The new Ratchet & Clank game proved the point of the PlayStation 5 when it was revealed last year. Developer Insomniac Games introduced Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart during Sony’s PS5 reveal, showing its galaxy-saving duo teleporting almost instantaneously from planet to planet to planet, loading in full, graphically rich environments in a fraction of a second.
It was a cool trick — one of those “showcasing the power of the PlayStation 5” moments.
But it doesn’t appear that Insomniac is relying solely on that technically dazzling interdimensional-travel-made-possible-by-the-PS5-SSD trick for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Sure, Clank is now fully ray-traced (so are Ratchet’s eyes), and Insomniac is using the PS5’s DualSense controller to make Ratchet & Clank’s infamous arsenal of wacky guns feel more lifelike than ever. Insomniac also wants to surprise you with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s story.
“The storytelling is where you’re going to see the biggest difference,” said Mike Daly, Rift Apart game director, when I asked him about what will surprise veteran Ratchet & Clank players. “Our character performances in the cinematics are really top notch — they really suck you into the story and make the characters meaningful and endearing.”
The story of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart brings another main character into the mix. It’s not just Ratchet’s story, or Clank’s. It’s also Rivet’s, a new Lombax character — that’s furry hero Ratchet’s species, for newcomers — who lives in an alternate dimension. Our heroes come to meet her by way of the evil Dr. Nefarious, Ratchet and Clank’s longtime incompetent nemesis. The bad doctor steals the Dimensionator, a device introduced in 2007’s Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. Long story short: Nefarious does some weird dimension-tearing stuff, and Ratchet and Clank find themselves on a journey through strange new worlds.
In the reality that we know, Ratchet and Clank handily defeat Nefarious time and again. In Rivet’s reality, however, Nefarious has found success, reaching emperor status and ruling with an iron fist. Rivet (and some other alternate-dimension versions of Ratchet & Clank characters) fight him as part of a resistance group. Nefarious City, her home, is a dark contrast to the bright, utopian futuristic world that Ratchet is familiar with.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart creative director Marcus Smith said during a preview of the game last week that Rivet’s “perseverance keeps her alive,” and that players will learn more about her struggle and the wider cast’s personal relationships throughout the game. Lead writer Lauren Mee added that Rivet has a distinct personality and a lot of history in her unusual dimension — she’s not just a mirror of Ratchet with lavender fur and piercings, in other words. And though she didn’t have a friendly sidekick like Clank at her side prior to the events of Rift Apart, she’s upbeat and uncynical, said Lindsay Thompson, senior animator at Insomniac.
Insomniac showed off Rivet in action during a hands-off preview held over Zoom, demonstrating how the new Lombax moves through worlds. She can swing through environments like the Spider-Man of Insomniac’s superhero games, and wall-runs like the survivors of Sunset Overdrive’s fun post-apocalypse. She’s comfortable with a wide array of weird guns, just like Ratchet.
Here’s some of what we saw, gun-wise:
- the Negatron Collider, a beam that charges up and sweeps energy across the battlefield
- the Enforcer, a double-barreled shotgun that lets players choose one or two shots, depending on how they pull the trigger of the DualSense controller
- the Ricochet, a weapon that fires a bouncing round that can wallop enemies with multiple hits
- the Lightning Rod, a gun that shoots out chain lightning for shocking multiple foes
- Mr. Fungi, a mushroomlike turret creature that cracks wise (?!)
- the Topiary Sprinkler, Rift Apart’s version of a freeze ray, except it turns enemies into manicured shrubbery
Most of those guns — and Rivet and Ratchet’s basic weapon, the Burst Pistol — utilize the DualSense’s adaptive triggers in cool ways, often for alternate fire options. Players can pull the right trigger button halfway to fire one shell from the Enforcer, for example, or pull it all the way to unload both shots.
Insomniac has improved Ratchet & Clank’s gunplay in Rift Apart, said Adam Noonchester, lead gameplay programmer at Insomniac Games, with new visual tricks. Enemies will shed “more chunks” as you fire at them, indicating damage, Noonchester said, and players will see their available ammo displayed on gun reticles. And with the game’s increased level of detail — more characters, effects, and the aforementioned chunks on screen — Insomniac has added new depth-of-field visual tricks to make enemies pop out amid the visual chaos.
Combat even employs Rift Apart’s new dimensional cracks. Players will see rift portals in combat encounters that may offer a tactical advantage — teleporting them out of harm’s way, or behind a boss character who’s off in the distance.
Those rift portals will come into play between battles as well, as players explore the many interdimensional planets of Rift Apart. Pocket Dimensions are scattered throughout worlds, and players can jump into them to take part in minigames and side missions. In one example Insomniac showed, Rivet and Clank hopped into a Pocket Dimension and rode on a runaway Speedle — a hyper-fast, beetlelike alien creature — on a rollercoaster-style course. Her reward? A new cosmetic helmet that can be worn in battle.
On their journey, Ratchet, Clank, and Rivet will encounter friends new and old, some of them familiar, but reimagined through the lens of alternate dimensions. Pro hoverboarder bro Skid McMarx from past Ratchet & Clank games will reappear as Phantom, a member of Rivet’s resistance group in Nefarious City. And Rusty Pete, the space pirate, will show up as Pierre Le Fer, a swashbuckling, sea shanty-singing ... well, he’s still a space pirate, but he’s got a French accent now and leaves the fighting to his comrades. Their appearances during our demo made me curious how other Ratchet & Clank characters, like Captain Qwark, will be represented in their Rift Apart alternate dimension forms.
Players will find out for themselves when Insomniac’s new Ratchet & Clank adventure comes to PlayStation 5 on June 11.