Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
In the Summer we previewed Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and came across several glitches among amazing graphics and PS5 functionality. As it was just the first level and nothing more, we initially thought of it as a “tech demo” lacking substance.
Months later, we cracked open this rift and played it from start to finish. Are our thoughts still the same as it was many moons ago? Or is there a hidden raritarium inside of Ratchet’s next-gen debut? This review will contain spoilers past this point, with a “Conclusion” at the end wrapping my thoughts up. I’ve had quite a lot to say about this title, so let’s save the dimensions.
From Humble Beginnings To Separation
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart begins with a celebration commending the duo in their efforts as the galaxy’s defenders. Unfortunately, the ceremony is soured when Dr. Nefarious shows up to crash the party. In midst of the violence, Clank presents a special gift to Ratchet called the Riftinator, a gun that allows the user to travel between rifts. While Clank restored the weapon as an incentive for Ratchet to find Lombaxes just like him, Nefarious steals the gun and creates a world where he’s the supreme ruler.
After Ratchet and Clank chase Nefarious into this new dimension for a chance to undo the dimensional rift, the duo is separated. Meanwhile, a fellow Lombax named Rivet lives in the same dimension that Ratchet and Clank stumble upon. It turns out there was already a “Nefarious” residing in the same rift that Ratchet’s Nefarious “takes over.”
According to Rivet, her Nefarious is a more sinister, less comical ruler over the bumbling idiot that Ratchet chases. She finds Clank while making her rounds in Nefarious City, deciding to take him along on her way back to the planet she’s stationed at. While Ratchet looks for Rivet and Clank, Rivet returns to determine who Clank is and if there are other Lombaxes like her. Both protagonists share a common enemy and it’s up to them to work together to put an end to the dimensional anomaly.
There’s A Lot To Explore In Ratchet and Clank’s Levels
After playing around for a few hours, the gameplay in Rift Apart was more than what I initially gave it credit for. Halfway through combing Nefarious City, Ratchet will find bonus objectives with rewards that make it worth his while. These objectives include going out of his way and going through tricky platforming sections to find a point of interest at the end. In this case, Ratchet will find a Spybot early on in which finding them all will reward Ratchet with a unique weapon.
Early on during these bonus objectives, Ratchet will state that one of the sections is inaccessible because he lacks the tools at the moment. Sure enough, five minutes later in the story, he is given the ability to run on the same type of walls that were once closed off. It’s entirely optional to do these side-quests, much less return to them once completed. However, doing so will net the player bonus upgrade cores which are a boon to have early game.
The glove that’s given to Ratchet also allows him to dodge attacks with an afterimage as well as cross larger gaps once inaccessible. These upgrades, including weapon upgrades, are transferred over to Rivet. Before the player controls her, Ratchet is introduced to another ally named Glitch.
There Are Puzzles To Break Monotony (And Are More Fun)
Glitch is an AI with a tsundere personality who warms up to Ratchet and hacks into terminals for him. Players get to control Glitch and cover simple minigames involving blowing everything up to clear a path. Sometimes, hacking a mainframe requires careful precision via puzzles. Other times, it just requires to shoot a firmware’s security system.
Players who are more welcome to puzzles will be happy to enjoy Clank’s minigames, once players take control of Rivet. Occasionally, Rivet will require Clank to resolve any anomalies in front of him. Doing so will cause Clank to enter a “dimensional superhighway” where he has to guide other “Clanks” to a dimensional portal. After the completion of several levels, the anomaly is resolved.
Guiding the tiny “Clanks” involves Clank using various orbs, initially the Lift Orb and Speed Orb. Throwing the orbs at specific mechanisms will alter their properties, with Lift Orbs causing the Clanks to hover in the air and Speed Orbs causing them to go faster. Combining these will allow the Clanks to travel greater distances.
These are simple puzzles, but these sections of the game help to break the monotony of Ratchet and Rivet’s gameplay. Outside of these, they will swing, shoot, and platform to their goal. While the worlds are deceptively huge, the paths are fairly linear. Seeing Rivet terrorize a giant speedy beetle to travel over hazardous territories gives a funny flashback to Crash and Coco commandeering animals to ride. No matter which game it is, I always feel sorry for the animals.
Unfortunately, The Monotony Is Abundant
The enemy types are also the same. The challenge and rush felt from Rivet’s arena fights at Zurkie’s were only there because there wasn’t a sense of urgency felt from the game’s fights beforehand. Following that fight, whether the player-controlled Ratchet or Rivet, there’s bound to be at least an “ambush” type of fight every other encounter ending with a mini-boss.
At one point, Rivet’s ongoing beef with the pirates causes them to upgrade their artillery including wearing shields, which coincidentally goes well with her new weapons. As the enemies increase in power, so too does the player’s arsenal, which is made easy due to the overabundance of currency.
Back to back, Rivet will fight two mini-bosses that each has the same mechanic as the mini-boss back at Zurkie’s. This is usually a giant mech that shoots rockets and explosives, while the player throws everything including the kitchen sink at it. While the player will usually expunge all of their ammo, avoiding the mini-bosses’s attacks becomes easier as the player earns new gadgets. The rocket boots earned from Ratchet come in handy as the protagonists can move at speeds previously unobtainable.
Ratchet And Rivet Are Both One In The Same
This is also where the player is forced to suspend their disbelief. Remember when I said progression as far as weapons and upgrades are passed down? This also applies to upgrades. Ratchet gets an upgrade to his rocket boots, causing him to travel great distances at fast speeds. Before he gets these boots, Rivet has a regular pair of kicks to work with. However, as soon as Ratchet unlocks the boots, the boots are also inexplicitly obtained by Rivet herself. This also includes her ability to go through rifts, which isn’t explained as much as it should.
This is a good thing as it means that the state of progression is a constant move forward, but if it wasn’t for the personalities of Ratchet and Rivet, it would be difficult to feel the difference between the two. One has a hammer, one has a wrench. That’s the only real “aesthetic” difference. Thankfully, the personalities of the two characters alongside their robot companions, Kit, and Clank, make playing as either of the two a unique experience.
Ratchet is a veteran adventurer who speaks with a mature insight on the world around him, which comes in handy while helping talk up the mood of Kit, a robot with her fair share of insecurities of the past. Conversely, Rivet is hot-headed, always ready for a fight, and stands up for the defenseless, having streaks of a younger Ratchet from earlier games. She’s more familiar with her dimension and the people around it, making it contrast to Ratchet’s state of wonder.
The one critique here is that I wish Ratchet and Rivet were both fleshed out as playable characters. Take Crash 4 for instance and how there’s not much of a difference between the two siblings. Their attitude is told through their animations and aesthetics, giving them a unique personality. In Rift Appart, Ratchet and Rivet are expanded upon in dialogue and cutscenes as the same animations are recycled for both.
This also makes the game feel more linear than it appears, despite each world being massive, as it feels as if the player is controlling one character split in two instead of two separate characters. It may be a minor nitpick for sure, but it’s one to be aware of for those expecting Ratchet and Rivet to be different from each other.
Veterans Of The Series Will Enjoy Its Quips
There are some hints of that classic Ratchet & Clank humor sprinkled along with a plot that is meant to be taken seriously. These are shown in the later levels where Ratchet comes across the alt dimension version of “Captain Quark,” known as “Captain Quantum.” To reach him, Ratchet has to go through several “pirate trials,” which of course includes a “Simon Says” Karaoke mini-game and a second trial that doesn’t even work.
The humor bits aren’t as abundant as I would expect from a Ratchet and Clank game but it does exist in some capacity. For fans of the series, it’s fun to catch the Easter Eggs as they appear. Rift Apart was meant to be a reboot, introducing new characters that are parallels to Ratchet and Clank, with Rivet and Kit respectively.
While it seemed like pairing them together would be a random act of “let the parallels stick together,” it’s a bit deeper than that. It turns out that Kit is responsible for Rivet’s lack of an arm and that traumatic experience was enough to break away from the Empire. At the time of this writing, I hadn’t even come to this confession. So how do I know this? It’s predictable, with ample amounts of foreshadowing thanks to how Kit almost gave Ratchet the same treatment.
There are also cues from the expressions Kit makes when Rivet tells her about how she lost her arm. The game’s story is a predictable mess, but the gameplay makes up for its linear plot. While I mentioned how the boss fights get repetitive, the gunplay is ironically the most fun to be had with Rift Apart.
Ratchet and Clank Is The Ultimate PS5 Experience (For Now)
I considered Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart to be the ultimate tech demo for the PS5 as it takes advantage of its capabilities. That opinion hasn’t changed, but it’s not a negative. The abundance of visual options including 30fps high fidelity, 60fps performance modes, and an upscaled high fidelity 60fps mode, uses the inner workings of the PS5 to its advantage. This is thanks to the DualSense controller and its advanced tech. While using the vibrations to feel every footstep across every terrain is neat, the adaptive triggers are where it shines.
In previous R&C titles, each weapon had an “alt-fire” function which changed the gameplay of each firearm. The burst rifle, for example, has a spread fire shot as well as a single shot accuracy mode. In Rift Apart, the Adaptive Triggers function so that a half-press will initiate single-shot accuracy mode.
Push the trigger all the way and the gun will fire in bursts, shooting multiple enemies at once. Grenade-style weapons work similarly as a half-press will aim the grenade and pushing it further will throw it. Even the minigun-style weapon works in this way as heating the gun vs pushing it all the way is as simple as using the adaptive triggers.
Players who aren’t used to the DualSense will find this unique, yet by the mid-point, I was pre-firing my laser beam and gattling gun strategically so I could unleash the power in my enemy’s face. This makes the rate of your attacks faster, giving you more control over your weapons than ever before.
Running out of ammo can be a pain, especially when there are no ammo crates around, thus causing the player to backtrack until they find one. At some point, the player will own so many guns that they will technically “never run out of ammo.” However, there are guns meant for bosses and others meant for regular trash mobs. The Blackhole firearm shreds through bosses that it’s not even funny.
It Wouldn’t Be An Adventure Without Conflict
Eventually, as I and many savvy players have already guessed, it’s revealed that Kit indeed was responsible for Rivet’s missing arm. This serves as the first and only conflict among allies in the entire game. Kit’s developing insecurity eventually clashes with Rivet’s traumatic reactions, causing the former to separate from the party with Rivet focusing on the task of saving the universes.
What’s funny about this scene is that immediately following this is the “point-of-no-return,” so surely Kit won’t return and play a major role in the final boss battle right? What’s even more hilarious is that this leads to the first and only clash between Ratchet and Rivet, the former thinking Rivet is being too hard on Kit. This lasts all but five seconds as they both realize they’re out of line and there’s bigger fish to fry.
The final level is probably one of the smartest directions I’ve seen a final level take as it’s an inversion of the tutorial level. Instead of a parade celebrating Ratchet and Clank as heroes, the heroes return to find their world on the brink of destruction. The difference here is that the enemies Ratchet fought, in the beginning, are now on his side, sharing a common enemy in Nefarious. Unfortunately, as I’ve prefaced during this review, the final “bosses” are largely scripted, splitting between Ratchet and Rivet.
The “Grand” Finale Is Anything But
These fights are just the first boss fight with Dr. Nefarious but with a lot to micromanage. Fortunately, at this point in the game, the player’s arsenal of weapons should be solid to handle it. Most weapons should be maxed out, with the amount of raritanium given out to the player in the later levels for upgrades.
After Ratchet destroys the giant world-destroying robot, a showdown begins between RIvet and Emperor Nefarious as the game’s final boss. The fight is incredibly lackluster as it’s the same fight as Rivet and Nefarious’s first time in the arena. The only difference is that the battle arena is much smaller, leaving Rivet very little space to hide. Or does it?
On the left side of the arena, there’s an indestructible piece of the environment, perhaps the wreckage of the robot previously defeated. If so, then it’s hilarious that it becomes Nefarious’s undoing as literally all of his attacks can be avoided by standing behind it. I was losing the fight by fighting him head-on, but using this strategy led to humorous results. Sometimes he’d be stuck and open for me to fire at will, much like one of the earlier bosses in the game.
The summoned trash mobs ended up being more of a threat as the tight space made it difficult to avoid. Regardless, after figuring this out, the final boss was one of the easiest fights in the game. While I won’t spoil the ending, it’s plenty of “happily-ever-after” and “the adventure continues.”
Final Thoughts - Is a Rift Apart really a rift apart?
I’ll keep this brief; Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart wasn’t 2021’s “GOTY.” It has a lot going for it and it kept me engaged until the very end. It’s not a title I would want to replay again, however, as it is like watching a movie. You saw it, experienced it, had a good chuckle or two, and became invested in the characters and the plot. However, once the ride ends, you look back at it like I have and realized it’s above-average.
It’s not all negative as the gameplay and the utilization of the PS5’s capabilities are its major positives. The voice work is also superb, bringing in veterans like Jennifer Hale and Debra Wilson to voice the newcomers’ Rivet and Kit respectively. Considering the amount of space travel involved, I don’t feel it’s a coincidence that the voice of FemShepard is partnered up with the voice of one of the last remnants of the Fallen Order. Each of the new characters brought something engaging to the plot, including my favorite character Glitch.
However, the largest elephants in the room are the lack of enemy variety, with almost every single boss being a variant of the last. Some are reskinned, some come in pairs, and other times the player fights a horde of them. While intimidating at first, it becomes “cookie-cutter” levels of redundancy.
Another thing that’s a common take is how the game handles load times. While Rift Apart does boast limited load times, they are carefully hidden behind the rift portals that Ratchet and Rift find themselves in. These sequences aren’t as noticeable while playing, as these cutscenes fit with the game’s sequence. It also allows for a seamless experience while loading scenes in seconds. It’s a parlor trick for many, but for me, I never complained about getting stuck in one place for too long.
Overall, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is worth a playthrough for those who own a PS5. Even for first-time R&C players, the game’s plot is self-contained with cameos from other games in the series. While many things prevent this from being a “must buy,” here’s hoping the sequels fix the gaping rifts in an otherwise solid PS5 debut.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is available on the PS5.