Ratchet & Clank: Nexus Review
“Why isn’t it a proper Ratchet And Clank game?”
That was the cry following the release of tower defence spin-off Ratchet & Clank: QForce (or Full Frontal Assault for you American readers). It wasn’t that Ratchet & Clank: QForce was a bad game per se, as much as it wasn’t filled with the exploration or humour or over-the-top weapons that defines the series. After the lacklustre multiplayer-focused Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, the thirst for a ‘traditional’ adventure in the series was strong.
Good news! Ratchet & Clank: Nexus is that proper Ratchet & Clank game. It’s bursting with the same humour, over-the-top weapons and platforming puzzles that has defined the series up until now.
And really, we could end the review there. But for the sake of cramming in SEO, here are more words!
Ratchet & Clank: Nexus – Gameplay And Weapons
If you haven’t played a Ratchet & Clank game before, then all you need to know is that it’s a 3D platformer in a similar vein to the big games that dominated the genre in the early PS2 era – Jak & Daxter, Sly Raccoon, Crash Bandicoot and indeed, the earlier Ratchet & Clank games.
You smash crates, jump from platform to platform, collect bolts to spend on upgrades, figure out simple puzzles, battle bosses and explore the world.
You probably know that already. You should know that already.
What you might not have known is the series is best known for its over-the-top weapons and Nexus delivers on that front. While there are sci-fi flavoured equivalents of the usual pistols-and-shotguns fare that you usually find in a FPS, it’s the crazier weapons here that show more imagination not only in their design but their use.
Nexus has a jack-in-the-box that terrifies enemies and spits venom, icy tornados that turn enemies into snowmen and a family of small lethal robots that follow you about. These weapons can be upgraded with more special moves and utility as you progress, while the level of challenge and resistance is slowly cranked up (even if it’s fair to say that Nexus could, and should, be much harder than it is).
The best moments of Nexus is the colourful eruption of your arsenal of weapons exploding on the screen, as you chip away at the health bars of the bounding enemies attacking you in waves. It looks like chaos to the outsider but for you, the player orchestrating the madness, it all makes perfect sense.
The main thrust of the combat is toying around with the different weapons and thanks to the imagination with which they’re created and the balance of them – each weapon having its own role in each encounter – combat feels fresh throughout.
Ratchet & Clank: Nexus – Insomniac Knows Best
It’s also important to note that Insomniac Games has developed Into The Nexus. That might seem like an odd observation to make but there’s often a lack of confidence that comes from developers handling games that were born at other studios – look at Sanzaru Games with Sly Raccoon, Warner Bros Montreal with Batman: Arkham Origins and the various studios that has cranked out new Crash Bandicoot over the years.
The reason it matters that Insomniac is at the wheel for Nexus is it knows Ratchet & Clank inside-out and there’s a confidence that brims throughout that only the original creators can bring.
There are platforming puzzles that involve strange gravity streams, gravity boots that let you walk on ceilings or walls, sections with rising water to induce a sense of panic. Early on, there’s even a nod to horror games, as you navigate dark underground sections with a torch – it’s hardly going to have you screaming in fear while a bit of poo escapes, but it’s testament to the variety on offer.
There’s even a mini-game to unlock ‘rifts’ that see you controlling Clank in a 2D platforming section, manipulating and twisting gravity with the right analogue stick while being chased by a rift monster.
It sounds odd but everything neatly slots into the colourful sci-fi world of Into The Nexus, driven by the Ratchet vs. Vendra plot and urge to discover what Insomniac Games has tucked away further in the game.
Although there are never any huge surprises in store, there’s a willingness from Insomniac Games to mix up the formula that keeps Nexus interesting throughout.
Ratchet & Clank: Nexus – Review
There’s a healthy amount of imagination and variety that’s been injected into this latest Ratchet & Clank outing, which is well-paced and rarely drags its feet. It’s not as funny as previous adventures in the series and there are some who will feel as though they’ve seen it all before, thanks to the familiarity of collect-a-thon games and the lack of new ideas that dramatically change the gameplay.
But Nexus is still a highly enjoyable outing in the series that shows Insomniac Games hasn’t lost the secret formula to making collect-a-thons zing with a bright personality and sense of fun.
Version Tested: PS3