There was a time when it seemed that every game wanted to be Ratchet & Clank. One of the many mascots that embodied the offbeat exuberance of the Playstation 2-era, the series’ eponymous odd-couple were about as inseparable from the Sony brand as they were to one another. Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal, Tools of Destruction, A Crack in Time – the series can claim a number of classics to its name as much as I can to some of my favorite memories.
Times change and somewhere along the line, the series lost its flavor and our two unlikely heroes got the vacation they earned. Nothing lasts forever, though. Low and behold, developer Insomniac Games’ decision to bring the series back to basics for the Playstation 4 is looking to be the best they’ve made in a long while. I even played some of it – not nearly enough of it, anyway.
It was this past E3 that Insomniac’s rebooted Ratchet & Clank made its show floor debut to the masses and only in the past week that rumors its demo being available at local Gamestop retailers began to surface. It was to my mild surprise one lazy afternoon at my local Best Buy to find a demo staring back at me from a PS4 kiosk and I gladly accepted the invitation. What I found was something ridiculously short, ridiculously beautiful, and quite possibly brilliant – eventually.
Taking after its namesake, Ratchet & Clank follows the first game in the franchise as a blueprint with Ratchet and his new partner, Clank, running about Metropolis trying to find Captain Qwark and stop Chairman Drek’s planet-busting real-estate scheme. The demo drops you off in the middle of the urban landscape as you board a train to the Hall of Heroes where the bumbling captain presumably awaits.
Graphically, the game looks just as impressive as anything that’s been shown off of it thus far, but it makes a distincter impression in person. The glistening city skyline shimmers in the distance as you traverse the limitless heights beneath you, the sheer spectacle of the scenery worthy of a good, long stare. Ratchet’s character animations are more lifelike than ever and his hair a bit finer. Meanwhile, enemies are slightly more expressive looking, if not any more intelligent. The endearing art-style echoes much of the warm, Pixar-ish look of the Future games combined with all the stunning detail of 1080p.
The demo plays like any other entry in the series. Square has Ratchet thwack things things with his Omni Wrench, the bumpers fire and aim. Triangle summons your weapon wheel which only contains four weapons: the rocket-spewing “Devastator,” the laser-emitting “Combuster,” the hypnotic “Groovitron,” and the new addition of the “Pixelizer,” which turns enemies into retro monstrosities that you can easily mow down into tiny, 8-bit pieces.
What minuscule time you’re given sees you riding onboard the demo’s lone set-piece, a train reminiscent of a friendlier Uncharted 2 that’s crawling with Drek’s Blargian grunts and tentacled…”thing”… that’s along for the ride. Beyond that, the demo simply ends and I wish I could say more than that after slightly less than eight minutes and what I hope isn’t indicative of the core game’s length.
It boggles the mind at how well Sony’s managed to stifle word of such a gorgeous-looking exclusive for the PS4 two years into the console’s lifespan, but it’s looks alone that are selling Ratchet & Clank to the uninitiated until Insomniac divulges more. Though more interactive commercial than even a full demo, there’s a part of Ratchet & Clank that looks as much as feels like a homecoming to some deep-seated sense of nostalgia. Time will tell if the coming months between now and its release next year will be time well spent for Insomniac, because Ratchet & Clank’s a series that’s deserved the return.