There were times during tear apart, the last entry in the Ratchet & Clank series, when I felt like treasure hunter Nathan Drake. Buildings collapsed around me as I made my way through perfectly tuned action sets, and I managed to jump out of the way of every explosion on only the right second. The only difference is of course: tear apart is much cuter – think of it as a sci-fi, family-friendly take on Not mapped.
A combination of shooter and platformer, Ratchet & Clank has always been a series closely associated with PlayStation, and the latest game – a reboot of the 2016 original – showed that it could also be a technical showcase. tear apartMeanwhile, it’s arguably the most pivotal entry in the franchise yet. Thanks to intergenerational releases, true PS5 exclusives still remain rare, even months into the console’s life. But tear apart is just that: a game that you can only play on Sony’s next-gen console and a game that actually takes advantage of the new hardware. It is also a very fun adventure.
Although the series dates back to 2002, tear apart is largely a standalone story. It stars a fuzzy little fox creature named Ratchet (he’s actually an alien called a Lombax, presumably the last of its kind) and his adorable robotic companion Clank. As a fun introduction for new players (and a refresher for longtime fans), the game kicks off with the couple being honored for their past achievements in a parade-style setting in front of a huge crowd of adoring spectators. It even serves as a clever mini-tutorial – but it’s not long before the party is interrupted when old villain Dr. Nefarious attacks.
The core of tear apart is a device that can open portals between dimensions. After another defeat, Nefarious uses the device to go to a dimension where he always wins – accidentally bringing Ratchet and Clank with him in the process. The two break up. Ratchet is alone for a while before befriending a small bot named Kit, while Clank teams up with another Lombax named Rivet. It’s a clever setup with the new duos jumping across planets, looking for sci-fi MacGuffins to fix the device and bring its dimensions back to normal. The setup is also great because you can play as both characters in a way that feels organic; often you have the choice of which planet to explore, and you decide which Lombax is closest to you.
Ratchet & Clank isn’t exactly a series known for its story, but tear apart pushes things forward quite a bit. The new characters in particular are a great addition, taking it from a smart joke to a story with a real heart (although there are still a lot of jokes out there). Rivet starts off as a pessimistic loner, but you’ll see her slowly learn to trust and work with people, thanks to Clank’s calming presence. Likewise, for most of the game, Kit struggles to connect with anyone, for reasons that become apparent once you learn her surprisingly dark backstory. But this leads to some heartbreaking moments. At one point, in a fit of frustration, she yells, “Why don’t any of you understand? I am broke. i will always turn into Broken!” This is not the level of emotional awareness I expected from a series with a character named Skidd McMarx. There are even side missions where you can learn about the Lombax lore.
The movie-like quality of tear apart is enhanced by the visuals. Simply put, the game looks incredible. I’ve said this about previous games in the series, especially the 2016 release on PS4, but it’s even more true now: play tear apart is like being in a beautiful animated movie. There is a level of detail that you rarely see in games. You venture through a tightly packed sci-fi city that puts everything in it Cyberpunk 2077 ashamed, and glide over desert wastelands, eerie underwater research facilities, and an incredibly charming space gas station. It’s all rendered in a kid-friendly way, but also with a sense of realism, whether it’s the shine of a metal robot or the fuzz on an alien sheep. Every time I saw Ratchet’s furry ears up close, I wanted to give him a pet and tell him he’s a good boy.
tear apart Not only does it look great, but it also drives incredibly well. I didn’t experience any slowdown during my time with the game, despite the fact that combat gets pretty wild, with dozens of enemies on the screen and all sorts of projectiles lying around. rattle is a series defined in part by its inventive weapons; you have guns that fire with razor blades, envelop enemies in blocks of ice, and – my personal favorite – a grenade that fires a nozzle and covers everything it touches with beautiful green foliage. Combat involves constantly switching between weapons and firing all sorts of strange bombs and bullets, and yet I didn’t experience any stutter or stutter during gameplay. (Rift Apart also offers three different graphics options: “fidelity”, which runs at 30 fps and features ray tracing, better lighting, and 4K support; “performance RT”, with 60 fps and ray tracing, but a lower resolution and less details and visual density; and “performance” that runs at 60 fps but at a higher resolution instead of ray tracing.)
Perhaps even more impressive is that this happens with barely noticeable loading times. When you venture to a new planet there is a short clip showing your ship taking off, but once you get to a level nothing loads at all. Likewise, the game transitions seamlessly between cutscenes and gameplay, to the point where sometimes I didn’t realize I had to pick up the controller again. One of the most impressive things in the game are the titular fissures. Essentially they are rips between dimensions, and you can see them – and often enter – to go to a completely different world. It’s wild to stand in front of it and just stare through it to a totally different location, then jump in without any friction.
At its most basic, tear apart is a pretty standard action platformer. There are some fun distractions, including a side story about a spider-bot that kills computer viruses, and a series of tricky puzzle rooms that reminded me a bit of the shrines of Breath of the Wild. But for the most part you are running around and shooting things. It’s simple, but it works: the gunfight is fun, there’s an almost overwhelming amount of variety in the weapons, and lots of cool spaces to move around in. At one point you even ride a dragon. But all this is heightened by how beautiful the game looks and how well it runs. tear apart is the kind of game where I keep stopping to gaze at seemingly simple things like waves in water or the reflection on a glass cockpit. It shows the importance of aesthetics and style.
That said, the game is relatively linear. For the most part, that’s not a problem. The levels are big enough for you to still poke around, and you never really feel boxed in. It also helps you avoid getting lost (if you do, you can see your destination with a simple click of the right stick). But what this does mean is that, as in not mapped, the big action scenes follow a very specific path. When it works, it’s incredible, like controlling an action movie scene in real time. But if you miss a step, or aren’t sure what to do, everything falls apart. There were several times when I had to repeat the same sequence a bunch of times because I missed the best way to time a jump, or didn’t see a ramp with a speed boost on it. These moments are relatively rare, but they stand out because everything else is so seamless.
I should also note that tear apart makes heavy use of the PS5’s controller. In fact, apart from the launch showcase Astro’s playroom, it might be the best DualSense game yet. For example, in an early sequence, you need to find a dance club in a bustling alien city, and you can do this by following the music through vibrations you feel in your hands. I especially liked how some weapons took advantage of the two states of the controller’s triggers; One lets you apply light pressure to activate a shield, but pushing it all the way down turns that shield into a devastating explosion. It’s an intuitive way to add depth to the controls.
For the biggest part, tear apart does not deviate far from what has made what Ratchet & Clank so persistent. The formula remains the same: crazy characters, great graphics and lots of interesting weapons to play with. But pretty much every element is better than it’s ever been, from the touching story to the crazy action sequences. And because of this tear apart becomes a showcase for why anyone would go to any lengths to secure a PS5. It shows how more detailed worlds and faster load times can improve a proven formula – and it might even make you worry about Lombax knowledge in the process.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart launches on the PlayStation 5 on June 11.