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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (PC)

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (PC) - Review

by Issa Maki , posted on 18 August 2023 / 4,218 Views

There were big plans for Ratchet and Clank.

Armed with an animated feature-length film and remake of the beloved PlayStation 2 classic, Sony had every intention of making the lombax and his robot pal household names by the summer of 2016. This backfired somewhat when the movie (which is much better than Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe) failed to recoup its production costs, but the game was another story.

Welding the series' hallmark gunplay to a new narrative framework and level of polish that transcended the medium, Ratchet & Clank was well-received across the board. Rift Apart improves upon its predecessor in virtually every way possible, becoming a technical marvel for ninth-generation hardware from PS5 to Steam Deck – even if Insomniac doesn't quite run as far with the concept as I would have hoped.

Years after the daring exploits of Into the Nexus, the titular duo is invited to a ceremony in celebration of their good deeds. As an eager Clank bestows his gift, the Dimensionator, to a curiously sullen Ratchet, the festivities are interrupted by an attack from Dr. Nefarious. The Dimensionator is activated during the conflict, tearing innumerable holes in the fabric of reality. The three fall through several of these 'rifts', before ending up in a dystopian world where Emperor Nefarious reigns supreme. There, they encounter a lombax named Rivet, and alongside a collection of faces old and new, the quest is undertaken to reforge the Dimensionator, defeat the respective Nefariouses, and restore harmony to the fractured realms.

Before moving forward, let's address the elephant in the room: Rift Apart was indisputably the best-looking video game as of June 2021 – and it's only gotten better on PC. Whether it's Ratchet's bedraggled fur after landing in the streets of Nefarious City, or the light from a computer screen reflecting off of Rivet's eyes as she 'reads' the information displayed, the dedication and attention to detail was – and still is – unrivaled. Augmented by a performance that outshines the PS5's various modes (with higher resolutions and improved ray tracing), it simply has to be experienced to be believed. And with GeForce Experience synchronization, NVidia setups can ensure optimal settings while being able to broadcast and record gameplay; how else could someone like me take such nice screenshots?

A major highlight of Rift Apart comes from the performances by the voice actors. Having removed the 'Hollywood' element of both the remake and movie in favor of industry veterans, Insomniac assembles a more mature cast this time around; one that banks on the talent of their craft, as opposed to any sort of displaced celebrity.

David Kaye receives a significant amount of work and clearly enjoys playing a more expressive, despondent Clank than usual. The emotional connection between him and Ratchet felt quite lopsided in 2016, so it's nice seeing that Clank values their friendship as much as Ratchet does, instead of being a walking MacGuffin. It never ceases to amaze me that this is the same person who portrayed Megatron in Beast Wars: Transformers, but that's the magic of the illusion. I considered Kaye one of the heavy hitters back in my day, and it's encouraging to see him still stepping up to bat in yours.

Interestingly enough, Ratchet gets pushed to sidelines like broccoli on a plate of steak, essentially acting as the supporting cast member in a title that bears his name. Voiced by the eternally underappreciated James Arnold Taylor (due to one misunderstood scene from Final Fantasy X), Ratchet's role in Rift Apart feels surprisingly benign, while his sole purpose is to help everyone else except himself; his reservations about the Dimensionator are hardly mentioned throughout the adventure, and until it's closing moments, the plot point concerning the other lombaxes is basically forgotten. I've been expecting DLC to flesh this out for years (a la Marvel's Spider-Man), but there are still some narrative threads that need to be sown up.

The true star of Rift Apart is newcomer Rivet, a female lombax and breath of fresh air the series is looking for. A burden such as this can only be carried on the shoulders of one person: Jennifer Hale – the First Lady of Gaming. An entire thesis could be written about this woman and her influence on the video game industry, but for now I'll say this: Rivet is one of Hale's signature performances – on par with Dr. Naomi Hunter from Metal Gear Solid and Knights of the Old Republic's Bastilla Shan. I wasn't aware it was her until the credits rolled; all the more impressive considering her prolific nature. Featuring an improved backstory over Ratchet and established dynamics with those around her, if I were Insomniac, I would be ecstatic about the spin-off potential that Rivet represents. One of the first great characters of the next-generation has arrived and, best of all, she brought a friend along for the ride.

Little did I know, there was another surprise waiting for me: former Warbot KT-7461, also known as 'Kit'. Brought to life by MADTV alumni Debra Wilson, I had no idea Kit existed until meeting her in the game (and for story purposes I won't reveal too much). The dimensional counterpart to Clank, Kit initially seems like a surrogate to pin on Ratchet until he reunites with his buddy, but quickly steals the show as Rift Apart's most sympathetic cast member. Her relationships with Ratchet, Rivet, and Emperor Nefarious are vital to the plot and have a gravity to them unseen in the series thus far. The characters, voice acting, and story are the best they've been yet; Insomniac should be proud.

Speaking of improvements, the gameplay has been given a fresh coat of paint and is vastly superior to what came before. I can confidently say that every complaint I had with Ratchet & Clank was addressed, and we now have a game that plays as smoothly as it looks.

The biggest change is to basic movement, which has undergone a major revision. Both of 2016's underwhelming traversal options have been excised in favor of a system that actually works. The ability to run finally deigns us with its presence, and over the course of the journey is upgraded to a skating-like 'Hover Boost' that's very fun to perform. The Phantom Dash lets Ratchet and Rivet phase across the environment, allowing players to grind on certain sections of Nefarious City. Combined with the rifts that open during combat and overall improvements made to melee attacks, the end result is a much more active game that encourages moving around as often as possible. The lessons from Sunset Overdrive and Spider-Man have been taken to heart, to the benefit of us all.

Trespasser puzzles have been exchanged for 'hacking' segments featuring Glitch, an autonomous anti-virus program. These challenges resemble mini-games more than anything mentally stimulating, lacking any sort of agonizing difficulty. The Trespasser devastated the pacing of Ratchet & Clank; leaving it out was the smartest decision since including the option to skip it.

Clank's portions have received an overhaul of their own, replacing the Gadgebots of yesterday with Dimensional Anomalies of undetermined succession. Aided by the all-seeing, cosmic prophet 'Gary', Clank (and eventually Kit) must guide their respective 'Potentials' to repair the damaged realities, using various orbs that alter their characteristics (making them heavier/faster/etc.). This process sounds more involved than it is, and while these aren't the most complex problems to be solved, it's definitely a step above what was previously offered. They're also spaced out much better than before and aren't nearly as obtrusive to the game's flow.

Additional collectibles join the standard Gold Bolts and Infobots for those looking to explore. Armor sets replace the cards of 2016, retaining the passive bonuses they once conferred. Gained primarily through sidequests as opposed to randomly dropping from enemies, Rift Apart confidentially hops on the avatar customization bandwagon. The last thing I thought I'd be doing in a Ratchet & Clank game was scouring the land for new outfits (while rocking the Praetor Suit from DOOM), but it's hard not to when they look so nice.

'Lorbs' can be discovered on Savari, chronicling the observations of lombax researcher Mags. Minor backstory is learned here, but the real draw are the homages paid to various Sony franchises. Trudi the Dragon can be used to collect Lumpstones on planet Gargasso, and it's at this point where Rift Apart comes close to taking a misstep. Controlling Trudi is somewhat inconsistent, and occasionally feels like a blemish on otherwise immaculate skin. How the company that created Spyro could falter here of all places defies understanding. Worse is that certain Lumpstones can't be collected without a specific ability (gained from collecting Lumpstones). As the game fails to mention this until after the conditions have already been met, players can end up grasping for straws that are out of their reach. It's a minor issue, though it stands out rather noticeably.

Like the old commercials used to emphasize, a large part of enjoying Ratchet & Clank is the arsenal that can be used in battle. While the loadout here may be the most accessible from a gameplay perspective, I think it's a bit too conservative and not nearly 'out there' enough: the Burst Pistol is a worthy replacement for the Combuster and far more enjoyable to use (thank you, DualSense), but they're more or less the same gun. Ms. Fungi is effective, but ultimately the Mr. Pibb to Mr. Zurkon's Dr. Pepper (don't let honorifics fool you). Returning weapons such as the Buzz Blades are either weaker than they once were or have been converted into something with similar functions, like the Ricochet or Headhunter. Even my favorite, the Topiary Sprinkler, is simply the Groovitron with a garden theme. It's not that any of these are necessarily bad – they're just formulaic. Of all the new gadgets, the Void Repulsor (a shotgun/shield hybrid) and RYNO 8 (which summons more Sony references) feel the most inspired. Considering that the story is about alternate dimensions, the fact that Ratchet and Rivet share the same exact equipment is not only disappointing, but a missed opportunity.

Rift Apart offers five difficulties out of the gate, and like Spider-Man before it, they're all too easy. Granted, I did write an article about beating Dark Souls at Level 1, but even on Challenge Mode, there's very little standing in the heroes' way from saving the day. I'm also going to call out the Pocket Dimensions for being simple obstacle courses, rather than genuine portals to another world. Given the amount of material included from other games, the potential these pockets had was immense; it's a shame it wasn't taken full advantage of.

What impresses me about Rift Apart is that it's able to improve upon the last game without rendering it completely obsolete. Those who enjoyed hoverboard tournaments or the freedom the jetpack once offered will have to take a trip back to Rilgar or Gaspar. The Galactic Rangers and their aerial dogfights are locked in the past – and it's for the best. What disappoints me is that Rift Apart plays it far too safe with an idea that had limitless possibilities. From the initial trailers, I was assuming a Tex Avery-level of Looney Tunes 'zaniness', and what I got was an expanded version of Crash Bandicoot 4. Again, I don't necessarily want to fault Insomniac for not living up to my personal expectations, but part of me can't help but feel that the concept still has room to grow, especially in the absence of DLC since its release.

However, this former caveat has now resulted in one of the most unexpected and unintended benefits: that Rift Apart is fully supported by Steam Deck – and its performance is beyond impressive. If Baldur's Gate III wasn't evidence enough of the handheld's viability, the fact that it can run PlayStation 5 games such as Deathloop and Returnal, alongside the likes of Guilty Gear -Strive-Street Fighter VI, and Elden Ring is proof positive. In fact, Rift Apart joins Death Stranding (and Diablo) as one of my favorites to play on the system, and only defers to Arkham Knight as my first choice to display as a tech demo. If the Deck is your only avenue, you won't be disappointed.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was queen of the ninth-generation chessboard; dedicated games might be able to surpass it in one area or another, but certainly not all. The parity between each aspect of its production remains unmatched; Rift Apart is the same great title it was in 2021 – and, ultimately, that might be its greatest fault. A 15% discount from its original asking price and full Steam Deck compatibility help mitigate this, but it's looking like Spider-Man 2 is destined to run its course before we hear back from our lombax friends anytime soon.

In the meantime, PC enthusiasts will have to be content with the game that kicked off the generation, except they won't need a Dimensionator to score a PlayStation 5 this time around so they can enjoy it.

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a digital copy of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart for the PC, provided by the publisher.

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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Machina (on 18 August 2023)

I'm glad Sony have ported it, although it's a bit of a strange title to prioritise; I never sensed much demand for Ratchet & Clank from the PC community, especially compared to things like Bloodborne or Demon's Souls, given how huge FromSoft games are on Steam. Personally, I enjoyed the two Ratchet games I've played (Tools of Destruction and 2016) - they're decent all-round experiences but mostly unexceptional - so I will eventually get around to this one as well.

  • +3
The Fury Machina (on 18 August 2023)

Is it Nixxes that handled this port or Insomniac with Nixxes help? Part of me wonders if it's literally Sony going to Nixxes "Hey, here's some of our games we want ported, which do you want to work on now?" Just they haven't got to the From games yet.

  • +4
G2ThaUNiT The Fury (on 18 August 2023)

Nixxes handles all the ports they work on. Although I do wonder what the process is of selecting games to port to PC because other than fixing the Horizon: Zero Dawn port in 2021, they've exclusively worked on Insomniac's games.

  • +4
the-pi-guy Machina (on 18 August 2023)

Spider-Man and Ratchet almost certainly share a lot of code; so probably relatively easy to translate their work on Spider-Man and bring it over to Ratchet. This was like 8 months after the Spider-Man ports; whereas the God of War PC port took a full 2 years to make.

I am curious about when Demon's Souls will come. That port probably started before the Ratchet and Clank port.

  • +1
Azzanation Machina (on 19 August 2023)

The game only sold 1.1m on the PS5 so it actually makes more sense to bring it to more platforms.

  • -5
DekutheEvilClown Azzanation (on 19 August 2023)

It sold 1.1m in its first 4 weeks, and there was only about 10m PS5's in the world...

  • +3
Azzanation DekutheEvilClown (on 19 August 2023)

How much do you think it sold now? Do you think 2m or 3m is satisfactory?

  • -3
DekutheEvilClown Azzanation (on 19 August 2023)

It will do about 5-10m lifetime based on Sony First Party games in the past, and the point in the generation it launched.

Yes 2-3M would be pretty successful one would imagine. I believe that’s just under how many copies the first uncharted and God of War sold. It would be enough to be the most successful R&C I’m fairly sure.

  • +3
coolbeans (on 18 August 2023)

Another one in my backlog that this review has me more hyped for!

  • +1
G2ThaUNiT coolbeans (on 18 August 2023)

Good news is that it's a very short game! I 100% the game in 14 hours lol. Probably 9-10 hours to complete the story.

  • 0
Signalstar (on 19 August 2023)

The game is ace. Kinda short though. They need to bring back multiplayer though.

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