Ratchet and Clank Review (PS4)
The Ratchet and Clank series has been around long enough to earn a number entries for the franchise. While most of them have been the third-person action platformers the series is known for, there have been outliers throughout the years. Games like Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault added things like drop-in drop-out co-op and tower defense elements to deviate from the formula. This year's revisiting of Ratchet and Clank attempts to take the series back to its roots, while also tying into the upcoming movie that retells the events of the first game. Ratchet and Clank isn’t a remaster or a direct remake of the original because of it. More than anything the changes made in this reboot have improved on what made the first game so memorable.
Ratchet and Clank is one the best looking PlayStation 4 games out right now. Calling a game that looks like a Pixar movie feels like underselling an art style and aesthetic that Insomniac has been building for over a decade. Ratchet the Lombax and Clank the failed Warbot look fantastic and moving the series to PS4 provides more than just a bump up in resolution for the series. Every different planetary setting feels like a part of its universe, as it should, and I ended up wanting to explore every nook and cranny of all the areas . Landing on a bleak, rainy planet inspires the same amount of curiosity as the lush, green populated planets in this game.
In that sense Ratchet and Clank has a bit of a Star Wars vibe, which might seem obvious so long after this series’ overarching plot and universe have been established. The same type of grandiose plot and believable universe is present here, only funnier. Ratchet and Clank is a funny game, the same type of self-referential humor that the series is known for is present here and is just at effective. It manages to be consistently funny thanks in part to its memorable characters.
Ratchet and Clank sticks closely to the plot of the original PlayStation 2 game, but told from the perspective of Captain Qwark. Qwark is introduced as he’s telling the story of Ratchet and Clank to a fellow prisoner. This is how the entire narrative of the game is framed. Every now and you’ll get Captain Qwark voiceover either telling you what to do next or narrating what you’re currently doing. This type of storytelling lets this remake deviate from the original game, which it does quite a bit. While the basic premise is the same --- stop chairman Drek from harvesting other planets to create a new home for the Blarg --- some details are different. Qwark’s motivations and the friendship between Ratchet and Clank are presented in a new way. Overall the story feels more complete and fits the revelatory nature of being told candidly by Captain Qwark.
Ratchet and Clank feels like a greatest hits of the series, featuring weapons and mechanics from across the franchise. Weapons from all throughout the series appear in this game and they showcase the over-the-top combat. Using ridiculous weapons like the Warmonger to blow up enemies, or the Sheepinator to turn them all into harmless sheep, is awesome and every weapon is satisfying to use. The weapon upgrade system and level-up mechanic from later games in the series is present here as well. Using weapons against enemies earns experience for that weapon and leveling each up grants new upgrades for purchase as well.
Experimentation is really encouraged with weapons since each one is useful from the start, and they all level up fairly quickly so you can have a fairly powered up arsenal even you like to switch between every weapon. Switching weapons using the weapon wheel feels great until you start to amass a large collection, where the game adds a second page to the wheel. This means that if you’ve filled up page one of your weapon wheel and want to try a newly purchased weapon you’ll have to flip to page two to select it. It may not not seem like a major downside but in the heat of battle it feels cumbersome.
In that regard this iteration of Ratchet and Clank doesn’t really change up the formula from the other earlier entries, but it all still works. The emphasis on action over platforming lets you go all out with your favorite weapons, and traversing each world with all of your upgrades hasn’t gotten old at all. Despite being so focused on combat there’s a lot of mission variety in this game. Meeting new characters, different set piece moments and the drastically different level design keep everything fresh throughout the game. One moment you’re escaping a sewer system to make way for a hoverboard race and the next you’re saving a planet being drained of all its water.
Boss fights are challenging and creative, but the oddly hitchy camera during these fights makes them very frustrating. Some bosses require to fly around the boss room to get more ammo, health or just to progress the fight with the camera locked onto them. That means that trying to traverse these large areas is a constant struggle against the camera. Losing camera control during these segments is frustrating to the point that it makes all boss fights except the first one the worst parts of the game.
Outside of its poor camera during boss fights Ratchet and Clank is fantastic. The lighthearted humor and combat still feel great today. This game also borrows a lot of its cutscenes from the upcoming movie and the this retelling of the original story feels better because of it. This game is a remake that improves upon the original in every way. It doesn’t take itself very seriously and its focus is on crafting a solid platforming experience around the series’ tried-and-true formula really works. This game being a re-imagining of the first Ratchet and Clank makes it not only a great entry point for the series, but more importantly a truly great game.
This review was completed with a purchased copy of Ratchet and Clank for the PlayStation 4.