Ratchet and Clank are back in the spotlight, and rightfully so. The duo became a mascot for Sony in the days of the PlayStation 2, and though several titles saw release on PlayStation 3, it's been awhile since the pair found themselves front and center.
Thankfully, Sony couldn't have found a better way to bring the gun-toting Lombax and his robotic friend back.
Part remake, part reboot, part movie tie-in and all parts gorgeous, the 2016 Ratchet and Clank is both classic and fresh at the same time. It takes all the elements that made the original 2002 a hit -- solid 3D platforming, a great sense of humor, fun combat -- and updates it for 2016.
Players still navigate lush worlds, blast aliens with quirky weaponry, collect bolts, hack terminals, ride hoverboards and grind rails in a family friendly intergalactic adventure. It's every bit as enjoyable as it was more than a decade ago. But doesn't mean there aren't changes, though thankfully most of them are more than welcome.
Perhaps the most substantial update comes in the narrative department. Like in the original, Ratchet and his partner Clank embark on a mission to save the galaxy from Chairman Drek and his Warbot army. Along the way they'll rub shoulders with Captain Qwark of the Galactic Rangers, though everything isn't exactly as it seems. Though many of the core beats of the plot remain the same, this new Ratchet and Clank does rework more than a few elements of the story to coincide with the new film of the same name. The game even uses some scenes from the film wholesale as cutscenes. These story changes don't always feel like they are necessarily for the better, but the original's sense of humor and heart does manage to stay intact.
One major change that is undoubtedly an improvement is the addition of the weapon upgrade system from later installments of the franchise. It's a feature that made its way into every Ratchet and Clank title aside from the original, so it feels perfectly in place here. The more you use a weapon, the more powerful it will become, unlocking various upgrades that players can purchase using the Raritanium found throughout the game's various levels. The flame-throwing Pyrocitor, for example, evolves into the lava-spewing Lavacitor, complete with a deadly new look and gameplay effects.
There are plenty of new weapons to upgrade as well. Though not every weapon from the original makes a return here, many do, alongside some stylish new additions. Each weapon that is included is unique and, most importantly, fun to use. By far the most visually satisfying new weapon in Ratchet's arsenal is the Pixelizer, a shotgun causes enemies to become blocky, 8-bit versions of themselves.
That is just one graphical treat of many that Ratchet and Clank has for players. The entire game is gorgeous, and the sheer amount of beautiful chaos unfolding on screen at any given time is truly a sight to behold. Bolts swirl around Ratchet and he collects them, pixelized enemies explode while on fire, projectiles come in from every direction, it all unfolds against the gorgeous backdrops of the planetary vistas Insomniac Games has dreamt up. Even the non-interactive backgrounds themselves are a reason for players to pause and take notice. Ships battle in the background, hovercars bustle around the city and native wildlife soar through the skies, all while the chaos on the ground unfold. The game's stellar visuals are also on full display in the new flyable ship segments, where Ratchet leaps into his starship to blast down enemy fighters and frigates.
There are times when the game's framerate drops slightly during moments of sheer insanity, but it's hardly noticeable enough to have any effect on gameplay. Ratchet and Clank has never looked better, and it puts every other platformer on Sony's console to shame.
It's a testament to Insomniac's original work that many levels in the 2016 Ratchet and Clank are nearly identical to the 2002 version, albeit much better looking. Great level design and gameplay don't age, so it's not surprising to see that so much has carried over from the original. That being said, there are a few new areas for players to discover.
Like in the original, Clank also gets some playable segments separate from his Lombax companion. These mostly consist of simple puzzle solving via managing various robots to reach out of reach switches. Occasionally players get to flee from danger in a handful of Crash Bandicoot style run towards the camera sequences, which turn out to be yet another moment for players take in the title's impressive lighting and fire effects.
Ratchet and Clank is everything you remember from the original and then some. It's still just as fun and heartwarming as it was 10 years ago. By taking some of the best elements from the entire series, reworking the game's narrative and making it one of the best looking games on PS4, Insomniac Games has reimagined a classic and turned it into a must play platformer for both old school fans and newcomers alike.
Ratchet and Clank is available now on PS4. This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by Insomniac Games. The Ratchet and Clank movie is in theaters April 29.
Image Credits: Insomniac Games