Ratchet & Clank is a love letter addressed to my 10-year-old self, as I spent too many hours adventuring, too many hours shooting, and way too many hours collecting bolts all the way back in the early 2000s. Insomniac’s reintroduction of the well-loved duo is the culmination of 14 years of refinement and love, and makes for one of the PlayStation 4’s best exclusives by a good mile.
Those who have previously adventured through Ratchet & Clank’s original 2002 runout will find that jumping into this year’s game feels instantly nostalgic. Everything’s quite fresh and new, but the game’s beautifully recreated areas and galaxy-spanning story generally follows the same line of that from the original. That’s not a bad thing, though, as going back to the series’ roots has allowed Insomniac to incorporate a lot of the best parts from previous entries in the series into this one, and it makes the experience feel extremely polished, flowing with great ideas and fun gameplay mechanics.
Ratchet & Clank’s story is told through the perspective of Captain Qwark this time around. While captive, he recounts Ratchet & Clank’s first adventure together, and injects his infamous one-liners and mildly hilarious jokes in every now and again. This framing is smart as it introduces all the major players and sets the scene nicely for newcomers, and it it makes sense anyway –these events took place some time ago in the R&C universe.
Even though Ratchet & Clank’s story was thrown into the wild almost 14 years ago, it still holds up well today. As is the case with Pixar’s plentiful selection of timeless tales, the writing here makes things enjoyable for players of all ages. It’s extremely easy to pick up, play and enjoy, whether you’re a newcomer or a series vet. I found myself laughing more than I'd expected I would be, both at the game’s old and updated jokes.
However, Ratchet & Clank’s gameplay is where it truly shines. “Timeless” is the word I'd use to describe its combination of 3D platforming and third-person shooting. Here, everything that’s worked with the series’ gameplay over the last decade has been brought together to create the possibly the most enjoyable Ratchet adventure so far.
Most of the game has you shooting a plethora of extraordinarily bizarre weaponry, at the Blarg, or at the couple of fantastic bosses you find yourself pitted against. Beloved weapons from previous entries like the Glove of Doom and the Sheepinator make a return here, with a handful of new guns also making their debut. Outrageous guns have been a staple of R&C since the original, and having so many weapons to choose from and use makes Ratchet’s ground adventures satisfying.
The Raritanium weapon modifications that debuted in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction also pop up here, and available tweaks range from additional ammo capacity to larger area of effect damage. I found that having this system encouraged me to try out weapons I’d bought and only used sporadically in the past.
New weapons are purchased using bolts at the Gadgetron vendors sprinkled throughout the various planets you visit. Much like binging a great television series on Netflix, from the moment you start beating the crap out of crates and enemies to get more bolts, it becomes fairly hard to stop. It never feels arduous, though, and saving up bolts, buying a new weapon, and having that first test run is always a moment to savour.
Throughout the game’s 12 hour journey, you’ll also find yourself piloting Ratchet’s ship and completing puzzles as Clank. These sections are fairly sporadic, but change up the gameplay, keeping it fresh and fun as you progress. Clank’s sections in particular are a great break from the consistent shooting you find yourself doing as Ratchet, favouring a puzzle-oriented setup that requires thought and deliberation rather than raw firepower.
Between the flying sections, the Clank puzzle areas, the hoverboard races, and blasting baddies as Ratchet, variation keeps the game from ever feeling boring. Adventuring through the beautifully recreated locations and taking out the Blarg with crazy weaponry – all the while trying to defile Chairman Drek’s plans – has never felt (and looked) so good.
There’s also a new collectible Holocard system, which allows you to set in-game modifiers once you acquire a set of three. Cards are earned by taking out enemies and uncovering hidden areas in the world, and also function as your means to unlock the RYNO aka the Rip You a New One, an overpowered auto-targeting rocket launcher.
Thanks to the wonderfully redesigned worlds, the great gameplay, and the space-trotting story, this is the best Ratchet & Clank game to date. There were a couple of times I noticed frame rate dips during some of the bigger fights, and revisiting worlds after completing most of their objectives yields a much emptier space than before, but those are just minor faults in an otherwise fantastic experience.
Ratchet & Clank is a game for all ages, and is a great example of how to do a remake and a re-imagining right. It embraces its retro origins, while reworking them into something truly special that constantly left me with a smile on my face.