Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ratchet & Clank PS4 Review: The Reimagined Rebooted Remake Remaster That's Also A Movie Tie-In?

I won't deny it, I have loved the Ratchet and Clank franchise for years. I also wasn't thrilled with All 4 One and QForce either, so I'm not going to be blinded by bias either. So then... how does this reimagining of the PS2 classic stand up despite being a movie tie-in?

I went into Ratchet and Clank on PS4 a bit skeptical. When I heard it was a movie tie-in game for the upcoming movie, I was thinking "Oh God, who has Sony hired to ruin this game?" and then I found out it was Insomniac Games themselves and I remembered QForce and All 4 One and later Nexus... and I was slightly relieved, but still was expecting a shoddy product. Thankfully a AU$54.95 price tag(Normally games are AU$99.95 in Australia) convinced me to buy it day one and boy... what a surprise.

First of all, WOW! The visuals are absolutely gorgeous! I mean sure, it ain't no The Order 1886 when it comes to realism, but graphically it's vibrant and highly detailed. I'm not one to focus on graphics, but these blew me away. This is the first time that a game on PS4 actually made me say "This is truly a PS4 title that is next gen!" and justified the purchase of a PS4... at least on a visual standpoint.

So the story is told through the perspective of an incarcerated Captain Quark explaining his side of the movie's story to a criminal called Shiv Helix. An interesting way to do it if you ask me. Having Captain Quark narrate every so often while playing was pretty neat.  The story itself is a bit different from the original though, but still follows the original plot. I guess you could say it's the same skeleton, different skin.

As mentioned earlier, the story is based on the film's story. Now unfortunately I haven't seen the film(not available in Australia until July sadly) so I can't compare the two, but the game does feature footage from the film at key moments throughout the game. Things is... the quality of the film snip-its are noticeably different to the in game engine's cutscenes. It's not Quantum Break's uncanny valley bad, nowhere near that. It's just proof that video games are still decades away from reaching that fidelity.

I guess I have to go over how it plays huh? Well I could just easily say that it's identical to the PS3 entries in the series and call it a day... but I'd be really lazy if I did that I suppose. It's a 3D platformer and a 3rd person shooter hybrid with a bigger focus on the shooting this time around, even more than other games in the series due to the sheer number of enemies that show up at times. Just like the other games, you travel from planet to planet and complete objectives, explore the stages hunting for secrets and blow stuff up. Same old, same old for the series.

So if you're a Ratchet and Clank fan, you probably want to know about the weapons right? Well this game's selection is more focused on celebrating the past then giving us something new. There are only a couple new weapons with the standout being the Pixeliser that turns enemies into 8-bit pixel blocks with a shotgun style blast. There are a bunch of old favourites that returned that should make people happy too. I'm personally glad the Groovatron, Mr Zurkon, Agents of Doom and of course the Sheepinator made a return. All the weapons level up like normal as you use them and you can upgrade them with Raritanium(that's not that rare really) to make them even more powerful.

There are a couple of sections in the game that aren't just shooting galleries. Clank gets a couple of minor puzzle sections to break up the action, but there's also the Hover board races(just like the original, but harder to make your own shortcuts) and a couple of aerial combat segments that remind me of Star Fox all range mode missions. They do break up the monotony of just blowing stuff up, but man do I wish there were more aerial segments! Maybe I just need to play more Star Fox 64 to satiate it?

Golt bolts are back to unlock cheats that are... ok I guess. They unlock other things like visual filters and the ability to change the appearance of stuff like bolts, your ship and your head. Usual stuff for the series, but they added another collectible to the mix in the form of trading cards called Holocards... oh joy! Holocards are an annoying collectible due to it's extremely random nature. On the plus side, you can trade duplicates in for new ones you don't have so it's not too frustrating. The problem with Holocards is that you need complete sets for collectibles drop rate increases and to unlock the Omega versions of weapons for Challenge mode(it's new game plus). Also the Ryno blueprints have been replaced with holocards, but are found just like the Gold Bolts within the stages and it plays music while firing just like some of the other models. I just love that so much!

So the game treads a lot of old ground, but is that such a bad thing? The Super Mario franchise does it and it's still beloved 30 years on, so why not Ratchet and Clank? There isn't too much to criticize in the game except one thing... the game's slow movement and 30fps frame rate! A lot of modern gamers are constantly complaining about frame rates and resolutions and this game's 30fps make it feel slower than it's PS2 counterpart... and it is! Yes, you can fix the speed with an unlockable cheat... but it takes a long time to get the Gold Bolts to unlock, even if you actively hunt them down as early as possible using a play guide. The speed and frame rate can become tolerated, but it is a glaring flaw to a fantastic game in this modern era of gaming.

Now I actually went back and played through the original for comparison(on PS2 to be precise). Wow the original aged badly! The controls and gameplay is much better on PS4(the PS2 version has no strafing!) and the visuals, even for PS2 standards are really bad! As for content... the PS2 has far more story and stages for sure, but it's far better in the reboot. The reboot has a better told story and far better level design, but it does seem to be less funny than the original. I think when it comes to the humor, it's two different types of humor and the PS2 version just has more opportunity to use it. Also a huge number of characters from the PS2 version don't appear in the reboot. It's no big loss, but that's my opinion.

Ratchet and Clank for PS4 is ultimately a mostly graceful remake. I loved every minute I've played of it(3 playthroughs is proof of that and I got the Platinum Trophy too!) and despite the 30fps frame rate and speed issues,  it's a fantastic game. Old Ratchet and Clank fans will love the nostalgic and new stuff, while newcomers will have a great starting point for Sony's major mascot to enjoy. The game could be considered a little short on a normal playthrough admittedly(5 hours on my second playthrough), but it's a game that's meant to be completed... not blazed through in an afternoon. The game just proves that tons of content doesn't mean a better game(which other companies should learn *cough* Ubisoft! *cough*). It's a cheap, fun game and was the most fun I've had with my PS4 so far in the short time I've owned it. Just go buy it... Go now!

Score 9/10

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