Ratchet and Clank may very well be Sony’s most recognizable characters and the closest thing the company has to a true mascot. With that level of notoriety comes great expectations when you’re rebooting the franchise with a game based on the movie based on the game (yeah, there is a movie too). Though it has been more than a decade since our favorite Lombax and warbot took to the screen, their adventures are as fun as ever, making for the best Ratchet & Clank game in years.
If you played A Crack in Time or Into the Nexus, you’ll more or less be ready for what this entry will throw at you. Ratchet & Clank focuses more on combat than ever before, no doubt in part to advancements in hardware from PS2 to PS3, and the first entry on PS4 takes thing even a step further. More enemies fill the screen, so your weapons will have to be destructive enough to match. Your arsenal will be filled with long time favorites like the Groovitron, Disc Launcher, and the greatest weapon of all time, Mr. Zurkon, along with a new addition or two to spice things up. To be perfectly honest, the reboot’s weapon choices don’t always feel exciting, especially not to the point of Up Your Arsenal or Deadlocked. Frankly, many of them come off a bit ho hum, but stand outs like the Warmonger make sure to bring the heat and the spectacle.
Ratchet & Clank’s special brand of platforming returns in full effect with many of the improvements found in many of the PS3 releases. This is as good as it gets. Levels are designed to take advantage of as many movement modes as possible but it never comes off as being too much. Instead it becomes an issue of having to save the galaxy, but there could be a gold bolt or something at the end of this grind rail. In addition to those gold bolts are collectible cards. I know what you’re thinking and no, there isn’t a playable card game in Ratchet & Clank. Instead, we are treated to a trip down memory lane with cards based on weapons, characters, and locations from previous game, as well as tidbits of information such as bios and when they originally appeared in the series.
The only two areas where things fall flat is air combat and playing as Clank. Aerial combat isn’t bad per say, but it isn’t great. It’s all, “shoot down these little things so you can shoot down this big thing and that was five minutes of my life.” There is nothing exciting about these sequences and they don’t come off as well thought out or developed, they just feel…there. Meanwhile, Clank can’t decide what he likes more, solving logic puzzles or running toward the screen from a robot who seems more unwilling than unable to catch him. The puzzles aren’t bad, but they are nothing like the excellent puzzles from A Crack in Time. Rarely are they challenging as much as they can be time consuming.
Story and Modes:
Not quite a retelling, but not an entirely new tale, Ratchet & Clank recounts the original meeting and events that followed with our heroes. It is certainly a different, more exciting adventure that benefits from a more experienced development team and an audience that has grown with the series as a whole. However, it respects the original enough to include many key characters, events, and locations. Anyone who played the original will enjoy this latest entry and the callbacks to the original, but new comers will be treated to much better overall story and game.
Our Lombax hero Ratchet saves the recently escaped warbot defect Clank from a fiery ship explosion. Clank needs to get info to the Galactic Rangers and Ratchet see this as his big chance to make his mark on the galaxy. Meanwhile, Chairman Drex has greater plans for the galaxy with plans to use it as the building blocks for a new home for his people. Things get to the point where Ratchet is the only one who can save the galaxy, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
As always, completing the game will unlock challenge mode which lets you play the game again on a higher difficulty but with all your weapons and unlockables intact.
Visuals and Sound:
Okay, I’m pretty sure I said this semi recently in another review, but here I am saying it again, this may be the best looking game I have played this generation. No it isn’t the realistic technical powerhouse we’re likely to see from Uncharted 4, but by god the game looks absolutely stunning. At times it looks almost CG level good and holds it’s own well against the actual CG cut scenes straight out of the film. Effects litter the screen, bolts fly from every direction, explosions light up the screen like I’ve never seen before, all while maintaining the familiar charm. Map designs are gorgeous, lighting is spectacular, and there are so many little details that just make the world come to life. I know I am swooning but seriously, this game is a stunner. The music? Meh, not so much. It sounds like a fairly flat movie score, likely because it is based on a film that will almost assuredly have a flat movie score. This coming from the guy who is normally ga ga for a game’s OST means you can take it to the bank.
Now let’s address the elephant in the room, yes the game runs at 30 frams per second, yes those visuals are a result of that. I know, for a game like this 60 FPS is almost a necessity, especially considering that the other games in the series reached such heights. Do I agree with what they did? Well…yeah actually. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a solid 60 FPS as much as anyone, but this game is a special kind of beautiful. It is entirely playable in its current state and I didn’t find my self blaming the frame rate for any difficulties I came across. I’ve been playing these games for a long time and not once did I sit back and appreciate their frame rate, but I took plenty of time to appreciate how damn good this game looks. Games like this are why we have a PS4 in the first place.
Can a reboot such as this be seen as truly original? I’m going to make this easy and say yes. Sure there all plenty of callbacks and a few areas that are almost exactly identical to the PS2 release, but there is plenty of new things here too, enough that someone who played that game can enjoy this in a completely different way. Otherwise, this is more or less the same kind of Ratchet & Clank you played on PS3, just a bit more refined and a hell of a lot prettier.
$40. Yeah that’s not a typo, this game is $40. This might be the best, most aggressively priced game since NFL2K5. You find me another game with the same pedigree and noteriety priced this well that was also a movie tie-in game. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Didn’t think so. This is a no-brainer. The Ratchet & Clank series has always been a game that fans young and old could enjoy and this release is no different. For all you first party starved PS4 owners, this is the promised land. Welcome to the new best first party game on the platform at the best price you could ask for at launch.