A revitalizing surge of energy to an old, but beloved franchise.
The Playstation 4 remake/reimagining of 2002’s Ratchet & Clank is an exceptionally gorgeous painting in motion which re-establishes the series’ initial quirky charm and personality. Not only is Ratchet & Clank arguably the best game in the series – I’d have to replay A Crack in Time to truly weigh in on the superior title – but it’s also my second favourite Playstation 4 exclusive, trailing right behind the impeccable Bloodborne. While the game may trail on the safe and familiar in some regards, it ultimately adds a wide array of new variations which weren’t present in the 2002 original, resulting in an engaging experience for both veterans and newcomers alike. What Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 ultimately does is reassure the gaming community that the dynamic duo are still relevant and not only justifying exist in the modern era of gaming, but stand its ground amongst the robust quality of the eighth generation as Ratchet & Clank is a stellar experience that is arguably the greatest game that Insomniac has ever dished out.
Now if you’ve read any coverage piece about this reboot, you’ll notice that Ratchet & Clank’s vibrant portrayal and crisp nature are commonly compared to the animated works of Pixar. While the game is indeed vibrant and exceptionally gorgeous – the vivacious world is impeccably detailed with no shortage of flamboyant colours – I would say the animation quality is slightly below the insurmountable echelon that Pixar has established. A closer and more appropriate example to Pixar’s pristine quality would be last year’s Ori and the Blind Forest. However, I find that its comparison to Pixar is rather unfair and ultimately redundant as Ratchet & Clank is still a gorgeous game; the glistening nature of mechanical bolts hurling towards are favourite Lombax is certainly a sight for sore eyes. With this PS4 entry being a reimagining of the 2002 original, it’s only fair to assume that it would retell the origin story of this dynamic team-up, and while certain story elements were recycled for the sake of exposition, minor plot threads were tweaked for a smoother experience. In particular, the relationship between Ratchet & Clank has been altered as the two like one another right off the bat – as opposed to their loathsome nature towards one another in the original’s beginning. Despite the charming essence of the story, it’s unfortunately predictable as nothing novel is implemented here, but its cast of familiar faces surely make up for any derivatives that plague the story, with the titular duo easily stealing the show. Ratchet is a wide-eyed Lombax, dreaming of a life of heroism and adventure, and Clank is a defective warbot whose calm and collective personality contrasts Ratchet’s involuntary method of approach. Their clever and witty banter between one another solidify why these two are a prominent symbol to not only the Playstation community, but the entire gaming spectrum as a whole.
While there’s no denying that Ratchet & Clank is an impressive piece of eye candy and depicts extremely well-written characters accompanied with fantastic performances, the true genius of this 2002 remake is its excellent blend of platforming, action, and exploration. The platforming caters to the renowned standards of popular genre, with slick and responsive precision. Aside from what you’d come to expect from 3D platformers, the Ratchet & Clank series have always had their own idiosyncratic touch that would twist the beloved formula ever so slightly. Along with Ratchet’s voluminous arsenal of weaponry – which will touch on a little later – Ratchet is also equipped with a fantastic selection of cool gadgets. Whether you’re hovering in mid-air using Clank’s Heli-pack – which is later upgraded into the excellent thruster pack, slinging yourself across expansive gaps Spider-Man style via Ratchet’s slingshot, or soaring the vibrant skies -utilizing the versatile jetpack, traversal is enhanced to an echelon that most 3D platformers are unable to match. I haven’t even mentioned the pure exhilaration of rail grinding – which lead to undiscovered locales ripe with collectibles – or hoverboard racing, which is an excellent racing mini-game which fosters an addictive mentality as placing first in subsequent cups will award you with an extremely rare Gold Bolt. Certain segments will have Clank venture off on his own – possibly in order to provide Ratchet with access to inaccessible areas – deviating from the action frenzied gameplay, implementing a more methodical structure with a heavier emphasis of puzzle-solving. Here, Clank uses a trio of different functioning Gadgetbots – ranging from functionality as a jump pad to shapeshifting into an elongated bridge – in order to proceed to the next area; these puzzles are not necessarily perplexing, but they are most certainly enjoyable and serve as a nice pallet cleanser to the hectic action of Clank’s counterpart; the gameplay for each corresponding character really portrays a thematic representation of their persona.
However the key gameplay element that has become synonymous to the Ratchet & Clank series is its robust selection of exquisitely strange weapons. Ratchet is able to wield weaponry that ranges from the standard, such as a simple fusion grenade, to the intricately obtuse, such as the absurdly awesome Pixelizer – a self-explanatory weapon that turns enemies into an 8-bit appearance – or the comical Groovitron, which is a floating disco ball that plays infectious music, causing all enemies near it to bust-a-move. While certain gameplay elements are indeed familiar to the 2002 original, there are undoubtedly a multitude of new additions – also various elements from different entries in the series – such as upgradable weapons through the use of raritanium, strafing left and right for slick evasion, and brand new weapons such as the aforementioned Pixelizer. The weapon upgrade system is extremely robust, allowing players to tweak certain attributes such as rate of fire or splash damage, but also unlock new efficient weapon abilities which will enhance your already insane arsenal, all through the use of raritanium, a collectible resource found throughout the game. Speaking of collectibles, players will also collect a plethora of bolts – which act as the currency of the Ratchet & Clank universe – holocards, an in-game card collecting system which grants enhancements to Ratchet’s attributes once a card set has been completed, and the rare Gold Bolts, which unlock game bonuses such as cheats, concept artwork and behind the scenes footage. Aside from the impeccable action and the creative arsenal of weaponry – I didn’t even get to mention the Sheepinator – my personal favourite attribute to Ratchet & Clank’s gameplay is its emphasis on player exploration. Each planet has its subsequent story centered objectives but are accompanied with a set of optional objectives which will take the player to a whole new section of the planet. These side objectives always have a meaningful sensation as they ultimately reward the players with rare collectibles or a new gadget or weapon. Some of the most fun I’ve had with game were found in these little side goodies; whether I was trying to nab first place on my hoverboard in the Gold Cup on Rilgar, or soaring the open skies while fighting a colossal Telepathopus in order to collect its brain for a mad Blargg scientist, these detours offered an immense amount satisfaction and Insominac does an impeccable job at rewarding players for their efforts.
In short, I knew Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 would be good, but I didn’t think it would be this good. It’s downright amazing. If I wanted to, I’d be able to compile a short list of its problems; for instance, in terms of glitches, there were a few instances where I fell through the world and instantly died, and as I previously mentioned, the story is rather simple, albeit enjoyable. However these complaints are rendered to nothing more than simple nitpicking when comparing them to the amount of quality that Ratchet & Clank emits. The characters are radiating with charm and personality, the experience is paced efficiently due to the methodical nature of the Clank segments, the action is exquisitely chaotic thanks to Ratchet’s versatile arsenal, and the exploration that side objectives offer is simply exhilarating. Whether if you’ve never played a Ratchet & Clank game before, or if you’re a series veteran itching for more, this PS4 reimagining is an immaculate experience that should be played by all. For a system that is extremely lacking in exclusivity support, Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 is one of the first responders to an extensive cry for help.