Release Date: November 12, 2013
Developer: Insomniac Games
Metacrtic Score: 76
So, I have something to admit: when I decided to review the PS3 Ratchet and Clank games before the movie comes out, I had forgotten that here where three main games released. “Tools of Destruction” was the first, but this game was the third. I will review the second game, “A Crack in Time” at some point, but I can’t say when exactly. However, for the most part this game plays pretty much like a direct sequels to “Tools of Destruction”, so I feel confident I can still give you an accurate review. So, join me in the Netherverse, and lets see if this last installment is a ban or whimper for Ratchet and Clank.
Between the end of “Tools of Destruction” and the start of “Into the Nexus” the whole gang is reunited after being split up and they started working as prisoner transporters. As the game starts Ratchet, Clank, Cronk and Zephyr are in the carrying Vendra Prog, a powerful Space Witch, to the Vartax Detention Centre. She’s awaken from her cryosleep and the gang soon finds themselves under attack by the Thungs-For-Less mercenary group, lead by Vendra’s brother Neftin. The mercenaries not only manage to free Vendra but they also destroy Ratchet’s ship, killing Cronk and Zephyr in the process. Ratchet and Clank manage to hitch a ride aboard one of the mercenary ships and are taken to the planet Yerek, a part of a sector in space that is said to be hunted.
While you are there you learn that Neftin and Vendra arn’t actually from this dimention, but a place called “The Netherverse”. The two were always lonely because of this, seeking some one like them, but after so many years outside of the Netherverse they cannot simply go back, as their bodies couldn’t handle the otherworldly atmosphere. So instead the twins decided to use the Dimensionator from “Tools of Destruction” to find their people and bring them to the the “real” world.
There is a lot to like about the story here, and i’ll get to that in a minuet, but the story line was an issue for some people due to it’s length. With only five exploitable planets and fewer objectives per planet that normal for the series, the game is defiantly the shortest one in the franchise. In fact, I think I beat the campaign in about six hours. I absolutely understand why some may have an issue with this, but there is one thing I think is often overlooked when talking about the stories length: It may be the shortest, but it’s also the tightest and most focused the story has even been. While I can’t say for you or anyone else whither or not that’s enough, I personally found the trade off of between length and a tighter focus to be fair enough.
With that out of the way, lets talk about the villains. I said in my review for “Tools of Destruction” that Insomniac was clearly setting up a very “Batman and Joker” relationship between Ratchet and Emperor Tachyon, which I liked a lot. Well it seemed that Insomniac also enjoyed that character dynamic as they doubled down on the concept here. Again, both Ratchet and his Villain are the last of their kind, and again the villain is trying to bring back their people using the Dimensionator. In fact, you could say the games story is a retread of “Tools of Destruction” and you wouldn’t be wrong, but to me it’s the differences between Tachyon and Vendra that make each game unique. Tachyon was a conqueror, a war lord. He wanted revenge on the Lombax’s for what they did to his people (even though his people waged war on the entire galaxy) and he wanted to reconquer the universe in the name of the Cragmites. Vendra was just a lonely child, wanting a family and too rash in her attempts to get them back. Out of every villain in the franchise she’s the most sympathetic and a much better “dark reflection” for Ratchet. Especially in the early games we see how rash Ratchet can be, so after 7 games we really start to understand just how similar yet different there two characters are. If we were still playing the Ratchet we were in game one, would he have bothered trying to stop Vendra, or would he have tried to help in exchange that she’s bring back his people as well? Like I said, I love this kind of character relationship, but I do have to say I hope that when going forward we get a little more diversity when it comes to villainous intent. The first three games may not have had the deepest villains, but you would never confuse Chairman Drek for Abercrombie Fizzwidget or Dr. Nefarious, and I wish that kind of originality in the story would have been more present.
The story is hard to rate, as there is a near perfect counterpoint for every good or bad point I have. The campaign is short, but it’s tighter and more focused; Vendra is a great villain, one of my favorites in the franchise, but she may as well be “Emperor Tachyon 2”. So the questions I have to ask myself is: did I have fun and do I think you will too? And to that end, yeah, I did and I do.
In my review for “Tools of Destruction” I complained that there wasn’t enough to make that game feel different from the rest of the franchise. While this games story still has an issue with that, the game play has enough new ideas to make it stand out on it’s own. The first of these are Clanks levels as he journey’s into the Netherverse. Clank levels have been a thing in the series since the second game, but they’ve almost always played the same. You go, find some machine buddies and do some light puzzle work using their abilities. None of these sections were awful, but they were almost always a low point for each game. Here however you’re put into a maze and have to shift the gravity around to find one of the “nethers” and use them to break down a wall in the real world. While these sections are never hard I enjoyed them as they were something truly different from Ratchet’s sections and they didn’t leave me wishing I could just get back to the “real” game.
The next new game play idea are these 0 gravity puzzles using both series staples the “magnate boots” and a new devise that creates a 0 gravity stream you uses yo move from place to place. Both of these are fun, but unchanging. With the magnate boots you just jump from one peace of floating debris to the next, and in the gravity stream puzzles you just find the right two places to conect then ride the stream to get to a new location. I liked the idea behind both of these, but I was left wishing more was done with them.
And then there are jetpacks! Why has this franchise never had jetpacks before? It takes some getting use to, but the ability to fly around the level, shooting foes from on high was worth it. The only really use is that you can only use the jetpacks at certain points, rather than it being fully interrogated into the game. I hope that as the franchise movies forward we see more of this, as jetpacks just make everything better.
Other than these few new ideas the game play is pretty much the same action and platforming fans are use too, but after so many years with the franchise Insomniac have gotten this game play down to a state of near perfection. While the game may only be around six hours long, it was six hours I spent with a smile. As I blasted, platformed and leveled up weapons it was clear to me that this was still more fulfilling that other games i’ve played that were bloated with boring side quest that only served to add needless game time. This is Ratchet and Clank at it’s leanest to be sure, but all that really means is that you’ll wast less time on boring or dull quest you don’t care about.
For the most part, this is the first time since “Going Commando” I felt the series evolved in a way that still kept true to the core of what makes Ratchet and Clank so great. I do hope the next installments are more substantial in terms of content, but I wouldn’t mind if Insomniac used this game as a model.
Game Play: 4/5
Music and Sound:
Like I said before, there’s really nothing to complain about her. Everyone of the cast does a fantastic job, the music fits perfectly and the guns all sound great. Insomniac have found a formula that works for the sires and have stuck too it. I can’t rally say that’s a bad thing when it comes to the sound department.
Music and Sound: 5/5
Overall Score: 4.25/5
Who is this game for: If you want an Action platformer, but don’t have as much time as you use to, pick this up. It’s short, sweet and too the point but doesn’t skimp on what makes Ratchet and Clank a great franchise.