It’s probably a good thing that I was only allowed to witness Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart remotely. Had it been presented on a local PS5, Insomniac would’ve needed an Omni-wrench to pry me away. Honestly, you know a game is good when it’s compressed by streaming, is only arriving in non-HDR/1080p, and it still blows your hair back.
But you know what? Let’s put a quick pause on the praise. There’s some bad news I need to get out of the way first.
During all the wow-factor of experiencing never-before-seen moments in Rift Apart, something was still gnawing at the back of my mind. These adventures sure seemed fun and quirky, but they were not nearly… Qwarky enough.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Preview
In an interview with Mike Daly, I asked if this iconic, unofficial third hero of this series – Captain Copernicus Leslie Qwark – was being relegated to cameo status.
“So in the story of our game, Ratchet and Clank start out in their dimension, where Captain Qwark is a larger than life character and basically impossible to avoid,” Daly reveals. “He sort of leads you through the intro and is present there, but when the dimensional cataclysm occurs, Ratchet and Clank get sucked through while Captain Qwark gets left behind. That’s not the last you see of him in the game, but he’s not one of the major characters. This freed us up a little bit more storytelling time and cinematics and bandwidth to expand on the new characters you meet in the new dimension.”
Interesting, and somewhat disappointing. It also seemed to me that his voice was a little off – perhaps due to the fact that his long-time voice actor Jim Ward has been quite ill of health lately.
“I can confirm that, unfortunately, Jim Ward has retired,” Daly tells me. “He did not reprise his role as Captain Qwark for this game.”
That info hits me like a teratannium hammer to the face. Long have we all had the pleasure of Jim Ward’s performances in over a dozen Ratchet & Clank titles since he basically exploded onto our screens in 2002. Jim, it’s such a shame to hear you’re moving on. I’d say you leave behind big spandex to fill, but the truth is it always looked dangerously tight.
Thank you for your genius.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to where Rift Apart is heading. Essentially it’s a brand new, interdimensional adventure where our titular heroes need to thwart a robotic emperor intent on conquering cross-dimensional worlds. The big hook to grapple with (or in this case “rift tether”) is a mechanic that lets Ratchet portal jump between action-packed worlds.
Almost like a way more furry, non-inebriated Rick Sanchez.
Basically, you’ll join a cast of familiar faces (who become not so familiar) and some new allies – including a playable female Lombax named Rivet. General gist: she’s a resistance fighter who is just as determined to take out the robotic scourge. Oh, and she’s purple.
“Unlike Ratchet, Rivet has been on her own her entire life,” says Lead Animator, Lindsay Thompson. “She never had a best friend to help her through her struggles, no one to celebrate her wins with and no one to turn to in life’s darkest moments.”
Honestly, meeting the “what if” versions of this universe should make for a pretty compelling reason for fans to return. Quick examples: Skid McMarks; famous hoverboard champion and secret stoner is chill in our dimension – he’s a phantom in the other dimension, an expert hacker and inventor who’s fighting Dr Nefarious.
Sorry. “Emperor” Nefarious.
Then there’s Rusty Pete.
A minor antagonist in Tools of Destruction, but in the alternate dimension he’s become way more successful and stylish. Over there, he’s a frequently plastered grog-loving space pirate known as Pierre le Faire. Armed with an outrrrageous accent and goons who love to rhyme in couplets, he’s always giving Rivet hell.
Much like Returnal did recently with its fancy “segmented L2 aiming mode,” Insomniac is leveraging the coolest features of the DualSense. Take the NegaTron collider for an example. The first “tension section” of an R2 pull will initiate a charge. A full R2 yank will unleash a devastating beam that penetrates through enemies and it’ll last long enough that they can sweep it across the battlefield.
It’s the same basic principle with a shotty called The Executor – an upgraded, four-barrelled form of what will initially be a double-barreller known as The Enforcer. Half an R2 squeeze will thump out a more focused spread of double (plasma) buckshot. A full pull will unleash four barrels and more or less hit everything you’re facing at with white-hot material.
The closer they are, the more liquified they’ll get. I’ve already put my preorder in to Miss Zircon for this thing.
Not to talk about guns longer than a yackety, ex-pat Texas neighbour, but the Richochet is well worth a mention. This puppy fires a metal ball that will impact an enemy, then pop up above them, and then you can pull your trigger again to punch it back down for more gunishment. Each shot can ricochet multiple times before returning to the gun, plus there’s a subtle mechanic where timing your trigger yanks (as the ball opens) dishes out some extra damage.
Insomniac’s art department says the Ricochet has been inspired by pinball machines, and that it’s unlike any gun we’ve used before. I can’t argue with this. You could designate a target with it, bugger off behind cover, and then use an enemy bonce like a bonus bumper with absolute impunity.
When it comes to shooting, there are a few other things that impress me. First of all, Insomniac has wisely decided to implement an auto-strafe. No more holding your controller in a claw-like state to get sideways in a gunfight.
The fancy looking phase dash looks to be a game-changer, too. Not only does it look fancy, it has been designed to play nicely with every other action you can perform. Flowing in and out of it at a moments notice to cheat incoming laser death – or the surly bonds of gravity itself – is always an option.
Last but not least, Insomniac seems determined to make this a PS5 exclusive title that’s be a sensory experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen, heard or felt before. In addition to adaptive triggers, the new frontier of haptics expressions has been explored with gusto. Likewise, their audio engineers seem to be champing at the bit, waiting to hear the fancy directional audio flourishes they’ve designed for the Pulse 3D headset.
And visually….yeah. Do I really need to say anything about this category? Back in the dawn of 3D platforming and when Toy Story was young, I can clearly remember playing this genre and wondering when the graphics would “catch up” to the level of Pixar. It seemed like a pipe-dream. An impossibility that Insomniac has more or less achieved with Rift Apart.
I wish I had a time machine, so I could go back and show this to my younger self. It’d be like giving sherbet to a caveman. though. His brain would shred apart, like space-time after a Dimensionator blast.
All that being said, I reckon Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is on track. Can Insomniac bring its considerably sized fanbase into this new-gen in style, while also paying greater respect to the past titles; understandable retirements aside?
That’s probably my only lingering concern at this point. Everything else suggests this is going to represent a full-frontal assault in the console wars to come.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart launches for PS5 on June 11, 2021.