These days, the word “reboot” often triggers a gut reaction of unease, revulsion and immediate disinterest. And it’s perfectly understandable, given the recent explosion of bygone movie, cartoon and game franchises given new beginnings in order to reach new audiences with the same concept.
From its earliest announcement, the new Ratchet & Clank entry was already unique among reboots. The Playstation 4 game, released on April 12, is in fact a tie-in for a movie based on the original Playstation 2 that, in 2002, kicked off one of Sony’s most celebrated series of third-person action/adventure titles. That’s right. This is a game based on a movie, based on a game.
As a result, Ratchet & Clank (2016) has two big strikes against it: it’s both a reboot and licensed movie game. However, this title may well go down in history as the most successful reboot/tie-in of all time – surely of this hardware generation.
Putting a fine point on it, Ratchet & Clank on PS4 does nearly everything right, both for old fans of the original games and people coming into the setting completely fresh. From mechanics to storytelling to visuals, Insomniac Games has set the bar for refreshing and revitalizing long-standing franchises.
The story of Ratchet & Clank has a cheeky and bold, but decidedly family-friendly tone, one that strikes a balance likely to keep most parents happy while giving grown-up players plenty to chuckle at. The game tells the tale of a plucky orphan of the stars named Ratchet, who meets his robotic companion Clank through chance and follows his dreams of adventure, saving the galaxy along the way.
Returning fans will recognize many of the characters and settings, while several elements are altered, removed or added to present a fresh narrative, with the added bonus of having cleaner and easier-to-follow character motivations than the original. Players of the 2002 title will probably notice there are fewer planets to visit than in the series premier, but it’s clear that Insomniac cut certain planets to reduce backtracking and trim the fat from the adventure. The end result is an interstellar outing of roughly equal length but smoother plot progression.
Of course, the hallmark of Ratchet & Clank games have always been the arsenals of big, comically over-the-top weapons, and the remake does not disappoint. There is a strong variety of upgrade-able and destructive devices in the game, each with tight controls, useful and interesting functions. While the sheer number of weapons, when compared to some of the earlier R&C titles, is noticeably reduced, this has the upside of eliminating several of the less useful weapons.
It would have been good to see a few more original weapon designs in Ratchet & Clank – the majority of the weapons in the lineup have been seen before in other titles. However, a new card-collection system, along with the pleasantly deep upgrade and experience system, softens the blow.
On the surface, the visuals of Ratchet & Clank are on par with blockbuster animated features, and maintain a wondrous presentation during fast-paced action. Environment details are impressive and character animations are expertly rendered. The only major graphical hiccup is some stiffness of facial movements during in-game cut scenes.
For someone who has thoroughly enjoyed all of the main entries in the Ratchet & Clank series since the launch of the original, there’s an incredible sense of nostalgia in the remake, as familiar gameplay experiences are given not only a fresh coat of paint, but a total overhaul of underlying mechanics. It’s a satisfying blend of the old and new.
Remakes have been getting an arguably well-deserved bad rap of late, but Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 ushers in new hope for the very idea. By catering to old fans and welcoming new ones, the beloved series has effectively been given new life and a bright future.
Check back later for a review of the Ratchet & Clank motion picture, which hits theaters on April 29.