While my dear friends Jak and Daxter were put out to pasture, it was always comforting that Insomniac Game’s Ratchet and Clank series stuck around. Perhaps the duo doesn’t get the same limelight as they did in the Up Your Arsenal era, but that doesn’t mean that there has necessarily been a dip in quality. Even odd offshoots like Deadlocked could be pretty compelling. Playing the latest entry in the franchise is only a reminder of how unique and engaging the formula is.
Game Name: Ratchet and Clank
Platform(s): PS4 Publisher(s): Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer(s): Insomniac Games Release Date: 4/12/2016
Price: $39.99 USD
If one were to include the mobile and handheld titles, 2016’s re-imagining of the original Ratchet and Clank represents the fifteenth entry in the popular franchise. The real accomplishment, however, is that throughout that history Insomniac Games has managed to maintain a near perfect balance of platforming, collecting, and destruction. This latest title, which takes the story of the series first title and reorganizes it for a new era where the titular duo will also be up on the silver screen, continues that tradition while incorporating mechanics, weaponry, and lore from the more recent Future series. The end result is a fantastic game, worthy of the name of a proper Ratchet and Clank entry. The only disappointment to be found is that it doesn’t add anything of its own to the series.
For those looking for the classic series charm, it is present here in spades. The game is narrated by Captain Qwark, telling his tale to fellow inmates in a prison cell (their quips are particularly amusing). There is definitely a more obvious story arc present as opposed to the original, and the title incorporates many cut scenes ripped straight from the upcoming big screen adventure. It is also very entertainingly self-aware, characters referring to “the holo-game” and “holo-film” and ackowledging the fact at times that they are indeed in a video game. Bottom line: it works and keeps the player entertained. That being said, given how the narrative has been retconned to more closely parallel the movie, it sometimes feels as if story points were cut short to make sure there were still surprises left for the film.
In terms of gameplay, Ratchet and Clank takes everything Insomniac has learned over the years and brings it together into one game. This generation has seen a dearth of good 3D platformers, and moving around the various planets and space stations just feels so damn good here. It is made even better by the wealth of tools at your disposal, from standard thrusters to gravity boots to jetpacks. There is a good selection from across the series history brought to bear, and that goes for weaponry as well. Unfortunately, that means that there is not much new to see, but it still feels good when you’re unleashing waves of Predator missiles on enemies helplessly dancing along to a Groovitron. If nothing else, the destruction is a beautiful sight to behold.
The constant acquisition of weapons, tools, and various collectibles will keep players coming back even after they’ve completed the ten to twelve-hour campaign. Ratchet and Clank does a good job of spreading its arsenal across the entire game so that the player will find themselves getting new gear even as they approach the story’s final battle. Additionally, each of your weapons will level up with use, and feature a full upgrade grid activated via “raritanium” found while exploring. Add to that collectible cards, which give bonuses in sets and act as a series codex of sorts, and the series’ standard Gold Bolts, and completionists will have a field day. There is even a challenge mode, which acts as a new game plus, where even more weapons and variants become available for purchase. It is only unfortunate that when you return with new gear to further explore planets for these items, levels don’t fully regenerate mobs and become a bit barren.
Even when empty, however, said environments are absolutely gorgeous, and the cast are beautifully rendered as well. There was a spot or two where the camera caught a bad angle and clipped through a wall, but by and large Ratchet and Clank is a visual accomplishment, to the point where certain clips from the movie seemed to transition seamlessly into in-engine cut scenes. The title is also solid in terms of audio, with some good tracks and, as per usual for the series, great voice acting.
Ratchet and Clank does exactly what is was meant to: retcon the series to include all of the expanded lore and present a good jumping on point for recent and new fans in preparation for the upcoming big screen debut. That’s not meant to sound diminutive, either. It’s a great game, and, in a generation lacking in good 3D platformers, comes as a godsend. Clearly, Insomniac put a lot of work into making the definitive origin story for the duo. That being said, it still feels like a missed opportunity to add something that fans haven’t already seen.
Humor is plentiful
Combat and platforming is spot on
Lots to collect and progression is well handled
Beautiful to look at, especially when stuff blows up