertaining for adults. The narrative is told completely straight on and features upwards of half a dozen cutscenes where Ratchet, Clank, Rivet, and others are beating you over the head with moral themes and lessons that would make even a 10-year-old groan.

Points of this game feel like an eye-gougingly bad children’s movie for those below the age of 6, with Clank telling side characters like Gary or Kit how happy they are to have made a friend 15 minutes into knowing them, or when the one twist in the story does happen, how we shouldn’t judge a person by a single action.

There is no subtlety here. It isn’t heartfelt like Pixar or smart like Sony Pictures Animation. No, Rift Apart is blazingly direct and bashing themes and morals over your head at every second, so much so that any adult will quickly grow tired of what this game has to offer narratively, and I think most children would as well.

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PS5 Power On Display

Despite all my problems with the game’s story and narrative, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is one of the prettiest games I have ever played. While Demon’s Souls and Returnal both looked great, there is a certain sheen to Rift Apart that makes is mesmerizing to see in action.

Cityscapes are deliciously pristine and jungles are rendered with a level of quality and life that hasn’t been seen in a Ratchet & Clank game before. In particular, the main thing that blew me away was just how much is going on in the environments you explore. When you begin in an area you will drop in and see what feels like thousands of things happening around you, both near and far.

There is so much on screen that you begin to wonder how all of this was possible. Ships will fly on routes in the distance, never to be seen up close by Ratchet or Rivet and characters will all dynamically move around an environment as an invasion is happening. It is all incredibly impressive and you begin to see why Rift Apart is a PS5 game exclusively.

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The graphics modes in Rift Apart offer a fair amount of flexibility. Fidelity offers 30 Frames-per-second at max quality, with Performance lowering that quality for 60 FPS gameplay. Performance Ray-Tracing is a mix of the two, retaining key features like 60 FPS gameplay, but allowing for enhanced visual effects.

Both performance modes are stunning and make this the smoothest Ratchet game ever. The addition of ray tracing really helps stun when you enter cities and see fine detail reflecting off of surfaces. However, the Fidelity mode really does this game a disservice. It runs fine but the 30 FPS cap makes everything seem way less visually beautiful. After experiencing 60 frames-per-second gameplay it is hard to go back without feeling like the game is being hurt by the 30 FPS cap.

The game does also make solid use of the SSD in the PS5 creating some cool set pieces and levels. However there doesn’t feel like there is enough of these cool unique moments, like being teleported in the middle of a boss fight, That example is only utilized once or twice throughout the full 10 hour game.

And, moments like that, that properly make you go “Oh wow, I have never seen that before” are few and far between. The Pocket Dimensions which were also showcased in the State of Play are nothing to write home about either. They all look the same and are basically small side rooms with a puzzle to solve. Once you have seen one, you have seen them all.

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Gameplay You Know And Love

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart from a gameplay perspective is pretty similar to what we saw in 2016. The majority of the game hasn’t changed too much, but the flow is broken up now by more traversal, thanks to a fun combination of dashing, jumping, and wall-running which all come together to form an enjoyable alternative to the traditional combat, which is what you remember.

With more than 15 weapons to choose from there is a lot you can do to make fighting fun, with new additions like the Topiary Sprinkler freezing enemies in foliage and unique weapons like the Ricochet bouncing off of and between enemies when you fire it and press the trigger repeatedly.

Each weapon has its own uses and I never found any of them to be pointless or not useful, especially after I started experimenting more in the latter half of the game. However, in the first 3 or 4 hours you are given the option to buy new weapons way too fast and it can feel like sensory overload where you are given so much stuff that you don’t know what to do with it all. However, that evens out towards the second half of the game and it all becomes far more manageable.

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The DualSense controller is also utilised here but it feels similar to what we saw in something like Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales. By that I mean that the Adaptive Triggers are there but their effect is nothing that will blow you away or really change how you play, like what Housemarque did with Returnal. However, the Haptic Feedback is excellent and feeling Ratchet and Rivet’s every step really is incredible. I loved this feature in Control and it is just as good here.

Cohesive Car Crash

So, by now you are probably thinking Rift Apart is a fun, gorgeous looking game, that showcases the power of the PS5 and only falters in the narrative department. All of that is true, but where the game stumbles a little bit more is that there is a distinct lack of cohesion and continuity in Rift Apart that left me straight up confused as to what was happening at points.

First off, the game moves incredibly fast. The 10 hour experience flies by and it feels like you are on a car with rocket boosters attached and active the entire time, but that car is moving way too fast for you to be comfortable. During the first three hours of this game I had virtually no idea what was happening and why I was doing anything. As I mentioned, there is never any set-up and a lot of points aren’t ever explained, giving me the feeling that Insomniac chose to ignore it because kids would get bored.

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For example, the game is split into two halves effectively, you play some levels with Ratchet and then some with Rivet. But Rivet is effectively just a palate swap of Ratchet. All the weapons he has, she has, same with the upgrades and same with the movement abilities. This goes the other way as well, everything you get with Rivet, Ratchet also gets.

And whilst this does make the experience more consistent, as you aren’t losing abilities every other level, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. For example, once I got the dash with Ratchet I was surprised to discover that Rivet just had it randomly out of nowhere, same goes for some weapons and other abilities.

This led me to finishing the game and just wondering why Rivet is in this game at all. Nothing interesting is done with her narratively and she plays the same as Ratchet so she doesn’t feel like her own person. Sure, this is because Rivet is effectively the alternate dimension version of Ratchet (something that is blazingly obvious from trailers), but at that point why didn’t you just spend more time on Ratchet and make him the only playable character with Rivet as a side character.

To add to this, by splitting the game up between each of the Lombaxes, neither of them are given any kind of deep character development or when they are given small bits the time that is needed to help them grow as people isn’t there. So, the entire time playing you are just left not getting enough of either of these characters or their companions, making both halves of this game underwhelming.

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When you combine all of this: the jolting and abrupt opening, the lack of any set-up, not getting enough time with either Ratchet or Rivet, the gameplay flaws of having you play as two separate but identical characters, and the feeling that the game is on fast-forward, it all just frankly feels like an amalgamation of features and narrative points that is mushed together like a big car crash on a motorway. Everything is entangled and the parts that were there are all just one big conglomerate.

That is what really knocks Rift Apart down a few pegs for me. I didn’t know what was going on for most of the game and by the time I did it was already too late and I just didn’t care about anything that was happening or had already happened. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a blur.

A Fun But Flawed Experience

I am sad I didn’t end up loving Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It is a fun, enjoyable game that looks drop-dead gorgeous on PS5, especially when playing at 60 FPS. This is yet another PS5 showcase title.

But, so much of this game gets bogged down in the groaning narrative, terrible dialogue, and lack of cohesion that the rest of it is hard to enjoy when all of that is happening around it. I think you should play Rift Apart, but don’t expect it to be a cohesive experience, it is a fun time, but not a particularly memorable one.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart releases for PS5 on June 11, 2021.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Score

7.5

The Final Word

Technically Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a PS5 showstopper, offering stunning graphics and set pieces that make use of the PS5's SSD, while also looking like the best animated movie we have ever seen. But, although combat is fun, the narrative of Rift Apart really drags down the experience, not treating its characters with respect and not meaningfully progressing the story for long time fans and leaving newcomers confused. Rift Apart is a fun ride, but ultimately not one you will be talking about for years to come.