Video games are rarely funny. If a video game opens up and gives me a belly laugh, I would say it’s a very special game for a lot of reasons. Ratchet & Clank delivered these laughs time and time again, and stands as one of the best games on the PlayStation 4 and as a definitive killer app.
The game opens up with wonderful meta humor by setting up this reboot of the franchise with Captain Quark retelling the story of the original PlayStation 2 Ratchet & Clank game. Essentially, the game constantly makes fun of the fact that it is a reboot in the first place and makes great video game culture references to make it feel less stale considering it is a reboot. It is genuinely effective and brought a huge smile to my face.
I was quite concerned when I heard a Ratchet & Clank reboot was coming out and that it would be based on the movie coming out. It made me feel as though Sony was throwing this franchise under the bus more than it already has been since A Crack In Time for the PlayStation 3, but nearly everything in this game is near perfect despite minor qualms I have with the gameplay.
Besides the meta opening with Captain Quark, the game opens fairly similar to the original game except that Ratchet & Clank start as friends in this game, which is a welcome change. The relationship between Ratchet & Clank in the original game always felt very awkward because they didn’t really like each other. In this game, they immediately like each other and it allows the storytelling to be a lot more effective.
One of the immediate things worth pointing out about the game is how gorgeous it is to look at. Each planet is distinct and beautiful to look at. It feels as massive as the sprawling landscapes found within a Star Wars movie except you get to actually explore it. The best way I would love to describe Ratchet & Clank is the combination of a Star Wars film and a Pixar film. Who the hell doesn’t want those things to be combined into a wonderful video game?
Ratchet & Clank plays almost the same as just about every other Ratchet & Clank game but I see nothing wrong with that. There’s no reason to really dynamically change how Ratchet & Clank plays when it already plays pretty well. The shooting mechanics are wonderful as you are able to strafe left and right as you shoot away with whatever ridiculous weapon the game decides to give you (including weapons like disco balls that make the enemies dance, turn the enemies into sheep or pixels, or a threatening rocket launcher). The variety of weapons is what keeps the game dynamic and why it never gets boring. The game has so much going on in each combat sequence that I never found myself even getting close to the word bored. The combat gets even more dynamic when the jetpack gets involved halfway through the game. Additionally, the platforming is as good as it has ever been and runs silky smooth.
The upgrade system for weapons is also one of the most rewarding upgrade systems I’ve ever used. It is a basic skill tree system where you upgrade certain aspects of each weapons by collecting Raritanium throughout the game. For example, you can make it so your weapon carries more ammo or that kills with it grant you more bolts, which are used to purchase weapons as they become available throughout the game. Once you fill up surrounding skill tree sections, you’ll gain extra upgrades. This system helps to make you really want to work around the upgrade system to beef up your weapons even more.
In terms of other upgrades in the game, there is a system in the game where you collect Holocards. Each Holocard gives background about previous Ratchet & Clank characters, locations, and weapons, which suffices as a great history lesson for people new to the franchise. Essentially, you have to collect a set of three cards and it will give you upgrades ranging from getting more bolts per kill or getting access to the Omega Variant of a weapon in the new game plus mode, Challenge Mode (where the game is much harder but you get to keep all previous upgrades). This system is fun and allows for a nice collectible system that actually feels valuable.
Not everything is perfect in the game though. Some of the segments where you play as Clank drastically slow down the game, despite the fact that the segments can be fun. The puzzles are well designed and all, but it is so starkly different from the Ratchet segments and just isn’t as fun. Additionally, the game has other puzzles with Ratchet where you have to hack doors in order to open them and these really just feel unnecessary and useless to even be in the game. They sort of just get in the way and are there to add a couple minutes of extra game time. The puzzles aren’t actually very fun as Ratchet and they are easily the biggest flaws of this entire game.
Nearly every single planet in the game also contains optional objectives. Unlike the puzzles as Ratchet, these optional objectives are actually quite fun. Whether you have to collect brains and mow down a ton of enemies in the process or you get to grind on rails with your Grindboots, it is all pretty damn fun. Also, the Hoverboard mini-game is a pretty well made racing sequence that is in the game just enough for it to not get repetitive. Essentially, the extra content of the game is just enough and never overbearing. You want to explore every nook and cranny of each planet because it is actually enjoyable. It never feels forced. I want to explore the world of Ratchet & Clank as much as possible. If a game makes me want to go out of the way of the main objective, I feel as though that makes it a special game that clearly had real time and dedication put into it.
Ratchet & Clank is not a perfect video game, but it is quite possibly a perfect reboot of a franchise that needed a serious kick-start once again. Insomniac Games has crafted one of the very best PlayStation 4 games and there isn’t a single reason to not purchase this game. It is fun because it never takes itself very seriously, which is a problem with so many games nowadays. We have a game made on the idea of being fun, funny, and well designed. That is all I can ask for in a truly great video game.