“Ratchet & Clank” Finally Join the PS4 Generation

Ratchet & Clank
Ratchet & Clank. Sony

Sony and Insomniac Games were in a unique position with the PS4 debut of their legendary, influential franchise, “Ratchet & Clank.” While fans (a group in which I would be a card-carrying member were anyone printing cards) may lament the fact that the PS4 “R&C” doesn’t continue the ambitious trajectory of games like “Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction” and the masterpiece of this series, “Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.”

In essence, the new “Ratchet & Clank” is a reimagining of 2002 PS2 game. Why go back to the beginning? Because Hollywood called and the good people at Sony realized that there will be new fans brought in by the movie released in 2016 and you can’t really dive into chapter 9 of a game series. They needed a fresh start that worked for both fans of the series and kids who will come to it because of what they saw at the movie theater.

And it doesn’t help that there hasn’t been a real “R&C” game in years. And so we have the reboot/reimagine/restart of “the game, based on the movie, based on the game.” For the most part, “Ratchet & Clank” sparks in the same way that the best of the series did, playing like greatest hits more than a new chapter. My hope is that both this game and the movie succeed enough to get us a real ambitious new adventure. Until then, this will do.

OLD FRIENDS

“Ratchet & Clank” works around a flashback/storytelling structure, in which notorious braggart Captain Qwark tells the story of how the two titular characters became so legendary. Consequently, the game goes back to the story of the first game—getting Lombax Ratchet and robot Clank together, turning them into Galactic Rangers, battling the Blarg—but this is no mere remaster of an old-generation game. For the most part, it looks brand new, like a game designed for the PS4 generation. No, you’re not going to use this game to show off your HDTV like, say, “Tom Clancy’s The Division” or “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” which both traditionally look much better, but the colors here pop and the details are remarkable. It’s deceptively gorgeous—more fluid and visually accomplished than any “R&C” game to date.

RETURN OF THE LOONY LOADOUT

One of the most memorable elements of the “Ratchet & Clank” franchise is the creative loadout of weapons that you can purchase as you move through the game. Those who love the series, can’t imagine an entry in it without “Mr. Zurkon,” “Buzz Blades,” and the “Groovitron,” a weapon that forces your enemies to dance while you gun them down.

The fantastic array of creative ways with which to decimate waves of alien scum has returned and is as enjoyable as ever. I forgot how much pure fun a “Ratchet & Clank” game can be once it really gets going with upgraded weapons and a full arsenal of insane weapons of mass destruction.

After a couple hours into the game, when you’re seamlessly switching between grenade launchers, fire throwers, and things that other games don’t possibly offer, it’s not hard not to smile at the gleeful joy of it all.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS BOREDOM

Having said all of that, and having thoroughly enjoyed the film “Ratchet & Clank,” my concern is that this title is too familiar to really be memorable enough to reboot the franchise for a new generation.

I have my doubts about the potential of the feature film—show me a video-game-to-film adaptation and I’ll show you a box office disappointment—and so there’s a part of me that thinks Sony and Insomniac would have been better off completely ignoring the film and just making the best new “Ratchet & Clank” game possible.

In a sense, this feels like a placeholder, a way to bridge the PS3 generation of “Ratchet & Clank” fans with new PS4 fans of the series and film. That’s fine, and it’s a very accomplished placeholder, I just hope it’s a bridge that leads somewhere amazing, somewhere worthy of the Lombax and his robot buddy.

Disclaimer: Sony provided a review copy of this title.