Ratchet & Clank
It’s hard to believe the Ratchet & Clank series is over 13 years old. The original Ratchet & Clank launched in 2002, and the franchise has been going strong as one of Insomniac’s most successful series. After over a decade, Ratchet & Clank is getting a reboot. Both a game and a movie are slated for release in April, retelling the origin story of the titular Lombax and his miniature robotic companion. We played the first few hours of the upcoming game to see how Ratchet has evolved while going back to his roots.
The tale is told by Captain Qwark, who is stuck in prison and decides to recount the duo’s adventures to one of his cellmates. Each cutscene is extremely detailed and vibrant, and the visuals maintain the same quality during gameplay. The sprawling skyboxes, explosive weapon effects, and even Ratchet’s fur all show how far the series has come since its beginning.
The classic gameplay of Ratchet & Clank remains mostly unchanged; there’s still plenty of platforming, crate-smashing, and enemies to blast in this new take on the PS2 original. However, the reboot adds all the advancements that were made to the formula over the years, like the streamlined controls and the experience system of the more recent titles. Ratchet also has an expanded arsenal of ridiculous weapons and gadgets from the entire history of the franchise, along with some cool new ones like the Pixelizer (it kills enemies by lowering their resolution). It’s all simple but fun in the same way that it was throughout the early 2000s.
Ratchet & Clank’s levels are a combination of brand new areas and re-envisioned worlds from the first game. For example, the intro mission is completely new, while the second planet is a beautifully reinvented version of the original’s first world. Clank has his own playable levels just as he did in A Crack in Time, and these are more puzzle-oriented than Ratchet’s platforming and combat levels. None of the levels are especially challenging, but even if you jump off a ledge for the heck of it, the checkpoints are very forgiving. Most levels are enjoyable and include some sort of explosive set piece to reward you for your actions.
The game is directly related to the new film, so Insomniac has combined new designs, set pieces, and cutscenes with the old in order to re-imagine the whole backstory. Characters and places from later games in the series appear in alternate roles, and some have slightly changed personalities. Ratchet has lost some of his 3D-platformer-mascot attitude from his PS2 debut, and parts of the dialogue can be cringey (like talking about pre-ordering holo-games). Overall, though, it has the same goofy vibe and characteristic humor that the franchise is well known for.
This reboot seems like it’s primed to bring Ratchet & Clank to a new generation of players in 2016. I got the distinct feeling Sony wants to get younger gamers into the franchise with this re-imagining of one of its most popular properties. Thankfully, it doesn’t do that at the expense of longtime fans. The new-age Ratchet & Clank works because it’s doing what a good reboot does – retaining what veterans love while showing the new crowd why it was beloved in the first place.