The first grand hope of a new generation for Sony’s first-party exclusives, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart looks superb and relies on a gimmick that suitably blows minds almost every single time you use it. The dimension-hopping mechanic – as simple as walking through a purple shattered gateway between realities – is so utterly seamless as to render all previous hard drive or physical media-based storage systems obsolete.
There’s no delay: it’s just there. The world you’re in instantly switching to a completely different one, complete with new terrain, items, enemies, and locations to explore. And all it takes is a single step.
It’s a shame, then, that Rift Apart seems so reticent to take a step itself, as the rest of the game is nigh-on exactly the same thing we were playing on the PlayStation 2.
The levels might be bigger, the array of weapons and gadgets might be wider, there’s ray tracing – but the underlying action; the running around a series of planet-based levels smashing boxes, collecting bolts, and walloping enemies with a giant spanner or shooting them with your guns… that’s all exactly the same as ever. And honestly, it comes as a big disappointment.
Rift Apart isn’t a bad game – yes, it’s been focus tested to the point that it has the personality of a particularly milquetoast rock, and the almost complete lack of ambition on show for actually developing the minute-to-minute action would be shocking if it didn’t offer plenty of wows elsewhere – but it’s not bad.
Dull? Sometimes, yes. Often banal in the extreme and still the place where senses of humour go to die? Absolutely. Worth £70? Well, that I can’t say, dear reader: value is in the eye of the account holder. I wouldn’t pay it, though.
So yes, we have here a story of multidimensional planet-hopping, with players taking control of dual protagonists Ratchet – lovable lombax wielding a giant spanner – and Rivet – lovable lombax wielding a giant hammer (also: female). Bolts must be found, weapons must be upgraded, waves of enemies defeated, quests conquered, and side-quests ignored unless you want special armour unlocks: it’s all there.
There’s next to zero difference between playing as Ratchet and Rivet – it feels almost a Mortal Kombat-level palette swap at times. You get the odd distraction of simple ‘blast the virus’ minigames, and at points, things open up to a more open-world version of the usual exploration. As an exercise in box-ticking, it’s fine.
The dimensional rifts are proper next-gen stuff, no doubt. They could be fudged on previous gens, sure, but they could only be done this way – streamed and loaded instantly – on modern hardware. So that’s a big positive, and something I’m keen to see taken advantage of elsewhere.
As for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart? I can say one thing for certain: of all the games I’ve ever reviewed, this is the most recent.
We’re still early on in the new generation’s lifespan, so it’s still genuinely enthralling to pop on photo mode and just fly around the environment, picking out details. Ray tracing, for example, means you’ll find reflections in puddles and windows – even in characters’ eyes. It’s still so exciting, don’t take this feeling away from me yet.
Gorgeous looks and a truly next-gen gimmick can’t completely cover up for a 20-year-old formula that was old hat 15 years ago.
Genre: Shiny platformer-shooter
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release: Out now