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Now I understand the appeal of Ratchet & Clank

Before booting up Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart on the PlayStation 5, I had never actually played a game in the series. Yes, I picked up the 2016 Ratchet & Clank remake back in March when Sony offered it for free but I didn’t bother playing it. To be honest, I wasn’t even tracking Rift Apart until very recently, thanks in large part to the visuals. After blasting through the game over the weekend, I can safely say I made the right move.

Ratchet waving to the crowd from the beginning of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

My first Ratchet & Clank experience

As someone who doesn’t have much familiarity with the series, I was a bit confused around the game’s story and some of its characters. The game starts with Ratchet (the Lombax) and Clank (the Robot) getting a hero’s honor bestowed for all their previous efforts. In the middle of all this, the series’ main antagonist interrupts the festivities.  They create a rift in dimensions and we begin our adventure trying to fix everything.

Yes, there are plenty of what I assume are call-backs to previous R&C games, it doesn’t feel like you must understand the previous games to enjoy Rift Apart. The core aspects of the game revolve around frantic combat with a lot of cool weapons, venturing into some stunning and varied locales, and interacting with a lot of cool and interesting characters, both good and bad.

Looks good and packs a punch

For me, the combat is strong but still requires some getting used to. There are so over a dozen different weapons, but switching between them tends to take you out of the action. You have to press and hold the triangle button to bring up the radial menu to choose your next weapon. As I was regularly running out of bullets, the time spent pausing was a tad annoying. Sure you can set the directional pad for four weapons, but you’re still going to have to switch to others depending on the fight.

A close-up shot of Ratchet, highlighting the fur detail on his face

However, there were weapons that I absolutely loved firing and every time I could buy a new one, I wanted to start using it immediately. The R&C games from what the PS2 and PS3-eras were so heavily focused on the wacky weapons. I still remember the commercials for the PS2-era games that highlighted just how crazy they could get. I can’t confirm if the adverts were taking it too far but having played this one, there are some really crazy ones.

Rift Apart is also incredibly stunning. For the first few hours of the game, I spent a lot of time pausing or idling the game so I could take screenshots. I’ve been waiting for a game that really shows off what the PlayStation 5 is capable of and this is it. Considering this is year one of the console, I suspect we’re going to see so much more in the coming years.

Ratchet, Clank, Rivet, and Kit

I was also really impressed with the characters. The titular Ratchet and Clank actually don’t spend a lot of time together in the game, especially in the first half of the game. They get separated fairly early on, and you’ll switch between playing as Ratchet or Rivet (a Lombax from the other dimension) who finds and ends up spending the early parts of the game with Ratchet. 

Ratchet and Rivet share skills and weapons. This was a bit confusing at first but helpful as to not have to unlock every weapon or skill multiple times. As they are both Lombaxes, they play very similarly even with their different goals. There is a brief mention of how the two can share skills but it’s easy to miss (I missed it and only heard another character mention similarities after the character Kit (who serves as the female equal to Clank) becomes a key member of the party/story).

Ratchet talking to Rivet with Kit and Clank listening

Using the DualSense’s full potential

While Rift Apart is a graphical showcase for the PS5, it also uses the DualSense controller in fantastic ways. Before playing the game, I was only really playing PS4 games on my PS5 and Rift Apart was the first PS5-specific game. So, because of that, it was my first real experience with the DualSense’s capabilities.

When I started using the weapons in the game, I thought something was wrong with my controller. I felt an odd resistance to the triggers, which gives the impression that something is wrong with the controller. But, the game was actually doing that on purpose to help differentiate certain weapons abilities. It caught me off guard but I absolutely loved the execution.

The controller’s speaker function is also used when you get hit, collecting objects, and for certain gameplay-specific moments. While not as impressive as the controller resistance, it’s nice to see a game take full advantage of everything that makes the PS5 so unique.

My first but probably won’t be my last

Rivet talking to Clank

For a game that I wasn’t really interested in early on, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart absolutely took over my weekend and I had a hard time putting it down. Even with some of the frustrations with combat, it never felt cheap or purposely trying to make it hard. I did have a few freezes and glitches, but the game has such favorable checkpoints that I never had to restart a huge chunk of the game. 

The only thing I wish was that there was a better primer for first-time players. I feel that in 2021, a lot of people will pick up a PS5 and this is the game they will get. If you’ve never played a game in the series (like myself), then you won’t have an understanding of the references and previous characters. 

There is a gallery, but that’s not the same. I would have loved a quick video or intro that gives new players the background info we need. Again, it doesn’t take away from the overall experience, but it’s something developers should consider for any long-running series.

Rivet talking to Ratchet

I want to go back

After finishing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, I can’t wait to see what’s next for this franchise, or what Insomniac Games is planning next. This is without question a must-own PS5 game. It’s also a strong contender for my favorite game of 2021 (although there is still a lot of the year still left to unfold). I’m glad I jumped into this and I can’t recommend it enough.

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