This is the sixth (seventh if you count Quest for Booty) entry into the Ratchet and Clank series. This game’s story picks up from where Quest for Booty left off, as such there will be a few spoilers. In the previous entry Ratchet was trying to find out where Clank is, and at the end finds out that a nefarious villain has returned from their past and was the one that was behind the kidnapping of Clank in Tools of Destruction. In addition to trying to rescue his longtime friend, Ratchet comes across another Lombax that is trying to find a way undo past mistakes (literally) and return the Lombaxes their original universe. As the story progresses these two plot points eventually converge. The morals of this story revolve around coming to terms with past mistakes and accepting loss instead of attempting to resolve them in ways that could hurt others. There is also the moral of no easy fixes that is interwoven into the main one.
The gameplay is a combination of platforming and third-person shooting, elements that Insomniac has refined over the course of the franchise. The platforming has your standard jumps and double jumps as well as the ability to slow your fall if you hold the jump button. While in previous games slow falling was due to Ratchet’s robot pal Clank, in this game it is due to the hoverboots. Speaking of, the hoverboots play a more significant role in this game than in the previous ones. Whereas in previous games the hoverboots were simply something that let you effectively sprint, in this game they are crucial to platforming and the platforming puzzles. Overall the platforming is solid, and the new elements the hover boots add to the game are integrated quite well. That said, there really isn’t any platforming that forces any real amount of challenge (except for one moment in the game where there is a noticeable difficulty spike), unless it is involved with the game's combat.
As stated in the previous paragraph, puzzles as fans of the series know them are not present in this entry. Unlike the earlier games, puzzles in the previous series would frequently involve plugging some device into some computer and then the player would complete a puzzle to progress. While these were fun and many were well thought out, they could interrupt the flow of gameplay especially if the puzzle is difficult. Now the puzzle elements are completely connected to platforming. This streamlines the game and makes this game, more so than prior entries, about constant movement. In many ways this is an improvement, but those who liked puzzles from the older entries may be disappointed.
While separated, Clank still has his own levels that appear every now and then. Unlike Ratchet’s fast paced and constant movement levels, Clank’s are mostly puzzle and minigame based. Like Ratchet’s puzzles, Clank’s are predominantly platforming based, but they are less about speed and more about time manipulation, and a few are brain teasers. Overall, these puzzles are quite enjoyable. Unlike prior games (or Ratchet’s puzzle segments), these puzzle segments can be skipped by using in-game currency. Compared to the puzzles, the minigame that crops up during Clank’s segments is a little too easy. You can win by just holding the fire button down the whole time. There may be an option to skip these, but I never really needed to and the segments last for a very brief amount of time. Quite honestly I would have preferred more of the time puzzles, but these minigames are not unpleasant.
Now on to what the game is most famous for: the weapons. There is a wide assortment of guns at your disposal from the standard rocket launcher to a gun that turns enemies into monkeys. New to the series are three Gadgetron weapons that have multiple mods that change how the gun works. For example one gun can be a simple rapid fire pistol, or a charged gun whose shots will ricochet off the enemies. The other two weapons are a shotgun and a glove that lets you throw grenades. All of the guns in the game level-up the more you use them, until reaching their final level where they get a new name and an extra feature. Now some really only change slightly when they reach their final level, getting additional damage, while others become something new altogether (the riftripper comes to mind). In addition to weapons there is armor you can buy that mitigate the damage you receive, and, like your weapons, Ratchet levels up through combat, which increases his health.
The last two gameplay elements are the ship you use to travel around in and two minigames. While in previous games the ship is used to traverse to other planets, in this game the player actively controls the ship in space. While in control of the ship, the player has three options: they can go to the next story relevant area (usually represented by a planet), engage in ship-based sidequests, or go dwarf planets to get collectables. The ship is very easy to control, and has various staples like boosters, missiles, lasers, etc. One thing to note, though, is that while this doesn’t negatively impact the gameplay, the plane of movement is completely horizontal. The player cannot move up or down. Like other gameplay elements, such as guns and health, the ship can be upgraded. Unlike said elements, these upgrades are connected to a collectible instead of combat.
When it comes to each level the main goal is usually to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, and complete the objectives. These objectives are either platforming challenges/puzzles, killing enemies, or both. At the end (or sometimes in the middle) there are usually bosses, and these bosses are unique (two bosses do repeat themselves though if you take on some side content). Two bosses at least have platform puzzle elements added into them. The last of those two bosses is hard because of it.
Lastly, there is side content that you can do to 100% the game. The side content can be broken-up into two types: collection and arena (which reward you with collectibles). In the game there are three types of collectibles. There are gold bolts which unlock cosmetic extras. There are the Zoni, which upgrade your ship’s abilities. Lastly, there are weapon mods for the Gadgetron weapons. A good portion of these things can be found in the main levels, but they are also found on the dwarf planets that you can land on. These things are mostly optional and you do not need to get 100% of these things to beat the game.
Soundwise, I am going to admit, I may not put much value into the soundtrack of games. That said all of the soundtracks don’t feel out of place, and fit the mood of the levels or situations quite well. The soundtracks for the last bosses give the feeling that you are at the end of the game and trying to save the universe. One thing to note is the signature weapon of the Ratchet and Clank series: The R.Y.N.O., version ‘V’. When this weapon is fired a soundtrack is played that overrules any and all others. Specifically, it plays "1812 Overture" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Admittedly, this track playing coupled with the destruction it causes is quite humorous. This is probably the intention, but depending on the scenario (e.i. the last boss) this can feel out of place. Also, if the R.Y.N.O. V is used too much the player can easily get tired of this track. These are minor problems, though.
When it comes to the game's stability, it runs very smoothly and the frame rate never noticeably dips, despite the all the explosions and destruction that appear onscreen. Well almost never, there is one area of the game where the framerate will drop to the point that it looks like the game momentarily freezes, and this drop only happens while you are jumping, and not all the time. Fortunately, this area always functions as a tutorial level for new abilities (for Clank), and one that is sparsely used. So, the level of frustration this will cause is relatively minor. The game has also never crashed in the entirety of my playtime with it.
Graphics wise, the art style allows the game to hold up well even by today’s standard. Of special note is the area of the game that functions as a tutorial level for Clank’s new abilities. The graphics of this area are of high quality, especially when compared to the other areas. This may explain the stability issue mentioned of this area in the previous paragraph. The PS3 (or at least my much older model) may not be able to handle this area that well. The newer versions of the PS3 may be better able to handle this section of the game. One thing of interest to note is that a good portion of cutscenes in this game are pre-rendered, but the quality of the graphics for these cutscenes are almost indiscernible from the ones that use the game’s engine. I can only guess as to the reason for this decision.
The game does have some faults. There are three weapons that are duds. First, there are two weapons that serve the shotgun archetype. One is the Gadgetron shotgun that can either be a simple shotgun or customized to better suite a certain playstyle. The other shotgun is quite bluntly a frog attached to a gun grip. This gun can be fired off anytime, but if fired at the right time it does much more damage and has a greater cone of effect. The reverse is also true, if fired at the wrong time you will do very little damage. While good in concept, in execution you can easily find yourself not firing the gun because you want to do maximum damage, but this could also simply make you miss opportunities to fire a weapon. It honestly would not be seen as bad if it was the only shotgun weapon in this game, but it is not and it really is not as good as the modable Gagdetron shotgun. The second weapon is the sniper rifle. In this game series, sniper rifles are generally powerful, but the nature of the series makes them difficult to use compared to any other shooter game. This installments higher focus on constant movement makes aiming down the scope much more of a hindrance. A player can opt to shoot it in third-person, but it is easy to tell this is not the intended use. Prior games in the series that had snipers did not have this problem. The last weapon is this game's motion controlled one. The future series seemed to love the motion controlled weapons. All motion controlled weapons in the Future series used the PS3’s motion controls to move whatever you just fired. The problem is that you have multiple other weapons that quite honestly hit nearly or just as hard and have a lower learning curve. That said this is about three weapons out of about twenty, and the three are not even that bad there are just much better options. As previously stated the other guns are quite varied, and the modable nature of the Gadetron weapons makes up for the three.
This game is rated E10+, but as can be expected due to the number of weapons there is a lot of combat. There is no blood and the violence is cartoonish in nature. In the past the games in the series had more subtle humor that could be taken as double entendres (the name still does), but in this game those jokes seem to be absent. The slapstick humor is still there as is some black comedy. One character does betray Ratchet in a fit of anger at one point in the game and Captain Qwark does cross-dress to infiltrate an enemy fortress, though that is played for laughs. There is an alien race prominent in this game that seems to worship the Zoni as gods, though they don’t seem to be aware of it, and a race that loves gladiatorial combat that you can take part in. The antagonist in this game is psychotic and genocidal, though like the crossdressing that is played for laughs, most of the time. There is also a weapon that talks that is completely black comedy. An unseen character’s death is mentioned.
In regards to cursing there is none that I can remember, but there are insults flung around. For sexual content there is a female race called the Valkyrie that, while you can tell they are female, the part of the body that is not covered up is their face. Their clothing is a form-fitting leotard, though. There is also slight flirting.
Overall, the game is a solid entry into the series. There are few minor issues when it comes to things such as weapon selection and stability, but these are really minor when looked at the game as a whole. You can tell that Insomniac has really refined and streamlined many areas of this series in this game. Morally, there seems to be less questionable material than in previous games. There is cartoonish violence to be sure, but the subtle jokes that tend to go over kids heads seem to be gone, being replaced by a more serious story.