Unlike most AAA studios, Insomniac has a personality; it is why I have been a fan of the studio’s games for years. From grinding on rails in the vibrant Sunset City in Sunset Overdrive to swinging in New York as Spider-Man, I know I can always count on these developers for a stylish action-adventure game with plenty of charm and color. Its flagship franchise Ratchet & Clank returns with Rift Apart, the first PS5 exclusive for the studio. With all of the things I adore about these games, the latest adventure with the Lombax and his shiny pal, check every box and more as this is easily going in my top five favorite releases of the year.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is available now on the PS5. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Story – Nefariously Epic
Celebrating another win, the two heroes are at a parade until, of course, things go terribly wrong. As Clank (David Kayne) is ready to gift the Dimensionator, a tool to open portals into other dimensions, to his buddy Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) to find other Lombaxes, their nemesis Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman) swoops in to take the present. One thing leads to another, and all of reality is ripped apart. The two are separated, and they must rejoin to stop the evil robotic villain. With higher stakes than ever before, Insomniac delivers one of its most epic stories to date.
In the separation, Clank meets another Lombax named Rivet (Jennifer Hale), who joins him on his quest to stop his Nefarious and reunite with his best friend. I say his Nefarious as in Rivet’s universe; there is another headache-inducing maniac who is actually Emporer Nefarious (Robin Atkin Downes). Everything in her world has twists on classic characters like the antagonist to the places you visit throughout the experience. It is refreshing yet familiar in a way that works so well. It avoids feeling like it is rehashing old ideas, but instead, it twists it to find a striking balance for seasoned players and newcomers alike.
Kayne and Taylor have perfected the chemistry between these iconic PlayStation heroes since the second game (since Taylor was not Ratchet in the franchise’s debut). I adore their friendship, and it continues to shine strong due to the strong writing and their performances.
Downes and Shimerman as a duo of mass destruction is a blast. Shimerman continues to crush it as this iconic character who is both goofy and brilliant. He gets some of the best lines in the game that made me laugh. Meanwhile, Downes is a welcome addition who made his role differ from the OG Nefarious that fans have gotten to know over the years.
While the whole cast has done remarkable work across their careers, especially with this latest neon-lit AAA title, but Hale rules above them all. Ever since the first trailer that showed her, social media exploded, and I was taking part in it. I was intrigued by this woman Lombax, and I fell in love with her right away. She has depth to cover every bit of ground needed to make her stand out in the time that she has, which is split fairly evenly between her and her yellow counterpart. She won me over and is an icon that deserves to be featured in future installments. Please, Insomniac, do this for me.
The writing makes a lot of sense why it is so strong. Lauren Mee, who has written at the deceased Telltale Games, and Sam Maggs, a comic book writer who has worked on Captain Marvel, both crushed it as they perfectly matched what it should feel like to interact with these characters. They did not miss a beat with them, making it feel like the two have spent their whole careers writing for Insomniac. Matching the tone that is fun and quirky while still hitting those emotional beats.
Gameplay – Delightfully Explosive
If you played a Ratchet & Clank game, then you know what to expect. A fluid moving third-person shoot with plenty of platforming. It feels better than ever with new mechanics and the superb Dual Sense controller. Every weapon brings something different to my fingers, pressing the triggers as I blast robots and aliens to smithereens. The haptic feedback makes sure I feel every bolt I collect and every step I take. With so much going on, this is the most dynamic experience I have had so far on my PS5.
Ratchet and Rivet’s arsenal of mass destruction is impressively varied; with devastatingly cool throwable gadgets and guns at my disposal, it can be hard to choose what I want to use in the best way imaginable. Each feels unique, with something that helps in every situation I am in. It is something Insomniac has mastered by delivering weapons that are both useful, fun, and creative. Everything from Mr. Fungi, a mushroom drone that shoots enemies, to The Enforcer, a powerful shotgun that destroys everything in its path. Somehow, it gets better as some firearms can have an alternative capability when pulling the appropriate trigger halfway, like locking on with the Drillhound.
Leveling up weapons is simple; you use it, and it gains experience, which opens the door for more upgrades. The vendor, Ms. Zurkon (Ali Hillis, who reprises her role from the 2016 retelling), offers new killer tools that are bought with bolts and skill trees to enhance them further, which require Raritanium. It makes a huge difference, especially when filling golden slots that give an extra boost from normal slots or can significantly alter the weapon. It is a meaningful way to introduce new ways to cause destruction, and with its steady handout of new items, it continues the excitement.
Insomniac always knows how to make movement feel so smooth and satisfying. From boosts, swings, dashing, wall running, and more, it makes going around faster and more fluid than any entry in the long-running PlayStation exclusive franchise. Mastering how to pair jumping through a rift to immediately dashing took me some time to get down, but soon enough, I was zooming through levels to get from point A to B. I can do it all day and never get bored, which says a lot based on how much I already love the combat.
When it comes to shooting around or traveling around planets, my main gripe is that Rivet and Ratchet feel the same. All progress between upgrades and new equipment transfer over, which is brilliant game design, but I wish there was more than her hammer and his wrench. Even though Peter Parker and Miles Morales are Spider-Man, the different animations made a difference when beating on bad guys as I recently replayed Spider-Man then jumped into Miles Morales earlier this year so that I could tell the difference between the two wall-crawlers.
Enemy variety is so good. I kept getting new types of robots or aliens to fight with different movesets. The bosses were not so varied, many of which were reused in battles. Two or three of which were incredibly epic, but the rest were fun, tougher foes who did not match the scale of their comrades.
Like previous iterations, Clank has levels away from the action and his companion. This time around, he tries to do his part in fixing the dimensional rifts as he guides copies of himself to a locked door. Throwing orbs with different effects to guide these ghostly versions of himself to the goal. His puzzle-focused levels are simple enough not to be frustrating but clever enough to make me think and feel smart when I complete them. It gives a nice breath of fresh air as I step away from explosions and gunshots.
A new subsection that gives a new flavor of combat is Glitch (Sara Amini), an AI Ratchet uses to clear out viruses in locked computers. The spider robot gameplay gives a different feel compared to the Lombaxes agile movement. Walking up certain walls and finding platforms that will deactivate shields to destroy nests is basic and not that fun. I appreciate it for trying something different, but it is a little tedious and got stale quickly.
Exploration on the tight levels works so well that I don’t feel overwhelmed trying to search for collectibles or supplies; instead, I can leisurely look around, especially with the game’s intuitive map. It would all fall apart if it weren’t for the excellent level design that both feels unique between each environment and makes anything I do enjoyable. Battling it out with Nefarious’ goons is a destructive treat while finding hidden treasure is creatively hidden in a way that makes sense and not some frustratingly uncreative way to keep me looking and spending more time in Rift Apart. These developers are not wasting anyone’s time.
Collectibles are a hit or a miss for me when playing any game. But for Insomniac, I always go for it, whether it is backpacks in Spider-Man or Golden Bolts in Ratchet & Clank. Golden Bolts will offer cosmetics and cheats, the newly introduced Spybots and Lorbs will give a deeper look at the lore with a goodie if you collect them all (I am in the progress of that, and you bet I will get them all after this review is published).
Finally, you can get new armor that when a set is complete, you get a bonus to your stats like X percent more melee damage. It can be customized with various color presets, and each one has its unique look to fit anyone’s desires. This is really how a developer nails having things for players to snag by giving a meaningful incentive, something the company has mastered across its various projects.
Rifts impact the story, but the gameplay could be more interesting and creative. From zipping to a rift to get onto a platform to crystals that will alter the world, you are into a dystopian alternative; it has some range but mostly does not enhance the experience. The first I mentioned only get to points of interest that I can normally find another way of getting to. The latter, while mind-blowing, only features a handful of times, not enough to make a huge difference in the overall experience.
One of the side activities blends the idea of different dimensions with Pocket Dimensions. It is a fractured dimension that consists of platforming to earn a piece of armor. Of all of the different rifts, it is the most interesting to blend the new mechanic with a core element of the gameplay.
While not much of a game-changer, going from one dimension to another shows off the power of the PS5’s SSD. Even though it feels more like a gimmick than something to give my time saving the universe more weight, it is impressive how it loads. Traveling to a planet is seconds while going into a Dimensional Pocket or swapping realities by hitting purple crystals is instantaneous. Every time I was blown away, no matter how many times I went through a portal into another world.
The SSD became more impressive during the more cinematic setpieces where I would be fighting a boss or traversing through an area to get teleported left and right to different worlds. As these things happened, I was stunned by how it ran so smoothly and seamlessly.
Most planets have an optional quest, like helping the locals of an area or doing challenges in Zurkie’s Battleplex, an arena that offers interesting obstacles like battling enemies with a particular weapon or with zero gravity. Each one is memorable and, of course, offers an irresistible treasure like a Golden Bolt or piece of armor to entice me.
Challenge Mode is its version of a New Game+ to replay the campaign on a harder difficulty with all progress kept to make it easier to gather anything missed the first time around. On top of the collectibles and challenges, it is just another reason to keep riding this rollercoaster.
Accessibility options are becoming a new point that needs to be addressed in gaming. While most have either ignored it or slapped on generic settings, the team at the Burbank-based company did it justice with a wide range of settings for gamers who need it. From auto-aim to visual adjustments for anyone who needs it. Outside of the options menu, skipping puzzles like Glitch’s virus battles and giving previews to what weapons do before purchasing is another way the door is kept open for the most casual of gamers.
Graphics and Audio – Deliciously colorful
The stylized look of Rift Apart is jaw-dropping. Details like smoke from a fire to particle effects from exploded boxes and high fidelity make it feel real while having the Pixar-like aesthetic to keep vibrant and eye-catching.
Three setting options are available to set your preference regarding resolution and frame rate. Fidelity is the 4K mode with 30 FPS and ray tracing; performance RT keeps the ray tracing while having a dynamic resolution that is a little bit lower and ups the frame rate to 60, and finally there is the performance mode which takes away ray tracing from its RT enabled counterpart. As a PC snob, I need that frame rate, but I wanted it to be pretty, so I chose performance RT. It worked wonderfully, as it did in the remaster of Spider-Man and in Miles Morales, by making these worlds ever more beautiful while making my game run silky smooth.
One of my favorite aspects that makes Rift Apart so gorgeous is its colors. Every object and character pop with this delicious color palette. Whether it was within my first hour to the final few seconds before the credits started to roll, I was in awe by everything I saw and interacted with.
Every planet had its personality, from the neon-lit Corson V (Nefarious City) to the acidic swamps of Sargasso. Whether it was a returning world from a previous game that had an alternate dimensional twist or a brand new place to visit, it all stood as individual areas that I cannot forget.
You can’t have a game this beautiful without a photo mode. It is full of customizable options to get the best picture with lighting adjustments, fun poses for the Lombaxes, and playing or pausing effects like explosions to make it that much more spectacular.
The craftmanship of the sound design is immaculate. The Dual Sense pinging when I hit metal with my melee attack is another wonderful addition to Sony’s brilliant controller. Hearing the range of sounds from different blasters captures how a cartoony sci-fi adventure should feel and sound like. It makes the light-hearted, and dramatic beats hit that much harder while the gameplay is as immersive as it can be.
The music hit a little weirdly for me as it was impactful, but not all that original. It was a typical orchestral score that mixed being effective and not all that memorable. Still, when the music swells, I could not help but feel the emotion of every scene.
This review of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was played on a PS5.