Fourteen years ago, Insomniac Games created a duo that has since become a staple of the action-platforming genre. Of course, I’m talking about the lombax Ratchet, and his metallic sidekick, Clank. Together, they form Ratchet & Clank, the main protagonists of several games over the past two console generations, and the self-titled PS4 revamp, Ratchet & Clank.
Not exactly a reboot, yet noticeably different from its inspiration, Ratchet & Clank is a (built from scratch) modernized remake of the series’ 2002 PlayStation 2 debut. What it does is bring the classic into 2016, via jaw droppingly beautiful visuals, thoroughly impressive effects and timeless gameplay. And, in doing so, it returns the franchise to the spotlight, in advance of its first outing on movie theatre screens.
For those who are new to this world, or need a refresher, Ratchet & Clank is a sci-fi platform/action game that mixes third-person shooting with melee combat and some stylish platforming. Its story centres upon a bored mechanic (Ratchet) whose attempts to join the Galactic Rangers police force is kiboshed by its overly egotistical leader, the fan favourite Captain Quark. Why? Well, Quark seems to believe that, despite showing great abilities and meeting all of the other requirements, Ratchet’s small frame and slight muscle tone will work against him in the line of duty.
Of course, Captain Quark — who narrates the game from a prison cell — is very, very wrong, and what Ratchet doesn’t know is that this application denial isn’t the end of his galaxy-saving dream.
It isn’t until afterwards that Ratchet & Clank end up meeting each other, due to a fluke coincidence in the form of a spaceship crash. Clank — who’s the defective result of a warbot factory malfunction — escapes imminent destruction, flees the factory and crash lands on Ratchet’s planet with news of a very dangerous plot. One which threatens the galaxy as a whole and must be put to an end.
With this knowledge, the two set out to save the day in a quest that takes them from one planet to the other. It’s not a new, or entirely unique design, but it works really well in a game such as this and always has. What’s interesting to note about this remake, though, is that it’s not an exact copy, and actually has new planets, additional quests and some very familiar weapons that weren’t introduced until later in the series.
I’m looking at you, Groovitron.
Needless to say, the development team didn’t rest on its laurels whatsoever. They cut content that they deemed unnecessary, and added things to both bolster and modernize the experience. It worked, too, because what’s presented here is a very colourful, polished and enjoyable game.
Before I progress, I should mention that I don’t remember ever beating the original Ratchet & Clank when I rented it for PS2. I did enjoy it, though, and welcomed the opportunity to play through its narrative in this updated retelling. I’m glad I did, too, although what this means is that I can’t tell you exactly what’s been cut out and what’s new. It’s been fourteen years, though, so only the diehards will be able to pick exact differences out.
I will tell you, though, that the new additions fit in really well, and that it doesn’t feel as if anything was cut. The plot is interesting and immersive, albeit not as deep as it could have been, and it flows well throughout. It’s also nice to have some optional quests to take on, which give you the opportunity to explore the planets more than you would if you just went for the main story content.
Speaking of the planets, it’s worth noting the sheer size of some of them. Not only are they beautiful to look at, and great to gawk and drool over, but they offer a lot of landmass and some interesting locations to explore. Each one has secrets, and these come in the form of holocards (which can be collected for bonuses that can be used when you replay the game in its challenge mode), as well as golden bolts, which unlock extras. Examples include sepia and 1970s inspired visual filters, unique helmets for Ratchet, and cheats.
An additional weapon is also locked behind Ratchet & Clank‘s holocard collecting mechanic. As such, unlocking it requires you to find each piece of the game’s RYNO (Rip Ya’ a New One) card set. This is a secondary quest that can be taken or left alone, and it — like the others, which usually involve saving additional characters, exploring caves or something of that ilk — adds depth and length to this experience.
Even without the RYNO, gamers will have lots of options at their disposal. Ratchet’s trusty wrench (a carry over from his job as a ship mechanic) can be swiped and thrown, and many upgradeable weapons can be purchased using bolts collected from enemies, quest items and boxes spread throughout the game world. My favourites were the Pixelizer (which turns enemies into pixelized versions of themselves, while damaging them at the same time), the game’s lock on rocket launcher (which can fire multiple shots at once) and the aforementioned Groovitron, which makes every enemy bust out into laugh-inducing dance moves.
When you’re not shooting at enemies, you’ll be jumping, flying, swimming, helicoptering and smashing your way through this rich world, using polished mechanics that leave little to grump about. All the while, comical dialogue, hairy situations and beautiful environmental effects will combine to enrich your quest.
While the gameplay is really solid, it’s also quite familiar, which is both a good and a bad thing. Being that this is a remake of a game from 2002, it’s understandable, but the experience doesn’t feel as fresh as some modern day titles as a result. That’s fine, though, because fans will get exactly what they expect out of this release, and will appreciate its much appreciated, budget-friendly price tag. The visuals, on the other hand, stand out above many other games, thanks to great animations and quality that resembles that of an animated motion picture. That’s especially true when it comes to Ratchet & Clank‘s gorgeous cutscenes, which include content taken from the upcoming film.
In the end, Ratchet & Clank is a tough game to recommend against. Sure, it sometimes feels like an older title, but that’s because it’s a revamp of a game that came out in 2002 and the developers wanted to stay relatively true to the original. It is, regardless of that, a very beautiful, fun, and easy to show off experience that fans of the genre will truly enjoy. On top of that, it acts as a definite standout addition to the PlayStation 4’s library.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 exclusive, which we were provided with.
Ratchet & Clank is a stunning addition to the PlayStation 4's library, and offers a very enjoyable, modernized take on the gameplay of its 2002 inspiration.