Review: Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus (PS3)

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Title: Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.7 GB)
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Price: $29.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus is exclusive to PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.

The beauty of the PlayStation platform has always been its ability to provide an avenue for various styles of gameplay, various characters across a multitude of universes, and enough variety between them that almost all grounds are covered when it comes to appeasing the demands of unique gamer preferences.

Although I have enjoyed taking on Gods with Kratos, destroying fungi-infected abominations with Joel, and robbing the undeserving rich with Sly and friends, my true passion comes in the form of planet-hopping with Ratchet and Clank, exploring massive foreign worlds, and building up my weapons to the point of insane proportions in order to destroy everything. I love Ratchet and Clank’s notion of ultra violence in a colorful universe. Yes, folks, I even loved All 4 One, because I could explore a Ratchet and Clank story with three other friends. While the inception of the series occurred on the PlayStation 2, the duo made some amazing strides on the PlayStation 3 platform. Everything from the amazing visuals (that were oftentimes compared to Pixar-quality) to the maturing storyline that did a better job of blending the quirkiness of the series with narratives that pushed our juvenile characters into the deeper stuff (like the notion of being the only survivor of a race, and the loneliness that it entails).

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Another stride that was taken with the series on the PlayStation 3 was that of unifying the individual games with a novel style continuity, including recurring characters and plot lines that leaked from one game to the other. Thus, events that took place in Future: Tools of Destruction flow through into A Crack in Time. With Into the Nexus, the Ratchet and Clank series (as we know it on the PS3) comes to an end, in a short, but polished epilogue. Ratchet once again faces an evil that threatens the galaxy, but as I mentioned before, the evil is no longer as black and white as in the early days of Dr. Nefarious. There’s more going on here with one of our main antagonists, and the truth of that is something that hits home in Ratchet’s own experiences.

In addition to a continuing storyline, Insomniac adds new play mechanics with each title, adding something new to the familiar gameplay. A Crack in Time ventured into controlling time with Clank, and Into the Nexus takes the same approach with Gravity. This makes for some interesting puzzles that keep the title from being a complete “Pew Pew” fest, not that blasting everything in sight is a bad thing.

Into the Nexus is not a long game and it’s priced as such. But don’t let that dissuade you from experiencing the epilogue to an amazing PlayStation 3 series.

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Gameplay:
At its heart, the series has never wavered. It’s a platformer/third-person-shooter. Over the years even the control mechanics have changed in favor of allowing a full third-person-shooter experience, whereas before you could use a lock-on button to switch between targets, now you have full directional control of your aim with one joystick while the other stick controls your movement. Those who have ventured this far with the Lombax will feel right at home with Into the Nexus. The added gravity element is where gameplay goes in a new direction. In fact, anyone who has played Gravity Rush on PS Vita will recognize a familiar play mechanic. Ratchet has always traveled around with gravity boots, but Into the Nexus begins with a sequence of events that has you switching gravitational polarity at a moments notice. I feel that I should mention that the day before I started Into the Nexus, I visited my local theater and watch the movie, Gravity, so it almost served as a training for what I was about to experience in the new Ratchet game.

Your new “gravity gun” allows you to create polarities between two nodes that Ratchet can then hop into and use to travel across vast chasms or otherwise impassible areas. As the game progresses, multiple nodes can be linked together and the challenge ramps up with Ratchet having to shoot nodes while traveling within a gravity path. Fortunately, the challenges never become truly frustrating, and you are even allowed to slow your process through the gravity streams, aiding you in controlling your aim.

The gravity challenges aren’t only reserved for our favorite Lombax. As the story progresses, Clank will have his own challenges with gravity as he explores the “Nexus” in a side-scrolling platforming mini-game that is both challenging and fun at the same time. In fact, I would completely love a spinoff of this mini game on my phone or Vita as it presents a unique gameplay that I haven’t really experienced before. Your right joystick controls gravity, while the left stick controls Clank in a traditional platforming scheme. The challenge comes in switching gravity while being able to adjust your own sense of what is up and down in order to compensate with how you control Clank with the left stick. It is a blast, and you have to hone those reflexes, but again, it never becomes frustratingly difficult.

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Into the Nexus brings back some of the familiar weapons from previous Ratchet and Clank games, albeit with a slight visual makeover and it introduces some new ones as well. You are also allowed to build up each weapon, with a honeycomb system of advancement. As you unlock nodes in the honeycomb, you build up ammo capacity, range, damage, and even how many bolts (currency) you get when dispatching enemies with said weapon. There are also hidden boosts within the system that give you special perks for each weapon and armor is also upgradable at special kiosks. All of this sounds rather expensive, but Into the Nexus returns with the Arena combat of old, allowing you to earn some high bolts for taking on enemies and challenges.

There really isn’t much to complain about in the gameplay department. I could see the formula getting stale, were it not for Insomniac’s creative ways of introducing new gameplay into a familiar world. And being able to boot up a Ratchet and Clank game and immediately feeling right at home in the controls department is something I have come to expect from the series. This final PS3 entry is no different.

Visuals:
Even before the threshold of a new generation, the PlayStation 3 still wows with games like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V. The Ratchet and Clank series was one of the first titles on the console to receive comparisons to “A Pixar movie running in real-time”. While the most cynical might find flaws in this comparison, it is hard to argue with the visual presentation of the series. Fluid animation, colorful worlds, and amazing particle effects bring to life one of the most realized universes this generation and Into the Nexus introduces us to some new environments, not seen before in the Ratchet Universe.

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A haunted town that resembles the seedier side of Star Wars’ Coruscant and an abandoned orphanage that is straight out of Silent Hill join the roster of beautifully-generated worlds the series has allowed us to visit. I can’t imagine what we will see on PlayStation 4, when the series makes its way there.

Audio:
Never ones to take the epic travels of the dynamic duo lightly, Insomniac scored the new game with an epic set of tunes that compliment the darker tale, while reminding us that this is still high adventure. On the sound effects side, every weapon is accompanied by effects that are familiar to veterans of the series, including that telltale sound of a massive amount of bolts exploding from crates. David Kaye still holds the top spot for me for his performance as Clank. He is one of my favorite voiced characters in gaming.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
We are less than a week away from the next generation of PlayStation gaming. It is a bittersweet feeling to be saying goodbye to the adventures started with Tools of Destruction. Even as a short budget-priced game, Into the Nexus doesn’t take its swan song lightly, giving us everything that we love about the series and keeping pace with its predecessors. With games like these on the current platform, the transition to next gen will be smoother for late adopters, as there are still many great experiences to be had on the current gen, and Into the Nexus is one of those. If you are a fan of Ratchet and Clank, you owe it to yourself to experience this epilogue.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.

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  • I have a feeling this game will be forgotten. Seems like a lot of PS fans don’t care anymore since Insomniac went multi platform. But glad to see they still put care into this game. May just pick it up.

  • ChazzH69

    I’ll grab this as a goodbye to the PS3 iterations of Ratchet. I had fun.