The Lombax and his faithful robot are back in amazing form.
Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank franchise has pretty much been the franchise for the studio. Spyro may have had his reign building it up over the years and Sunset Overdrive was pretty awesome but Ratchet & Clank is almost the bread and butter for Insomniac. The platforming series, along with Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper, pretty much established the PlayStation 2 as a serious destination for fans in an era where Mario was more or less phoning it in and Sonic the Hedgehog had lost its sheen. One may go as far to say that the original Ratchet & Clank trilogy qualifies as one of the greatest platformers ever, even with all the shooting, bolt collecting and whatnot happening throughout.
With the CG movie coming out, the studio could have easily faced a Prince of Persia-style scenario – making a compelling game to tie in with the upcoming film but making sure the game isn’t a terrible adaptation. Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 has actually been developed concurrently along with the film. You’ll notice this in the character models with Insomniac tagging with Rainmaker Entertainment (the studio working on the film) and implementing the latter’s modified versions of the characters for the game. The cinematic collaboration and development feels more unified than a simple creative manifesto that’s been adopted for the sake of “Hollywood-ising” the franchise.
So after the Future series and Into The Nexus, we’re (sort of) back to the beginning. Let’s get this out of the way though – this is no remaster, not by a long shot. Insomniac has dubbed this a reimagining and it shows in several ways. New boss fights, flying sequences, planets and more have been added to the original game. The writing has been cleaned up pretty well so if you hated Ratchet in the very first game (and it was easy to hate him), then worry not – Insomniac has brought about the more modernized version of the Lombax that we know and respect.
Along with reimagining the overall flow of the game and enhancing the gameplay with the level design, the developer has improved the cut scenes significantly. Leaving the visuals aside, even the cinematography is different from the original Ratchet & Clank. If it seems like Insomniac is trying to complement the cinematic flair of the movie, then this is your best example. The developer actually admitted to matching film scenes to in-game scenes as much as possible, even going so far as to use the same colour correction tools. Will that instill a sense of déjà vu when the movie is out? Probably but that’s the intention here.
Going back to the Ubisoft paradox, Prince of Persia in 2008 wasn’t all that great of a game (let’s not get started on the film which was downright awful). Thankfully, even if the Ratchet & Clank movie’s lovely Pixar-level CG visuals mask a terrible story, the game itself is more than able to hold its own.
Ratchet & Clank runs at a native 1920×1080 resolution with a standard frame rate cap of 30 frames per second. Performance is fairly good with no screen tearing and no frame pacing issues observed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any frame drops though but these are very rare. When there are a ton of CPU intensive processes like explosions, gunfire and enemies on screen, then you might lose a few frames in the process. While some may balk at 30 FPS for a “remake”, it’s actually not a bad trade-off. This is due to the amount of screen effects implemented including the lighting, reflections, etc. Insomniac has stated before that it’s not on the 60 FPS bandwagon and in the case of Ratchet & Clank, it works very well. It’s also the first game in the series to move to a physically based rendering pipeline, which is always a great bump for visual quality.
Comparing the PS4 version with PS3 version of Ratchet & Clank Trilogy, namely with environments like Planet Aridia and Planet Kerwan, shows a big difference in visuals. Like Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Insomniac Games has put in an insane amount of remaking here. Unlike Gears of War though, Ratchet & Clank‘s results are above and beyond anything we’ve ever seen. The details on Ratchet’s model, right down to the fur, look incredible.
Full implementation of cinematic motion blur and depth of field, not to mention the amazing post processing effects during the night, gives the game a real cinematic feel that gels perfectly with the movie. Speaking of the environments, if you go back and try to compare the new Ratchet & Clank with the old PS2 version, you’ll discover more vibrant backgrounds and richer colour palette overall. Levels actually feel alive with more objects, enemies, attention to detail and a much larger scale than before. The old Ratchet & Clank never really struck us as washed out so let that be a testament to the magic of colour correction and two generations’ worth of increased processing power .
The post processing AA does a superb job of removing jaggies. However, when peering from a distance, it doesn’t work 100 percent (especially when Ratchet and Clank are in their shuttle). There are also some issues with the level of detail at times for objects in the distance far away. Pop-in is also observed at times but there are otherwise no streaming issues for faster sequences and missions like races.
Overall, when looking at the work that Insomniac has done with Ratchet & Clank – especially compared to previous games in the series and the PS3 versions – it’s an excellent reimagining. There are a few minor issues here and there but they won’t detract from the experience at all. If you’re a fan of Ratchet & Clank, then the reimagining is worth picking up. If you’re new to the series and want to know what’s the big deal – while essentially guaranteeing yourself a brand new gameplay experience in the process – then there’s no better time or place to start than now.
Note: Bill Smith also contributed to this article.