Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – A Technical Showpiece I Recommend (PS5)

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is my first Ratchet & Clank ever. I did not even know this franchise existed until I saw it being part of the early PlayStation 5 launch titles. As a Digital Foundry subscriber, I received all my information, especially what made it a technical showcase, from their excellent coverage and discussions. I was interested in the tech, but impressive visuals or other technical prowess alone do not make for a good game. The gameplay looked fun, however, and I stored that title on my maybe-if-I-ever-get-a-PS5-I-might-play-it list.

That day has come, and my recent test of Sony’s version of Game Pass afforded me a 50% discount on that title. Considering Sony still charges 80€ on their digital store, it was quite the price reduction. Amazon isn’t any better, either.

I called Kena Bridge of Spirits “essentially an interactive animated Pixar movie “. Ratchet & Clank falls even more so in this category. Kena focuses more on gameplay and combat, whereas Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart strongly concentrates on characters, the narrative, and cinematic storytelling. If you string together all cutscenes and in-game conversations, you essentially get an entertaining, family-friendly animated movie. And all that is wrapped in a visually stunning real-time package.

Let’s get into it and look at a few nice pictures, shall we?

The Nerdy Bits

I recently finished Diablo 2 Resurrected in coop and was disappointed by its tech. Now, before you grab your pitchforks and chase me around town, please wait and let me explain. I knew what I was getting into with Diablo 2 Resurrected. I know it is an old game, and it looks old because I played it when it came out. I’m old, too, you know. The disappointing part was the 30fps cap on current-gen consoles, given its simplistic graphics – despite the remaster. Especially compared to any of the Horizon games or, today’s topic, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

Screenshot showing a vista of a big city on the main world of Rivet's dimension with a golden statue of the emperor towering in the middle.

Since it took me two years to play this title, I got to experience the game’s best and most polished version. Insomniac’s engine marvelously renders a very presentable 4K-like explosion of colorful effects and chaos at what appears to be flawless 60fps with raytraced reflections in its Performance RT mode. Not for a second was I thinking about trying one of the other modes. The game looks impressive in every situation, and the performance is a non-issue. I saw no need to drop to a non-RT mode or use the higher-quality graphics option for a crisper image – and I sit pretty close to the TV.

My only complaint about the visuals is that changing the mode on the fly while in-game does not work. The game prompts you to reload or something. I forgot the exact wording because I only tested it once initially. I wish games would not require a restart (looking at you, Assassin’s Creed on Windows) or reloading a game session. Ideally, changing graphics options happen immediately while simultaneously displaying the live gameplay for comparison.

A screenshot showing the inside of something akin an futuristic airport with beautiful raytraced reflections on the floor.

Just look at how stunning Clank looks in this shot. The light plays with the materials to create an impressive metallic look.

Screenshot showing Rivet and Clank sitting in a corner in a bar with Clank standing on the table, loking nice and raytraced shiny.

If you want a more technical breakdown, you should (of course) watch the Digital Foundry coverage. Since there are five videos in total, I am not trying to cram them into a nicely flowing sentence pocket dimension. Instead, I’ll drop you a list straight from my search result world.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s art direction is colorful and playful. The characters are detailed, with a lot of small features. Ratchet and Rivet, in particular, show outstanding fine fur in the Resolution mode. This is an area where the performance modes slightly scale back the visual fidelity. It does not matter, though. There is still so much to see and take in. Environments are full of small elements without trying to appear realistic or overburdening. Insomniac chose just the right amount of foliage or clutter to create an interesting setting without making it too busy. Some of the locations even render awe-inspiring vistas.

Screenshot showing debris and pieces of rock in the purple haze of a destroyed planet where Revet just landed.

R&C: Rift Apart strongly focuses on cinematic shots and cutscenes. The people at Insomniac clearly know their craft.

Screenshot of one of the cinematic cutscenes where Rivet jumps towards an enemy in a cockpiit of a giant machine boss with her hammer in hand.

As impressive as the graphics were, the game let me down in the audio department and its surround mix in particular. Please do not misinterpret this as “bad audio”. The quality is very high, and it suits the game perfectly. The chosen effects, the music, and the voice acting are top-notch. However, I was missing some “oomph” to the sound effects. Guns never felt impactful except for the shotgun. For comparison, Halo Infinite’s tech may be lacking in many ways, but the sound design certainly is not. It does not matter which type of opinion booster you wield. Their sound effects and projectile impact have a heft to them, and I sorely missed this kind of feedback in Ratchet & Clank.

Another thing that bothered me was positional audio. When something moved out of view because I turned my back to it, it suddenly became disproportionally quiet. I never felt immersed in the audio as a result of this. Sounds moved from speaker to speaker (left/right and front/back), but I only ever noticed it in quiet moments when characters were talking. I never perceived any positional hints from any of the four speakers during heavy action sequences or cutscenes. It was just a wall of sound.

While the positional immersion was not ideal, the overall quality was still excellent. As I said in the introduction, it could very well be a movie. This can, in no small part, be attributed to the soundtrack and the voice actors. The music was engaging, and the spoken dialogue was impeccable and also very stylized to fit the cartoon-like art style. I would have never guessed that Rivet is voiced by “Fem-Shep” Jennifer Hale.

In my Kena Bridge of Spritis review, I applauded how fast I could launch the game from the desktop and start playing just a few seconds later. While Kena still uses loading screens, albeit only briefly, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is instant. Yes, instant! Just a tiny moment after you select your savegame, you can start playing. Merely a quick fade to black and back separates the game menu from the game world. I was impressed each and every time and definitely want more of that. It is a technology like that which makes the game’s concept of quickly walking through rifts into different worlds even possible.


And just like that, you dropped out of the technology rift into the gameplay section. This dimension features uncomplicated and challenging 3rd person shooting with 3D-platforming elements. The core gameplay is straightforward enough. You have a bunch of weapons and a lot of enemies to point them at. Combat is fun and chaotic; you would not believe how much action there is on screen. Enemies jump around and shoot at you. Sometimes civilians are in the area and flee the combat. Things explode and turn into collectible resources in the form of bolts, and when you get into their vicinity, they will gravitate toward Ratchet or Rivet while being collected. And all this action and animation is happening without a single hitch.

Screenshot that shows Ratchet fighting a Nefarious Juggernaut mini boss that is shooting several blue rockets at Ratchet.

Of course, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is not a competitive shooter and does not feel like Doom. Although fast-paced and dynamic, it is not as precise as a “real shooter”. It is a fun shooter with a lot of horizontal and vertical movement. Targets are generally big and hard to miss. You can select from a plethora of weapons and also upgrade them. Some weapon effects can be combined to gain an advantage. I frequently utilized a decked-out Toxiary Sprinkler to stagger enemies and apply a damage buff. Whatever I tickled them with next, preferably the shotgun (because why not), usually made short work of whatever there was.

But that is not the only gameplay element.

This game is surprisingly versatile and diverse. I already mentioned the 3D platforming, and if you played Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you know the essential elements. There is grappling and swinging, wall running, and double jumping. Add rifts to quickly “beam” yourself toward and a pair of speedy skating boots into the mix, and you are good to go. Those are the basics with which Insomniac implemented several traversal challenges and paths to hidden collectibles.

Screenshot of Rivet skating on mining cart rails with a cart coming towards her. To her right is another rail she can jump onto.

Collectibles are plentiful in this game. Some provide you with armor sets that boost stats, like taking less damage from foes or packing a more significant melee punch. These collectibles are hidden off the beaten path or in small pocket dimensions. Those are short and varied platforming puzzles with a boon at the end. I enjoyed these brief moments of “jump’n’run” as they were neither invasive and all over the place nor drawn out to insufferable length. Short and sweet. It distracted me for a few minutes and then let me return to saving the world. I am very main-story driven, and brief side activities like this do not strain my OCD too much, making it easier for me to seek out and enjoy them.

As part of the story, you are also tasked with sealing more enormous rifts. In those instances, you get to play as Clank and must solve several logic puzzles. It reminded me of Lemmings, only that it does not matter if you “kill” the virtual Clanks running about. You have all the time in the world to figure it out. If I have not missed anything, Ratchet & Clank adheres to the rule of three in video games. To seal such a rift, you get to solve three puzzles.

Screenshot of a rift-sealing puzzle where Clank must solve a Lemmings-like puzzle to navigate Clank ghost-like avatars to the goal.

You even run around as the very chatty anti-virus insect-like-bot Glitch that shoots malware to delete it. It even has its own “story arc” and a final boss.

Story and Characters

Speaking of which: let me discuss why you run around smashing and shooting bad guys.

Screenshot from early in the game showing the spectacle of the parade that celecrates Ratchet & Clank heroics with fireworks and confetti.

Unbeknownst to me, Ratchet and Clank are apparently certified villain exterminators – or “heroes”, as boring people call them. At the beginning of the game, both are celebrated by their homeworld with a giant parade and spectacle. Clank has a present for Ratchet: the Dimensionator. Clank wants to help Ratchet search all dimensions for his family. Previous games appear (this is a guess) to reference this dimension mechanic, which is picked up again in Rift Apart. But things go south when Dr. Nefarious shows up and steals the Dimensionator. Being a maniac (and also: who would?), he does not RTFM and just starts to press buttons. Dimensions open, chaos ensues, and the wild ride begins.

Screenshot showing a claw of Dr. Nefarious ship stealing the Dimensionator in front of Ratchet and Clank during the celebration.

While pursuing Dr. Nefarious, both heroes are carted to another dimension. They soon discover that Dr. Nefarious ended up there, too, and that for every major character in their own dimension, an equal exists in the other. Ratchet and Clank get separated, and Rivet, the Lombax home to the different dimension, finds him, and then they travel together. She is a resistance fighter dealing with her own version of Dr. Nefarious – the Emperor. This setup gets Ratchet to search for his friend as the first step. In doing so, he learns about Rivet and her world’s problems. Throughout the story, Ratchet and Rivet team up to save all dimensions from being destroyed by the damage the reckless use of the Dimensionator has caused.

That is the general scaffolding that holds all the individual pieces together. While the story unfolds, you control Ratchet and Rivet in their quest to defeat Dr. Nefarious and the Emperor.

On your journey to reunite and build a new Dimensionator, your travels take you to several worlds with more or less whacky characters. Ratchet & Clank does not take itself too seriously and loosens the tension with silly comedy. It is a good kind of silly, adorable, tailored toward a younger audience. I know that humor is very subjective. Take Far Cry, for example. You also meet many “whacky” characters in these games. Most of them are crazy lunatics in my book, and I want nothing to do with them. Others, meanwhile, may enjoy this kind of crazy. I know many people that like Monty Python. I just can’t. It’s subjective. For me, the funny moments in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart actually put a smile on my face.

While doing video-gamie things, the adventure of these protagonists is not solely about winning against the enemy. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart also tells a story about friendship, forgiveness, and overcoming your fears to take the next step. Looking back at the parade where Clank wanted to gift the Dimensionator, Ratchet’s reaction wasn’t, “Yeah, cool! I’ll go search my family right now!”. It was a reluctant “Err” before both were interrupted. Although subtle and brief, the seed for this character development was planted very early. And it does not only affect Ratchet.

Now, I’m not here to claim that the writing is surprising. The painting is on the wall, and most outcomes are very predictable. It is family-friendly content, after all, and kids will probably love it. That does not detract from the excellent presentation and generally good storytelling. I enjoyed the tale Insomniac spun and how it unfolded a lot. One of the coolest elements is that notable NPCs you meet on your journey aren’t just one-and-done appearances. Insomniac cleverly brought it all back together for the final countshowdown.

Famous Last Words

If I’m being honest, I initially did not plan to write a review. I merely wanted to dedicate a short section in my Year in Gaming 2023 write-up to Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

As much as I enjoyed the game, I never felt the gravitational pull that some games have. The force that keeps you thinking about a game and makes you want to play it. Maybe it is an unforgettable story or gameplay that just clicks and feels perfect. Or both, for the extraordinary titles. Ratchet & Clank did not evoke this kind of feeling when I was not playing, and I cannot put my finger on it why that was. You see, once I was in the game and blown away by the instant loading, I forgot about time and spent several hours as Ratchet or Rivet and only put the controller down because I needed to do something else or to prevent lengthy RSI issues. Maybe it was because of the “soft” weapon audio feedback or the lack of surround sound immersion? Or perhaps it was just a temporary mood that is hard to motivate to do anything besides going to the gym right after work?

Since I could not pin it down to anything specific in the game, I felt it was unfair because, objectively speaking, the game barely let me go when I was playing. The second reason might be the dread of tackling the Detroit Become Human review, for which I feel I need to take a step beyond the usual format.

(I clearly have not learned from Ratchet & Clank’s lesson about facing my fears.)

Besides the audio mix I mentioned, I do not see much wrong with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. The story is engaging, the protagonists are lovable, and the supporting cast is entertaining and varied. This is one of the most critical pillars in a game to me right now. The action was fun, the exploration was short and sweet, and the visual spectacle was visually spectacular. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a great game I recommend to everyone looking for simple action and adventure wrapped in a high-quality technological gift and narrative. You can enjoy this one with your kids watching or even letting them play.

One holdout might be the price, though. 80 bolts is a lot of currency, considering the only roughly 11 to 14 hours of playtime. I accept that games are expensive to produce, especially of this quality, and the price also subsidizes the cost of the console. I can still recall the discussions about Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun taking the step up to 100 Deutsche Mark back in the days before the Euro was a thing. And now we’re not far from doubling that – ignoring inflation. Just saying.

If you see it for a discount, it might be worth grabbing. If you are happy paying full price, more power to you!

Thank you for reading.

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