Ratchet and Clank PS4 Review: Triumphant Return

The story of a hero's ascension, Ratchet and Clank is a "re-imagintion" of the original 2002 PlayStation 2 3D platformer that also ties in with the upcoming Ratchet and Clank movie.

Ratchet is an earnest anthropomorphic feline lombax who lives out his life on the desert planet Veldin, dreaming that he might one day become a Galactic Ranger like his hero, Captain Qwark. However, after trying out for the team in a regional trials, he's deemed unsuitable to join their ranks, and his dreams are dashed. Or are they? Fortunately, Ratchet gets his chance at high adventure when he bumps into runaway defect warbot Clank, who warns him that he's uncovered a diabolical galactic plot by arch-villain Chairman Drek involving the potential destruction of entire planets. And so begins Ratchet's meteoric rise as he attempts to save the day.

While this new take on Ratchet and Clank is based on the original fourteen-year-old title, many tweaks and overhauls have been made to the game to bring it bang up to date. Obviously, the most immediately notable are the audio-visuals, which are absolutely outstanding. Terrific-looking, often genuinely funny cutscenes seamlessly blend with action sequences to deliver a game that looks like a CGI movie. Yeah, you've probably heard that said numerous times before, but this game really does feel like it could have come from Pixar.

The expressive characters are beautifully rendered and animated. From the texture of Ratchet's fur through the way his ears and tail move as he runs and jumps around the environment to the light bouncing off Clank's metallic exterior, the attention to detail is truly outstanding. This quality extends to enemies too. There's a varied menagerie of critters and robots to fight throughout the game, and they're all just as well conceived as the heroes, with unique detailing that gives them their own personalities, whether it's ravenous land sharks gnashing their teeth, or armored warbots comically stomping towards you with all guns blazing.

Just as impressive are the backdrops, which are incredibly rich, and vary wildly from planet to planet. Oftentimes there's a myriad of things going on: Jet cars and craft zip past high in the sky, cityscapes offer impressive vistas, and massive factories belch smoke and fire. What helps make the game stunning to look at is the openness of many of its outdoor environments. There are few walls and cliffs to restrict views, and instead there's a tremendous feeling of depth and space as you look clear across the landscape to where you need to go.

Speaking of going places, Ratchet and Clank's adventure is a grand one that spans multiple planets, which essentially represent the game's levels. Things kick off with a nicely-designed training mission that helps get you up to speed with Ratchet's key mechanics of jumping, bashing things with his wrench, and using his arsenal of weapons, starting with just Fusion Grenades and a basic Combuster blaster. However, once Ratchet begins collecting the bolts from dispatched enemies and broken crates that form the game's main currency, he soon begins to expand his offensive capabilities. It's this available selection of purchasable weapons that's at the core of making Ratchet and Clank the enjoyably entertaining and wacky game it truly is.

Whether you're using the Groovitron to make enemies dance hilariously while a Proton Drum bashes out its destructive force, or you're turning enemies into retro-looking sprites with the Pixelizer and then pummeling them with bouncing Buzz Blades, Ratchet and Clank's varied weapons are almost all a joy to use. They each have unique functionality that makes them ideal in certain situations – and sometimes not so good in others. Experimenting with them and seeing what works best and when is one of the highlights of the game, especially when things go your way with spectacular results. That might mean blasting swarms of monsters with a Combuster, summoning a small army of robots with a Glove of Doom to do some serious damage to a tank, or sniping enemies from afar down the scope of a Plasma Striker.

The game's second currency is Raritanium, and, as the name might suggest, this is a more scare resource, usually found off the beaten track or sequestered away in dark corners where it's not immediately noticeable. It's used to upgrade weapons, but don’t expect to be able to improve your entire arsenal. Since this resource is scant, unless you're the most expert of scavengers, you're likely to only collect enough to be able to fully upgrade your favorite weapons – but this is no bad thing. Raritanium essentially lets you focus on the offensive capabilities that best augment your playstyle. For me, that involved upgrading the Combuster to a powerful Magmabuster, the ass-kicking Warmonger rocket launcher, and the highly useful Buzz Blades, which proved decisive in the final boss battle.

As well as upgrading your weapons with Raritanium, they also automatically level up as you use them, adding additional damage output. In this fashion, it's pretty much guaranteed that by the time you reach the latter stages of the game, you'll have a comprehensive selection of death-dealing kit that offers a wide variety of powerful offensive options – and you'll certainly need them. The last few levels are packed with enemies, and you need to use everything at your disposal to safely navigate through them.

Indeed, the entire journey through the game is a memorable and varied one. Ratchet and Clank provides an interesting spread of activities that test your gaming skills in a number of ways. As well as plenty of platforming to challenge you, there are rails to grind, hoverboard races to enter, flight sequences to tackle where you're taking down giant flying warships, swimming sections, and puzzles a-plenty. These are most common when you take control of Clank, and have to figure out how to guide the loveable sidekick through a series of rooms using different types of transformable bots to build bridges, power up doors, and jump up onto ledges. I really enjoyed these sequences, and while none of them were particularly tough, they provided a nice change of pace from the usual more hectic action.

It's this eclectic, yet seamless blend of varied gameplay that makes Ratchet and Clank such an enjoyable and entertaining rollercoaster ride. One minute you might be desperately trying to navigate a swiftly-flooding sewer, while the next you're strafing a giant-sized boss with all available weapons in an attempt to take it down. The way the game constantly twists and turns is a real delight, and you just never know what you're going to be challenged to do next.

After putting a lot of time into a number of gritty, realistic games recently, Ratchet and Clank has been a nice reminder of just how fun and lighthearted gaming can sometimes be. From its exceptionally-voiced cutscenes to its hectic boss battles, it's a beautifully-crafted 3D platformer that has few flaws. Sometimes using and switching between weapons can be a little clunky, and I did find the grind rail sections a little fussy in terms of their controls when jumping from one rail to another, but nothing seriously frustrated me. The final boss battle also spikes the otherwise fairly straightforward difficulty level somewhat, but other than that, Ratchet and Clank is a real joy to play.

I wish I was a kid again, because kids these days have it great when it comes to games.

Ratchet and Clank is exactly what I needed. In the midst of handling harder or more complex games like Black Desert Online, Enter the Gungeon, and Ashes of the Singularity, I needed something light and fun. Ratchet and Clank is bright and colorful, the story it tells is charming, and the game plays great. Is the shooting up to Gears of War standards? No, because it doesn't need to be. Is it the hardest game on the planet? Nope, I think I only died a five times at most. (There is a Hard difficulty available.)

I've never played a Ratchet and Clank game before. It's just one of those series that slipped by in my playing habits, like Jak and Daxter. It always looked a little kiddy and I wasn't always in the mindset to appreciate those games back in the day. So when I found this on the showfloor at E3 last year, it was a revelation to me. "What is this platformer with these amazing-looking levels?" I asked myself. "Ratchet and Clank? Didn't that already come out long ago? Is this a sequel?"

This title is Insomniac Games returning to the first game in the series in time for the theatrical release of the CGI animated film. We've reached the point where the animated film and the game itself are virtually indistinguishable. Ratchet and Clank of PlayStation 4 is a visual treat, jumping from world-to-world, each with a new theme and some great vistas. Insomniac also spent time crafting the subtle visual touches uses a lot of the power of the PlayStation 4 to do some great background storytelling, showing you situations that you'll be diving into soon enough.

Ratchet and Clank also keeps things moving. That's not just in the pacing of the story, which is rather brisk, but also in the game itself. You'll jump between melee combat, exploring, shooting, puzzle solving, platforming, and level-specific scenes like dogfights and hoverboard races. You're never really bored in Ratchet and Clank.

A veteran gamer will probably blow through the game in around 10-15 hours. There are 15 weapons to unlock over the course of your adventure and all of them are fun in their own way. I eventually gravitated towards certain items in my arsenal of crazy weapons, much like I did in Insomniac's crazy Xbox One platform Sunset Overdrive. Perhaps you'll rock the flame-throwing Pyrocitor or the Pixelizer, which turns enemies in voxels. Whichever items you choose, the upgrade system also allows for a certain degree of flexibility early on, though you'll have maxed out your favorites by the end.

Sometimes as avid gamer, I need a game like this. Something I can just sit back and enjoy. The tension is light, the graphics are a treat, and I fell in love with most of the primary cast. I never had time for games like Ratchet and Clank when I was younger, but now they're vacations from the status quo, like a number of Nintendo titles. If you're open to experiences like that - or if there are kids in your household - Ratchet and Clank is well worth it.

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