Galactic heroes Ratchet and Clank, have blasted their way through an exorbitant array of adventures over the years; foiling the plans of more power-crazed emperors and nefarious cyborgs than the entire Jedi Order. Sadly, protracted annual instalments and misguided multiplayer implementation began to tarnish what was once a winning formula. Despite never losing its sense of charm, gamers became fatigued, and declining review scores lead to worries over the future of the franchise.
Thankfully Insomniac Games seem to have taken these concerns onboard, with their epilogue to the future saga – Into the Nexus – stripping away the ineffectual and returning the series to its combustive roots. The solo experience is short-and-sweet and is all the better for it, its swift pacing and trademark whimsy keeping things fresh from start to finish.
The plot centres around twins and master criminals, Vendra and Nefton Prog, who are determined to open a dimensional tear, allowing the mysterious Nether to pass through. Over time their tragic past is revealed and their questionable actions made clear; and though they aren’t the most memorable villains ever to grace the series, they are an entertaining pair, whose tale is told with genuine heart. Several familiar faces make an appearance too, including Talwyn Apogee, her senile robotic companions Cronk and Zephyr, and the bumbling-yet-loveable Captain Qwark.
Gameplay is faithful to prior instalments, honing in on what the series is known for; its simplistic-yet-satisfying platforming and host of eccentric weaponry. However, Into the Nexus isn’t simply Ratchet & Clank by numbers and introduces a slew of new mechanics that deftly set it apart.
While many classic firearms make their return – such as the Omniblaster and Temporal Repulser – there’s an abundance of new tools with which to cause destruction. The Winterizer transforms each enemy type into its own unique snowman, while the Nightmare Box deploys a demonic jack-in-the-box, terrifying foes, causing them to flee. As in previous titles, each weapon has its own skill tree and levels up through use. For instance, when Mr. Zirkon – a homicidal killbot – is upgraded, he is joined by his equally murderous wife and son, creating quite the formidable family unit.
Several useful gadgets are at your disposal throughout the game; some familiar inventions have been modified, while others are completely new. The Grav-Tether is used to create shimmering purple tractor beams that make for some compelling traversal puzzles, while some advanced Gravity Boots allow you to leap from platform-to-platform in impressive zero-G. Lastly, a powerful new Jetpack is introduced, allowing for some dynamic aerial combat and vertical exploration; with the Heli-Pack, Swingshot and Charge Boots rounding off your technological arsenal.
As usual, Clank has his own puzzle-based segments, requiring him to navigate the labyrinthine Netherverse by manipulating the direction of gravity. These succinct stages break up the routine gameplay nicely and require some quick reactions and out-of-the-box thinking to overcome.
It’s safe to say the series has never looked better than it does in Into the Nexus; the game’s cartoon-like art style benefitting from a host of subtle graphical enhancements and a vibrant-yet-spooky aesthetic. With an increased focus on light and shade, industrial-looking space cruisers, ghostly ruined cities and dark, dank swamps all look gorgeous and ooze character. The same goes for your adversaries - crocodilian mercenaries, extra terrestrial insects and Nether warriors to name but a few – which offer up a diverse range of combat scenarios and some comical dialogue.
There are a wealth of collectables to amass throughout the six-to-eight hour story, including concealed Holoplans, Raritanium shards and more bolts than a B&Q megastore. You can also demonstrate your skills in Destructapalooza, a futuristic combat arena where you can earn rewards for facing off against waves of increasingly aggressive assailants. To cap things off, once you complete the game you unlock a New Game Plus mode, where you can continue to upgrade your ordinance while re-experiencing the charming adventure all over again.
After a couple of subpar predecessors, Into the Nexus is an invigorating return to form that brings the future saga to a suitable close. As always, the voice acting and musical score are exemplary, the tale a gratifying fusion of humour and heart; however, this time the gameplay attains a similar level of competency, with enough tweaks to the formula to keep it from floundering. It may not be the best Ratchet & Clank title of all time, but this captivating, bite-sized experience is likely to leave gamers elated, and for the first time in a while, optimistic about the fate of the brand.
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
It may not be the best Ratchet & Clank title of all time, but this captivating, bite-sized experience is likely to leave gamers elated, and for the first time in a while, optimistic about the fate of the brand.