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If Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is indicative of the kinds of games Sony is going to release this generation, then the PlayStation 5 is not optional. Developer Insomniac Games’ new action-platformer is the PS5’s Halo or Super Mario 64: an early standout release that justifies the console’s existence. But like those games, it is also an instant classic by which we will judge the entire upcoming generation.
Ratchet & Clank launches exclusively for PlayStation 5 on June 11 for $70. It has players taking on the role of the titular duo as they fight their way across multiple galaxies in a battle against Dr. Nefarious and his interdimensional counterpart, Emperor Nefarious. Along the way, you’ll unlock a stockpile of new weapons, meet a charming cast of supporting characters, and play as a new hero from another timeline.
Rift Apart is a thrilling adventure blockbuster that matches the cinematic quality of Hollywood animation. It is a solid action game with impeccable pacing. You rarely spend a long time doing the same thing without a break to do something different. And while the shooting, platforming, vehicle sequences, boss fights, and puzzles never rise to a level of greatness in a vacuum, they all play off of each other in such a way that you never get bored. The game is nonstop fun. It starts off like a rocket, and you’re going to have a difficult time putting it down until you finish it around 13 hours later.
This new Ratchet is greater than the sum of its part, but what pushes the game over the top is its stunning art and tech.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the best-looking video game ever made
At its core, Ratchet & Clank is a relatively familiar action-shooter. Insomniac does an incredible job at keeping things fresh with its pacing and the variety of interactions and goals. But it’s the presentation that does most of the lifting here.
Even after your 20th gunfight, you still won’t believe what you’re seeing on the screen. Rift Apart’s visuals have a great deal of variety. Each location, weapon, and enemy looks distinct from the next. And enemies react differently depending on what you’re shooting them with. Hit a goon on a flying motorbike with the Ricochet gun and watch them bounce around as the same bullet hits them over and over. In these moments, the animation stands out as the characters bend and warp like they’re in the latest CG animated hit.
And all of that is on top of the sheer density of the visuals. Even before the action starts, the world is eyepopping with its details. But then when you start shooting, everything explodes into particles and lovingly animated reactions.
So yes, the game is gorgeous. But more important, everything you do is more exciting and more fun because it looks so good. It is a feast for the eyes.
Style over substance, and a handful of bugs
While playing Ratchet & Clank, the only thing I wrote down was a small list of complaints. I adore the game so much that I wouldn’t remember the faults if I didn’t write them down. That’s my way of saying that I only have some small issues. The biggest is the game’s stability — although I primarily played without the day-one patch that hopefully fixes most of those issues.
I experienced a handful of technical issues including one crash. During a boss fight, after dying, my health bar would not reappear. In another instance, I defeated all of the enemies, but a door failed to open until I restarted the area and cleared it out again.
And beyond bugs, things can feel less polished along the edges of the world. For example, my Ratchet/Rivet would occasionally get caught in a falling animation on the edge of a platform.
My other issues are that it seems to prioritize style over substance. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart has the best-looking dodge in any game ever made, but I don’t think it feels very good. It’s slow and has limited range, and I don’t like using it while platforming because it’s tricky to predict where you’re going to land.
That emphasis on style extends to the camera, which wants to stick close to Ratchet’s back. This isn’t great during boss fights. The closeup camera is claustrophobic, but it also makes it annoying to tell where obstacles are in the world. I would regularly get stuck on walls when trying to dodge, and I wouldn’t realize I was stuck until I was already taking damage.
I don’t want to hold these choices against the game because they are also crucial to making the whole thing work. In this case, the style is the substance.
An unforgettable adventure
I love Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart because it is a fun and beautiful adventure. It’s not about setting you loose to stumble across objectives and side activities in an open-world map. And I love that type of game. But I also love what Insomniac is doing here by propelling you through a nonstop thrill ride where everything you do unlocks the next fun and cool thing to do.
And sure, the shooting is good instead of great, and Insomniac slapped on some out-of-place puzzles. But none of this ever overstays its welcome, and everything only helps with the pacing. And if you don’t like doing the puzzles, you can skip them here, just like you could in Insomniac’s Spider-Man.
More than anything, I’m left with the impression that the people at Insomniac have a handle on this medium like few other studios. They used their tech to build a slick roller coaster with a nonsense plot that nevertheless features fantastic characters with fulfilling story arcs about learning to accept yourself.
Rift Apart is a special game. And as long as Sony Interactive Entertainment has Insomniac releasing games like this for the PS5, I’m going keep showing up on day one with $70 in hand, ready for the next adventure.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is available June 11 for $70. Sony Interactive Entertainment provided a download code to GamesBeat for the purpose of this review.
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