Ratchet & Clank - Review

http://invisiblekidreviews.blogspot.de/2016/04/ratchet-clank-review.html

Ratchet & Clank are back, but this time, their next adventure doesn't take place in the future but the past.
Coinciding and based on the feature Ratchet & Clank film, Ratchet & Clank's first PS4 game serves as a reimagining of the very first PS2 game.
With Insomniac Games once again at the helm and visuals now expectedly updated, the question is whether Ratchet & Clank on PS4 also manages to bring enough novelty to the table or whether it's enough for it to rely on classic formula fueled by nostalgia?
Is it a Ratchet & Clank worth playing or is it nothing but a cheap movie-tie-in cashgrab?  


Story

The plot:
The game starts with Ratchet on Veldin trying to sneak out of Grim's Garage, his place of employment and residence, to go to the Galactic Ranger tryouts. Grim lets him go after they begin repairs on a ship and, while he aces the physical portions of the tryouts, his background check causes him to be declined by Qwark and the rangers Cora and Brax. Meanwhile, at a factory on Quartu, Chairman Drek, the leader of the Blarg Race who's about to launch a intergalactic war, visits a flesh version of Dr. Nefarious, asking if his project is ready for deployment. At the same time, a warbot defect is created (Clank) and Drek sends his warbot general Victor Von Ion after him to destroy him. The defect escapes in a planetary escape pod but Victor damages the pod, causing it to go off course. The pod crashlands on Veldin, which is observed by Ratchet. This is where Ratchet & Clank both meet for the first time, starting their first adventure and mission to stop the evil Drek and Dr. Nefarious.
(source: Wikipedia)



Ratchet & Clank is both a close remake and also a reimagining of the first game inspired by the theatrically released movie this year.
While that means that the game isn't a direct continuation of the events after R&C: Into the Nexus, it's still left somewhat open whether the game stands as a full reboot of the franchise or just a prequel.
With that said, Ratchet & Clank does great in staying loyal to longtime fans, while still being very newcomer friendly with its origin story of "how Ratchet & Clank met". This is achieved by the genius idea of letting the self-absorbed Captain Qwark serve as the narrator of the entire story. Aside from this meaning that constant heroically sounding narration and nonsense underlines your actions throughout the game, this also means that the events in Ratchet & Clank are put under the umbrella of a retrospectively told story, meaning that the Ratchet & Clank future games might still have happened (putting this game eventually also chronologically in a right place.)

"Let me tell you a story..."

However, Ratchet & Clank's story, despite being very newcomer friendly and entertaining as a whole, feels a bit less fleshed out and involving this time around. Lacking the deeper motives and themes present in Tools of Destruction and A Crack in Time, the game oftentimes shows that its story is deeply rooted in the feature film that got released alongside of it. In that sense, Ratchet & Clank occasionally shows the nagging flair of a "quickly busted out" movie-tie-in game. With the obvious reason for this being that the developers probably had way less time to fully develop a longer fleshed out story in order to meet the deadline, Ratchet & Clank feels entertaining yet also quite "compact" (for a lack of a better word). That doesn't mean though that the story is boring or short. With roughly 9 to 10 hours of playtime on the first playthrough, the game has a solid length and introduces many different colorful locations and (more importantly) a wide array of wacky cartoonish characters that do the great trademark humor of the franchise justice.
While newcomers can simply enjoy a very straightforward story, longtime fans of the series can look forward to a game that really does feel like a reimagining in many ways. With the basic story structure of the PS2 game still being intact yet spiced up with more interesting villains and more emotional moments and even backstories, both parties should get equally much out of it - even when this is surely not the best Ratchet & Clank story out there (because that title would go to A Crack in Time). 

Off to a solid adventure.


Gameplay
 


Core Gameplay Mechanics - "Best of Ratchet & Clank"

Gameplaywise, Ratchet & Clank really sticks close to what made the franchise great.
With that said, while Ratchet & Clank feels exactly like its predecessors from a mechanical gameplay standpoint (with pretty much the entire gameplay formula being present), the entire game feels more like a great "best of album" of the greatest Ratchet & Clank game mechanics than an actually "new" Ratchet & Clank. With that said, all mechanics in the game, from the weapons, to the puzzles over to the platforming, are all as great as always, yet sadly there is pretty much no innovation to speak of here. So fans of the Ratchet & Clank games shouldn't expect any newly introduced mechanics in the game, since there basicsally are none but only the "usual suspects".
Those naggings aside though, Ratchet & Clank of course still plays like an absolute charm. From the pinpoint accurate platforming mechanics, to the awesome weapon handling, over to the tricky puzzles, it instantly shows that this is a confidently put together Ratchet & Clank game developed by Insomniac games (unlike those horrendous spin-off titles like All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault).

It's as good as always but don't expect anything truely new.

With this Ratchet & Clank being a reimagining of the first game, Insomniac Games did great in recreating the nostalgia inducing levels of the first Ratchet & Clank PS2 game while updating it with many sections that utilize some of the latest mechanics of the franchise. In that sense, the game also boasts a handful of enjoyable (albeit short) spaceship battles or even hoverboard races.
Those are all nice changes to the (at least today) quite stale and very basic feeling original PS2 game which remarkably freshen up the entire experience and make many originally stale or mundane feeling parts of the original game feel very entertaining now.
Another very welcome change made in the reimagining are the fixed difficulty spikes. The first three Ratchet & Clank games on the PS2 were at many moments notoriously hard, mostly through ridiculous difficulty spikes like the many obligatory races and most notably the lack of well placed and enough checkpoints. Now, the PS4 version eradicated all those annoyances. While it can be safely said that Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 might oftentimes even feel a bit too easy (even the unlockable Challenge Mode is a walk in the park after you beat the game once), annoying moments in the original game, like the annoyingly hard races or ridiculously numerous fetch quests, have been trimmed down in quantity and fairly adjusted in regards to a balanced difficulty and flow. And while these improvements might not be too obvious to newcomers and might even make the game seem a bit "too kidfriendly" at times, it's still great to see a developer address his own mistakes of an older game and fix them to make it better.

Very familiar yet also better.


Weapons & Replay Value - "Trimmed Down to the Essentials"

Cartoonishly ridiculous and outlandish weapons have and always will be one of the prime trademarks of the Ratchet & Clank franchise. And while Ratchet & Clank does feature all of the fan favorites like the Buzz Blades, the Groovitron or the more recent Sheepinator, regarding the weapons arsenal, Ratchet & Clank pales a bit in comparison to the bigger arsenals of the PS3 Ratchet & Clank games. Just like the game's uninnovative and more "best of"-focussed mechanics, this is also very prominent when regarding the great yet very familiar weapon variety in the game.
New additions to the arsenal however are really welcome and feel expectedly unique, with the standout "new weapon" being The Pixelator which transforms enemies into bit-sized cubes before letting them fall apart (mich like in the movie Pixels).
However, what nevertheless somewhat makes up for the rather familiar weapons arsenal, is the game's new feature of collecting Holocards that give access to an uber-version or Omega Version of each gun for the game's Challenge Mode. Upgrading your weapons and making them transform themselves to even more badass looking "tools of destruction" has always been a major motivation to keep replaying each Ratchet & Clank game - and this one is no different in that regard.

The good old Predator Rocket Launcher.

Aside from upgrading weapons and finding all collectibles though, Ratchet & Clank on PS4 is very slim on any extras. Sure enough there are some cosmetic modifications or cheats for you to unlock as well as the Challenge Mode after beating the game, yet aside from that, there's nothing else (aside from yet another Hard Mode) that the game offers you. While previous Ratchet & Clank games featured great replay value through arenas, purchasable suits, multiple race tracks (here there's only two) and even somewhat of a mini-open-world in Crack in Time to roam around in, don't expect anything like that here. Once again, Ratchet & Clank on PS4 is a very "compact"feeling game on all fronts: in its story, gameplay and content.
Which isn't necessarily bad but also not that great either, especially when seeing with how much more content previous Ratchet & Clank games came out.

Weapon upgrades will be your prime motivation to keep playing, but little else.


Graphics
 

Looking at the graphics, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to call Ratchet & Clank one of the most beautiful looking console games to date.
During a day and age where gamers tend to measure a game's graphics by how photorealistic they look, many people forget that not every game needs to look like real life in order to look just stunning -  and Ratchet & Clank is a great example for that.
Ratchet & Clank on PS4 truely is a powerhouse of graphical excellence. From creatively designed characters, to rich and vibrant locations over to an absolutely insane amount of particle effects all on screen without the framerate dropping, Ratchet & Clank is one of those game's that are great showcases for the PS4's hardware capabilities. To date I never once played a cartoon styled platformer that blurred the lines between its actual gameplay and the rendered cutscenes so near perfectly. Ratchet & Clank on PS4 truely looks and feels like a playable Pixar movie.


Sound
 

Soundwise, Ratchet & Clank features the usual fare of the previous games, both musically and regarding the voice acting performances.
With that said, all great voice actors of Ratchet, Clank, Captain Qwark, Dr. Nefarious etc. all luckily once again return to breathe life into the characters and doing once again great in delivering the tremendous amounts of the witty cartoon humor filled dialogue.
New and welcome additions to the voice cast come in form of actors Bella Thorne as Cora, Rosario Dawson as Elaris and Paul Giamatti as villain Drek. While nothing groundbreaking, it's nice to see that those well known Hollywood actors took their time to also voice their characters in the videogame and not only the movie. Yet it's somewhat a bit sad that the same cannot be said for Sylvester Stallone, who only voiced Victor von Ion in the movie and not in the game

In-game or a cutscene? It's hard to tell but nevertheless beautiful.


The Verdict

All in all, Ratchet & Clank on PS4 feels like a "best of album" of the greatest gameplay mechanics and weapons the franchise has to offer. While this sadly means that the game almost entirely lacks any newly introduced mechanics of its own, one cannot deny that the game's gameplay as a whole still holds up remarkably.
Along with an interesting reimagining of the very first Ratchet & Clank game's story, despite leaving it unanswered whether this first PS4 Ratchet & Clank acts as a reboot or simply a prequel to the maybe ongoing series, Insomniac Games nevertheless found a great way to tell an old story with new twists that should satisfy both newcomers and longtime fans.
With the only truely lackluster feeling aspects of the game being its lack of any great extra content and its heavy reliance on familiar gameplay formula, Ratchet & Clank still overall stands strong enough to be a good game, a fun experience and an easily recommendable purchase for pretty much any gamer (especially considering the lower than usual launch price).
Though it sure enough doesn't set new heights for the franchise, Ratchet & Clank nevertheless does a good job in reminding us why the series is so popular and loved to begin with.
          
   

 Final Verdict: 7 out of 10 

Status: Good



Big thanks goes out to Sony Computer Entertainment and ToLL Relations
for providing a review copy of the game.

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