Sony's PlayStation 5 games console has been out for several months now, and gamers have been starved of the blockbuster library of titles that usually herald the release of a new machine. Yes, we had brilliant Spider-Man Miles Morales, Demon's Souls and Returnal to enjoy over the last few months, but now we have the first major exclusive release of 2021, with Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart.
Since their first adventure on PlayStation 2 back in 2002, the wise-cracking duo have cemented themselves as the poster children for Sony, becoming as recognisable as PaRappa the Rapper, Crash Bandicoot, and Nathan Drake.
They are now the first of that OG clan of characters to receive a next-gen upgrade on the new consoles, with beautiful 4K graphics, a smooth frame rate and ray-tracing features that have light bouncing off of Clank's spherical head.
Digital Spy has spent around 14 hours collecting bolts, smashing through bosses, and acquiring a wonderful arsenal of wacky weapons in our hunt to stop the evil Dr Nefarious from causing havoc in the multiverse, and we had a blast the entire time. Read on for our full review.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart Performance
During our review session, performance mode wasn't quite ready, so we were locked into playing on "fidelity mode" which pumps the graphics up to 4K and runs ray-tracing features, but drops the frame rate to 30 frames per second (FPS).
While we'd have loved to play in the faster FPS mode and see all those fast-moving particle effects with the brilliant array of weaponry on offer, we weren't too disheartened to still be playing in hi-res.
Ratchet's fuzzy fur looks brilliant in the enhanced graphics mode, with each individual strand of hair waving in the wind – it looks so soft we feel like we could reach into the screen and lose our hand in his fluff.
However, the game looks truly gorgeous with ray-tracing turned on, as the lighting bounces around the cartoon world and really brings out the realism.
One of the worlds you visit is a very Cyberpunk-esque, dystopian city flooded by neon lights. Exploring this section and seeing hover cars fly over-head and reflect the dingy nightclub signs into puddles and off windows is really quite impressive.
And for those better-lit levels, the lighting is still brilliant, with shadows flickering across the grass and reflecting off Clank's shiny torso in all the right ways.
We liked duking it out with grunts and seeing them erupt into dozens of bolts (the game's currency) for us to collect, but this is not where we were most impressed.
Rift Apart has a lot of big, sweeping set-piece moments that show off the scale of the levels. Sometimes you'll be hopping between giant parade balloons as confetti fireworks explode around you, other times you'll be skating around mine-cart tracks as an enormous, death-dealing robot tries to swat you away.
These moments are incredibly memorable and fun to play through, as you dodge the many dangers that stand in your way, and take in the beautiful sky-box that stretches out in front of you.
Insomniac Games has already meticulously rebuilt New York City in wonderful 4K glory for Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and it's great to see the developer flex its creative muscles to build a series of crazy, colourful planets stretching across the universe.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart Story
Rift Apart kicks things off with a big celebration in your honour. Having supposedly rid the galaxy of Dr Nefarious, Ratchet and Clank are welcomed as heroes, receiving their own parade complete with giant Lombax balloons, fireworks and cheering crowds.
Clank, forever hoping to reunite Ratchet with his family, has a little surprise planned which should hopefully allow them both to travel to another dimension and find more Lombax creatures that they have been fighting to find.
Clank has developed the Dimensionator, a device that can create portals to travel between dimensions, and plans to present this to Ratchet at the end of the ceremony.
Even the best-laid plans go awry though, as Dr Nefarious returns to crash the party. While you're swinging between the adoring fans, the Dimensionator is damaged, causing it to tear the very fabric of reality to pieces, opening up rifts to hundreds of other dimensions.
All hell breaks loose as the galaxies collide. Dinosaurs fall through the sky, hover cars crash into buildings, and Ratchet is eventually separated from his close buddy Clank.
But you shouldn't fear, as it appears there might just be another Lombax from another dimension who's ready to help rescue Clank, fix the Dimensionator and take on Dr Nefarious to cleanse him of the universe.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart Combat
As you've come to expect from Ratchet and Clank, they come well armed with many ridiculous weapons to obliterate enemies.
You can carry a number of guns ranging from a rapid-fire shotgun that shoots lightning (The Enforcer), to a slow-mo sniper rifle, to a machine gun full of razor blades to take down your foes, and you're encouraged to regularly switch it up to get through the mobs of enemies before you.
Ammo is scattered throughout the world in boxes, but you'll often find yourself on the very cusp of running out, especially when taking on some of the bosses.
While this sounds like a pain to manage, we actually liked this system, as it forced us to experiment with other weapons and stopped us from just pulling out our favourite to blast through the problem.
Chuck out a Topiary Sprinkler (a literal garden sprinkler that traps enemies in foliage) to increase damage and lock down your targets, then hit them with a volley of ShatterBomb grenades to clean up a wave in no time.
There's also an interesting upgrade tree to each gun that requires you to spend resources to increase fire-rate, damage, or ammo capacity. If you make enough upgrades, you'll receive a bonus perk to make them more powerful. This can mean adding a three-shot horizontal spread to your Burst Pistol, or a homing technology to your rocket launcher.
All the guns are a tonne of fun to use, and it feels immensely satisfying hopping around the battlefield switching between guns and balancing your ammo in the chaos of the fight. You'll also be pulling yourself through various portals to gain positional advantages over your enemies, yanking yourself through rifts to close the distance.
The difficulty ramps up nicely, with enemies requiring several additional bullets and a more severe beat-down as you expand your arsenal and get deeper into the game.
There are several enemy archetypes to take down, each being relatively weaker to a particular weapon, and it's always an interesting experiment to figure out what combo you should use to take out a swarm of enemies made of giant robots with lasers, pirates with towering shields, and rabid dogs all looking to take a chomp out of your furry legs.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart Verdict
Sony's PlayStation 5 is a brilliant console that is well equipped to deal with the future of video games. The only problem it has faced is that there aren't many games that really harness all that power and show us what we can expect. However, we think Rift Apart takes the first few steps on the road to gaming greatness.
2020's Demon's Souls and Miles Morales were an excellent start to the new generation, but we are now looking to see what developers can do. Both are PS5-exclusive titles, but neither really brought that classic PlayStation energy that comes with these original characters that we all played with growing up.
Nostalgia is a big part of gaming in recent years, and this game definitely tugs on your memory threads to make you feel good.
We loved our journey through Rift Apart, and felt like this was a truly next-gen title from the first year of the PS5's life, highlighting all the excellent stuff we should be getting excited about for the future.
The adaptive triggers give you two modes of fire for each gun depending on how far down you push them, helpful sounds emanate from the in-controller mic to keep you aware of your situation, and the gorgeous graphics remind you that we haven't seen an R&C game look quite this good.
It's a breezy, short and fun run through a series of bonkers planets, tense boss-fights, and heartfelt cutscenes. With Sony's exclusives like the upcoming God of War sequel being delayed further beyond 2022, we only have a few games to enjoy, but we think you'll cope if you've got Rift Apart to play.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart will be available on June 11 on PlayStation 5.
This month, Digital Spy Magazine counts down the 50 greatest LGBTQ+ TV characters since the Stonewall riots. Read every issue now with a 1-month free trial, only on Apple News+.
Interested in Digital Spy's weekly newsletter? Sign up to get it sent straight to your inbox – and don't forget to join our Watch This Facebook Group for daily TV recommendations and discussions with other readers.