on December 27, 2013
After two disgraces to the Ratchet & Clank universe, Insomniac Games has finally graced its fans with a REAL RACHET & CLANK ADVENTURE. There's a lot to be said about the presence of classic game design in the era of Cod Fortress: Medal of Battlefield 6. This Ratchet & Clank game features:
NO BASE DEFENSE!
ALL CLASSIC RATCHET & CLANK!
It IS the BEST THING we've seen from Insomniac since Crack in Time.
Note: this is a long and serious review. Contents include (in order): Gameplay, Story, Graphics, and The Verdict. Skip to the Verdict if you're unfamiliar with the Ratchet & Clank series and universe.
Anyone who has ever enjoyed an R&C game, from the original PS2 game to Future: A Crack in Time, can jump into this new adventure and instantly be at home with its characters, universe, and control scheme. The design of Into the Nexus is based on the core gameplay concepts that made Ratchet & Clank a success on the PS2: crazy weapons, tons of enemies, and some puzzle/platforming in between. Into the Nexus strips the gameplay down, though, and is much more focused on combat than previous R&C titles, especially when compared to the puzzle-heavy Crack in Time, but this change is a welcome one. You'll find more combat sections in each level, each with its own unique design which allows for creative use of every weapon in Ratchet's arsenal. In terms of controls, Into the Nexus plays just like the prior installments of the Future series, and even (FINALLY) includes a fleshed-out Strafe Mode as featured in the PS2 title Ratchet: Deadlocked which long-time fans should greatly appreciate (I certainly did). The game itself is short, only featuring 5 planets in total; however, each planet is substantially longer than planets in prior R&C games, but the completion time for the normal story mode still pans out to around 5-6.5 hours, as did Crack in Time. Despite the apparent shortness of the game, the size of Ratchet's arsenal is about the same as it was in Crack in Time, and weapons are on a 3-level system instead of the old 5-level system. This shorter level system means that weapons become stronger at a much faster pace, and the purchases of new weapons in Into the Nexus feels more impactful to gameplay rather than overwhelming (Tools of Destruction felt like it had too many weapons at once and they all leveled up too slowly. Nexus gives you just the right amount of weapons and they all upgrade at a smooth and enjoyable pace). As a result of the increased number of combat sections, the use of gadgets is greatly reduced in Into the Nexus, but this is by no means a downside. Gadget sections of this game feel like they blend in with the design, rather than being forced into the game (lookin' at you, Crack in Time). This game also takes the old jetpack from the very first R&C game and uses it for ACTUAL OPEN FLIGHT. The game features free-moving flying combat sections which are absolutely thrilling. All in all, the changes to gameplay are all for the best in the end, and the design of the levels and weapons will be sure to give you the adventure or nostalgia trip you're looking for as a newcomer or veteran to R&C.
This is where the game falls a bit short, but understandably so. For those who are familiar with the R&C: Future plotline, it seems evident that the series does not need to be a trilogy. Crack in Time has a strong sense of closure mixed with emptiness, so it leaves room for new games to be added without demanding it. That said, Into the Nexus seems like it's Ratchet & Clank Future 2.5. It's not really a whole new plot thread (since it has no impact on Ratchet's search for the Lombaxes or Clank's involvement with the Zoni), but it is heavily based on the events of Tools of Destruction & Crack in Time.
The story is centered around two space criminals, Neftin and Vendra Prog, who attempt to use the Dimensionator (Tools of Destruction) to bring dark creatures from the Netherverse into the world. Neftin and Vendra are so intent upon bringing the Nethers to Ratchet's world because they were originally Nethers, themselves (similar to Ratchet's quest to find his Family in the prior Future series installments).
******END OF SPOILERS******
This plot plays off of the common desire of the hero and villain, and asks the player "How far is too far?" when it comes to reaching your goals, and this plot serves to highlight the immense character development in Ratchet from the events of the Future series. It is very refreshing to see a comedic and action-heavy game drive this sort of character development. There is something in this story for everybody, whether they are younger players of the Future series, or if they've been playing R&C since it's PS2 debut. It should be noted that there are some very clever references in this game, including tiny details like the 3 3/4 centicubit hexagonal washer. Definitely a cool nod to veterans. Anyone new to the series will not understand things like this, but it won't detract from the experience thanks to some clever writing from Insomniac.
Anyone who has ever played the Future series knows how important this is. Future: Tools of Destruction truly brought R&C into the next generation with stunning 60 fps graphics and detailed textures, effects, and characters. Crack in Time took a similar style, with increased detail of effects and lighting and some cell-shaded textures which added a slightly more vibrant look to the game. Into the Nexus is. ABSOLUTELY. STUNNING. BUT, it's a 30 fps game and prone to frame dropping in high-intensity fights. Frame dropping aside, Into the Nexus looks like it was meant to be a PS4 game. The texture detail, depth of field, and effects look like they were made on PS4 dev-kits. The sacrifice of the frame rate may catch some players off guard, but the game still looks great and gives me high hopes for next-gen installments of the franchise.
The Gameplay changed to old formula to be more combat-heavy, and it is a welcome change. Short game, but the weapon scaling matches the pace: 5/5
The Story is a bit lacking, but that's only because it's proper place in the series is as Future 2.5, NOT AS Future 3. Has good references to prior games and interesting character development: 4/5
The Graphics look like a PS4 game, but this taxes the PS3 hardware quite a bit. The game sits around 30 fps for most of the adventure, but looks great with highly detailed characters and textures. 4/5
It could have been longer, to be sure, but everything that NEEDS to be in this game is there. The story is a good nod to prior games, but doesn't forge much new ground, and it still leaves the franchise opened for new installments. The graphics are a good showcase of what we might see from Insomniac on the PS4, but it would have been practical to step them down for this PS3 release. the game looks good, but it's not buttery-smooth like the Future series.
I give this game an 8.6 out of 10, and 5 stars because no matter what I can objectively take away from the score, it's still a classic-design Ratchet & Clank game, and that's all I really need to love this game. Pick it up if you want a good nostalgia trip, BUT definitely play the Future games BEFORE you play this one.
Definitely worth a buy for any R&C fan.