'Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart' has a long, storied history with the PlayStation, going all the way back to 2002 and the PlayStation 2.
At the time, 'Ratchet & Clank' had a lot of bawdy humour; its sequels included subtitles like 'Up Your Arsenal', 'Full Frontal Assault', and 'Going Commando'. The action was much as you'd expect - addictive, fast-paced, blasting away at anything and everything, and always enjoyably fun and never too taxing or bogged down with anything to keep you out of it. 2016 saw a re-imagining of the series, with a much stronger emphasis on graphics and a willingness to refresh the whole series for an audience scaled towards younger people.
'Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart' is a gorgeous game to look at. The sheer extent of the detail that goes into every single frame of it is on par with major blockbuster animation studios like Pixar. In fact, you almost feel like you're watching one when all of a sudden, you've got a controller in your hand and you're moving the next scene on. Clearly, Insomniac Games have taken full advantage of the power of the PlayStation 5, even surpassing 'Spider-Man: Miles Morales' with their work here. It looks that good, if not better.
The graphics really can't be overstated. Ray-tracing cuts through and provides breathtaking lighting. You can practically see individual furs on Ratchet's face. It doesn't just end with the graphics, however. The haptic feedback on the trigger buttons and the controller are finely matched with the on-screen action. Mark Mothersbaugh's delightful sci-fi synth score enriches the action without becoming overbearing. The jokes are frequent and the script is fun and light. It's all high-calibre stuff.
Yet, curiously, 'Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart' has a somewhat standard approach to gameplay. It's your classic platform shooter that you've gone through a hundred times before. Your arsenal of weapons is varied but never anything you're unfamiliar with. There's a shotgun-style weapon, a straightforward blaster, a ricochet weapon, a rocket launcher, and you can leap, backflip, and zip your way around the action in order to get a better shot and avoid incoming fire. The game's difficulty is never quite so overwhelming that you're struggling, but the skill comes in making it look cooler for you. Exploration in the levels yields extra power-ups, more bolts for upgrades and purchasing new weapons, and you'll even come across plenty of secret items that yield surprises galore.
Again, this is all classic platform action here, calling back to previous entries in the series and other stalwarts of the genre like 'Super Mario 64' or 'Jak and Daxter'. You know what you're getting into, and 'Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart' is incredibly well-designed and laid out so that you'll want to come back to play again and again. The issue is that there's something just a little bit too simple about it all. The humour, for example, is very childish and the story isn't terribly original or exciting for that matter. Yes, the inclusion of alternate realities and dimensions is always ripe for humour and adventure, but it's used in such a flat way here. Of course, for younger players, it'll probably do wonders to them but for worn-out veterans and emotional husks like us, it's the same again and again.
'Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart' is clearly aiming its sights on a younger audience, and there's no doubt that this will provide a fantastically entertaining experience for them. The humour is just the right level of silly and it's family safe too. The action never gets so overwhelming as to be threatening or distressing. It's a family-friendly blockbuster, after all. It's got the design, the incredible visuals, and the franchise gravitas to match anything Disney can fire out of a cannon.