Release Date: November 12, 2013Developer: Insomniac GamesPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentPlatform: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed)Genre: Platformer
The Ratchet & Clank series has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs after ruling the PlayStation 2 generation with its unique blend of platforming and weapons-based gameplay. After a few unfortunate missteps that saw Insomniac Games trying to alter this formula with the linear and co-op heavy All 4 One and the strange tower defense hybrid Full Frontal Assault, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is here to bring our heroes back to their roots: jumping on platforms, searching high and low for Gold Bolts, and wielding all sorts of crazily fun weapons that have got to be all but illegal. This time around, the Ratchet & Clank Future series comes to a close as the Lombax and his robot pal take on two of the galaxy’s deadliest foes, and the brief, but action-packed adventure that follows is nothing short of pure Ratchet & Clank magic.
The graphics in the game are incredibly good, and on par with what we saw from Full Frontal Assault. But even better than how everything in the game looks is the way those dreamy Pixar-like characters and environments are actually put to use. These are easily the most imaginative and creative level designs that we’ve seen from Insomniac Games in years, and every planet and space station in the game is a clear-cut winner. In fact, I’ve actually been stressing out all week about writing this review, because there are just so many awesome things to discuss with this game that I had a really difficult time trying to decide which incredible feature I was going to talk about first.
For starters, from the very first day of the game’s reveal, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus has been billed as a return-to-form for the dynamic gun-toting duo, and taking the series back to its platforming roots for the first time since 2009’s A Crack in Time. Well let me just say that Into the Nexus is exactly what old-time Ratchet & Clank fans have been waiting for, as the game manages to incorporate nearly every fan-favorite gameplay mechanic from earlier games, with still some room left over to experiment with a few exciting new ideas. For instance, you’ve got your world exploration component back once more, with a dozen cleverly-hidden Gold Bolts to find throughout the game’s five main planets. You’ve got a classic battle arena level with multiple tournament cups to power through (the Destructapalooza), and even a mass crystal-collecting level (Gargathorn horns here) that we haven’t really seen since the days of Up Your Arsenal.
It’s true that Into the Nexus is a much shorter game experience than most other main entry Ratchet & Clank games like Tools of Destruction or A Crack in Time, but this length is completely by design, and it more than works in here in this context. You’ll be able to complete your initial playthrough of the game in about 6 hours or so, and that somehow proves to be the perfect amount of time to get your Ratchet & Clank fix in. All of the fat has been trimmed away here, and every one of those 6 hours is jam-packed with incredible level design and refreshing gameplay. However, the series’ trademark Challenge Mode makes a much welcomed return here, and upgrading all of your weapons by using them on enemies and applying Raritanium (not to mention unlocking the devastating RYNO VII) will keep you playing long beyond the initial story’s close.
Into the Nexus features a compacted arsenal of both new and returning weapons, and they manage to nail that sweet spot of providing just enough fun and diversity through their usage without recycling poor ideas or stretching to fit an extended weapon count. Ratchet & Clank veterans will recognize classic weapons like Mr. Zurkon and even the Warmonger from last year’s Full Frontal Assault, but it’s the new weapons that really steal the show here. My personal favorites are the Nightmare Box, which functions as a demented jack-in-the-box bomb of sorts, and the Winterizer, which turns your foes into frozen snowmen to the soundtrack of an all-too-cheery holiday tune.
The gadgets are another matter entirely, and you’ll actually be surprised at how many fresh gameplay mechanics Insomniac are able to experiment with here in the brisk 6-hour campaign. One of the first gadgets you’ll be introduced to is the Grav-Thether, which allows Ratchet to create a stream of directional gravity between two different tether points that you can then jump inside of to reach high ledger or blast some baddies in mid-flight. You’ll also encounter the occasional zero-gravity zone as well, and have to leave from one gravity-supported floor plate to the next with your Gravity Boots. Clank even gets a new set of solo missions in the incredibly challenging Netherverse segments, which put Clank on a 2D sidescrolling plane and task players with manipulating the gravity in the room via the right control stick to guide the little robot to the end of each area.
But hands down, the greatest gadget in Into the Nexus is the GrummelNet Jetpack, specifically when it gets coupled with the Hoverboots near the end of the game. The Jetpack gives Ratchet the freedom to fly wherever he wants in any direction across certain fly zones on each planet, and the Hoverboots give him an added speed boost that makes ground movement and absolute breeze. Before long, you’ll be zipping off a massive jump before activating your jetpack to soar over impossible gaps with ease, and even engage in full-on aerial battles, swooping low to the ground to recharge your fuel tank before blasting off into the sky once again. It’s an insanely awesome and smooth combination, and I honestly couldn’t imagine a future Ratchet & Clank game without it now.
Admittedly, the only real issues I had with Into the Nexus were relatively small ones: you’ll have a few extremely repetitive sub-boss fights, and sometimes the nature of each level design makes it a bit cumbersome to backtrack through them at a later point to hunt for Gold Bolts and RYNO VII schematics. The new villainous duo of Vendra and Neftin Prog are also a bit forgettable in the grand scheme of the series, and are oddly quite chummy with Ratchet right from the very beginning. There’s also a noticeable lack of Captain Quark for the majority of the game, which if you’re Ratchet or Clank, is a good thing, but as a player who feeds off of Quark’s stupidity and heroic narcissism, then the more Quark the better is what I’ll always say!
Honestly though, there’s nothing in this game that could hurt in the slightest what Insomniac Games has managed to achieve here: a true return-to-form for the Ratchet & Clank series, while still propelling it forward to adapt to more whimsical adventures that are hopefully to come. Long-term fans will feel right at home in the bright and purple world of Into the Nexus, and newcomers will be given a snappy introduction to the quirky (or Quark-y) world of over-the-top weapons and gadgetry. If this is truly the epilogue to the Ratchet & Clank Future series on the PS3, then I can’t tell you how excited this game makes me to see what else our intergalactic friends have in store for us on the PlayStation 4.
Story – 8/10Gameplay – 10/10Graphics – 10/10Soundtrack – 9/10Replayability – 8/10