The PS5 has had a strange seven months. Since the console’s release in November 2020, stock has been fiendishly hard to get hold of, and (partly due to the pandemic) there’s been a dearth of big-ticket next-gen exclusives. Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man: Miles Morales has been more or less the only game that feels like a true PS5 must-have – leading to the unusual situation where every time more console stock gets issued, Morales shoots up the sales charts, claiming the No 1 spot more than half a year after its release. Insomniac’s next project, the blockbuster platforming sequel Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (out 11 June), might just change things, however.
The Ratchet & Clank franchise began on the PlayStation 2 back in 2002, and encompasses more than a dozen releases, the last being the acclaimed PS4 remake/reboot Ratchet & Clank (2016). Like its predecessors, Rift Apart is essentially kid-friendly science fiction, centring around the peppy Ratchet – a cat-like alien known as a Lombax – and Clank, his faithful robot sidekick. Think C-3PO’s booksmart fussbudgetery crammed into BB-8’s diminutive frame.
Rift Apart begins with disaster, as an interdimensional portal gun malfunctions and tears open the fabric of space time. Ratchet and Clank are sent hurtling into a dimension where their recurring nemesis Dr Nefarious has become an all-powerful emperor. In this dimension, they also encounter Rivet, a female Lombax who’s almost Ratchet’s temperamental double.
It’s a broad, goofy storyline, and Rift Apart approaches it with exactly the right amount of sincerity. There’s no particular ingenuity to the script but all the emotional beats land smoothly; it could almost pass for a studio-made family animation circa 2010. The technical side of Rift Apart, however, is a downright marvel. Giving players, as Ratchet or Rivet, the ability to leap through portals to other dimensions is a canny pretext to show off the PS5’s unprecedentedly quick rendering capabilities. It’s one of those things that doesn’t sound impressive on paper, but playing it, you can’t help but be struck by how futuristic it feels - how dynamic and seamless the game’s universe is. Graphically, too, this is at the very cutting edge, despite its cartoony aesthetic.
Of course, this could all run the risk of feeling like a glorified tech demo. Fortunately, Rift Apart has charm to burn, in its character design, lively combat mechanics, and explorable levels that feel large without seeming maze-like, busy without being cluttered. It’ll still be some time before PS5 supply catches up with demand, but for those early adopters, this is one of the best looks yet at what the new console generation has to offer. It’s big, it’s bright, and it’s almost impossible not to love.