Ratchet & Clank Review – Lombax to the future?

Another HD Remake? Well, no. Oh, a complete reboot for the series? Maybe, but again, no. Not really. No this PS4 release is more of a ‘reimagining’ of the original. Don’t worry though; Insomniac has done a much better job of reimagining the original than Tim Burton did when he ‘reimagined’ Planet of the Apes in 2001. Right, let’s stick the word ‘reimagined’ back in its box before my spellchecker dies of shame.

With Ratchet & Clank finally getting the animated movie treatment, Sony and Insomniac decided to hit the story reset button, which admittedly does make sense considering the family-friendly vibe of the game and the need to introduce the series to the younger generation. 3D platformers are a rarity in today’s climate which is a shame as Insomniac’s stellar record with the Ratchet series (yes, I’m ignoring Q-Force) must not have sold enough to make other studios want to bother. Could this be a test to gauge interest in both the series and maybe the genre itself?

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There’s a mix of old and new material here. Some of the levels have been greatly expanded, whereas others have an overly familiar look and feel to the original in terms of map layout and some planets (levels) have been axed completely!

But let’s not lose our minds quite yet. This PS4 version of Ratchet & Clank has released for roughly £25 instead of the usual £40, so the cut corners in terms of level design are begrudgingly acceptable. That’s because, even having played the PS3 HD version of the PS2 original recently and having Deja Vu crawling all over my brain with the scenery, Ratchet & Clank on PS4 feels new enough to justify a purchase.

Captain Quark now narrates the story, which is a great move now that’s become an established fan favourite. He’s still the same loveable idiot/ass/coward we’ve come to know over the years. Where the hell’s that Quark/ Zapp Brannigan spinoff show that I imagined, already!

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But yes, the story still has Chairman Drek up to no good, although exactly what he’s up to is revealed much later this time. In a new twist, he’s also joined by Dr. Nefarious in pre-robot form, and as such he’s lacking his usual humorous appeal, even more so without his butler -seriously kids, grab the old games too.

Visually, the game looks incredible. You know how you remember old games with rose-tinted glasses, then you play them and they look awful (go on, plug the PS2’s scart lead into your new TV, I dare you)? Insomniac’s new version is how you wish those old games looked and considerably better on top.

Ratchet’s ears and fur have the required increase of visible hairs we’ve come to expect with each new hardware generation, enemies have even more personality (I love the robo dogs that tear tufts of fur from Ratchet with each chomp) and environments pop with colour and pin sharp detail. More importantly, the flow of bolts erupting from smashable crates is so mesmerising you’re going to see them behind your eyes when trying to sleep.

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And with such a strong arsenal of weapons, you’ll be playing long into the night. Taking a nod from the many sequels, you can level up your weapons with use and upgrade them with Raritanium. The upgrades don’t offer much depth (more ammo, stronger effects etc), but it gives the constant impression of becoming stronger or having something to work for, which in turn ensures you’ll constantly change weapons to upgrade a varied selection. New Game + options thankfully allow you to carry your stats over as you’ve no chance of maxing them out in a single playthrough.

Amongst a few familiar boomsticks, fans have a few new ones to look forwards too, with my firm favourite being the shotgun-esque pixeliser which fires blasts out a retro laser sound and gives enemies an 8-bit makeover, often stunning them or leaving pixelised corpses behind for you to smash to pieces with the Omniwrench. With some weapons working better on different enemy types, it’s worth experimenting and as such, the weapons feel incredibly satisfying.

As much as I enjoyed the game, a few elements felt undercooked, which was a letdown seeing as Insomniac should know better now. There’s really not enough aerial combat scenes with Ratchet’s ship and the hoverboard races are absolutely awful to control and could possibly block off the Platinum Trophy for many thanks to a couple of ridiculously tough Trophy requirements. Skill Point challenges have been ditched  also. The last boss is ridiculously tough too unless you find the RYNO weapon and then it’s over in less than a minute. Can’t say I had many complaints on the way though and I immediately fired up the New Game + Challenge Mode to play again as the core gameplay is just so good.

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Pros

  • Great weapon selection
  • Never looked better
  • A great introduction to newcomers

Cons

  • Hoverboard races are tedious and awkward
  • A tad too short
  • Not enough Nefarious!

The Short Version: Ratchet and Clank is an essential purchase for faithful fans of the original and newcomers. Insomniac are once again valiantly flying the flag of the action platformer, providing an enormously fun adventure. The controls are spot on and the weapons never fail to put a smile on your face.