YEAR OF RELEASE: 2014
PRICE AT LAUNCH: $14.99
METACRITIC SCORE: 76
WHAT IS IT?
A new Ratchet & Clank adventure in the classic mold. All muscle, no fat.
HAD I HEARD OF IT? YES… BUT I HAD NEVER PLAYED IT.
- This was on my list of games to get to, but I never ended up downloading it. The PS4 was already out when the game launched, and it was too hard to step back to the PS3 for even a few hours, since I’d have to give up the freedom of Remote Play. Besides, the game came out in November, when every AAA game of the year was shipping.
WHO MADE IT? INSOMNIAC GAMES.
- Insomniac has been a very prolific studio, launching a highly diverse range of brands over the course of two decades. This includes Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance: Fall of Man, and Sunset Overdrive.
- The Ratchet & Clank series arrived in 2002, and differentiated itself from PS2 stable mates Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper by focusing on third-person run-and-gun action and a weapon-focused leveling system.
- Insomniac Games had been doing a lot of experimentation with Ratchet & Clank leading up to the release of Into the Nexus. In 2011, they launched a lego-style cooperative game for four players (Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One). In 2012, they also explored tower defense in Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault.
FIRST HOUR IMPRESSION: EXCELLENT!
- Much like Super Mario Galaxy, Into the Nexus throws a wide range of clever, intuitive challenges at you, rarely using the same gimmick twice. The first hour provides an astounding stream of novelty, peaking with the ability to walk upside down on walls and boost from one floating platform to another.
- Right away, the game feels like a return to form, giving players a fast-paced, single-player action-platform-shooting experience. No slow-paced multiplayer mechanics or out-of-place tower defense.
- The story isn’t world-changing, but the cut scenes are well-produced and crisply written.
THIRD HOUR IMPRESSION: IF ONLY ALL GAMES COULD BE PACED THIS WELL…
- The leveling in this came comes at a rapid clip, allowing you to feel very powerful very quickly.
- The difficulty curve is fair, providing a mounting challenge without any unfair spikes that force you to grind up your stats.
- There is one irritating fetch quest, but it’s over quickly enough to avoid any throwing of controllers.
- The Clank sequences are clever and distinct enough to be the foundation for a self-standing game. Every opportunity to control him is a pleasure.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Sony released a tie-in F2P mobile game called Ratchet & Clank: Before the Nexus. You can grind currency in the mobile game that can be used in the console game. It’s entertaining enough… but if given the choice, I’d far rather pull out the Vita and play the real thing via Wi-Fi.
DID I COMPLETE IT? YES!
- I played the game in three sittings, and it took roughly five hours. My time was about evently split on the PS4, the Vita, and the PlayStation TV. Once I started playing, I didn’t want to play anything else until I was finished.
HOW DOES IT WORK ON VITA? GREAT!
- It’s pretty mind-blowing to see this one running on Vita. It looks fantastic on the small screen.
- The condensed controls don’t miss a beat… it’s just as easy to run and gun on this as it is on a PS4 Dual Shock 4.
HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO PLAY BEFORE YOU’VE GOTTEN THE GIST? 30 MINUTES.
- If you’ve never played a Ratchet & Clank game before, it might take you a bit to get a handle on the leveling mechanic.
- The tutorial is to-the-point, and driven by the story.
I have played most of the Ratchet & Clank games, but I’ve never finished one. I’ve always enjoyed the strafing/shooting mechanics, and I like the characters, but the series had never grabbed me in the way that Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper did. I recall being very impressed by the visuals in the early PS3 titles (Tools of Destruction and A Crack In Time), but the pace of the games always felt a bit too plodding to stay engaged.
Perhaps others players were feeling this as well; maybe Insomniac was attempting to mitigate this with the multiplayer mode in All 4 One and the tower defense Full Frontal Assault. For me, those changes were too dramatic, leaving me less interested in the franchise as a whole.
Turns out all the series really needed was to play with gravity and significantly tighten the play loop. Who’d have thought that a grind-focused game would actually work best when condensed into a few hours? This is the best Ratchet & Clank experience I’ve ever had; I couldn’t put it down. The weapon upgrades come at a rapid clip, the mechanics are constantly evolving, and the whole thing ends well before wearing out its welcome.
One of the best things about the digital future is that games can be as long or as short as the experience justifiies. If the experience is shorter than the 10+ hours you expect from a $60 , it can be priced accordingly. There’s no need for fat or filler, allowing for a much better overall experience.
I started playing this one on the PS4 in the living room. The next time I was able to pick it up, it was at a Starbucks on the Vita. I wrapped up the game in my bedroom on the PlayStation TV. In each case, the experience was so good that the game felt like it was running natively. This is a great title to start your PlayStation Now subscription with, and a good one ot prove to your friends and family that you can’t tell the difference between a streamed game with a solid connection and a game running natively.