Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart review | The boys are back in town and they truly bring the PS5 to life

The titular duo makes its first appearance for around five years in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart that releases on PS5 on Friday

I’ve always found the word ‘moreish’ to be one of the clunkiest and clumsiest creations in the English language. It’s not even about slang or colloquialisms. Had that been the case, the likes of the cringe-inducing ‘hench’ or the frankly stomach-churning ‘pash’ (Thank you, Australia) would’ve been high up the list.

No, this is about regular garden variety English words that are just plain inelegant, heavy-handed and exasperating; like the word ‘nonplussed’ — a word that actually means the opposite of what it sounds like it means. Moreish, on the other hand, means exactly what it sounds like: Something that makes you want more.

It’s a terribly literal word that’s been around for over 300 years, and despite sounding like fingernails down a chalkboard, it actually best describes Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. It’s really hard to get enough of it. We’ll return to this point shortly.

The PlayStation 5 exclusive is the first new game in the franchise since 2013’s Into the Nexus on the PS3. The PS4 did see the release of a Ratchet and Clank game — the eponymous 2016 title, but it was a reimagination of the original 2002 game on PS2. In other words, not technically a new game in the strictest sense of the term.

What this essentially means is that after 14 or 15 releases — spanning original titles, spinoffs and collections — on the PS2 and PS3, the series seemed to have gone into hibernation, emerging only very rarely to wave a furry paw. It’s worth asking then: Will the duo have the same impact in 2021 as they did back in the heyday of the PS2 and PS3?

On the evidence of Rift Apart, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

I should probably preface my thoughts on the game by admitting that this is my first foray into Ratchet and Clank’s universe; ergo, my first brush with its gameplay mechanics, its array of intriguing characters and its lore. And so, if I come across like a grown-up man seeing a car for the first time, you’ll know why. Consider yourself duly warned.

A third-person action-adventure game — much like its many predecessors, Rift Apart is a fast-paced, run-and-gun title that makes fantastic use of its numerous gadgets and gizmos. The combination of weird and wonderful projectile weapons and the Omniwrench (Ratchet’s melee weapon) makes for a shooting-melee hybrid combat experience that’s almost as smooth as anything the Devil May Cry series has to offer.

Watch the Tech2 Breakdown to learn more about combat mechanics, basic plot and more:

We could spend all day talking about the amount of work that seems to have gone into making Clank’s shiny noggin extra-shiny (enough to justify all the new ray-tracing technology) or how fluffy Ratchet’s fur is (as also, how it gets all matted when he gets splashed by a puddle of water), or how beautiful the rest of the game looks.

We could equally spend hours talking about the concise and well-crafted plot that lends itself to a tight 18-hour-long adventure. Hell, we could even talk about how the voice-acting is largely very solid. I’d go on, but there’s a lot we could discuss about Rift Apart, but none of those are the real story here.

There are two particularly standout aspects of the game that I feel need to be highlighted more than others, and the first of which is its ‘resemblance’ to a certain subversive franchise of animated films that made its debut 20 years ago: Shrek. Just as Shrek successfully disguised a tale replete with reasonably grown-up themes as a cute and cuddly animation, so too does Rift Apart package a tale with reasonably grown-up themes and action as a cute and cuddly game.

Underpinned by the twin themes of brokenness and searching for a sense of belonging — themes that aren’t particularly hard to identify with these days, Ratchet and Clank (who are separated at the very start of the game) take very different journeys to find each other and themselves by the time the credits roll. The two new characters the game introduces — Rivet (a lombax like Ratchet) and Kit (a robot like Clank) — are well fleshed-out and do a great job of pushing the story forward.

But it’s not just in the story that Rift Apart proves to be rather Shrek-like. While the 3D platforming and puzzles are quite facile, the action is competent and challenging (if you set the difficulty sufficiently high) enough to belong in a more brutal and ‘grown-up’ (for want of a better word) game.

The other outstanding aspect of Insomniac’s latest offering is its moreish (there’s that word,… unfortunately) nature. Sure, the story is engaging and full of moving beats, and the game is packed with enough jaw-dropping set pieces that will make you go, “Uncharted, who?”; but the real appeal of Rift Apart is in the fact that it keeps calling you back for more.

Insomniac is no stranger to the art of making games with the sort of addictive gameplay (traversal and combat alike) that makes you want ‘just five more minutes’ or ‘one last try’. Take Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, for instance. And with Rift Apart’s variety of different weapons and methods of traversal to augment the experience, and decent (but by no means overwhelming) array of collectibles to keep you interested, Insomniac has struck gold once more.

However, it’s more than just game design that shines here; it’s also a perfect understanding of the hardware that comes to the fore. Rift Apart makes good use of the DualSense controllers for its vast array of projectile weapons and decent use of the PS5’s 3D audio — although not to the same extent as Returnal. The feature that Ratchet and Clank’s latest outing takes most advantage of though is the console’s SSD drive.

The speed of the SSD (particularly when compared with HDDs of old) particularly comes to the fore in the game’s ridiculously tiny load times and the way it generates scenery and NPCs when you jump from one dimension to another. And while the seamless dimension-jumping makes for an excellent gameplay mechanic, it’s the near-non-existent load times that enable and enhance the game’s ‘moreishness’.

If I had to express a gripe, it would be that playing as Rivet isn’t at all different when compared to playing as Ratchet. But that’s a tiny quibble in an otherwise blemish-free report card.

Taking its accessibility, fun factor and addictiveness into account, it’s easy to draw one major conclusion: If Returnal truly kicked off the latest generation of games consoles, Rift Apart makes the PS5 a whole lot of fun.

Game reviewed on PlayStation 5. Review code provided by publisher.

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