In Ratchet and Clank a young [man called Luke Skywalker finds a droid containing plans to the Death Star and sets out to deliver those plans to the Rebels] Lombax named Ratchet comes across a robot called Clank, who happens to have the plans to Chairman Dreck’s Deplanetizer. Ratchet and Clank set out to deliver these plans to Captain Qwark and the Galactic Rangers in order to put a stop to Dreck. You may have heard this story before and there’s two good reasons for that: firstly, as I alluded to, it’s a retelling of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and secondly you may have played it before on the PS2 because this is a ‘from the ground up’ reboot/remake of the first Ratchet and Clank game. Does it being reboot/remake mean you shouldn’t bother if you’ve played it on the PS2? No. In fact you owe it to yourself to play what I would argue has quickly become one of the PS4’s flagship exclusives.
As I mentioned, the game is a remake of the first Ratchet and Clank so the story is the same ‘A New Hope’ rehash that the original was. That’s by no means a bad thing because the A New Hope story happens to be a very good one and Insomniac do a fantastic job at putting its own spin on it. The game is also very self-aware and constantly makes fun of the fact that it’s a reboot. For example, early in the game when saying goodbye to a plumber he says ‘see you in the next reboot’ at which Ratchet looks confused. There are two key differences in the remake that are both welcome and help to differentiate it from the PS2 classic. The first is that Ratchet and Clank actually get along this time around, which means a lot of the original’s awkwardness is gone. The second difference is that the remake was released to tie into the movie version, which released simultaneously to the game. While the movie gives Ratchet his say, the game offers Captain Qwark’s point of view. That means that the reboot’s story has slightly changed to incorporate Qwark’s telling of the tale, which can only be a good [and heroic] thing.
Speaking of gameplay: it’s fantastic. The gunplay is tight and a large variety of weapons help you to melt, shoot, dance, zap and hack your robot enemies to death, at which point they explode into a satisfying firework display of Bolts. It might get boring if all you did was throw exploding disco balls at enemies and then light them on fire, but Insomniac has broken the game up into multiple sections so the flow never breaks and you never get bored. Breaking up Ratchet’s shoot-outs are platforming sections. They’re never very difficult but they’re really fun to play. Just when you’re getting fed up of shooting and platforming you’ll be sent up to space to fly Ratchet’s ship and blast enemies out of the sky. I have seen some reviewers complain about these sections but I honestly didn’t have a problem with them. To be fair, they’re not the most well put together sections but there’s so few of them in the game that it never really bothered me. Then there are puzzle sections for Clank to solve, which involve him using small ‘Gadgebots’ to open doors, build bridges or jump higher so he can navigate the environment. If shooting, platforming, spaceship flying and puzzling aren’t enough for you, then there’s also two hover-board race tracks, which are very well put together considering they’re such a small part of the game.
A big part of Ratchet and Clank involves travelling to various planets to unlock items that allow you to travel further into the game or backtrack to get collectables you couldn’t reach before. For example, you might need to find the magnetic boots on one planet to allow you to backtrack to an earlier planet and walk up a metal wall to get a collectable. The planets themselves are intricately designed to keep you moving forward so the flow never breaks. Each map is reminiscent of a mini-Dark Souls-like world in which every part of the level is connected and you can see areas that you can’t reach just yet at earlier stages of the level. They’re well laid out with a nice balance of platforming and enemy bashing. When you complete your final objective on a planet the game doesn’t force you to backtrack through the entire map to reach your ship, instead there’ll always be an elevator or taxi waiting to take you back there so the action doesn’t have to stop. Littered among the taxis, enemies and platforms are a handful of set-pieces. These range from a moving train (shout out to Uncharted 2!) to escaping an exploding ship. There’s only a few of them in the game but they’re yet another way in which Insomniac has broken up the gameplay so you have something different to do.
Many critics have been praising the game’s Pixar-style graphics, and for the most part I agree. However, graphics are the one area in which Insomniac shot itself in the foot. Some of the cut-scenes are ripped straight from the movie and look far better than those rendered in-game. It’s a pity that the studio didn’t opt for rendering all cut-scenes in-game because the in-game cut-scenes and the moment-to-moment gameplay really do look incredible. I would have been arguing that this is proof that games can, and currently do, look as good as animated movies but the transition between the scenes ripped from the movie and those rendered in-game are so jarring that they act as proof that games have not reached movie quality just yet. Another issue with the movie scenes is that every time one plays a pop-up appears on-screen to tell you that your PS4 cannot record the scene. It’s not a huge issue but it is annoying and could have been avoided if they just rendered everything in-game.
Ratchet and Clank sounds incredible. The soundtrack is made up of a mix that leans heavily on what might be considered a traditional sci-fi score with just a sprinkling of the Harry Potter soundtrack thrown in. Interjecting the game’s score is the unique sound created by each gun as you pull the trigger. The Groovitron breaks up the sci-fi score with a disco beat while the Sheepinator leaves a path of bleating sheep in its wake. Of course, the sweet sound of Bolts filling Ratchet’s wallet is probably the most welcome of all. Topping off the score and sound effects is the voice acting. Ratchet sounds enthusiastic, as you might expect the youngest member of the Galactic Rangers to, while Clank somehow manages to convey emotion through an emotionless robotic tone. A voice you’ll become very familiar with is Qwark’s as he tells the story and even comments over the gameplay in an often hilarious [and heroic] fashion. For example if you’re smashing crates he might remark “of course the Lombax showed a blatant disregard for public property.”
One thing that many of you may have noticed is the game’s price, it’s about half the price of any other new game on the market. Does that mean it’s short and lacks replay value? Absolutely not! It took me nine to ten hours to complete on my first playthrough, but that was with plenty of exploration and backtracking. The key words from the last sentence were ‘first playthrough’. After the credits rolled I immediately started a Challenge Mode playthrough and when they rolled again I started again to mop up the last few trophies. There’s just so much to do. One of the new collectables are Holocards. You can find Holocard packs hidden around the planets, or you can earn single cards from enemies. Holocards are a collectable with a function. Completing a set of three cards will do one of four things: increase your intake of Bolts, Raritanium, and Holocards, or unlock the Omega variant of a weapon for Challenge Mode. Then there’s the RYNO Holocards, which lead to you bagging the legendary gun if you find all nine. On top of Holocards there’s Golden Bolts. There’s a total of 28 of these spread across the galaxy just waiting for you to find them and just like the Holocards they’re collectables with a function. Finding Golden Bolts unlocks cheats, such as infinite ammo, along with other things I won’t mention here.
As I mentioned, there’s also Challenge Mode, which basically acts as New Game Plus. In Challenge Mode you get to keep all of your weapons, upgrades, Bolts, collectables, and so on in order to gather up the things you missed the first time around and further upgrade your weapons. I mentioned that completing a full set of Holocards allows you to buy the Omega variant of you weapons. Basically in your first playthrough you can upgrade weapons to level five by dealing damage with them, but the Omega variant will allow you to upgrade them to level ten in Challenge Mode. All of the collectables plus fully upgrading your weapons equals a game with a lot of replay value. The only minus here is the difficulty. You can choose from Easy, Normal or Hard. I went with Hard on my first playthrough and to be honest it was only a little challenging in a few areas. When I went with Normal for my Challenge Mode playthrough it was an absolute breeze. I know the game is aimed at children but a lot of adults will play it so it would be nice if there was an even harder level that forced you to tactically use the game’s wide variety of weapons.
I did mention a few minor complaints already and I do have a few more, but none of them should be bad enough to put you off Ratchet and Clank. Their just nit-picky complaints. Firstly there is a slight inconsistency in what can be destroyed. Obviously, if it’s a crate it can be broken – this is a video game after all. However, there is an obvious inconsistency in objects that are not crates. For example, you can destroy mailboxes, but not all mail boxes despite the fact that both the destructible and indestructible mailboxes are identical. I mentioned that Clank’s sections help to add a little variety into the gameplay, but it would be nice if they were skippable in Challenge Mode because once you’ve already figured out the puzzles you’ll simple be going through the motions the next time. This makes them a little bit boring during future playthroughs, which in turn breaks up the game’s otherwise perfect flow. There’s a wide variety of bosses who are all fun to take on. The problem is the majority of them are wedged into the latter half of the game, so it feels like you go from very few bosses for half of the game to nearly one an hour. It would’ve been nice if they peppered them out a little more evenly throughout the game. The only other minor complaint I have is the fact that one gun was locked behind a pre-order bonus, which means if you didn’t pre-order you’ll be forever staring at a blank space on your weapons wheel. Thankfully there’s so many other weapons it the game that you don’t really need any more… although it would be nice if there was a way to get it.
Ratchet and Clank is a testament to great game design. Everything in the game has a purpose and everything feeds into another thing. For example, Holocards lead to new gun upgrades, which allow you to make your weapons much more powerful, which means you can fight more efficiently to get more Bolts to make your weapons even more powerful and the cycle goes on. The game’s flow is nearly perfect and it constantly keeps the action engaging by throwing the player into a variety of situations, ranging from shootouts to puzzles to bosses. There’s so many things the review doesn’t even mention, such as the side activates like hoverboard racing or collecting brains for a scientist. The side activities also act as a nice break from the game’s fast pace if you feel you need it and they can leave you with a triumphant sense of fiero as you smash through your previous record on the hoverboard courses. That’s not to say the game is perfect, but none of its flaws (such as the use of movie scenes or inconsistency in destructibility) are major and are easily outshone by an otherwise incredible game.
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