By Gabriel Jones 27.12.2016
Captain Qwark, the former leader of the Galactic Rangers, has seen better days. It feels like only yesterday he was the galaxy's greatest hero and beloved by all. Everything was great until a fateful meeting with a Lombax mechanic and his diminutive robot friend. This chance encounter caused Qwark's life to spiral out of control, and now he's relating his tale of woe to a fellow inmate. Wait a second. Who are the stars of this game? Oh, that's right, Ratchet & Clank. It's easy to forget who the main character is, when one of them has an ego large enough to blot out four suns. Prepare for guns and gadgets aplenty as these heroes team up again for the very first time.
When it comes to 3D platforming with blast 'em up action, few franchises have lasted as long as Ratchet & Clank. In this 2016 re-imagining, Insomniac has cobbled together everything that made the prior games work. Then they capped it off with a startling level of presentation. Ratchet & Clank is without a doubt, one of the best-looking games on the PlayStation 4. The boosted image quality and HDR effects, courtesy of the PS4 Pro, makes every scene absolutely mind blowing. However, the astonishing visuals come at a cost. Unlike previous games, which hovered at or around 60 fps, this entry cuts the frame rate in half. It's an acceptable trade-off, but still a little disappointing. An option for PS4 Pro owners to set the resolution to 900p in order to attain a higher frame rate would have been nice.
The game itself is structured in a manner that's similar to the original, though it deviates fairly often. For example, the planets the duo visits might be familiar, but the 2016 edition adds a number of unique and entertaining scenarios. For example, the planet Kerwan, which makes an appearance in both games, opens with Ratchet using his spaceship to take out several enemies. Later on, there's an extended sequence atop a moving train. With how often this edition deviates, it's almost like an entirely new game. This entry also benefits from the changes made to the controls and health system. The original edition sometimes got a little frustrating, due to Ratchet's lack of hit points. The difficulty is a fair bit more balanced, at least until the Lombax maxes out his weapons.
The 2016 edition features various popular guns from the franchise, as well as a handful of new ones. The pixelizer is especially amusing. It functions similarly to a shotgun, and sets the enemies back several console generations, by turning them into chunks of pixels. There's also the sheepinator, which turns any enemy into sheep. Yes, even robots and helicopters, because science is just that amazing. Weapons level up with continued use, and can be powered up further via raritanium. The amount of glorious destruction Ratchet dishes out is quite entertaining. The small ammo counts and experience system provide good incentives to swap between guns at every opportunity. This game also makes a point of providing plenty of hapless foes for the Lombax to obliterate.
The difficulty of the campaign starts to buckle under the weight of such an impressive arsenal. There's a Challenge mode, which allows players to replay the story, while carrying over all of their tools of destruction. The enemies are a little more dangerous in this mode, but they're quickly overwhelmed by the unlockable omega weaponry. For example, maxed out buzz blades can melt anyone in seconds. Also, most players that reach this mode will likely have the RYNO gun, which is so overpowered it turns the R2 button into the "I WIN" button. On the bright side, all of the weapons remain useful throughout the first and any subsequent playthroughs. There's never a point where any of them feel obsolete. Exercising restraint in order to maintain a semblance of fairness can be fulfilling for the player.
One of the strengths of this game is in how it features several mini-games, but not once do they threaten to drag everything down. On two of the planets, Ratchet can participate in hoverboard races. These events are mostly optional, but even if the player opts to see them through to the very end, they aren't going to find themselves frustrated and bored. Even the obligatory turret section isn't too bad. Granted, if there was more than one of them, and if they happened to last longer than five minutes, then they'd be a serious problem. Some of the more underutilised elements, such as the O2 mask, are forgivable simply because the game wouldn't benefit from them. To put it another way, how often does somebody play a 3D platformer and think: "There needs to be more underwater swimming sections?"
For most of the game, Clank's job is to serve as Ratchet's backpack, and occasionally provide commentary on the current situation. There are a handful of instances where Clank has to accomplish tasks by himself. Typically, they involve the employment of various bots, each with their own use. One bot can create bridges, another serves as a trampoline, and the third channels electricity to open doors or operate machinery. These bouts of puzzle solving are quaint, but not nearly as intricate or well thought out as in the other Ratchet & Clank games, particularly A Crack in Time.
While the rest of the game doesn't astound quite as much its visuals, Ratchet & Clank is a solid entry in the franchise. It differentiates itself from its predecessors while retaining their memorable qualities. Each planet offers a myriad of fun objectives, and the pacing is relatively brisk throughout. Players aren't going to be stuck on hair-pulling mini-games or combing over the same stretch of land twenty times over just to grab that last gold bolt. There's a high level of confidence in how this game presents itself. It's fully aware of its strengths and weaknesses, and does its best to address all of them, while remaining a consistently enjoyable source of entertainment.