I think I can confidently say that I’m nuts (and bolts) about the re-boot of Ratchet & Clank. Insomniac have built for us a roller coaster of a game, one that delivers incredible highs, boasts beautiful graphics and scenery, provides consistent laughs and yet never lets up on its pure chaotic fun. The only downfall of this game is that it’s torn me away from the controller to write this review, and I so desperately want to go back.
STORY TIME WITH CAPTAIN QWARK
Ratchet & Clank, simply put, is charming. The game had me laughing out loud for the first time since South Park: The Stick of Truth, and this can only be credited to it’s stellar writing and talented voice work. While the game is hilarious it often finds itself lacking depth when confronted with telling a engaging narrative. Cutscenes are pulled straight from the recent movie and the voice cast, although great, switches subtly between the two mediums. When laid out, it’s a very cliche children’s hero story, but that issue can be questioned when you consider what audience the game is for.
My only real gripe with the narrative is the lack of interaction between Ratchet and Clank themselves. The characters share only a handful of cutscenes together and exchange very few lines. Even when exploring a planet or spaceship there’s no interaction between the two, no banter or chatter or backstory in comparison to duos of late like The Last of Us’s Joel and Ellie, and it often makes the game feel lonely. This all leaves the friendship feeling entirely empty and the game feels reliant on the movie to build this relationship. It constantly juggles this weird back and forth between the movie and the game that give the story a real cut and paste grotesqueness.
Thankfully the game is not a beat-for-beat remake of the original. You do have to keep in mind however that this is a re-imagining / reboot, so lots of elements of the original are still here, but have been vastly improved on. Saying that, there’s still plenty more to see and do across all 12 of the available planets to visit. Ratchet and Clank both return here over the course of the 10 or so hour campaign, switching periodically whenever Clank is needed to solve his own puzzle-like scenarios. These come in refreshing, and often actually challenging situations that utilise the combination of other gadgetbots to help Clank when he might need to escape from the grasps of his captors or recharge the power cores on a spaceship. Hover-board Races also make their triumphant return here boasting fluid controls, genuinely challenging AI opponents and tricky courses to navigate when going full blast.
To cap it all off Insomniac have refined and even invented (we’ll get to that shortly) new ways to traverse the world. Magneboots (yes that is totally a word) will now allow you to jump, which creates for some pretty intense sideways and upside-down action, and grindrails make for short but adrenaline rushed refreshments that lead you off the beat path and often straight into the loving arms of a classic golden bolt. So now you’re probably wondering- what’s new?
Ratchet & Clank may be a re-boot, but developer Insomniac has jam-packed this game with an arsenal of new tools for destruction, polished new traversal, a variety of fun boss fights and shows all of this off with stunning graphics. So where do I even begin? Ratchet & Clank has 16 weapons to offer over the course of the game, most of which are available at vendors along the way, although some are acquired through pre-order bonuses or collectables being completed in-game.
Each weapon has a fairly deep and unique upgrade grid that allows you string together your collected Raritanium, which can be found around the planets. These upgrades add damage, rate of fire, ammo capacity and much more. Unlock enough of the grid points around a cluster of mystery ones and you’re in for a nice surprise upgrade to your trusty hand-cannon… or glove, if you’re that kind of Lombax. The game also features weapon levels which makes the gear more powerful as they individually progress, and of course, experience for your shooty-things comes from the act of killing.
IT’S A BIRD… IT’S A PLANE… IT’S A GALACTIC RANGER?
Four words. Jetpacks and Dog Fights. Ratchet & Clank would still be great without them, but the jetpack and dog fights are the prime showcase of everything that this game does right. I discovered the planet of Gaspar fairly early on into my playthrough. It’s essentially a whole new area in comparison to the layout of the original. After a while running around on the surface working for an enemy turned ally I was rewarded with my first jetpack, and tasked to find 60 Telepathopus brains. The planet had been specifically designed for this gameplay element, with some brains hidden in pockets of goo on seperate islands surrounded by enemies, whereas others were still alive, connected to the noggins of giant floating (you guessed it) Telepathopuses. It’s here that I could soar around, shooting from the skies, and gliding side to side around massive volcanoes, buildings and rock pillars. Meeting eye to eye with a Telepathopus and giving him a piece of my mind with a thump from my Combuster was a great feeling.
Other missions are entirely dedicated to dog fights which control completely differently. You’re often tasked here with shooting down smaller aircraft, claiming their rocket ammunition and using it on the boss ships or cargo carriers, only to find yourself, moments later frantically avoiding oncoming missiles, air traffic or the inevitable splat of your ship hitting a skyscraper. These elements are what really prove that Ratchet & Clank is just fun. Pure and honest FUN.
Ratchet & Clank on the PlayStation 4 re-unites our heroes in a beautiful re-imagining of the original game from 2002. While the story feels cheap and empty at times it makes up for that in charm and humour, and it only helps that it’s so incredibly well delivered by the range of voice actors. When it comes down to it, the new installment is just that- it’s NEW, and it doesn’t hold back on making you smile in more ways than one. If you’re a fan of the original games and you’re excited to revisit the world then there will still be surprises, and you’re going to have A LOT of fun. If this is indeed your first rodeo with the ridiculous ensemble then the same applies to you, because when it comes down to it, this game will leave you with a smile the shape of Ratchet’s head.
Reviewed on the PlayStation 4. The copy of the game was store-bought by the reviewer.