Gamers and Moviegoers Unite for Ratchet & Clank
The “re-imagining” of Ratchet & Clank wears many hats, and figuring out if the description is accurate, or if it succeeds in catering to its multiple audiences makes writing this review a joyful challenge. When I think of a re-imagining, I think of substantially new ideas, of which few – if any – are introduced in this game. The other challenge of this game is that it counts as a movie tie-in, from which it borrows scenes in the upcoming film. So, this version of Ratchet & Clank has to appeal to fans of the original game, providing enough new content without detracting from the original vision all while avoiding the pitfalls of movie-tie-in games. The good news is, for the most part, Ratchet & Clank (2016) succeeds, although to call it a full re-imagining is a bit of a stretch.
In the tutorial section of the game, a prisoner compliments Captain Quark, who is the narrator of Ratchet and Clank , for his ability to add drama to any story. He isn’t wrong – Captain Quark is a man whose bravado overcompensates for his incompetence, so he’s a perfect fit for the role of unreliable narrator. Quark’s role in the story is a clever symbol for Insomniac’s re-imagining of the original tale. His new perspective provides enough twists for those familiar with the source material. While the plot itself hasn’t altered much – Chairman Drek is still plotting to harvest other planets in order to build a world for the Blarg, and Ratchet and Clank have to stop him – certain scenes have been added to make it more like the film. This should not only give fans new content, but also introduce some familiarity for moviegoers who happen to become interested in the franchise.
Unfortunately, the re-imagining of the original script falls short when it comes to the development of the characters, and I’m worried how this might reflect the quality of the film, whose scenes are present in this game. For instance, I enjoyed how Ratchet is spunkier than his original counterpart. This time, Ratchet has always dreamed of joining the Galactic Rangers, and while he might not be the biggest and baddest, he is determined to prove he has the most heart. However, he takes to his new friend, Clank, a little too fast. The re-imagining doesn’t take time to allow the duo’s relationship to grow – their relationship seems as firmly established as it is in the PS3 games. I would have preferred to see the growing pains as the two learned how to work together – not just with each other but with their squad mates as well. At least the dialogue has been updated to compete with other kids’ movies in the theater, and the franchise’s comedic timing only seems to improve with age.
The other part of Insomniac’s vision for the re-imagining is borrowing the best mechanics from the sequels and by doing so they provide a much needed upgrade to the original title’s gameplay. The most welcome change is that you can strafe. The set pieces pit the duo against waves of warbots, and being able to seamlessly jump, shoot, and strafe at the same time is a welcome mechanic that is not only a thrill to use but also a necessity – I’m not sure if I could go back and play the original without this feature. Selecting weapons has been streamlined as well. No longer do you have to hold a face button and then select a weapon. Instead, simply press and hold one of the four directional pads to switch weapons. You can also change the layout of your weapons on the fly by holding down a directional button, and then selecting which weapon you want with the right thumb stick. Of course, the enemy AI has improved since the series’ inception, and ground-based and flight-based enemies will swarm you at every chance you get, so it’s nice to be able to pause, gather your thoughts, and select which weapon is appropriate for the job. But regardless of whether you need to pause, the controls shouldn’t encumber you because they’re fine-tuned.
I wrote in the introduction that to call Ratchet & Clank a re-imagining of the original is a stretch, and here’s why: Even if you’ve only played a few games from the franchise – particularly Tools of Destruction – you’ll quickly adapt to the familiar mechanics. Each planet consists of multiple platforming sections. You might be slaying monsters in a canyon one moment while exploring a factory in another – all on the same mission. While the map has objectives that keep you on track, there’s still quite a bit to explore on each planet (which becomes particularly engaging once you gain access to the jet pack) such as collecting hidden holodeck cards and golden bolts. The platforming sections are tightly woven and feel like excellent rewards for the waves of enemies you encounter.
Weapons remain largely the same, but each one has its unique function. There are a few new weapons like the Pixelizer, which, although funny, I didn’t find to be particularly useful; however, given the franchise’s pedigree for having some of the most creative weapons in gaming, you might find it useful for your playstyle. The weapons don’t deviate much from their original incarnations, but they do feel like they just got back from being repaired from a gun shop. Perhaps this re-imagining could have used a few new weapons to offset the arsenal déjà vu, but they’re still a joy to experiment with.
The game also provides a few other modes of play that, hit or miss, rarely detract from the excellent pacing. Some missions you might first explore as Clank, who is usually tasked with solving puzzles for helping Ratchet infiltrate bases, but even he has to engage in combat. Aerial combat exists, but it’s no Star Fox . For instance, in the first mission you fight a wave of enemies, and then casually pick up warbots to launch a more powerful attack at boss ships. However, I generally found aerial combat to be a leisurely distraction, with not enough threats on screen to be engaging. Hoverboard racing is an exciting mini game that compensates for aerial combat, and there’s also hacking mini game for those interested in puzzles – don’t worry; you can skip these if you’re more into action, but you will miss out on the rewards if you choose to auto hack.
Ratchet & Clank is by far one of the best looking games for the PS4. The color palette is fittingly exotic for the extraterrestrial worlds you’ll explore – you’ll want to keep your thumb hovering over the share button. Character animations are fluid, and I didn’t notice any graphical oddities or framerate issues, even at 30 FPS, that detracted from the action. I’ve always thought the actors would do well in a Pixar-like movie, and all of the performers brought their A-game for this movie tie-in. My only complaint is that some of the updated planets feel like they borrowed too much from the PS3 games – one planet felt like it was lifted directly from Tools of Destruction .
The review guide suggested veteran Ratchet & Clank players start the game on Hard difficulty, but general 3D platformer fans shouldn’t have too much trouble jumping in at the highest difficulty either. Ratchet & Clank is quite forgiving, allowing you to resume at a checkpoint close to where you die. You don’t lose your bolts or raritanium (the types of currency used for buying and upgrading weapons, respectively) either. Moviegoers and gamers alike should find a difficulty level that suits their needs.
When it appears in theaters, I doubt that critics will shower Ratchet & Clank with the level of praise as, say, Zootopia , which handles more adult themes like racism. What I’ve seen from the game’s story is a Pixar-like experience that’s mostly just another tale, albeit a funny one, about the power of friendship. Even as a game, no matter how much it borrows from the PS3 entries, it’s not a revolutionary 3D action platformer, but it is a high-quality one that’s crafted by who know what they’re doing. I bring this up because there will be some cynics who believe Insomniac has run out of ideas. Considering that Ratchet & Clank borrows more ideas from the PS3 games than it introduces new ones, I can see their point. However, Ratchet & Clank is an upgraded version of the classic. It doesn’t need to be much more than that, and what it does it does well.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Sublime as always. At times, I feel like they lifted entire areas straight from the Futures series, and it would have been nice to have 60 FPS; however, this is still without a doubt one of the best-looking PS4 games. 4.5 Control
Ratchet & Clank upgrades the original’s controls with those of the later entries in the franchise. It feels nice to be able to jump and strafe while shooting your enemies. Borrows more mechanics than it introduces, however. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice actors have brought their A-game for this movie tie-in, and explosions are nice and crisp. 4.0 Play Value
The first playthrough should take about 8 to 10 hours to complete. While it’s a shame that Insomniac didn’t bring back some of the multiplayer modes, at least there are plenty of golden bolts and cards to collect, weapons to collect, and difficulty modes to keep you busy. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best