Review: Ratchet & Clank (PS4)

It’s been over a decade since Sony and Insomniac Games first introduced PlayStation fans to Ratchet & Clank. Neither company could have fathomed just how iconic the furry Lombax and his mechanical partner would become. The duo stands as one of PlayStation’s most iconic characters and was one of the few Sony IPs to make the jump from PS2 to PS3, and now PS4. Based on the upcoming film based on the original game, is this retelling of Ratchet & Clank the ultimate love letter to fans?

Ratchet & Clank retells the origin story we all know and love. Ratchet is a lonely Lombax living on the planet of Veldin who dreams of being a Galactic Ranger like his idol, Captain Qwark. After being deemed unsuitable by the Rangers, Ratchet meets Clank, who informs him of a nefarious plot by Chairman Drek. The duo team up in an attempt to help the Rangers, and put an end to Drek’s schemes. While the plot follows similar beats to its 2002 original, Insomniac Games did take numerous liberties. For example, certain characters possess different motivations, some plot beats are dropped in favor of something new, and there’s an entirely new twist towards the end of the game. Probably the biggest change is the fact that Ratchet & Clank is based on the upcoming film (hitting theaters April 29) of the same name. While the events of the film take place from Ratchet’s perspective, the events of the game take place from Qwark’s perspective, recounting the tale to someone who has already seen the film. It’s fascinating to hear Qwark narrating the game by giving out clues or making minor quips.

Fortunately, the changes do little to detract from the heartwarming story. Ratchet & Clank remains a lovable tale about beating the odds and becoming the hero you always knew you could be. It’s not the most original tale ever told, but the excellent writing and voice acting help drive home the game’s central themes.

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If you played the original Ratchet & Clank, you may notice familiar areas. While Novallis, Aridia, Pokitaru and Rilgar all may be similar to the original levels, with modern controls, a brand new arsenal, and updated enemy gameplay, they feel original. Veldin and Kerwan have been almost completely reworked, and Gaspar has a giant new section featuring the Ratchet & Clank Future: Into the Nexus Jet Pack. You will notice additional gameplay, puzzles, flying sequences, and a collectible card system. The easiest way to describe Ratchet & Clank as a package is that it is an extreme makeover that cherry-picks the best elements from the franchise’s decade-long history, making this the ultimate Ratchet & Clank experience.

There’s a lot to do while completing the main campaign, and even beating it unlocks Challenge Mode, Ratchet & Clank’s version of New Game +, going through the main game once more on a more challenging setting with all their equipment carrying over. There’s also a healthy amount of Gold Bolts to collect that unlock cheats, modifiers, skins, and access to the Insomniac Vault, a treasure trove of memorabilia from past Ratchet games.

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The only problem with Ratchet & Clank is that it’s too easy. Aside from a few sections, it’s easy to breeze through the campaign on the default difficulty. Longtime veterans are going to want to skip normal and go straight for hard, but unfortunately, there is no unlockable difficulty that will make the game more difficult.

The gameplay of Ratchet & Clank has, likewise, received an overhaul from the original game. It’s still all about third-person shooting, platforming, and puzzle-solving, but the mechanics have been updated to reflect the huge changes gaming has undergone since the original 2002 release. Much like recent Ratchet & Clank games, Ratchet can strafe, jump about to avoid fire, and quickly switch weapons with the d-pad. New sections where players take control of Clank have been added that are more puzzle-focused with our metallic hero using jump, shock, and bridgebots to advance the stage. None of the puzzles are very difficult, but provide a nice change of pace from Ratchet’s platforming and shooting.

It’s the weapons that made Insomniac Games famous, and there’s a lot of awesome weapons in Ratchet & Clank. The game serves as a greatest hits compilation, serving up some of the best ever features in all the games. Classic weapons like the Combuster, Fusion Glove, and the Glove of Doom all return alongside weapons from the popular Ratchet & Clank Future games. The missile-launching Warmonger, groovy Groovitron, and the always hilarious, not to mention all weapons can now level-up with usage, and can be upgraded with Raritanium at Gadgetron vendors. Playing with the different weapons has always been fun, and that remains true here.

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Gadgets also make their return and are consistently required in order to progress through the game. For example, early on you will not be able to enter a factory without hacking a door, so Ratchet will need to go on a detour to collect a Trespasser. Players will need to do this frequently throughout the game, but collecting them is never too difficult. Classic gadgets like the Slingshot, Hydrodisplacer, and the aforementioned Trespasser make their return, and eve Into the Nexus’ Jetpack also makes an appearance. Unfortunately, while most of the gadgets are fun to use, some of them feel underutilized. While the Trespasser, Slingshot, and Grind Boots are used liberally throughout, others are left barely touched. The Heli-Pack gives Ratchet and Clank the ability to double-jump, but so few sections require players to double-jump, and same can be said about the O2 mask which allows Ratchet to breathe underwater as it’s acquired late in the game where most of the underwater sections are already beaten. Ratchet & Clank is littered with hacking stations for the Trespasser, but few areas where players can use the awesome jetpack.

Ratchet & Clank’s debut on the PS4 is quite the looker as the outdoor locations are stunningly detailed and downright gorgeous. Inside locations are pleasantly detailed, although they’re nowhere near as nice to look at. Character models and textures shine brightly, particularly Ratchet and Clank. Ratchet’s fur is some of the most detailed and realistic fur ever seen in a video game, and Clank’s metal body shines spectacularly. The only downside to the game’s visuals are the sometimes low-quality effects. Fire, in particular, looks downright awful, appearing as if it had been pulled out of an early PS3 game.

The voice cast, like in previous Ratchet & Clank games, is downright fantastic. The cast delivers their lines spectacularly, nailing every joke and adding weight to the emotional moments. Overall, playing Ratchet & Clank is akin to playing a Pixar film.

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Closing Comments

Ratchet & Clank is more than just a mere remake of the 2002 classic as Insomniac Games took big risks and they paid off. This reimagining is the ultimate Ratchet & Clank experience, incorporating over a decade’s worth of weapons, mechanics and knowledge into a single forty dollar package. Unfortunately, not everything translated over perfectly as this is far from the most challenging game, and while there are plenty of gadgets to be found, few are used properly. Fortunately, the story changes feel natural and make the narrative refreshing for newcomers and old school fans alike. The addition of fan favorite weapons is sure to make any Ratchet & Clank fan happy and the presentation is strong enough to where it feels like you’re playing a Pixar film. Ratchet and Clank are back, and they’ve arrived on the PlayStation 4 in style.

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