Ratchet and Clank 2016 for the Playstation 4 is the first game of the series after the 2013 PS3 release Into the Nexus. Developer Insomnia serves the title as both a reboot of sorts and a direct call back to the duo’s first adventure in 2002 on the PS2. If you’re the type that gets annoyed with remasters and HD remakes, let me allay some of your concern by telling you that though there are certainly shot-for-shot remakes and the core framework remains nearly identical, there are plenty of new things to experience.
Ratchet and Clank PS4 takes the basic mechanics and worlds of the original and refines or expands them from level to level. The game releases just a few weeks ahead of the animated feature-film debut of the titular heroes, providing a glimpse of the fun and quality we can expect in theaters.
This is the classic ‘tail’ of the cat-like Lombax named Ratchet, who meets the escaped “defective” warbot whom he names Clank, and their quest to stop the annihilation of planets by the evil race known as the Drek. These literally cartoony villains are lead by their chairman with help from the sinister Doctor Nefarious, who went on to become the main antagonist for future R&C games.
Along the way Ratchet meets his idol, Captain Qwark, head of the Galactic Rangers. Through circumstance, Ratchet is eventually able to achieve his dreams and join the legendary group. It quickly become apparent that Qwark isn’t the hero everyone believes him to be.
The series is known for its humor and weaponry and both are used to great effect here. Qwark and his sidekicks, along with the enemies, all have fun personalities amplified by clever writing and excellent voice performances. Though the game relies heavily on combat along with its platforming, it’s a family friendly game in both action and character presentation.
Ratchet and Clank PS4 brings back the gadgetry of the 2002 classic but also integrates some of the favorites that have evolved over the long-running series’ life. Mr. Zurkon and the Groovitron are both here along with a host of other weapons, the list of which is so long that there are multiple weapon wheels to house them all. They can all be upgraded through usage and through a selective power-up system paid for by raritanium ore found throughout the numerous levels.
The old framerate “controversy” has reared its ugly head yet again, as Insomniac went for a 30 fps target. The great news is this 30 fps is really solid and handles nearly everything you throw at it flawlessly. Multiple groovitrons (disco balls that cause enemies within range to dance), proton drums (electric pulse drum that electrocutes all enemies nearby), along with homing missiles and other weapons, were deployed nigh simultaneously against groups of enemies, and the game ate them up and spat them out – dishing out pain to the bad guys on a level that only Mr. Zurkon and his Zurkon Jr. companion could appreciate.
Most of these weapons come with beautiful particle effects, and all the enemies have unique dance animations. It’s a pretty game. The worlds are diverse, yet familiar, with consistent art direction throughout the game. It’s fun to look at and fun to play. Ratchet and Clank will probably feel short to series veterans and more hardcore players. This is where Challenge Mode comes into play. Challenge Mode ups the difficulty by increasing enemies and the damage they do to our heroes. It also makes the six possible hoverboard races in the game significantly harder.
The final thing Challenge Mode offers helps to expand on the card collection system the game has in place. In various spots on each level, Ratchet (or Clank) can pick up card packs. Matching three cards in a series provides various boosts – more card drops, bolts, or raritanium. Rhyno cards are 9 unique collectibles that will unlock a weapon for use in-game. In Challenge Mode, completed card series for each weapon unlocks the Omega Version of said weapon. Pushing past the standard game mode level of five, Omega increases the limit to 10, while also unlocking new upgrade selections purchasable through raritanium drops. It’s a nice way to add some extra replayability and, indeed, challenge.
If you’ve never played a Ratchet and Clank game (especially for Microsoft fans new to Playstation systems as the series is a Sony-owned IP), this PS4 version is a perfect place to jump in. It’s a fun, lightly humorous mix that works for both adults and children, much as I expect the film to do. Weapons are fun and often funny and it’s a very good-looking title to boot. I highly recommend Ratchet and Clank for everything I’ve shared above and because you can have the game for just $39.99, a very appropriate price point for a well-done remake and reboot, all in one.
Reviewed from a personal copy.
Publisher: Sony | Developer: Insomniac Games | Platforms: PS4 | ESRB: E | Release Date: Available Now | Controls: Gamepad/Controller