The opening moments of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart riff on the fact that there hasn’t been a brand new Ratchet and Clank adventure in nearly a decade. The Lombax and his robot pal are attending a parade as the guests of honor, and Ratchet remarks that he doesn’t know why there’s a parade focused on them; they haven’t really done anything in forever. It’s a nice wink, nod, and grin at the player. As a longtime Ratchet and Clank fan, I appreciated Insomniac almost speaking directly to me, as if to say “we got you.”
A marked celebration of Ratchet and Clank history, the parade sequence also acts as the game’s tutorial. Rift Apart makes a concerted effort never to leave behind those new to the series, but it also doesn’t shy away from references, both overt and subtle, to the duo’s many past adventures. And what better way to accomplish this than to rip holes in the very fabric of reality and offer up alternate dimension versions of some of the characters, planets, and enemies we already know and love?
And in another dimension—one where Nefarious wins and is crowned empower—there’s a purple-hued female Lombax. Rivet is a key member of the resistance fighting against Emperor Nefarious’ brutal rule. She has a strong distrust of robots, so when Clank ends up in her dimension, broken and needing help, it almost gives us a new version of the classic Ratchet and Clank origin story from nearly 20 years ago. It’s far from being exactly the same, but certainly draws a lot of interesting parallels, something that Rift Apart does constantly as you journey through this Nefarious dimension’s worlds and meet its characters.
That’s part and parcel to the brilliance of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. After more than 10 games that have explored every conceivable nuance of Ratchet and Clank’s friendship, how do you push things forward? You separate Ratchet and Clank (as they “dRift Apart,” get it?), and you give them each new characters with new stories and histories to interact with. And if Ratchet has a cross-dimensional counterpart in Rivet, it would stand to reason that Clank has one as well, right? These characters offer heartfelt new dynamics that we would have never gotten with just another Ratchet and Clank adventure. In fact, I’d go out of my way to argue that Ratchet and Clank are less main characters in this story. Rather, they step into supporting roles that allow Rivet and… others… to take the spotlight. As much of a celebration of Ratchet and Clank history as Rift Apart is, it also never feels like it unnecessarily shoehorns characters or references for no reason.
The ending of Rift Apart doesn’t go quite as hard into some of the Ratchet and Clank universe-defining lore as the first half hinted it might, but it allowed more of the personal intimate moments to shine through. Especially when trying to get players to connect to characters like Rivet, distracting those arcs with more grand reveals might have done those new characters a disservice. There are some genuinely emotional and powerful moments that come because Insomniac didn’t shy away from putting the lens on the characters. But Rift Apart absolutely continues to lay the foundation for further narrative exploration and additional Ratchet and Clank games. Rift Apart feels like the start of a whole new arc, like the original trilogy or the Future series before it. While I do have some thoughts about rehashing the entire “find the Lombaxes” story that’s been slowly trickled out over 20 years without much forward momentum, it doesn’t impede just what a great game this is.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart Review – Classic Ratchet Renewed
All right, so we’ve got the important and emotional character moments. But how does Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart play? Well, in short, it plays like Ratchet and Clank. I instantly felt right at home, and there aren’t any differences in how Rivet and Ratchet each control, so no matter which part of the story you’re experiencing, it all feels the same. The DualSense controller does some pretty amazing things in just making everything feel even more immersive, from simply walking place to place to communicating small things about the weapon you are holding.
One notable new feature is the rift tether. And while it may just perform like a glorified point-to-point grapple, it’s truly astonishing that Insomniac created a mechanic that doesn’t move you to a specific point in the world, but rather moves that point in the world to you. It captures the thematic elements of this fractured reality rather well.
While Ratchet and Rivet and Clank and… (jeez, the titles for these games are about to become a mouthful) might have a suite of new moves, some of them don’t feel used often enough outside of some big set piece moments. There was a period of time that I legitimately forgot I had the new phase dodge/dash move. It’s only necessary for traversal in a few places in the game (though admittedly, it’s a pretty transformative move for combat). Wall running comes up a bit more often, but again, outside of very specific and telegraphed moments, you aren’t going to be using it to explore deep into too many hidden nooks and crannies of the world.
But as much as I want to see this as a downside, I really can’t. It speaks volumes to the development of Ratchet and Clank games in the past that the movement systems that have existed for more than 10 years remain just as great today. Why tack on too many new bits and bobs when you can continue to refine and highlight what’s worked so well before? After all, Ratchet and Clank is really mostly about the gunplay; big obnoxious ridiculous explosions and carnage from every which way as you swap through a veritable buffet of deliciously delightful weaponry designed to eviscerate everything in front of your face. A few old favorites return alongside some new ways to rain mayhem and chaos on scores of foes. With how destructive your arsenal gets, I opted to bump up the difficulty because I was taking out everything far too easily on Normal.
I mean… just look at this thing…
Ratchet: We made it outta the rift with a new super weapon: the RYNO 8!
Clank: It seems this device can drop objects from other dimensions into ours. Fascinating.#RatchetPS5Takeover #SunsetOverdrive @Guerrilla @SuckerPunchProd @Naughty_Dog @PlayStation pic.twitter.com/TavBdHw3oL
— Ratchet, Clank, and Rivet (@insomniacgames) June 7, 2021
The DualSense controller gives some unique new ways to play with guns, using the adaptive triggers to enable alternate firing modes on most weapons. Just like the alt-fire features in Returnal, this quickly became second nature to use, and opened up a ton of weapon capabilities across my arsenal. For example, the Void Shield weapon puts up a shield on a half pull, and then fires that back at enemies as a blast when fully pulling the trigger.
Ironically, one of the downsides of a high fidelity environment on the PS5 is enemies that can get lost in the scenery. The worlds are so populated with life and objects and environmental design that there were times enemies weren’t signposted all that well. It’s a minor gripe, especially considering I can use the Glove of Doom to send little robotic attack dogs to seek them out (or Mr. Fungi. Or the Topiary Sprinkler. Or a variety of other area-of-effect or enemy-seeking weapons). I also found some issues with enemy pathing, where they could get stuck either in the environment or against assorted objects. On two occasions this created a problem where I had to seek out these enemies in order to complete specific quests, and they were either inside geometry of the level, or hadn’t jumped up on a ledge from the lava they spawned in from.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart Review – Growing Pains
I had a couple of other one-off issues in my time playing it. In one, the weapons vendor, Mrs. Zurkon, glitched out to always cower as if there were enemies nearby. No matter what planet I went to, I could not interact with her. Once I saved and restarted the application, this issue resolved itself. The other was the first time headed to Zurkie’s. When I landed at the spaceport area, the global lighting was not correctly working with various objects in the environment. Some of the ships landed at the docks looked completely darkened and in shadow, while others glowed brightly as if they were made out of molten hot metal. Bolts also didn’t interact with the global lighting at all. After a few minutes, my game stuttered and hard crashed. I never ran into the issue again during my playtime.
Speaking of playtime, most players will probably get about 12 hours out of a first playthrough, depending on how thoroughly you’re exploring each environment for collectibles and how much you are trying to level up the game’s various weapons. After getting 100% on my first playthrough and starting up Challenge Mode (New Game+), I was at 16 hours played.
I was a little bit disappointed to see that the Platinum Trophy doesn’t require or promote any kind of Challenge Mode playthrough. Ratchet and Clank games have been renowned for what New Game+ and Challenge Mode brings to the table with new Omega versions of weapons, bolt multipliers, and the ability to up your arsenal even more. As far as replayability goes, Ratchet and Clank have always been among the best. There are still all of these features in Rift Apart—you can play again to continue powering up Omega Weapons and getting higher bolt multipliers, etc.—but it’s not promoted via the Trophy list. That’s arguably a tiny complaint that realistically doesn’t impact anything, but for me as a Trophy hunter, it does make Challenge Mode feel less like a part of the game, and more of an after-the-fact “extra.”
As a PS5-exclusive, expectations for Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart are high. Arguably the next-gen defining feature—constantly swapping between worlds through rifts—is less seeded throughout the gameplay than you’d think. Certain high-octane moments see you shifting from world to world, but these are typically on-rails (sometimes literally) events. A few boss fights do the same thing, which is a neat use of the feature that means the arena can change at a moment’s notice. And there are a couple of planets that use Blizar crystals to let you shift between two versions of the same planet in order to navigate forward. Still, moving nearly instantly between worlds via rifts is often a scripted event. You won’t be doing it at will.
While I played a majority of the game in the 30fps Fidelity mode, a day one update adds both a Performance and Performance with Ray Tracing mode. That buttery smooth 60fps is almost an entirely different experience, and the wizards at Insomniac have managed to maintain a high-fidelity and limited ray tracing with that constant frame rate, which makes for an extremely impressive experience overall. I’d recommend turning on Performance + RT as your visual mode, which strikes a fantastic balance between full 60fps and still maintaining incredible visual detail.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is proof that some series are timeless. It celebrates and retains the classic gameplay first created nearly 20 years ago, while simultaneously feeling completely at home as a showcase PS5 title. It tells a heartfelt story that explores beyond Ratchet and Clank, bringing in new characters that stand tall in their own right. And those tools of destruction? They’re here in spades, more destructive than ever before. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart continues the PlayStation legacy, and I can’t help but hope that in time it heralds the return of the PlayStation buddy platformers of old.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.