Ratchet & Clank are on their sixth 'proper' home console game of this generation – that's discounting a HD re-skin of three PS2 games starring the titular duo. Six. So, with what may well prove to be the final PS3 outing of the pair we're not exactly expecting a reinvention of the wheel here. Clearly Ratchet & Clank is working for Sony more or less just as it is. Which is not to say there's nothing new here at all.
Sony says the game serves as an epilogue to the Future
games, and it certainly marks a return to a focus on solo play. It's supposed to be shorted than other games in the series, too, though I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up running to a length you'd be fairly happy with in an Uncharted
or a Killzone
At the start of the game, Ratchet and Clank are escorting a dangerous criminal named Vendra Prog across a forgotten edge of the galaxy. After an ill-advised detour through an asteroid field and a daring jailbreak, the duo find themselves in a forgotten quadrant of the galaxy looking to recapture their quarry and, by the looks of things, save all of reality.
Much of the gameplay is very familiar if you've played any of the Future
games. It's a mash-up of platforming, shooting, close-quarters combat and puzzling, all delivered with a Pixar-esque gloss.
The chunk of the game I got to play through ran from the start of the game to around two and a half hours in. The initial jailbreak was a rollicking good start. After the core gameplay mechanics were given a gentle introduction all hell broke loose. There were enemies and 'splosions and then I was sucked right out into the black vacuum of space.
Fortunately, I was armed with grav boots which will attach the player to certain surfaces. This idea isn't new to the Ratchet & Clank
series, but it's delivered with more gusto here. Rather than just traipsing along magnetic platforms to wherever they happen to take you, you'll have to target the specific area where you want your grav boots to land you. Getting this right will sometimes be the difference between life and getting run over by a spaceship. Doing it along the outside of a decimated spaceship while asteroids hurtle past your over-sized ears is rather good fun.
The use of gravity is a recurring theme in the game. Pretty soon after I got stranded on a not-quite-deserted planet I rescued a Zoidberg
-ish scientist who offered me a device with the unlikely job of setting up gravity beams between particular fixtures conveniently dotted around the environment. The order in which you shoot the fixtures determines which way the gravity runs and you can jump into your pink beam to float across chasms and the like. On its own, it's not that interesting a game element. Not long before I hit the end of the preview build, though, signs that there's more to it began to emerge.
On a straightforward combat level, you can slow yourself down to shoot at enemies as you float along. That's kind of fun.
There's also puzzling to be done. There are points where there are multiple fixtures to set up beams between, and finding the right pairs can be a challenge. Then lining everything up so that one beam leads you into another (and later, I presume, another then another) is a further challenge that looks set to give our grey matter a nudge ('a nudge' being the right term here – R&C
is hardly likely to boil your brain).
Another use of gravity is in a series of minigames to be played using Clank. Because of some dimensional macguffin involving rifts in space, Clank has to jump into these pocket dimensions and lead these floating pink robot-munching spirit-jobbies to safety. These sections are sidescrolling platform sections, with the twist being that you can control the direction of gravity using the right stick. You can (and will have to) use this to manipulate the position of platforms and get to 'high' places. After a few attempts I was manipulating gravity to almost fly Clank around certain parts of the levels. These bits are potentially the most interesting elements of the game and would, I dare say, merit a PSN game all of their own.
I would say that while the gravity mechanics in Into the Nexus
are fun, they're an extra layer to the core gameplay of the Ratchet & Clank: Future
sequence, not a game-changer.
I don't suppose anyone was looking for a game-changer though, were they?Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus will be available in shops and to download from November 13th.