The Ratchet and Clank series is known for its creative weapons, creative characters, creative locations, and just being all around creative. The first game in the series set an unbreakable precedent. The next buffed out much of the stains present in the first while throwing in a lot of new mechanics. The third game followed its example and advanced the series as much as possible, introducing sweet new weapons, great set pieces, and an ambitious story. After this, the series spiraled into a direction that everybody wanted and moved onto the PS3. It started to take itself a little more seriously, delving into Ratchet and Clank’s history and upgrading the visuals immensely. These games have been seen as the pinnacle of Ratchet and Clank (Ignoring All 4 One, of course). The series had reached a plateau that seemed impossible to breach. Yet, here we are. 14 years after the release of the original Ratchet and Clank, and Insomniac has decided to start over. Maybe they wrote themselves into a ditch? Maybe they think there’s nothing else they can do with the series as it currently stands? Who knows? All that matters is that this game kicks ass.
Yes, Ratchet and Clank for PS4 is a remake/reboot/reimagining of the original game released back in 2002. As such, the story is a little similar. Though, not all of it is quite like the original’s quirky, lighthearted tale. Chairman Drek is still attempting to build a new home for his race (the Blarg) by removing chunks of other planets and piecing them together to create a new one. But, this time, he is assisted by Dr. Nefarious in the flesh (literally, as Dr. Nefarious was originally introduced in his robotic form two entries later in the series). Ratchet and Clank are still here to save to galaxy, but now they have the galactic rangers to help them (also first introduced in the third game). Captain Qwark is still a great adversary, only here, he seems to learn his lesson at the end of the story.
Ratchet and Clank’s gameplay is extremely advanced when compared to that of its PS2 predecessor. Though, just like before, Ratchet and Clank is a shooter/platformer with a “get from A to B” mission frame. At first, the player will find themselves either locked in an intense, action-packed firefight or joyfully hopping from space to space. Later players will find themselves doing both at the same time. This is how the series has been since day one, but tweaks to the system have greatly deepened the overall experience. There’s strafing, there are weapon upgrades, and there’s even a competent lock on system, all of which were absent from the original. Instead of sharing the same arsenal of weapons with the first game, Ratchet and Clank’s selection is a mix of guns from all around the series. Using all of these tools of destruction again is a surreal trip down nostalgia lane and it’s a great way for Insomniac to celebrate their own creativity. They all feel great to use, and that’s half in part to their wackiness and half in part to the controls being the best the series has ever seen. Never was a bullet too fast to dodge, nor a ledge too hidden away to avoid. Running and gunning feels natural and the platforming is fluid and quick.
Another big contributor to this game’s addicting gameplay is the upgrade system. Much like a skill tree, the player can use a collectible called Raritanium to give their weapons certain upgrades in a chain pattern. They can even chain in a certain way to get extra perks. In an RPG-like fashion, each weapon levels up to 5 and the higher their level, the more upgrade chains become available. It’s a system that keeps the player clamoring for that next level up, and it’ll be a while until players run out of stuff to upgrade — especially since, after beating the main game, a challenge mode is unlocked, which allows the player to keep all of their weapons from previous playthroughs, but now players can all be upgraded to level 10 (if they buy the omega versions, of course).
Ratchet and Clank is absolutely, dumbfoundedly, incomprehensibly gorgeous. Everything sparkles with a level of polish never seen in a Ratchet game. No matter how many bullets, bolts, or just general effects are flying through the air, the frame rate stays at an unbreakable 30 frames per second. The environments are interesting, the animations are fluid, the character models are stable (which can’t be said about the original games), every detail sticks out with vibrant color (there are a few instances of environmental clipping, but they are rare). The only real problems with Ratchet and Clank’s engine are the sizable amount of glitches (the game crashed three times while I played, and each time I had to completely restart my PS4). Other than that, Ratchet and Clank is one of the most gorgeous games in recent memory.
Unfortunately, this reboot all but destroys one of the best parts of the series. Sometimes dramatic, sometimes heartwarming, and always hilarious, Ratchet and Clank’s stories have consistently kept the games speeding along at a satisfactory pace. But this new iteration’s is extremely lackluster. It’s not even close to as well written as the previous games. In fact, it’s missing huge chunks of plot. This game is a movie tie-in, so it’s understandable that Insomniac would want the two to share the same stories, but, it comes at the sacrifice of an actually compelling (or even complete) tale. This is the only aspect of Ratchet and Clank that has actually downgraded when compared to the original. It’s interesting that Dr. Nefarious is here this early in the series (and that he’s in his squishy form), but he feels completely forced in. As proved by the first game, Drek is an adequate main antagonist, so why replace him?
Having Ratchet and Clank join the galactic rangers allows for the introduction of some new characters. But, none of them are interesting, nor are they unique. They feel more like personalities for the sake of having personalities. It also takes the spotlight off the main duo for a lot of the story, which is a shame, as Ratchet and Clank’s “hardheaded glory hound vs. calculating hero” dynamic was really endearing in the original. The two constantly butted heads but learned to appreciate one another in the end, which gave a reason to actually empathize with them and grow attached to them. Now, Ratchet is stereotypical ambitious farm boy who wants to join the big leagues and save the galaxy. He’s as generic as it gets, much like the story itself. It’s so disappointing to see such an unsightly blemish on an otherwise perfect gaming experience.
- Ricardo Rodriguez