by Matthew Thompson
If I was excited for a game this year, it was likely delayed to 2016. That was the case with Ratchet & Clank’s PS4 debut which will arrive alongside the series’ first animated film next spring. I was happy to at least get a small taste of the lombax and robot duo’s next adventure this year through a pair of short demo levels.
As a companion to the movie, which itself is a retelling of the events from the original Ratchet & Clank title on PS2, Ratchet’s first PlayStation 4 game will be a remake of sorts of that first outing. The story will follow the movie’s slightly tweaked origins for how Ratchet and Clank met and became the heroes they are known as today. The term reimagining has been used often to describe the PS4 game and it seems apt. That term doesn’t just apply to the story, but the gameplay as well which was evident in the demos I played.
The first area is a section of series’ staple location Metropolis called Aleero City. Here you will fight off robotic dogs and Blarg soldiers as you make your way through the city and along a moving hover train. This area features the series’ classic mix of platforming and combat. You will hop between train cars and shimmy along ledges as you blast your way through baddies and obstacles alike with your explosive armaments. As expected you have Clank’s hover capabilities (which allow you to glide after jumps) and your swingshot (think grappling hook) to help you traverse from one end of the train to the other.
The second demo lets you tackle a boss fight against a Blargian Snagglebeast. It is a rather simple encounter; firing away at it while hopping its fiery breath and dodging the occasional charge attack will do the job. There are also some minions thrown at you a few times throughout. Normally I’d find this annoying, but it gave me an opportunity to try out some of Ratchet’s more creative weapons against some different enemies which is where a large part of the fun from this series is derived.
Both of these sequences will feel familiar to those who have played through the original PlayStation 2 Ratchet & Clank or one of its HD remasters. But the series has come a long way since 2002 and you can see that shine through in a number of ways when comparing the two. Most obvious are the graphics which look to set a new standard for this type of cartoony artstyle. The game is stunning in motion with some crystal clear image quality. I was particularly impressed with the scene where the boss is introduced. Absolutely gorgeous stuff. Of course there have been a load of gameplay advancements since the original too, so you can expect more modern controls (the first didn’t even have strafing) and the series’ addictive weapon upgrade system.
Ratchet & Clank has always been known for its creative weaponry and I got to try out quite a few here. Unfortunately it was mostly made up of stuff from previous entries (the PS3 games in particular). I guess being a remake of sorts that makes sense and I assume the full game will have a bit more in the way of new weapons, but seeing those will have to wait for the full release. There was one lone newbie to Ratchet’s collection called the Pixelizer. As the name suggests, it turns your foes into a mess of blurry pixels before shattering them into a digital heap. It has the feel of a shotgun and will be a welcome addition to the series. The other weapons available, which should be familiar to long-time fans, were: the Combuster (a blaster weapon), the Warmonger (a rocket launcher), the Groovitron (a grenade that causes enemies to dance), the Predator Launcher (a weapon that fires multiple targeted missiles), the Fusion Bomb (an explosive grenade), Mr. Zurkon (a wise-cracking floating robotic commando who fights at your side), the Pyrocitor (a flamethrower), and of course your handy OmniWrench (your go-to multi-use melee weapon).
These short demos have been a welcome appetizer for what is to come in 2016. While I would have preferred a brand new adventure, Ratchet & Clank looks like it will act nicely as a nostalgic trip down memory lane for hardcore fans of the franchise with some fun new content added to the mix for good measure. At the same time, it looks to be a wonderful introduction to the series for newcomers and should show them why Ratchet and Clank are so well-loved by so many gamers.