Timed to coincide with the Ratchet & Clank movie, this is the first time two of Sony's most-loved platform-exclusive heroes have officially appeared in their own game on PlayStation 4. And although fans might be bemused at first with how familiar it all seems, newcomers couldn't have hoped for a better current-gen debut.
That's because it is stunning – easily the best-looking platformer on the PS4. It is also packed with content, providing plenty of blasting, puzzling and leaping action. And it offers enough of a challenge for experienced and casual gamers alike.
The catch, for Ratchet & Clank fans, is that even though it looks fresh and up-to-date with its visuals and presentation, it's actually a remake of the very first game, released on the PlayStation 2 in 2002. As such, those who played that or the HD version on PS3 as part of the Ratchet & Clank Trilogy collection, will be taken down memory lane throughout.
So is Ratchet & Clank in 2016 a wonderful trip down memory lane, or just a yawnsome rehash of same-old content?
Ratchet & Clank PS4 review: Rebuilt from the ground up
Because it's re-worked content isn't necessarily a reason to dismiss this game though. Seasoned Clankers can take great heart in the fact that developer Insomniac hasn't just slapped on a new coat of paint, as with many other remasters or reissues. It has almost rebuilt the game from the ground up.
Not only does it look a million dollars, it also has tonnes of new content, tweaked original gameplay, and all-new cut scenes – many of which have been taken from the movie.
In short, it serves as both a great introduction to the characters for newfound fans of the movie, while providing plenty of extra elements to keep the old guard happy. Win-win.
Like the new movie, the story starts at the beginning, when Lombax mechanic and Galactic Ranger wannabe Ratchet meets his robot buddy Clank for the first time. And it's refreshing to revisit that tale with a fresh look, better animation, new voice acting and a keener sense of humour (although some of the jokes are clangers).
It's also great to encounter their first dalliances with the always funny superhero buffoon that is Captain Quark. Not all the comedy in Ratchet & Clank (or the many previous games) works, and some of it is simply puerile for anyone over the age of 13, but it's harmless and capable of raising a titter here and there.
Some of the best gags are self-referential, such as an opening joke about playing a game based on a movie based on a game. And having recently revisited the original Ratchet & Clank, there has clearly been some deft script editing and extra work done on bringing some of the themes and mirth up to date.
Ratchet & Clank 2016 review: Familiar gameplay
The menu systems are similar to before, although updated in style and functionality to match more recent PS3 remake efforts. You can buy new weapons and upgrade existing ones from Gadgetron Vendors scattered around the many visitable levels and worlds, which open into their own user interfaces.
Through these you can now beef-up weaponry through individual upgrade grids, by spending the reasonably-hard-to-come-by Raritanium (which almost sounds like an Avatar joke - only it wasn't a joke in that movie). This feature wasn't available in the original game and was introduced in later sequels. Favourite blasters and the like from later games have also been added, and can be bought in exchange for blots collected throughout the game.
We have always been big fans of Mr Zurkon, the floating robot helper with a psychotic demeanour, so we're thrilled that he's as feisty and useful as always.
The mission and travel menu systems are refreshed more than a little too. Throughout the game, the story will continually point you in new directions, to new planets where plot points will play out. However, as each is discovered and unlocked they are added to a galactic map list so you can choose to revisit previous levels whenever you like.
This is important as each level doesn't just feature elements of the story missions, but there are secrets and optional side quests too. Some of these cannot be completed on the first visit either because, as the story progresses, Ratchet and Clank's abilities are enhanced, meaning tricky-to-reach areas on early landscapes might be suddenly accessible thanks to a rocket pack or magnetic boots picked up later down the line. This encourages further exploration and expands the game's running time somewhat.
Ratchet & Clank 2016 review: New additions
There are also sections on planets that divert from the action-platforming gameplay. There is a hoverboard race segment, for example, that plays like a cross between Wipeout and Mario Kart. A new flying sequence has been added. And there are even all-new planets that didn't feature in the first game at all.
The controls, too, are more familiar to those used in later Ratchet & Clank outings, with a customisable quick-select option on the D-pad for the large array of weapons. Certain puzzles on levels have also been enhanced or changed entirely.
But perhaps the biggest addition to the all-new Ratchet & Clank comes in the form of collectable cards. Scattered throughout levels, and often requiring puzzle-solving skills to attain, are holocards. They also sometimes pop-up while defeating waves of aliens and enemies. They aren't just for show though, as collecting ranges of three will give our hero special boosts and bonuses; they can also be used to obtain some of the game's more elusive weapons. This further adds to the exploration of each world, and gives extra incentive to return.
Indeed, when a game looks this good and plays as intuitively as any other platformer out there on the market, you'll want to wring it dry before declaring the game finished. You won't be satisfied until you search every nook and cranny of the new Ratchet & Clank - and even then you might decide to start again on a harder level.
We've only recently completed the PS3 HD remaster of the original Ratchet & Clank, but were more than happy to plough through it again on PS4. The levels that overlap are extremely similar in layout and goals, but the amount of extra content added pleasantly threw us off-balance often. The game is so stunningly good-looking that it's also a joy to complete it again just to see everything in a new light.
It helps that the PlayStation 4 is largely devoid of decent 3D platformers so this now sits happily atop a very small pile. And let's not forget that it is a movie licensed title, something of a rarity these days. That in itself harks back to the early 2000s, when movie tie-ins where nine-to-the-dozen. There's one major difference compared to many of those, though: Ratchet & Clank is actually good. Splendid in fact.
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