This one’s been a long time coming. Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart is the most recent game in the now 22-year-old series (dear god I feel old now) and was one of the most recent additions to the PlayStation game collection thing that’s kind of like Game Pass but not really. I was too cheap to pick it up at release and after God of War Ragnarok made me realize that Sony's first-party games cost way too much in Canada ($101 CAD after tax can go jump into a river), never got around to it. I figured that with Jedi Survivor in the books and Street Fighter 6 not out yet, this seemed like a sign from the universe. My patience was rewarded with a wonderful inter-dimensional romp.
The game starts a few years after Into the Nexus with the titular duo attending a parade in their honour for being heroes to the galaxy. The festivities are almost immediately crashed when recurring series antagonist Doctor Nefarious shows up and steals the newly rebuilt Dimensionator (I dare you to not read that in Doofenschimirtz’s voice) to find a dimension where he finally wins for a change. When that happens, our dynamic duo and Nefarious get teleported to a dimension where Nefarious is Emperor of the universe (completely with a killer robot army) and the Dimensionator is destroyed in the process, which is now unravelling the fabric of reality. Now Ratchet and Clank have to find and repair both the Dimensionator and quantum tears, as well as help this dimension’s resistance, key among them a Lombax named Rivet to fight off Nefarious and his minions.
It’s a pretty good alternate universe story that also serves as both a neat little continuity cavalcade from across the series’s 22-year history, as well as covering some pretty heady themes; chief among them being what it means to be broken, the main and most obvious indicators of that being Rivet’s distrust of others and her prosthetic arm and Clank losing both his right arm and confidence in himself after his attempt to surprise Ratchet with a repaired Dimensionator resulted in the events of the game taking place. There are other examples of this, but I want to keep them a secret because there’s some good stuff in there. A lot of this is carried by the interpersonal relationships presented in the game. While they are separated for the first half of the game, Ratchet and Clank are still playing off each other wonderfully, though to be fair it’s bound to happen when you have two decades of chemistry to build off of. But the way that Clank plays off of Rivet and the developing friendship with Ratchet and the pacifist warbot Kit is also great to see. If it eventually leads to Rivet and Kit getting their own spinoff game, I’d be super up for it. And Armin Shimmerman is still absolutely game to just chew through all of the scenery as Doctor Nefarious and it’s still hilarious all this time later.
The main structure of Rift Apart is done through the multiple POVs of Ratchet and Rivet. Each major world is dedicated to one of them and bouncing back and forth and it’s a fun way to do multiple player characters. Both Lombaxes might have different aesthetics, but they play identically. It’s right down to the point where they’ll have a shared currency count and all of the same gadgets and weapons because the weapons vendors mistook Ratchet for Rivet and just set up a group account for them. And the weapons this time around are in the tried-and-true archetypes of machine pistol, shotgun, weird glove weapons, rocket launcher, etc. but there’s also some unique stuff in there as well. My favourites among these are the Ricochet, a cannon-type weapon that you can have its shots bounce off of the target multiple times for each trigger pull, the Negatron Collider, which is basically a death ray, and the Cold Snap because I like weapons that freeze enemies solid and cause them to take increased damage. Combat between Nefarious’s army, the newly rebranded Goons-4-Less who’ve been hired t take out our intrepid heroes, and various pirates gets super chaotic, but still fun despite the multi-coloured explosions.
Outside of combat, Insomniac has taken to the Titanfall 2 school of game pacing: introducing mechanics that can justify having entire games made out of them and then never using them again when the story doesn't need it. There’s an array of setpieces and levels here that could have easily been their own games, but Rift apart displays the confidence to just go “We’ll use this in this part of the game because it makes the most amount of sense and nowhere else” and I kind of love that. My favourite examples of this have to be on Blizar Prime where you can hit a mineral called Phase Quartz to swap dimensions. There are also dimensional puzzles as Clank and hacking computers as a cute computer Spidertank thing named Glitch that do a good job of breaking up the possible monotony of the combat and big weapons.
Lastly, I just gotta mention that this game looks amazing. There was a big showcasing about how the game was making use of raytracing technology to enhance the look of the game and I must say, it's not just for big talk. I’ve noticed mainly while going through the game on the Performance setting with raytracing on and it never tanked once in terms of performance, which is awesome.
Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart is probably the perfect distillation of Ratchet and Clank as an idea. Its gameplay loops are condensed into the purest versions of itself and I loved every second of it. If you need something to tide you over for the summer, I highly recommend it. Especially since it’s coming to PC in July.