Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart showcases PS5’s capabilities with heart and humor

Photo of Ratchet & Clank game
Sony Interactive Entertainment/Courtesy

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Grade: 5.0/5.0 

Since the PlayStation 5’s release last November, few games have taken full advantage of its powerful hardware and promising next-gen capabilities. Aside from launch titles Demon’s Souls and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, only Returnal, released April 30, was a true PS5 game.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, however, the latest release from Miles Morales developer Insomniac Games, blows each of these titles out of the water. The 16th installment in Insomniac’s long-running series, Rift Apart is the first Ratchet & Clank game released since the 2016 PS4-exclusive reboot. Though Rift Apart carries over many innovative gameplay features from the 2016 game, it is not a sequel to the reboot. Instead, Rift Apart continues the timeline of the pre-reboot games, taking place after the events of the PS3 title Into the Nexus and further building upon the action-platformer gameplay formula Insomniac first introduced in 2002.

Rift Apart once again follows the titular duo, the charismatic Lombax (essentially, an anthropomorphic space cat) Ratchet and his charming robot sidekick Clank — though this time, there’s a twist. When Ratchet & Clank’s nemesis Dr. Nefarious gets a hold of the Dimensionator, a powerful device capable of warping reality, the lovable duo are sucked into an alternate dimension where Nefarious reigns supreme. Things are even further complicated when Ratchet is separated from Clank and crosses paths with his dimensional counterpart, Rivet, a female Lombax and new playable main character.

While Miles Morales hinted at the possibilities within Insomniac’s reach thanks to the PS5’s souped up hardware and immersive 3D audio and haptic feedback features, Rift Apart is a far more powerful technical showcase, and the first game to truly justify the new console generation. In terms of pure visual spectacle, Rift Apart is nothing short of mind-blowing — each level takes players to a new, wonderfully designed alien world with a totally unique art style. Insomniac has retained Miles Morales’ flawless 60 frames per second Performance RT mode, which allows players to enjoy the boundary-pushing ray tracing technology, converting each world into a moving painting without compromising on frame rate, resulting in stunningly smooth gameplay.

Ratchet’s wacky arsenal has always been a staple of the series, and in this regard, Rift Apart does not disappoint. In addition to a few returning weapons, which have been fine-tuned and upgraded for this installment, Ratchet wields a bevy of weird gadgets, including one that turns all enemies within range into vulnerable topiaries. Each weapon is given a distinct feel through the DualSense controller’s precise vibrations, which perfectly complements their stellar animations and sound design. The more impressive feature, however, is Insomniac’s use of the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers. With each weapon, the triggers can be pulled halfway to achieve a different state, or all the way to fire the weapon with all barrels.

Insomniac has also polished the controls so that Ratchet and Rivet are incredibly nimble and combat is all the more fluid. Rift Apart adds the ability for players to use an evasive dash, briefly phasing out of reality to cover large distances or avoid enemy attacks. Players can also wall-run in specific areas, adding subtlety to map traversal and platforming sections.

One of Rift Apart’s best qualities is the lack of down time. Because it utilizes the PS5’s revolutionary SSD, there are absolutely no loading screens. Upon death, players are instantly respawned at a recent checkpoint, and the gameplay momentum is preserved.

Insomniac’s state-of-the-art cinematics are seamlessly integrated with gameplay, unifying the entire experience into something that feels like the future of animated storytelling. Ratchet & Clank games have long been compared to Pixar animation, and Rift Apart mostly matches and, at times, exceeds the gold standard. Rivet’s introduction is testament to the strength of Insomniac’s animation — adding a main character this late into the series should be risky, but Insomniac perfectly captures the nuance of Jennifer Hale’s excellent performance. Hale, who previously delivered one of gaming’s definitive performances as the female Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, makes Rivet fit right into the milieu. 

Aided by an awesome, theremin-infused sci-fi score by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, the snappy dialogue and crude, witty sense of humor make players genuinely want to spend as much time in the game’s worlds as possible. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is not only one of the best-looking games ever made, but also one of the hardest to put down — and a must-have for anyone with a PS5.

Neil Haeems covers video games. Contact him at [email protected].