One of my fondest memories of the PS2 era is loading up the original Ratchet & Clank for the first time on a friend’s console. It was one of those moments when you’re young (I was fifteen at the time) and your tiny mind is simply blown by something amazing. It captured something truly incredible, even more so than one of my all-time favourite games, Silent Hill 2 (which had similarly blown my mind a year earlier). While the latter scared the crap out of me and had some deeper themes I didn’t truly appreciate until I was much older, the adventures of a young Lombax saving the galaxy was something I easily related to in my mid-teens – that intangible thirst for adventure, thrills and excitement. As an added bonus it was also a game my parents wouldn’t frown upon while watching me play (I can’t say the same about Silent Hill). Fast forward to 2016 where I am nearing my thirties and we have a brand new reimagining of Ratchet’s first adventure on PS4. But can lightning strike twice? If I take off the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia and don the cold steel frames of the seasoned gaming cynic does it still hold up? Fortunately, this reimagining (and feature film tie-in) has not only managed to succeed in capturing that same sense of wonder I had back in 2002, but trumps the experience in almost every conceivable way and in my mind has emerged as one of the best games of this generation.
Pixar is that you?
Ratchet is a young mechanic working in a garage on the planet Veldin, and is dead-set on trying out to become a part of the Galactic Rangers (a Guardians of the Galaxy-type crew of heroes who, you guessed it, protect the galaxy). It just so happens that tryouts for the Rangers are being held and Ratchet heads off to do his thing. Turns out he doesn’t exactly have the most sound background check (too many cool illegal gadgets. Bad Ratchet!), and is subsequently turned away. As this all unfolds, we meet Clank and learn about his origins as a defect Warbot. Instead of being sent to the scrap, Clank escapes and finds himself crash landing at Ratchet’s doorstep. As the two embark on a journey to save the galaxy by themselves it just so happens that the Blarg leader, Chairman Drek (the bugger behind all these Warbots), is planning intergalactic war and total planet domination. Will they succeed? Will the Galactic Rangers find it in their hearts to let Ratchet join the ranks? Well, you will have to find out, as this is a tale that begs to be experienced first-hand through the eyes of our two heroes. Nostalgia plays a huge part in this reboot, and it has its old skool fans firmly in its Pyrocitor sights. There’s a ton of nods to the original series and it treads the same narrative ground (although there are some great surprising tweaks to the story for this reimagining), but regardless of whether you’re familiar with the series or not the game is incredibly accessible and features a witty and ultimately charming story about following your dreams – it’s the stuff that makes even this grown man smile ear to ear as I remember those lofty ambitions as a child of becoming a hero.
It’s the stuff that makes even this grown man smile ear to ear as I remember those lofty ambitions as a child of becoming a hero.
Fast & Furious: Veldin Drift
The characters are sublime, and the original voice actors for Ratchet and Clank (James Arnold Taylor & David Kaye respectively) are back and sounding better than ever. Some well-casted newcomers also lend their pipes to the game including Paul Giamatti, Rosario Dawson and Bella Thorne (they also star in the feature film). The cast is spot-on and it is easy to tell they are having fun with the quirky roles they are all playing. The writing is a blast and quite literally, laugh out loud funny. It is aimed at a younger audience, but like a lot of great children’s films it has a lot of adult jokes poking around as well for us big kids. The music is also brilliantly executed, with a sweeping orchestral score that reminded me a lot of John Williams’ work on Star Wars and Jurassic Park, but there’s also a modern edge to it in the form of electronic and intricate elements as well. Everything sounds amazing and it is a credit to the SFX designers on making such a cartoony, outlandish world sound so convincingly like it’s its own living, breathing entity.
The universe that you have to explore is one of the best looking things currently on PS4, easily on par with a Pixar film. The backgrounds are alive with bustling ships, landscapes and vast planets and I often found myself just stopping to admire the world around me. The title buzzes along at a locked 30 FPS, and I experienced no dips in frame rate. Higher framerate is sacrificed in order to present a veritable barrage of detail in the graphics department, and oh boy is it worth it. There’s a near constant cacophony of bolts, bullets and enemies whizzing around its beautiful environments, but even with all this going on Ratchet and Clank mostly avoids the pitfall of being too chaotic… mostly. Occasionally I felt there may have been just a bit too much happening on screen that I couldn’t keep up with what exactly I was shooting at. Not a true complaint as such but an issue I found myself running into during the bigger fight sequences. At the end of the day however, it’s clear that Insomniac have poured a lot of love into the project, and there’s a sense of profound pride and unity of vision in this beautiful universe they have crafted.
Winner winner Lombax dinner
With a blast away 3D platformer like this, gameplay is king and pretty much everything in this regard is on point. The old skool strafing, grappling and jumping is back as it was in the original games but adds all the polish you could dream of to make it even fluid and responsive. And the guns, OH THE GUNS. Insomniac have gone to town on providing one of the wildest sets of weapons in the series. There’s a lot of returning favourites like the trash-talking pew-pew robot bodyguard Mr. Zurkon and the ridiculous Groovitron that sends enemies into Saturday Night Fever dance floor mayhem, but there’s also some brilliant new guns to play with. My personal favourite, The Pixelizer, blasts enemies into 8-bit versions of themselves and scatters Space Invaders-style bricks and blocks all over the place – It may be one of the best guns ever seen in a video game and it’s one I never got tired of using.
RPG elements also find their way into the reboot as you can customise each and every weapon to your liking through upgrades obtained with Raritanium, a crystal source that lies scattered around the planets you will visit throughout the adventure. With such a vast array of upgrades and big changes to how the weapons function I found myself upgrading almost everything to at least a halfway point and never really focused on just one weapon (apart from the Pixelizer, I couldn’t get enough of it). The RPG elements have enough depth to them and reward certain play styles which was a welcome addition to an already great system of getting the most out of your weapons.
With such a vast array of upgrades and big changes to how the weapons function I found myself upgrading almost everything to at least a halfway point
When Clank moves you move. Just like that
The reimagining of Ratchet & Clank is one of the best titles on the PS4 right now and any owner of the console owes it to themselves to pick it up and have a blast. The developers have created an adventure that goes above and beyond almost anything on the market right now in terms of pure enjoyment, no matter what age you are. Insomniac have set the benchmark for how reboots should be done by crafting a story and world that is rich in humour, great characters, nostalgia and most importantly, fun. It is very hard to fault this one and a few minor quibbles aside, Ratchet & Clank is near flawless.
Welcome back my old Lombax pal!