Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus - Review
Ratchet, with Omni-Wrench in hand and Clank strapped to his back, are the last survivors of Sony's collection of platforming titles. This console generation has shown us that in many cases, the transition from one generation to the next can be a tumultuous, and in some cases, a fatal journey for many franchises. Sly Cooper might have had the cult following but his latest releases have been a somewhat quiet affair. Worst still are poor old Jak and Daxter, who have managed to see zero action on the Playstation 3.
Ratchet and Clank though, have been living it up. Tools of Destruction was one of the best early titles on Sony's console, especially at a time when it was having trouble keeping up with the success of the Xbox 360. Whilst in 2009 we had A Crack in Time, that not only updated the series formula (with a healthy influence from Super Mario Galaxy), but also gave Clank, Ratchet's trusty robotic sidekick, a much bigger role in the series.
Into the Nexus is the final instalment in the series second trilogy that began with Tools of Destruction. The game wastes no time in setting up its antagonists, as Vendra Prog, a dangerous intergalactic criminal, is broken out of prison by her brother and Ratchet and Clank are forced to chase the siblings across the galaxy.
It's a good job the introduction is snappy too, because Into the Nexus is short. As suggested by the budget price-tag, Insomniac's latest offering is about five hours in length, with only a handful of planets to explore. The developers have stripped the game to the core, each level typically made up of a handful of platforming segments punctuated with a bout of crazy gunfights.
The weapons, possibly the most important thing about a Ratchet and Clank adventure, are a collection of the team's guns from previous games. The usual bomb gloves and shotguns are present and accounted for but it's the likes of the Winterizer; a weapon that transforms enemies into snowmen, complete with festive jingle when you fire it, that show off the classic Insomniac humour. Unfortunately, there's nothing new bar one weapon that's gained in the final hour or so, meaning fans that are looking for something fresh and exciting to kill enemies with are going to be left disappointed.
The same can be said of the game's enemies, with only a few different types that populate the various planets. Most engage you in the same way (read: suicidal charge) and because of this there's not all that much incentive to switch around with weapons save for when you run out of ammo. Even the bosses are repeated several times, with the only change being a crafty palette-swap or difficulty hike to hide the fact that you're fighting the same thing all over again.
The planets, whilst visually different from one another, essentially operate on similar principles. Each level has a typical A to B structure for the most part, and whilst there's the occasional opportunity to go off the beaten track, there's not a whole lot for you to explore. The primary exception to this being the gladiatorial arena, which makes its inevitable return and has been a mainstay of the series since Ratchet and Clank 2 back in 2003. Whilst still fun, the limitations that affect the rest of the game: few enemy varieties and cut-and-paste bosses, are still here.
That's not to say that everything that Into the Nexus has to offer has been seen before. Clank gets his own platforming sections that take place in an alternate reality. The funky, silhouette palette scheme brings to mind Housemarque's Outland, and the ability to switch the direction of gravity makes for some fun platforming moments. Each of these sections ends with a mad dash to the exit as you flee from an angry nether-beast snapping at your heels, ensuring that you have some nimble fingers.
Likewise, Insomniac experiment with the combat a little as Clank's jetpack function now resulting in actually flight for a limited time. Have a shoot-out with jetpack wearing enemies makes for an interesting shift in combat and these sections manage to bring all three of the game's elements: shooting, platforming and puzzling together into a nice package.
The problems with Into the Nexus are not that it is bad; this is still the Ratchet and Clank formula we're dealing with, but that it comes across as more of a way to set things up for the duo's inevitable Playstation 4 debut than it does feel like a fresh new game in its own right. The game's final level, which involves navigating through a museum, complete with comedic tour guide, looks back at some of the most memorable moments from the pair's previous adventures. It's a nice way to end a game, especially for long-time fans, but feels a little off considering that Into the Nexus has such a short runtime.
We've certainly not see the last of Ratchet and Clank but, given their previous success, this end to their second trilogy goes out with more of a whimper than a bang.
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus was released, in the UK, on November 20th for the Playstation 3.
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