Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (PC) Review – A Jolly Good Time In Any Dimension, On Any Platform
Were you there in the early 90’s and 00’s when mascot platformers rule over video games? I was there. I was there when Spyro jumped, glided and hovered. I was there when Crash go “Woah!” as he falls into the deep abyss only to respawn back with one life less.
I was also there when slowly but surely, mascot platformers fade away. I was not ready for Jak to transform into an edgelord and for a platforming series to become a GTA clone. But that happened. And look where he and his buddy Daxter is now, largely forgotten.
Thankfully, there are a few mascot platformers still not calling it quits yet. And on the PlayStation side we have Ratchet & Clank. Insomniac have dabbled with many other series in its history. They’ve first-person shooters, a multiplatform game with co-op that didn’t land well after an art style change, an Xbox exclusive. And now they’re mostly known for their amazing Spider-Man games.
Yet, they still make time to go back to Ratchet & Clank. The duo was back in a new adventure in 2020, and three years later, they now for the first time hopped to another gaming dimension. Or rather, a new platform: the PC.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a solid adventure full of audio-visual delight, the familiar charm that’ll get you hook like it’s a Saturday morning cartoon delivered in a rather familiar, and rather stagnant, formula. It’s not reinventing or evolving the Ratchet & Clank series much other than being a fantastic showcase of the power of an SSD, the current capabilities of in-game visual rendering and the introduction of a new leading duo.
What this means for PC players who never played the games on PlayStation before, you can just dive in and enjoy a simple but well-executed platformer/third-person shooter.
Rachet & Clank: Rift Apart is built entirely in giving you a pleasant presentation, and it’s no surprise that it delivers. While my time with the PC port was spent mostly on Low and Medium settings, I’ve seen this game running at its best on a PS5, and you know what, it’s still looking good even if the textures are a bit pixelated and the shine lacks a ray-tracing touch.
The art direction is what really carries the visual presentation. Ratchet & Clank looks as adorable as ever, and so are their dimensional counterparts you meet later. Seeing a little anthropomorphic character holding overly-sized guns is still cool to see. The planets you visit are also pleasant to look at. From the rainy cyberpunk city of Corson V to the familiar pirate cove of Ardolis, the places you visit can be awe-inspiring at times.
I love the little trick they keep doing in Ratchet & Clank games, where the game seamlessly transitions from a cinematic where the duo hops off the ship and the camera is still zoomed out to give you this cinematic overview of the level. It’s all in-game visuals. A waggle of the analog stick and the camera zips down to show you that yeah, that was all in-engine. Still a good trick 20 years later.
Audio-wise, aside from some PC-specific issues I had, is a delight. Sure, the deliveries of some lines by Ratchet and Rivet can feel a bit phoned in, but those lines have the stiltedness of a Saturday morning cartoon. And it’s only a few bits where I feel the delivery is a bit off. Most of the time the voice actors for the leading roles, veterans that have been doing this gig for more than 20 years, give a believable, natural performance. Old fans of the main duo will be glad to see and hear the dynamic of their platonic relationship continues to translate into great banter. And the introduction of Rivet and Kit, with their own story arcs, fit as well. The villains, Dr. Nerfarious and his dimensional counterpart, are entertaining. But I think Zurkon Jr. has the best performance, he really steals the show.
The soundtrack goes for “orchestra that punctuates the action scenes” so there are plenty of what I consider to be boring, generic orchestra stingers. There are a few recurring leitmotifs, for the heroes and the villains, but I just don’t vibe with it. When the soundtrack kicks in the synth and electronica, now that’s what I was expecting from a Ratchet & Clank game, and do be a good listen.
After years of not doing heroic stuff (technically 10 years since their last mainline game, not counting the 2016 remake/movie tie-in), Ratchet & Clank are once again celebrated as heroes. Clank gives his old pal a gift, the Dimensionator, so they can go on more adventures to find the Lombaxes, people of Ratchet’s species who have disappeared into time and space.
Unfortunately, Dr. Nerfarious crashes the party, stole the Dimensionator and transported himself and our leading duo to a dimension where the villain is winning. Clank’s arm got ripped apart. The duo got separated and are now a rift apart. And now the dimensions are slowly being ripped apart as rifts keep appearing throughout this alternate-dimension galaxy. It’s up to Ratchet & Clank, and their dimensional counterpart, to stop this mess. Though nobody here rips a fart out, missed opportunity there.
For PC players, the plot of Rift Apart is self-contained. Sure, there are little callbacks and references to past games, but you can enjoy the game as is without playing any of the seven main entries, and a few spin-offs.
Rift Apart plays more or less like a typical Ratchet & Clank game. It’s a platformer and also a third-person shooter, with a rather unconventional style. There are parts of a level where you have to jump, swing, grind over rails and later wall jump to reach higher or farther platforms. But platforming has taken a rather back seat. You don’t get to face major traversal challenges, these are here to give you something else to do when you’re not doing the main thing this game has you do: shooting enemies.
Rift Apart gives Ratchet and Rivet access to 20 weapons. Five of them are returning weapons so we get classics like the Glove Of Doom (why shoot when you can summon packs of deadly, hungry robots to chomp the oppositions?) and more recent weapons like the Pixelizer, which turns enemies to a 16-bit glop (with 16-bit sound effects) that may or may not have the side effect of making a grotesque creature even worse because now it looks like it’s being censored with a mosaic filter.
Some of the new weapons are new-new, the Cold Snap immediately freezes enemies into blocks of ice that can easily be shattered by a good whack or two, or can slide down off platforms to their doom.
And the Ricochet shoots indirectly by having you press the trigger multiple times in succession as the projectile ricochets to the target over and over like a pinball (it even has that pinball sound effect).
The Void Repulser summons a big shield that can absorb projectiles and doubles as a shotgun which is neat and feels like a callback to a familiar weapon from Fuse, of all things.
But most of the new weapons fall into a familiar archetype. You start off with a pistol and a grenade launcher, and the first new weapon you can purchase is a shotgun. Not long after you’ll find the turret-dispensing weapon and the weapon that changes how an enemy looks or behave, which in Rift Apart, is one and the same in the form of the Topiary Sprinkler.
Oh, and I have to mention Mr. Fungi, your new floating turret with a personality weapon. He’s a fun guy to have around, just for the silly fungal puns and him trying his best to live up to his image (which he won’t).
Each weapon can level up to Level 5 by racking up damage with it, where they evolve into a stronger form with a new name. And weapons can be upgraded with Raritanium to further strengthen it.
Yes, there are a lot of carry-over mechanics from past games that are presented here untouched.
Rift Apart is a shooter that isn’t like most shooters. Except for one weapon, aim-down-sights just bring the camera lower to Ratchet or Rivet’s height. Most of the time you’ll be circle-strafing and jumping to dodge bullets. Though very early on you’ll get the Phantom Dash which functions like a typical dodge move, iframes and all.
Keep moving, keep switching weapons, and dodge all of the clearly projected projectiles and laser beams, as well as don’t get too close to be hit by a melee attack, and watch out and make sure you don’t fall over a platform, and you’re good. It’s simple, yet not many games offer these days offer this specific style of combat anymore. And it’s still good fun.
Not long after, the game will start to switch it up by having you control Rivet, Ratchet’s dimensional counterpart. While she has some differences- she has a hammer instead of a wrench for melee attacks, gameplay-wise she has the same moveset, and shares the same weapons, as Ratchet.
So the way it works is that there will be planets where you explore only as Ratchet while others only as Rivet. If you’re expecting a game with duo protagonists that play differently from Insomniac, you have to wait until Marvel’s Sopider-Man 2 for that.
As for the game’s structure, Rift Apart feels quintessentially a Ratchet & Clank game. The levels are linear and designed like theme parks, but with the occasional optional path.
There are two levels where it incorporates a semi-open world design where you explore a larger area using tools or mounts (Sargasso has the Speedtail and one more mount, while Savali has you boosting around in hover boots). And this larger space is so that there are more collectibles to collect. But not to worry, all the collectibles are significantly easy to search for. Once it appears on a map, you can just pin it and you’ll see the exact location for it.
The one feeling I can’t shake off with Rift Apart is how polished the game is, to the detriment of the game. I have muscle memory of having to double-jump over everything and a lot of times I feel like the environment isn’t built for that. Too many ledges that look like it can be reached up with a double jump but it’s actually an invisible wall which you cannot climb over. I also missed many jumps for thinking I should double jump and glide to reach a far platform when what I should be doing is to not press buttons during the leap.
The level where you use the hover boots a lot had so many objects that don’t break apart on hitting them, so when you hit them you basically stopped moving, making chase-the-running-platform bits a little frustrating. You can’t really see the little unbreakable objects when you’re boosting at full speed. And there were many times when I thought I should be attempting some creative platforming only to find out the solution is very simple and very linear.
Is this game should be considered a platformer, even? It is in spirit, but the more you play it like an action game the less you’ll be frustrated with tiny niggles like this.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is rather on the shorted side of playtime-to-completion. I took 14 hours to 97% complete and beat the game, though less thorough playthroughs at a lower difficulty will last you around 10 hours.
And that’s fine. Ratchet & Clanks games are meant to at least be played twice. You unlock Challenge Mode, the game’s New Game+ mode where you can further level up maxed-out weapons, gain more bolts with multipliers, and face challenging more challenging enemies. Plus, there’s an extra weapon that only unlocks in Challenge Mode to really make a point that it is meant to be played again.
Plus, Rift Apart doesn’t really have enough new or interesting ideas to really stretch it out any longer. The Phantom Dash in particular is a rather weak addition. For most of the game, it is crucial to use because of it being a better dodge button than the previous jump button. And its main traversal gimmick is so underused when it returns I thought there was a bug where I can’t get past a laser wall.
Not only that, there are plenty of mechanics that remain underused. There’s no optional Grind Boots section or a more elaborate Swingshot/Tethershot optional path, but this is a recurring Ratchet & Clank issue.
At least, if you want more Grind Boots and Swingshot gameplay, Insomniac made Sunset Overdrive and Marvel’s Spider-Man (both available on PC), which I always jokingly call “Ratchet & Clank Grind Boots: The Game” and “Ratchet & Clank Swingshot: The Game” respectively.
There is side content, but most of them are pretty short or unsubstantial. The pocket dimensions are too simple despite them being some of the most creative challenges. The arenas are good fun, though it’s a series staple. I don’t really enjoy much of the “hacking” mini-games as Glitch (which has you, surprise surprise, shoot more enemies) though its topsy-turvy level design is admirable. The game could do with a bit more platforming challenges.
But with the content length as it is, I feel it hits a nice sweet spot regardless of my gripes with its undercooked side content. The game doesn’t overstay its welcome, it uses all of its gimmicks and mechanics just enough not in a “padding for content” way. So having the game’s length as is is justified.
As I have alluded earlier, I’ve been a fan of Ratchet & Clank since the original game, and have seen the wild turns the series, and its developers, have made over the past decades.
Rift Apart to me is comfort food. It doesn’t do anything too interesting gameplay-wise. But what I expected from a Ratchet & Clank game, for the most part, is all here. The silly slapstick humour. The fun arsenal of weapons. The chaotic gunplay. The eye-catching visuals. Insomniac knew what they were doing.
Most of the effort has clearly been done to experiment with new next-gen console tech than it is to evolve the series’ formula. And that’s fine when the core gameplay itself is still pretty good fun. And since the series hasn’t seen much limelight- the last entry was the 2016 remake/movie tie-in, the series’ brand of gameplay hasn’t gone stale from repeated use.
The story’s fine. Ratchet & Clank’s development arc may be completed, but we get to see a similar arc bloom with their dimensional counterparts which I would not be surprised if they took the leading role next time around. And to balance the more wholesome character dynamics we see, the main heroes do get a few anxiety breakdowns which I can relate to, those moments really work out well to give weight to their silly adventures.
There’s definitely childhood nostalgia that affects my bias on this review, which should explain why I still love this game despite devoting a couple of paragraphs ranting about how the game underutilised the platforming and traversal mechanics.
On PC, Rift Apart seems to be one of the better ports from PlayStation Studios. The game’s rather scalable in that even on low settings, you don’t lose much of the fidelity. Sure, the textures do get pixelated and the Lombax fur is less fuzzy but the character and environment assets remain at a pretty good fidelity.
These screenshots? All of these are taken at Low settings, on purpose to prove my point. It still looks good enough! Especially in motion whern you don’t see the aliasing as much. Unless you have awfully high standards for video game graphics. And that’s perfectly reasonable, the game looks even more spectacular when you crank it up to Ultra.
My setup, an old 2019 Lenovo Legion Y740 (Intel Core i7-9750H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 4GB, 16GB RAM) can handle the game at high settings targeting 30 FPS, and run mostly at a stable 60 FPS on medium when it’s not thermal throttled. I also have DLSS on to Balanced, which definitely eked a few extra FPS, though non-Nvidia graphics card users can make use of AMD FSR as well which is nice.
Of course, by now you may have seen the loading performance of Rift Apart when installed on an HDD. Prepared to see Ratchet or Rivet hanging in the air between dimensions as the game tries its best to load it up quickly. Even on an M.2 SSD, I find mixed results with the loading times. My setup does not have DirectStorage enabled, which the game uses to rapidly speed up the loading. And the PC port here isn’t masking any of the loading up. If it hangs for a bit, that’s because you’re not using a setup as good as a PS5’s built-in custom SSD.
Though the more glaring problem I have is with audio stuttering. When the chaotic combat begins, where everything is popping off and characters are bantering, the audio can’t keep up, so you’ll hear these slushes of ear-grating noise playing in slow motion. Lowering audio quality to Medium doesn’t work. What I find to somewhat alleviate this issue is by giving the game all the RAM I have, as in closing off all other programs in the background. So while the asset streaming where everyone expected the game to fumble is just fine, it’s the audio streaming that has become quite the issue, in particular for me on my setup.
The game supports keyboard and mouse controls which is neat. And if you have a DualSense controller, all the haptic feedback and adaptive trigger gimmicks from the PS5 release are present and can be experienced here. If you’re using a controller but not the DualSense, say an Xbox controller, you may want to bump down the vibration settings. The game will still replicate the haptic feedback moments which can include the controller vibing to some nightclub music. And you don’t want a controller to just go full-on vibrating when all you do is walk to a dancefloor, that’s a bit silly.
There are some odd bugs still on the PC port. One minor one includes the button prompts not correctly showing the Xbox button glyphs on the weapon upgrade screen (it’s displaying Triangle instead of Y).
It’s not a perfect PC port, but it’s a decent one.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart feels like a new revival episode of a long-dormant Saturday morning cartoon show. It sticks to its guns to placate to existing fans and offer just enough of newness to try and court new fans.
Rift Apart is also a big tech demo to show off the power of the PS5. And depending on how your PC specs are measured, it may convince you to get a PS5 by the few little things the PC port doesn’t get right, or make you content in waiting a couple of years before being able to sample the PlayStation Studios catalogue with your beefed-up setup.
Whatever dimension the duo may land in, on whatever platform you may be playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, I can guarantee that it’s going to be a jolly good time.
(And that’s the cue for you, the readers that are in agreement with my review to say “You said it, pal”)
Played on PC. Review code provided by the publisher. All screenshots are in-game footage running on Low settings.