With the release of Into the Nexus in 2013, and after a stretch of nearly annual games that deviated from the classic Ratchet & Clank formula, two things became clear about what the series needed: some time away and a return to basics. About two and a half years later, it’s clear that Insomniac has taken both of those ideas to heart with Ratchet & Clank (2016) on PS4.
Although I’m just a few hours into R&C, it’s quickly apparent that this game is special. First of all, the writing on display is absolutely top-notch. Characters are witty and charming, jokes are well timed, and the voice acting is excellent (especially Jim Ward’s Captain Qwark). Of course, after the excellent Sunset Overdrive released just a few years ago by the same studio, none of this comes as a surprise. Where the game does surprise, however, is in the graphical department.
This game is gorgeous. Even on a console packed with titles flexing their graphical muscles, R&C manages to stand out among the PS4’s best. Between the dynamic lighting, exhaustive color pallet, and the always-impressive particle effects, it seems like this game never misses a beat. While stills can certainly do the game justice, nothing tops seeing it in motion…
All of the gorgeous visuals and clever humor aside, what really makes this a great experience is the gameplay. Insomniac is a studio known for creating fun, often over-the-top weapons in their games. This is something that got started in the original game on PS2 and has carried through their other franchises like Resistance and Sunset Overdrive. For this reboot, Insomniac has included some fan favorites such as Mr. Zurkon and the Groovitron alongside newcomers like the Pixelizer. Although the game sometimes left me wanting a little more precision control over the simple Combuster pistol, it’s pretty obvious that precision shooting isn’t what R&C is about. Rather, it’s about having a blast clearing large swarms of enemies with some of the silliest weapons to ever appear in a video game. On that front, it absolutely delivers.
Another new addition to the series is the ability to choose how you’ll upgrade your weapons. Although your weapons have leveled up in each of the series’ games for years now, this marks the first time you’ll be able to dedicate points to specific statistics for each weapon. This allows each person to upgrade their guns more in line with their own play style. As you can see above, I opted to upgrade my Combuster to store more ammunition instead of taking a path towards a higher rate of fire. It’s always great when a game gives the player the option to choose how they progress and, on that front, R&C doesn’t stop with the weapon upgrades.
Ratchet and Clank’s adventures have always taken a more open approach to linear storytelling and that’s no different in 2016. As you progress through the main storyline, side missions will start to pop up in your navigation computer allowing you to veer off the linear path in favor of helping out a character who’s found themselves overwhelmed by the ever expanding enemy presence. Although I’m not sure how many (if any) of these missions are truly optional, it’s nice to be given the choice over which storyline I want to go down at any given junction.
Overall, my time with Ratchet & Clank (2016) has been a joy. When a 3D mascot platformer this well crafted comes along, it’s hard to believe how few of them we really see these days. It does, however, seem like there are a fair number of excellent platforming franchises lurking in the shadows as they contemplate making a comeback. Hopefully, with a little sales success, Ratchet & Clank (2016) can push some more developers to revisit their classic characters for the modern era.
Oh…did I mention this game is retailing at $39.99?