Fast and Furrious : Dimensional Rift
“It’s like playing a Pixar film” is a cliché that has haunted games since it was first trotted out to sell the PS2. With Pixar being the universally acknowledged high water mark of the art form, it’s natural that games companies would want to be attached to that level of reverence. This was especially the case in the days when games were so desperate to be thought of in the same breath as films, that any comparison point they could hold onto was clinged to for dear life.
When that comparison comes up it’s usually referring to graphics, the most tangible sign that a new generation has begun. However, what’s often missing from these comparisons is the other thing that makes Pixar so special, the incredible narratives, the memorable characters and the layered storytelling. In this way, and in it’s incredible visuals, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is like playing a Pixar film.
It’s been a few years since we last caught up with the Lombax and his metal pal – we last saw them in the fantastic Ratchet & Clank (2016) and before that, a series of PS3 titles that preceded this new entry. All you need to know is that Clank has repaired the Dimensionator, a weapon that can allow them both to travel to other dimensions, including those where Ratchet isn’t the last of his kind. The game begins with a parade for our heroes that is interrupted when Dr. Nefarious crashes the party and causes the Dimensionator to go all toaster in the bath.
Suddenly, creatures from other worlds, enemies from previous games and even a few surprises that I won’t spoil find themselves thrust through these rifts. Ratchet and Clank are separated and it’s up to each of them to find a way to repair the Dimensionator and the dimensions themselves. Clank finds himself in a dimension where Dr. Nefarious, now an all powerful emperor, has taken over the universe. Not only this, but he bumps into a female Lombax, Rivet and quickly forms a team.
Gameplay consists of exploring planets as either Ratchet or Rivet, taking down enemies and, most importantly, exploring the legendary arsenal of guns the series is known for. Previous titles in the series have occasionally lacked any incentive to use more than the one gun you’ve been upgrading all game, but by making the unlock paths easy, and strategically giving you ammo for weapons you don’t typically use in tough situations, the game finally achieves a balance where every weapon is viable.
The other mechanic that they’ve been incredibly keen to show off is using the rifts around the world to your advantage. These will pop up in combat situations, when exploring, or when hunting collectibles. Essentially you’ll lock on to a portal and zip across the map instantly to that location. In motion it looks incredible. It’s also extremely useful in firefights, allowing you to fly around the various arenas quickly and flank enemies with ease. I wish there were slightly more of these around, and I wish the game was slightly more creative with the places you rift to. An item that can break dimensions is practically a cheat code in terms of design, so it would have been nice to see something like a portal you dive through and suddenly everything is like a PS2 game, or maybe visiting a location from another Sony first party game. I want Clank to see Ellie covered in blood and just say “oh dear”.
It’s impossible to overstate the quality of the visuals in this game. From the lighting, to the fur on Ratchet’s ears that reacts to the breeze, to the sheer shininess of Clank. The environments are lush and sprawling, they feel like real worlds rather than levels that cut off at very specific borders. One of the opening levels, a cyberpunkian neon-drenched city is a particular treat. The game offers a few different graphics options, including a 60FPS mode with ray tracing. Between this and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, I literally don’t know how Insomniac does it. They seem to have mastered getting the best out of the PS5, it’s extremely exciting to see where they go next other than the obvious Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
Rivet is the star of the show. Her story takes such beautiful twists and turns, and actually has something extremely powerful to say about mental health, being a survivor, and how to forgive. She manages to have a huge personality and importance in the story without relegating Ratchet to the background. We’ve played a lot of games with Ratchet, we know him and as such screen time and exposition is better spent with Rivet, something the game nails. There’s a character in the game that I can’t and won’t talk about that I’m shocked they managed to keep secret throughout this entire pre-release process. They are an absolute highlight of the game and someone I hope sticks around for a long time.
The only fault I have with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is that I wanted more of it. The game wraps up in around 12 hours and I’d have happily played double that. More time spent on these incredible planets, more side missions to do, more characters to meet, and most of all, more time with Ratchet, Clank and Rivet. The core mechanic of using the rift’s could have been expanded more, and I hope it’s something that’s developed in a sequel and not relegated to a one-and-done gimmick. But from a storytelling, technical, and gameplay perspective, it’s hard to imagine a game that’s so uncompromisingly positive and rewarding to play. When people finally get a PS5, this is the game I’ll tell them to get. This game will be a gateway for some kids to fall in love with games, the same way the first game was for me all those years ago. May we get new Ratchet & Clank games forever.