Ratchet and Clank never hides what it is, starting with the giant text on the back of its box: “a game based on a movie based on a game.” While playing, the characters often break the fourth wall to point out that it’s not an entirely new game (“Haven’t we met before?” one memorable character asks Ratchet in one of the many Pixar-level quality cut scenes). Ratchet and Clank is more than a remake; it’s a re-imagining of the original title from the PlayStation 2. And it does a phenomenal job retaining a great sense of humor, tapping into nostalgia and looking absolutely superb while doing it.
The original Ratchet and Clank was a standout title when it came to the PS2 in 2002, with its addicting shoot-em-up gameplay, hilarious characters and just-far-enough innuendos sprinkled throughout the story. For that reason, the best part of Ratchet and Clank’s first foray on the PS4 is its ability to blend a feeling of freshness with the beauty of nostalgia. Almost every planet I ventured to felt just familiar enough to bring a smile to my face by resurrecting old memories, but also always strayed far enough from what it was back then to always feel new. By having the skeleton of the game already outlined for them, developer Insomniac Games was able to focus on making a good game great, and it’s safe to say they achieved that and more.
While the storyline follows a similar premise to the original PS2 title, the introduction of new characters and weapons does in fact makes this more like a whole new game rather than a remake. You’ll recognize characters and settings from the original, but they feel different, play different and even look different.
And look different they sure do. Insomniac Games always manages to create amazing looking games, and Ratchet and Clank on the PS4 is no exception. In fact, it’s arguable that R&C is one of the best-looking games on the console so far, quickly becoming the closest thing to a Pixar movie I’ve ever had the joy of playing.
Gameplay is your standard Ratchet and Clank formula: fly to a planet, complete the mission by shooting up enemies and collecting bolts and use them to buy new weapons. Additionally, Insomniac has inserted what made Ratchet’s second and third iterations on the PS2 so good – an addictive and easy-to-use weapon upgrade system. The more you use each weapon, the stronger they become, and as a result, the deadlier they are. On top of this, you can modify the capabilities of each one at every vendor using the Raritanium collected throughout your adventure.
Ratchet’s XP system also returns to the game, allowing him to increase his available health as he defeats more and more enemies. These deep, yet easy to understand, systems create an addictive gameplay loop that veterans of the franchise will recognize. But it’s also, ultimately, what keeps them coming back for more.
The weapon upgrade system works as well as it does because the weapons themselves are classic Ratchet and Clank. While some of the best weapons make a return, the new ones feel right at home in this twisted universe, especially the new “Pixelizer” that turns enemies into two-dimensional pixelated versions of themselves. It’s powerful and fun to use, which is the baseline for nearly every weapon found in Ratchet and Clank.
Other new additions to the game include an option to play on hard mode (separate from the game’s version of new game plus in challenge mode) and the introduction of holo-cards, which are basically collectable trading cards discovered in secret areas and awarded for defeating enemies. For every set of three Ratchet collects throughout the game, various perks are unlocked such as earning more bolts when defeating enemies or unlocking special upgrades for weapons. Along with the standard gold-bolts for players to find, holo-cards add more replayability for those looking to 100% the entire game.
Ratchet and Clank is a beautiful and memorable nod to the duo’s past and is a bargain at its MSRP of $39.99. Whether you’re a newcomer to the series or have been following the Lombax since he went commando, you likely will have trouble putting the controller down until you reach the end of your first of many, many playthroughs.