I can’t believe it has already been a year since Ratchet and Clank for the PS4 got released. Going in as a tie-in with the movie, but also representing the series’ original start, seems like a recipe for a mess. This is a game based of a movie, which was also based of a game and the only thing I can think of with similar caliber, is the video game adaptation of Street Fighter: The Movie. However, I do remember this remake fondly and even recommended it over the original. But now a year has gone by, and it is about time to have a final look at the series that, properly enough, ends where it all began. At least for now.
The origin as told by Qwark
Qwark is in a prison cell, where he meets another inmate that has gotten his hands on the new game, based of the movie, which is again based off the adventures that got Qwark locked up and Ratchet and Clank famous. After mocking the film (and rightfully so), Qwark begins to tell the inmate about how Ratchet really started his journey on becoming the hero we all know today. This is already a great way of starting out the story, since it retells both the original movie and the original game, and Qwark’s narration makes sense since the story would differ slightly from both source-materials. Not to mention, he is quite humorous and charming, adding in a lot of jokes throughout the adventure.
The game takes scenes from the movie and both cuts out scenes and adds new ones to make a more coherent and enjoyable whole. Elements such as how Ratchet was reckless and egotistical, is changed to make him more relatable and showing a good heart, and Clank comes of as an adorable, yet respectable sidekick. Sadly, the plot is rather straightforward and while there are a couple of memorable characters, there are just as many forgettable ones. This is a shame, as some of the characters you will often meet throughout the story, can feel like a regular NPC rather than a plot-important character. However, while the villains aren’t as bizarre and intriguing as before, they are still enjoyable and worth a chuckle.
The smartest move here, is how it makes all the jokes work. They are much quicker, making jokes more fun, and the story is shorter due to not dragging out scenes unnecessarily. They even joke about stuff that did not make sense in the movie and why crates contain ammo. This is where the story will win you over. It is just a shame 50% of the cast feels like filler that could have had more personality to them.
Story Score: 7/10
Fixing what was once broken
As a remake of the original, a lot has been fixed already. Ratchet and Clank is a platforming shooter, with many improvements over the original. While the familiar platforming-aspects, such as the returning double-jumps, wall jumps, glides, grapples and grappling hook are well used and still fun, long jumps and high jumps return with a simple button press instead of a combination of two buttons, which is a nice choice. Ratchet and Clank’s capabilities to traverse the worlds are well utilized in the level design, despite never reaching any height of creativity. Even the ability to swim is a something you have from the beginning, which is great for exploration.
What has always been the meat of the series is the shooting, and it has gotten a major upgrade compared to the original. Taking a note from later games, you can now strafe and auto aim if an enemy is close enough, depending on the weapon. For example, the pistol will have an easier time targeting enemies that are further away than the bomb-glove does. The weapons feature a couple of new ones and some from other games, while excluding the lesser ones from the original. Because of this, the weapons are much better balanced and feel more unique, making shooting enemies a ton of fun. From the pixelator and groovatron to the flamethrower and rocket-launchers, all are a treat to play around with. The enemies also complement the shooting, as there are some hard ones to fight against and they can come in plenty at once. They are never cheaply placed and will always keep you on the move, since you will have to jump, dodge and shoot back at them.
The weapons can be leveled up to level 5 by using them, and upgraded more specifically using raritarium. When raritanium is in use, you will be able to choose how to level up each weapon through a skill-tree, which will make you become even stronger. You will easily find some that will be your favorite, but since raritanium is not as rare as in previous titles, you can now much more freely experiment with what setup you like. You will also level up your health by killing enemies, so going nuts with the shooting is what the game wants you to do. The bosses are also a blast to fight against and will test the your skills.
The levels have also changed in some parts and some have been entirely cut, and all for the better. Planets are lovely designed, full of different enemies that vary up the challenge, fun platforming, and unique objectives. Some even feature sidequest that can give you more goodies to hold onto. Making it easier to reduce backtracking, the objective-list also tells if a planet needs something from another to finish a mission. Some levels will also have a huge focus on some equipment Ratchet and Clank will acquire. One is a Jetpack-segment, where you must collect brains and fly to explore, while another will make you grind on rails and dodge trains. Both are great for varying up the more traditional setup and are in tone with the game’s shooting and platforming mechanics. The only one that is not as intriguing are the metal-boots, since while they are good for exploration, they only give you the ability to walk on certain places and not much more.
However, while the shooting and platforming have, for the most part, been what was most enjoyable about the Ratchet and Clank series, the other elements have been all over the place in quality, and this instalment follows that trend. First, while the wrench will usually be used for opening doors when not destroying crates for ammo or bolts, some guns will be used for opening specific doors and moving tons of water. The water gun is a decent idea, but never fully utilized, making it more of a minor fetch quest that is entirely forgettable. The other one is more interesting, since you will be hacking and put into a minigame. Here, you must make lasers shoot on specific surfaces by rotating 3 to 5 circles, but you will also have to take in mind that you will affect other circles as you rotate them. It is incredibly cool and a good brainteaser. Lastly, the hologuise is only used for a stealth-segment one time and is a shallow inclusion meant only to add something from the movie.
There are also some far worse. Ratchet will have a turret section that is below average, where you must shoot specific ships to charge up rockets and use them on bigger ships. It is static and uninteresting, especially due to how much more fun the normal guns are. Flying your ship in the minor areas isn’t much better, as it is stiff to control, and only seems added in because the movie had it. I never even did a barrel roll once, since the combat never required any skills. It is luckily only three times you will have to deal with it, but all three are shallow nonetheless.
They really should have added more challenging enemies with more versatile maneuvers. Then there are Clank’s part. You will be set in linear platforming-stages where his main ability is to pick up and throw both robots and grenades. The robots can be changed into 3 different forms; powerbot will give electricity, springbot will make a spring, and brigdebot will create a bridge. The puzzles are fast-paced, but Clank’s segments still are not much more than mediocre due to being so straightforward. It is a cool idea for puzzles, but too restricted. There is some combat in them, but with just a 3-hit combo and lackluster enemies, it makes Final Fight look like Devil May Cry. The only part of playing as Clank that was entertaining were the chase-segments. While running from a giant robot, you will have to dodge incoming fire and obstacles, making it simple, but enjoyable and hectic.
Lastly, there is one minigame that is quite fun for Ratchet: the Hoverboard races. These are amazingly fun, with good obstacles, good controls, and a mechanic where you must do tricks to build up a boost. This is fun, with great stages that even include some fun shortcuts, ramps and speed boosters. I would actually not mind seeing this more fleshed out, as it has a lot of potential.
As you can see, there is some variety that is shallow and some that is enjoyable. Luckily, the more annoying and poorer parts of the game are short and never stay too long, making it easy to enjoy the more entertaining parts, which will especially be the shooting and platforming. While it follows the concepts of the older titles by adding variety, it also remembers to reserve most of the playtime for shooting and platforming.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
PS4 powers pushed to the sky
This is a gorgeous game and a fantastic showcase of what the PS4 can do. The beautiful lighting mixed with so many details, such as the grass waving in the wind and the alien creatures and vehicles in the air. Not to mention to see so many enemies on the screen with huge draw distance, is simply impressive.
The art-direction is almost on par, with plenty of colors and different locations to visit. Some have had some changes to make planets even more interesting, such as Batalia being covered in snow and has inhabitants representing the environment well, while Novalis simply has gotten a gorgeous update. All are varied and beautiful. Ratchet, Clank and all the other characters are also well designed, but while Ratchet’s animations are stretchy , the rest of the cast have some stiff animations that is unfortunate when they have such a cartoony artstyle. Despite this, the variety in enemy and characters are quite nice, giving each planet their own feel and culture. The cutscenes have been lifted from scenes of the movie, but also include some original ones and you can’t really tell which is new and which is not. Both look fantastic and it is easy to see why they finally made a movie, despite it being lackluster.
In the sound-department, all voice actors do a good job representing their roles with each character feeling unique and alive despite how stiff they can be visually. The subtle sounds of what terrain you are running on and all the different noises your guns make, are also as fantastic as ever. Even better, is the music. There are so many instruments and variations used in this mix between symphony and techno, it creates grand and lovely mix between symphonic and techno. It is quite a feat to make the new tunes triumph over the original, so a big applause for Mike Raznick, who even had a hand in Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! The only issue that drag the presentation down, is the frame rate. It can take a drop when there are plenty of enemies on the screen and it is in general only 30FPS. The blooming-effect when you turn the camera is also an odd inclusion, but luckily not terrible. On the artistic aspect, the later levels get a bit too repetitive with enemy-variety, which is unfortunate. Despite these, it is a fantastic-looking game.
Presentation Score: 8.5/10
The golden bolts return and are found throughout the stages, and this time they unlock quite a lot. Through these enormous collectibles, you can acquire appearance settings such as heads for Ratchet and a couple of cheats, which are the highlights. There is also an image gallery to unlock through this, but you might as well browse for these pictures on Google. It is quite fun to search out the Golden Bolts, despite it not being too hard to do so, and should it be, you can acquire a map that outright tells you where they are.
New game+, or challenge mode as it is otherwise known, also returns, with the ability to multiply bolt pickups if you shoot enemies constantly without getting hit yourself. This you’ll want to do, as the weapons you got to level 5 in the first run can now be further upgraded to Omega versions for even more chaos. It is insanely fun to revisit the game and know that you can upgrade your favorite equipment even further.
A new collectible in this installment are the holo cards. These trading cards come in packs of three when found in the world or collected one at a time by defeating enemies. These include fun descriptions of people, weapons and places, however if you get a set of 3 in the same series, you can either unlock Omega versions of guns for challenge mode or other, small extras, such as stat-boost for weapons. Like trading cards, you will get a random card as you pick them up, but if you get 5 duplicates of any card, you can trade them in for a new one, which is a clever move. Some rare cards will also unlock the strongest weapon in the game, which will be more beautiful to use than the fourth of July.
Extra Score: 9.5/10
Ratchet and Clank for the Playstation 4, shows that Insomniac knows what made the series so memorable and how it can work with a next-gen system. It treads in some familiar territories to make it just under fantastic and the fact it had to base itself on the movie, is not helping much. But these are thankfully minor issues and the side-objectives that are fun, are really enjoyable. Fixing most of the issues the original had, certainly made it more than just a simple remake. A great and enjoyable platforming shooter no PS4 owner should be without.