Ladies and gentlemen, we gather here today to mourn the loss of one of the most enjoyable gaming franchises of the past decade. The Ratchet & Clank Franchise enjoyed a great run between its launch in 2002 and 2009's entry, A Crack in Time, but it appears as though developer Insomniac Games has all but given up on our furred hero. Following two well -meaning but subpar entries, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus was meant to be a glorious return to form. Instead, it seems to suggest that the wires on this franchise have been snipped and the cord pulled. After three consecutive strikes, it may be time to move on.
I know this isn't truly the end of Ratchet and Clank (there's a movie on the way), but it's hard not to feel a little betrayed when you're promised a return to form and end up purchasing a game that has less content than Quest for Booty, which was half the price and still deemed too expensive. Right from the start I knew something was wrong. Day one patch notwithstanding, I was greeted with a veritable buffet of glitches and game breaking bugs from beginning to end.
Early on, a boss refused to show up to fight, leaving me alone on a plateau with nowhere to go, forcing me to restart the game from the last checkpoint. Soon thereafter, I was inexplicably denied entry into an arena despite doing all I was required to do to enter. Then, while in an arena fight, an enemy glitched into the wall and couldn't be killed, again meaning I couldn't proceed. At one point I walked through a wall that was supposed to be solid (it's later revealed to be the subject of a rift), only for the game to glitch so badly that my system needed a hard reset. A key item refused to float over to me, instead opting to get stuck in a wall, leaving me stranded yet again. Numerous times, I ended up in areas that were unfinished and glitchy; I constantly got stuck on ridges and walls, and the pop-in is some of the worst I've ever seen in a game. Even the sound effects lack polish and will occasionally be delayed by 2-5 seconds, most notably upon levelling up your weapons.
I'm not exaggerating when I say I experienced more bugs and game breaking glitches in the 12 hours I played Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus than I did in all 500 hours I spent in Skyrim.
The PS3 version of Skyrim.
To be fair, it seems as though my time with Into the Nexus was an anomaly and not the norm. Nowhere else have I seen reports of such wanton glitching; perhaps it had something to do with the fact that most of these issues cropped up during my challenge mode rounds that came after my first playthrough of the game.
Those 12 hours weren't spent on one play through incidentally. I completed Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus a total of three times. Once on the hardest difficulty, once on the hardest difficulty on challenge mode, and once on the easiest difficulty on challenge mode in order to sweep up all the errant hidden items and trophies. Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is roughly a four hour game. Insomniac made it clear that this entry would be shorter than previous entries in the franchise, which is why they lowered the price from the then-standard fifty or sixty dollars to a more reasonable thirty dollars, but it's still not even close to worth its asking price. Full Frontal Assault was twenty dollars and had slightly more content, and Quest for Booty was fifteen dollars at launch and is almost the same length.
To make matters worse, half of the game is dedicated to side content and fetch quests. These can be forgiven in full-length games, but they have absolutely no place in a game as disappointingly short as this. Searching open land for 100 crystals has never been fun - it's always been tedious but necessary for completionists – but it would appear that Insomniac sees this as an homage rather than a waste of time. On the bright side, the gladiator arena is a lot of fun. In previous entries, however, arena battles served as a test of skill in exchange for large sums of money and prizes. Now, you can breeze through even the hardest ones on the highest difficulty without being hit. Unfortunately, these two activities collectively account for about 2/3 of the total play time.
One time, when my internet flickered, I got a pop-up notification telling me that I had been signed out of the PlayStation Network and would have to log back on if I wanted to use the online features. For a split second I was excited at the prospect of online play, but there is none; Into the Nexus features no multiplayer content.
Up until now I've been quite scathing in my criticism of Into the Nexus, but there is a reason to keep playing. Even at its worst, Ratchet & Clank titles are immensely fun games to play. Ignoring the glitches and the ever-present sense of disappointment, Into the Nexus is a blast, blending RPG elements, gunplay, and platforming (both 3D and 2D) seamlessly. There are a few new gameplay elements introduced such as the Portal 2-inspired gravity columns and the Dead Space-inspired zero gravity space-jumping segments. Neither are original or as well done as in their original forms, but they are fun segments that serve the game's gadget-oriented feel quite well.
What is possibly the most enjoyable part of the game, however, is when you combine the late-game retrieval of the hoverboots with a jetpack, and use them to fly virtually everywhere in a few of the levels. Hovering with a jetpack while bombarding enemies with rockets and buzz blades is truly empowering. You thought air battles were fun in Pokemon? Try playing a game of cat-and-mouse with a fighter jet that wants you dead, but can't hit you due to your elite air combat skills.
Despite the game being frightfully short, the story is decent, and features a deliciously wicked villainess and her brother. Ratchet & Clank are transporting the villainess - who was caught committing a particularly heinous crime - to a maximum security prison, but she is rescued and continues on with her nefarious plan. The plan revolves around bridging the gap between our world and 'the nexus', an alternate reality that is in some way linked to the temporal hiccup that you caused at the great clock in Ratchet's last great adventure, A Crack in Time. In short, she wants to bring her kind to our world. The villains are fun to watch and fight, and the enemies remain enjoyable throughout.
Into the Nexus could have been so much more, but it feels like Insomniac have just given up on Ratchet. There are some novel new gameplay elements and the core sound and feel remains the same, but 4 hours is just not enough playtime no matter how you slice it, and the sheer volume and frequency of glitches makes the game feel unplayable at times. I don't know what happened to the passion that Insomniac used to have, but if Fuse and the last three entries in the Ratchet & Clank series are any indication of what the company has in store for us, I think it's time to say our final goodbyes to a once fantastic developer. Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus has fun elements, but at 30 dollars for such a short and glitchy package, I have no choice but to strongly suggest you skip this entry, at least for now.
This review is based on a retail copy of Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus for the PS3