When the PlayStation 4 first launched, I had high hopes that Knack would be the new Ratchet and Clank. It turns out, Ratchet and Clank is the new Ratchet and Clank. Nothing says “video game that plays like a Pixar film” than great writing, a great look, and likable main characters. Let it be known that I love Ratchet and Clank. I don’t mean the game, I mean the property. When I was in third grade, one of my best friends let me borrow a game that I immediately fell in love with. Over a decade later, that game has returned in the form of a remake. Ratchet and Clank for the PlayStation 4 is a great game. I would even go as far as to say that it’s amazing. It has a great story, awesome humor, and unique shooting and platforming mechanics that elevate it above other games in its genre. That being said, there’s something about this remake that left me, as a fan of the original game, wanting for more.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, Ratchet and Clank is a space adventure that revolves around a Lombax, a bipedal cat-like creature, named Ratchet, and a small robot named Clank. We follow the duo as they meet different characters, get into trouble and take on chairman Drek, a corporate alien with an evil plan. During our journey with Ratchet and Clank, we acquire various over-the-top gadgets and weapons that help us defeat enemies and navigate obstacles throughout our adventure.
The game has a story with clever, thoughtful humor. Ratchet and Clank for the PlayStation 4 is very aware of what it is. Characters make references to the fact that you’re playing a game based on a movie that is based on a game. When it comes to humor, this remake nails it. The writers know exactly what made the original game charming which are witty jokes that are suitable for kids but still funny for adults. The creative weapons that are at your disposal also factor into the humor. Weapons like the Groovitron that makes your enemies burst into dance moves are the reason why people love the series. The writers maintain that attitude in this game. In fact, the writing in this game pushes the wit factor in a way that makes this game even funnier than the original. The writing keeps the moment to moment gameplay enjoyable and is the best part of the game.
The writing is great when it comes to the humor in the game, but, falls short in the area of character development. Ratchet and Clank’s relationship was a very important part of the original story. Sadly, their relationship was not as developed as it could have been in this remake. For a game with the title “Ratchet and Clank” you would think that Clank would have more of a central role in the story. A more compelling title of the game would have been “Ratchet and Mr. Zurkon” seeing as how I heard more from Mr. Zurkon than I did from Clank while playing the game. Clank is always there assisting Ratchet but as far as the story goes, the game is about Ratchet. The lack of moments used to build on Ratchet and Clank’s relationship feels disappointing. There is no conflict between the two characters. There is nothing to really show why the characters are close. Their relationship almost doesn’t matter. We’re left with characters that become best friends immediately. Clank has plenty of lines and his own times to shine but none of these moments felt very substantial.
While on the topic of character development, many of the side characters were not interesting. Cora seemed like she was there just because she plays a larger role in the movie. I couldn’t tell you what her purpose was in this game other than to be along for the ride. Drek didn’t feel fully developed as a villain by the end of the game. He felt underutilized as a villain because of his lack of presence. Captain Qwark was cool but he is way more of a central character than he needed to be. I can only take so much of Qwark before I’m sick of him. His character is funny at first but can grow old quickly. He’s one of those guys that you’d invite to a party but you wouldn’t hang out with on the regular. That is the most accurate way I can describe how I feel about Qwark as a character. This all isn’t to say that the story is not good. The story is awesome considering what this game is. It’s just very easy to see the influence of the movie on this game. That may even be okay considering that without the movie, this game might not have been made.
The game looks beautiful. It’s easily one of the best looking games I’ve played in a long time. You would almost think it was a Nintendo game with the level of polish it has. You would “almost’” think this. The game looks great but while playing, I was often reminded that the game’s polish wasn’t on par with that of a game like Mario Galaxy. By this, I mean that the game could have benefited from an extra coat of paint. The game feels and looks finished. But the way the game looks in motion didn’t leave me in awe. It is what I expected from a 3D platformer in 2016. Of course, the game doesn’t have to be a Nintendo game to be amazing. Fine tuning to this level would have been appreciated but may also be very unreasonable for me to ask. There were a few times I would see crates disappear in the game and I ran into a glitch twice in the final boss battle that led to me losing both times. I forgive those moments because they are very few and far between. They can’t ruin the feeling of thousands of nuts and bolts flying towards you as you destroy every crate and enemy in your way.
The gameplay feels great with on-point third person shooter mechanics and platforming. The only thing holding back the gameplay at all are minor bugs and an unbalanced boss battle at the end of the game. The crazy weapons at your disposal make Ratchet and Clank what it is, a fun fast-paced shooter with an awesome lighthearted tone. The Pixelator acts as a shotgun that turns enemies into pixels. The Pixelator is great, but the Groovitron always brought me back. The Groovitron is a tactical grenade that makes the enemies dance. I used the Groovitron on a group of Ameboids and what followed was hilarity. Nothing is funnier than a group of angry slime monsters doing an awkward dance to disco music. This didn’t compare to when I used it on a final boss and was laughing so hard that I had to pause the game because of how it turned what was an intense moment into the funniest thing I’ve seen in a game in a while. Most of the game plays well, however, the ending boss battle is ridiculous. It’s not only difficult, it’s unfair. You can be doing wonderful throughout the entire fight and lose in about two seconds towards the end of the fight if you are unlucky. I was very unlucky. This was on normal difficulty. There’s also a particular glitch I experienced during the final boss battle that led to me losing the battle twice in a row.
Between the level design and the story, the game stays worryingly close to the original Ratchet and Clank on the PlayStation 2, yet abandons that towards the end where it feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. One of my main problems is that this remake stayed true to the original in too many ways. Weird complaint right? But when I say this game stays true to the original, this includes a lot of the level design, many of the objectives, and the scope of the game. I stepped into most of the levels in this game already knowing exactly where to go and what to do. Some of the level layouts are exactly the same. For example, many people may remember the objectives for Rilgar in the original game. Not only does the remake have this same series of events, but, the sewers, the obstacles, and the area as a whole are designed very similarly with some parts being exactly the same. This level of detail is impressive and endearing. But, being someone who played the original game 2 years ago, it almost feels as if I’m replaying the exact same game again. I was looking forward to more of a reimagining of the game. A larger scope, a grander story, etc. My expectations could have been over the top for this game, and still considering that, the game is still awesome. Even though the game sticks close to its roots, this all changes late in the game which I also have issues with. The ending of the game felt weird. Especially since this remake was fairly true to the source material until this point. The ending felt like a sudden left turn that went from following the original beat by beat, to introducing a twist that introduces a character that you’ve never heard of in a way that doesn’t make much sense for the story. It’s not a bad ending. It just felt shoe-horned in to tie in with the movie. Having not watched the movie, I can only assume that it deals with this twist better.
Ratchet and Clank for the PlayStation 4 deserves endless praise. It breathes life into a nearly dead genre and proves that the 3D-platfomer is still viable. As a fan of the franchise, I’m glad to see this game come out and be a quality product that a lot of people can enjoy. It’s beautiful, it’s fun and stands up strongly against any other big release. Minor glitches, lack of character development and lack of innovation may hold it back slightly, but don’t let those faults allow you to think that Ratchet and Clank is not a must play.