I wrote in my last column that, despite supply chain issues, I have finally got my hands on a PlayStation 5 console, and it turns out to have been perfect timing to try one of its best games so far: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
It always takes a year or so for game developers to really start taking advantage of the added power of a new console, and the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated this as studios struggle to work from home. That means that most titles released to date for the PS5 and the other new console, the Xbox Series X, have been designed to also work on their predecessors, limiting what they can do.
Not so with the latest in the long-running Ratchet & Clank series. These are wacky sci-fi adventures starring Ratchet, a type of fox-like alien known as a Lombax, and Clank, his robot pal, and are known for their humour and outlandish weapons – imagine something between a Saturday morning television cartoon and Guardians of the Galaxy, but still smart enough to be engaging.
Rift Apart opens with a parade in the pair’s honour, and the PS5 makes it an absolute visual feast – the animation and fur of Ratchet’s face in close-ups matches anything movie studio Pixar can do. Of course, things don’t go as planned and the parade is invaded by the series’ baddie Dr Nefarious, who uses a weapon called the Dimensionator to break down the barriers between universes and send the pair on a quest to stop him. Our heroes work alongside their multiverse alter egos, Rivet and Kit, who you also play as throughout the game.
The dimension-hopping that results is where the PS5 really shines. I normally avoid talking tech specs in this column, but indulge me briefly. Both of the new consoles contain high-speed, solid-state drives (SSDs), which drastically reduce loading times. Not only does this mean you can boot into a game much faster, it also means developers can swap game resources in and out of memory extremely quickly without a loading screen. Rift Apart uses this to seamlessly transition you between dimensions, which is very impressive.
It is true that the game doesn’t make as much of this ability as it could – only one level sees you really flipping between dimensions with any regularity – but popping through different locations at speed is something we just haven’t seen in video games before. It even makes cinematic techniques such as hard cuts or split screens possible, both of which are rarely used in games.
Beyond the visuals, the draw of the Ratchet & Clank series is the huge range of inventive weapons you play with. My favourites include the Topiary Sprinkler, which releases a small turret that sprays enemies with water and turns them into topiary hedges, and the Lightning Rod, which shoots electricity that can arc from enemy to enemy and stun them. I also particularly enjoyed an item you get about halfway through the game that equips Ratchet and Rivet with rocket skates, allowing you to boost across levels at high speed.
All in all, I had a great time tearing through the game over a week or so, though as PS5 games now sell for £70, you might question whether you get your money’s worth (like most of the games I feature in this column, the publisher provided me with a review copy). It does at least have a challenge mode that unlocks once you beat the game and allows you to replay it with more advanced weapons.
I’m not going to pretend that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is particularly deep or has much to say about the state of the world, but sometimes you just want a really fun romp, and this it delivers.
Jacob also recommends:
Insomniac loves to put inventive weapons into its games, and the Resistance series is no exception. With a plot featuring Earth invaded by aliens in the 1950s, the third game in the trilogy is the best of the bunch.
Guardians of the Galaxy
If you haven’t seen this Marvel classic, sign up to Disney+ and enjoy a movie that is essentially Star Wars, but funny and with better music (sorry, John Williams).
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