I thought I’d be a bad choice to review Ratchet & Clank – after all, I loathed most of Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive and I’ve never actually played any of the well-established franchise before.
How wrong I was.
Simply put, Ratchet & Clank is everything that I didn’t get from Sunset Overdrive. Sure, the Xbox One exclusive had amazing variety in weaponry and a fun little gameplay loop, but that was tarnished by try-hard humour and an overall sense of hipsterness. Ratchet & Clank, on the other hand, is delightfully funny and full of fleshed-out characters.
Released alongside a movie that rivals Pixar’s latest and best offerings, this version of Ratchet & Clank is not a remaster or a re-release of the original game (or so I’ve been told), but more of a re-imagining. It begins with a familiar face (not that I was told this, but it’s easy to draw that conclusion) essentially telling his version of how the feline-like mechanic Ratchet meets Clank and how, together, the pair save the world and whatnot.
While you’re really playing from Ratchet and Clank’s perspective and seeing things as they truly occurred – with some tweaks made here in there, I’d assume, as Insomniac has learned a lot since 2002. The developer really provides some amazing humour thanks to the unreliable narrator recounting events. You’ll laugh from thoughtful, well-penned jokes rather than the self-referential tripe found in Sunset Overdrive.
Visually, Ratchet and Clank is amazing. Quite honestly, EXTREMELY amazing. Lighting effects fire off at the speed of lens flares in Star Trek, though these actually work with the stylings of the game. Characters are crisp and clear; everything runs smoothly and without fault. Breaking crates or mowing down enemies leads to in-game currency bouncing around every corner of the screen, and the magnetic pull of that currency to Ratchet never stops being rewarding. I couldn’t help thinking at various points during my playthrough that Ratchet & Clank could have easily, and more impressively, helped to launch the PS4 instead of the mess that was Knack.
More impressive than visuals is the game’s weaponry. Varied and fresh, each player will have his or her own favourite arsenal to break out and wreak havoc with. As you use each weapon, it levels up independently, meaning Insomniac will really let each player maintain his or her own style (and without the need to point out that style every five seconds, eh Sunset Overdrive?). New unique weapons can be purchased with one (bountiful) type of in-game currency, and upgraded using another (rare) type. Cards and golden bolts also mean you’re going to want to hunt around levels; the latter allows for customization like ship paints, masks and more.
Weaponry is spot on, but there’s something off about aiming. There’s a strange type of lock-on system that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t with Ratchet’s guns. While aiming, the right thumbstick acts as a bit of a targeting reticule, and you’ll find yourself strafing with the left stick essentially fighting to actually aim at certain enemies. You get used to the quirky system, but it’s nonetheless undesirable.
Moreover, things start off pretty linearly despite an appearance of choice. As you travel around from one planet to the next, becoming and excelling at being a Space Ranger, you’re basically going to work your way down a location list. From there, you’re encouraged to revisit planets you’ve already blown through for the opportunity to use new gear to collect previously unreachable collectibles. While it’s great to get new stuff, the levels you’ve already beaten remain that way; as such, they’re sparse and rather boring a second time.
Speaking of boring, so too are the sequences where you control Clank. He can’t fight, so be prepared to run from monsters and solve extremely rudimentary puzzles. Thankfully, things are great when controlling Ratchet or your ship. Sequences involving jetpacks are hard to get wrong, and thankfully Insonmiac nails ‘em just as well as most core elements.
In the end, Ratchet & Clank is perfect for kids and equally as engaging for adults. It’s funny, gorgeous and well worth your time. Those who’ve already played through the original will find pleasure in its polish, and those new to the franchise, like me, will be kicking themselves for not having jumped in sooner.
Ratchet & Clank was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4, as provided by the publisher.
Review: Ratchet & Clank