Preview: Ratchet & Clank for PlayStation 4

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Sony sent us a truncated build of the new Ratchet & Clank game coming to PlayStation 4 on April 12, 2016. Covering the first few hours of the game across six planets, we were able to get a good idea of what to expect when the full game arrives next month. And make no mistake, this is a very full game at a very great price.

I can’t believe I’m saying this about a reboot/remake of a game that came out fourteen years ago but… I will keep this preview as spoiler free as possible. Yes, you read that right, spoiler free.

Because this reboot is tied in so closely with the upcoming Ratchet & Clank movie, things aren’t exactly as you may remember them from the original game. Putting the origin story of Ratchet & Clank into a movie necessitates some changes in order to make it a more coherent and accessible narrative.

Granted, the first few hours of a game isn’t enough to judge changes to the story as a whole, but right off the bat there are new settings and minor story alterations that were a bit jarring at first. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, far from it. They’re fun and interesting changes but I just wasn’t expecting what was presented. I’m not going to spoil it for you – even though other outlets might.

What I will say is that all the signature humor of Ratchet & Clank is intact and in some ways it’s better than ever. This is a reboot/remake. Insomniac is making it. This is the fourth iteration of this particular game. Things quickly get very meta and hilariously self-referential. Fans are going to love it.

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For the newcomers out there, all those people who maybe never had a PlayStation before the PS4, you’ll be eased right into a wonderful story in one of the most beloved PlayStation franchises. One minor change I will discuss is Ratchet’s demeanor in the early going. In the original game he was kind of a dick early on. That was actually one of the things I didn’t like when I played it all those years ago.

The build I had didn’t take me to the confrontation between jerky Ratchet and loveable Clank, but our heroic Lombax appears to have been softened up a bit and for me anyway, that’s a welcome change. While there are a number of other minor changes in the early going, the overarching story from the original game appears to be intact.

The previous big console remake of the game as part of the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection on the PS3 made some great strides with updating the original PS2 game for the modern era, but these were mostly cosmetic changes.

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For this full re-imagining, Insomniac has taken everything they’ve built into the more than a dozen games over the last fourteen years, and refined it into the best possible Ratchet & Clank experience to date. This is the type of full-on remake that we’ve been clamoring for for years.

You’ve got the original story, though slightly refined, built from the ground up with the latest graphics and lighting, all the best weapons from the series (along with some sweet new choices), bigger locations, new locations, new bosses, and so much more. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a reboot/remake.

Even though I’ve played through these first few hours of the game countless times on the PS2, PS3, and Vita, the tweaks to the story and settings made it less arduous than I expected. Couple that with the incredible level of detail and it really feels like a whole new, if somewhat familiar, experience.

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Seriously, this game is straight up gorgeous. The Ratchet & Clank series has always been a looker and when Future: Tools of Destruction came to the PlayStation 3 in 2007 there were comparisons to Pixar. That may have been a bit of a reach, but this time around the comparisons are much more applicable. Everything about the game is just so much more detailed than it’s ever been.

The familiar weapon wheel is intact but a new quick select has been added to the D-pad and it’s easily customizable. Once I got my head around the change I was using that option more than the old weapon wheel simply because it’s so much more efficient. All available weapons are arrayed in an outer circle and they can quickly be assigned or switched out to one of the four options on the D-pad.

The weapons themselves are some of the best across the entire series including two of my absolute favorites, the Groovitron and Mr. Zurkon. After playing with the brand new Pixelator though, those two might be taking a back seat to the old school destruction. Hit your enemies with this and they take damage and turn into 8-bit versions of themselves. It’s certainly more fun cosmetically and the sound effects make me feel like a kid in an arcade again.

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A ton of unlockables are buried in the menu for those who can find the Gold Bolts hidden throughout the game. You’ll be able to use them to check out photo galleries of weapons, characters, environments, and the original Ratchet & Clank game from 2002.

You’ll also gain access to screen filters, different bolt styles, head masks (which are pretty hilarious), and different armor and ship paint. You can also unlock a few cheats to change the game speed, gain infinite ammo, and invincibility.

Prepare for new collectibles in the form of holocards. Not to be confused with the holo-plans introduced in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, although there is a tie-in there, the holocards are a new addition to the Ratchet & Clank universe.

You can collect them in two ways. You’ll be awarded individual cards for defeating certain enemies or you can find packs of three hidden throughout the levels. The idea is to get complete sets which will give you minor equipment enhancements but as the game states, “really, it’s all about the collector cred”.

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An entirely new flight sequence has been added which is a lot of fun as well. It also makes sense in terms of the story so it really feels like a natural fit. Clank also gets some new gameplay that wasn’t in the original game to offer up a nice change of pace for veterans and newcomers alike.

This truly is the best possible outcome fans could have hoped for when this reboot/remake was announced. My only question or concern is what happens next? Is this a one-off? Do we see the old storylines continue in new games? Does the franchise continue in a new direction with entirely new stories? If Insomniac has already addressed any of this I’ve clearly missed it, but if they haven’t….

Whatever direction the franchise takes, this is set up to be a wonderful start for our favorite Lombax and his robot buddy on the PlayStation 4 and I hope we get to see more. In the meantime, check out some of my gameplay in the video below.

 

* All screenshots and video used in this preview were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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  • Roger Cannon

    Can not WAIT! Thanks for the update, Josh. Those screen caps look gorgeous.