Probably one of the most important games for any console is this first game which, it seems, would have been completely impossible on the last generation of hardware. For PS5, Ratchet & Clank: Rift apart may very well be this game.
It’s not to hit some of the great PS5 games we’ve seen so far. Astro’s Game Room is a must-have game, I would say – and it’s free! Demon’s Souls is a powerful remaster of a classic. Returnal, although an acquired taste, is brilliant. And there’s a slew of third-party offerings, including intergenerational versions with big PS5 perks, the most recent of which is Resident Evil Village.
But, man. Ratchet & Clank: Rift apart. Goodness me. Although I didn’t have a chance to play it due to various pandemic restrictions, I got to watch extensive gameplay demos and hear plenty of developer comments explaining how the Insomniac Games team built the game – and it looks like the game the PS5 needed at launch. I would say it could be the first game that’s really a part of this new generation and only this new generation – and it’s mind boggling.
For starters, it’s worth saying that Ratchet & Clank fans are going to find a lot to like here. New co-protagonist Rivet offers a new perspective of sorts, and the game seems to extend the series’ core mechanics and systems in interesting ways, with both returning weapons and new weapons and moves to create a long list of options.
Like in Spider-Man, Insomniac really has a knack for giving players a bunch of tools that allow them to approach combat in different ways. The same is true here; I lost track of how many weapons I saw, and despite that, during the call, the developers briefly reflected on some of the more wacky and groundbreaking weapon concepts they couldn’t do. function. This is the approach of this game it seems: everything and the kitchen sink is in it, almost.
But, I admit, a lot of that didn’t mean as much to me as it meant to others. I’ve played a number of past Ratchet & Clank games, but not in a religious way where I can spot every nuanced change and addition. For that, when VG247 reviews the game, series expert Tom (and his son) will take the reins. Basically, as a tech nerd I was at this tech preview: and wow, what tech is that.
Rift Apart has absolutely been built from the ground up to take advantage of everything the PS5 has to offer. 3D audio is used effectively to “sell” the effervescent sparks of gunfire and the seemingly endless particle effects. Adaptive triggers are used as in a few other examples so far, providing more feedback and input options. Some guns will fire differently when you only pull the trigger lightly rather than fully, for example. Hoverboots now give a sort of realistic feedback as you walk and ride, a facsimile of the feeling of resistance you really get on real world inline skates.
However, the heart of the experience as a PS5 game lies in the titular loopholes. It’s the title gimmick, but it’s really impressive. We’ve seen this in games before, of course – from BioShock Infinite to Portal, the idea of going through a hole to another world or part of the world isn’t new – but that execution is something else.
Basically, this is the special data streaming solution that the PS5 has. The makers of Insomniac explain that while it’s not really an “open world” experience in Spider-Man’s sense, they stream content in a very similar fashion. Even when you turn the camera, the game unloads textures and the like that are behind you, out of sight, almost instantly. Traditionally, games keep nearby items in memory even if they’re out of sight, so they can get to them quickly if you suddenly open a door or spin the camera. Rift Apart doesn’t do this, relying on the speed of the PS5 hardware to load things only when they are strictly needed.
This essentially allows you to have more details. Usually, a game’s memory budget is not only determined by what’s onscreen, but also everything loaded offscreen. By minimizing anything lying around in memory, there’s more technical space to fill the screen with stuff, which means pretty much every frame in Rift Apart seems to burst off the screen. This can mean more particle or range effects, but also more enemies, for example.
It’s not just the visually impressive game, though it is certainly the closest real-time experience to a Pixar movie to date. Most importantly, Insomniac claims that the technology in the PS5 has “changed the form and content of the game,” meaning entire mechanics were born out of what is technically possible this time around.
So it impacts combat and exploration from moment to moment, but the ultimate expression of that idea is the rifts themselves. Sometimes the game renders the same world from two different angles when looking through a rift. Other times, you tumble through portals and are literally transported from one densely detailed world to another, each one entirely different.
Some of the planets presented in this adventure will be seen in two different dimensions, with back and forth between the two to progress. There is no visible load in this, and when you switch to one dimension the other is completely cleared of memory – meaning there is no design compromise to keep two worlds in memory. at a time. When the time comes to switch, the worlds exchange seamlessly in a few images.
Perhaps the most impressive example of this I’ve seen was outside of the game, however – in a cutscene. The cinematic sequence used an erase transition as often featured in luscious sci-fi and now perhaps the most famous one used in Star Wars. An erase would have been nearly impossible to perform in real time on the latest generation technology – instead you would be using a pre-rendered FMV. But Rift Apart has them in realtime, where basically the PS5 renders two scenes at once and erases from one to the other, and it just looks… seamless and ridiculous.
Ultimately, it’s a game you have to see for yourself. Watching it on even Sony’s fanciest online streams can tell you a lot. But it’s definitely better than my chatter. Scroll to the top and watch some new gameplay alongside our impressions and see for yourself. Admittedly, it looks like the first real PS5 game – and it feels like a technical feat.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is slated for release on PS5 on June 11.