Sony’s PS2 mascots are back with a bang in Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus! While the iconic duo haven’t exactly had the best outings in recent times with titles that seemed to focus too much on using gimmicks such as All 4 One and its focus on co-op, or Full Frontal Assault – a fun but somewhat forgettable tower-defence game – its great to see the series back on track with Into the Nexus.
Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus features some great gameplay mechanics both old and new to the series. Similar to all the old Ratchet and Clank games guns can be upgraded to be bigger and more badass. The more you use a specific gun, the more experience it gains until it levels up. Guns can be upgraded twice where they then achieve their maximum level. That is until you have enough money to upgrade your guns from Level 3 to Omega. Omega Guns are golden due to the fact that they require both bolts and a golden bolt to obtain. But once you have these omega weapons, blasting through the enemies could not feel more fun. Not only can you upgrade your guns this way but if you collect enough Raritanium in-game you get a skill tree of sorts for each gun. Whether this is more ammo, range, power, blast radius or something a little more unique – for example – my personal favourite weapon, the Fusion Bomb, allows you to purchase an upgrade that causes each bomb to unleash a ton of tiny cluster bombs on impact – which is amazing for taking out large groups of enemies. These kind of upgrade mechanics really keep Ratchet and Clank fresh and constantly engaging and I had a blast upgrading each weapon throughout the campaign.
Into the Nexus also features some new additions to the Ratchet and Clank universe, most noticeably, the Grav Tether. This makes traversal across long distances easier and quicker and introduces a puzzle element of sorts to the gameplay, akin to Portal, just much, much simpler. There are also segments where you play as Ratchet’s trusty companion, Clank, as he traverses the Netherverse to unblock pathways for Ratchet. This allows you to manipulate gravity by shifting it up, down, left and right and makes for some really unique gameplay. These segments also feature some puzzles but, again, nothing serious. While I loved these segments I feel as though they could have been spread out a bit more evenly – three of them are near back-to-back and then you don’t play many more until the final level – but they still provided a great new mechanic to the series.
Also newly added are the Jet Pack which allows Ratchet to use Clank to rocket through the map and traverse great distances; provided you don’t run out of fuel. The jet pack is one of my favourite new additions to the series as it allowed me to take the fight to the air, whether it be by using my Fusion Bomb to wipe out enemies below me, or flying up close to my aerial foes to blast them with my Quantum Repulsor (a shotgun of sorts that slows down enemies when you shoot them). This gave combat a great new entertaining layer and made many battles more interesting. Earlier levels also featured anti-gravity which allowed Ratchet to traverse through sections quickly and gave an interesting new mechanic though didn’t quite offer the sense of freedom you’d expect. Unlike the previous 2 entries into this series, each new gameplay mechanic introduced here feels like it belongs and really brings some new and unique twists to the core gameplay that defines this series.
Not only are the gameplay mechanics top-notch but the graphics are extremely high-quality too. I’ve always thought the art style of Ratchet and Clank was similar to the art style of Pixar movies and cut-scenes in this game definitely cemented that in my mind. On top of this, the worlds of Ratchet and Clank are so vibrant and detailed and the colour palette is so varied that it gave the game a really nice and bright look which makes a nice change from Call of Duty and Batman which tend to look more gloomy. Character models are well designed – especially the titular two – and not once in my three playthroughs of this game did I experience any frame rate issues at all. This is especially imressive given how much mayhem can occur on screen at once – most noticeably using the RYNO 7 to tear through enemies like paper – and the number of pixels on screen at once is really impressive. It’s a shame this game isn’t coming to PS4 as it certainly has a next-gen look to it.
The narrative is a short but sweet one. Ratchet & Clank are escorting the dangerous twin criminal Vendra to the Vartax Detention Center. After a jailbreak from Vendra’s twin brother Neftin Prog, where they both escape, Ratchet and Clank are stranded in an abandoned sector at the edge of the galaxy. Once the duo have caught up with the criminals they discover plans to bring an interdimensional monster to their universe, threatening all of existence. Accompanied with some great humour, voice acting and a killer soundtrack this is a great return to roots of this series.
Clocking in at just over 3 and a half hours if you stick to the story and don’t stray off the beaten track or 6 hours if you want to collect everything and complete the optional objectives this is a reasonably short game. Although with a heavily discounted price for a newly released retail game, that’s to be expected. That said completionists will find plenty to do here, whether its collecting bolts to buy weapons and armour, collecting raritanium to fully upgrade weapons, completing gladiator tournament challenges (previously highlighted in Ratchet: Deadlocked), collecting the 12 golden bolts scattered throughout the game, Gargathon horns that can be traded for bolts or the 9 RYNO plans which will give you the ultimate killing machine, Into the Nexus really does contain great value for money and 3 playthroughs in I still don’t have all weapons fully upgraded.
Overall Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus is everything fans of the series have been asking for years: killer gameplay, kick-ass weapons and an entertaining story filled with plenty of jokes and new gameplay mechanics this is just what Ratchet and Clank needed after their recent shaky history. The main plot is very short but there is plenty here to keep gamers coming back for more. This is a very strong comeback for Ratchet and Clank and a very strong last hurrah for the PS3.