Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is going to be an adventure unlike any other. Insomniac Games first established this playground for interactive anarchy almost 20 years ago. Now, the studio is beginning the arduous process of picking it apart at the seams, setting the stage for a dimension-hopping excursion that would not have been possible on any previous generation of PlayStation hardware. For new and returning players alike, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will be a PS5 exclusive that you won't want to miss in 2021.
"The premise is that our long-time heroes are confronted by an evil arch-nemesis who wields a dimension tunnelling device known as the Dimensionator. As often happens in this type of scenario, this damages the fabric of spacetime and our heroes will need to use an evolving arsenal of creative firepower to try to save the universe," says Marcus Smith, creative director at Insomniac. "We don't want to give away too much, but players' jaws will hit the floor when they discover the butler did it... shoot, I said too much."
Feel the action in your hands
Game Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Developer Insomniac Games
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment
If you don't already own a PS5, you'll want to have a DualSense controller in your hands by the time Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart releases in 2021. The game will take two areas of Insomniac's expertise and elevate them into the next generation: Insomniac's penchant for forging outrageous weaponry, and its capacity to deliver best-in-class movement mechanics. You'd have seen these proficiencies in action across its impressively diverse back-catalogue, from the Resistance trilogy to Sunset Overdrive, Marvel's Spider-Man, and its 2016 reimagining of Ratchet & Clank's first adventure – but Rift Apart is operating on another level entirely.
"Since Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was built from the ground up for PS5, we have access to the broadest palette of techniques and the highest fidelity we've ever had for developing weaponry," says game director Mike Daly. "You can look forward to some new developments that make weapon impact feel absolutely amazing: custom adaptive triggers for each weapon that add new functions to the pull of the trigger itself, advanced VFX that take visual spectacle over the top, haptics to give every impact unique and physical sensations that further allow weapons to express their personality, and our signature creativity for exotic and unexpected weapon concepts is in full force. The weapon experience is shaping up to be incredible."
While plenty of fan favourite gadgets from Ratchet & Clank's past arsenal will return, it's the new weapons that are stealing the spotlight. There's the Shatterbomb, a concussive deployable that appears to be an upgrade on the Fusion grenade. The Topiary Sprinkler, a variant of Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando's Miniturret Glove, fires bolts of ice to freeze enemies in place as vines sprout around the crowd control device to shatter encroaching Thugs-4-Less forces. Then there's the new Burst Pistol and Enforcer Shotgun, two weapons set to take full advantage of the PS5's unique capabilities.
"Weapons are always at the forefront of the Ratchet experience, and the DualSense gives us powerful new tools to take each weapon's unique personality even further," says Daly. "We combine haptics with the controller speaker to make the physical aspect of firing a weapon feel distinctly textured and believable. The expressiveness of the controller is very valuable here, as our weapons all look and feel very different from one another, so it wouldn't be nearly as convincing if all of them had a similar basic rumble."
This is an area of design Insomniac has experimented with in the past to great success. In Sunset Overdrive, the studio used the Xbox One controller's Impulse Triggers to ensure that each weapon had a different rumble cadence while firing. In Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a dimensionality of feedback was introduced through the DualSense Adaptive Triggers so that you'd feel the sensation of Miles' spidey sense rippling through your index fingers, as well as different degrees of tension that correlated with how difficult connecting a web swing might be in any given moment.
Daly says that the studio is building upon this experience as it engineers the weapons for Rift Apart. "The adaptive triggers not only give us another channel for weapons to feel unique but, in some cases, they enable extra functionality. Partially pulling the trigger or feathering it gives us a way to add nuance to weapon functions that just weren't possible before as the trigger itself couldn't give feedback. Our Burst Pistol, for example, can be fired accurately by pulling the trigger up to a middle threshold or you can pull through to go all out at the cost of accuracy. It's much more intuitive to have this secondary function directly on the trigger than have players learn different buttons for it. It's that much easier for you to get into the flow of combat and execute advanced strategies without having to think of the controls."
An intergalactic adventure
Insomniac is taking advantage of the PS5 to build a truly intergalactic adventure. The SSD will be utilised to project players between new worlds (and fresh takes on old favourites, as we've been able to glimpse Ardolis, Sargasso, and Torren IV in the trailers) at near-instantaneous speeds with no discernable load screens, and to give you new ways to traverse its combat spaces and encounters. Daly believes that it's this quirk of Rift Apart's design, working in tandem with the buoyant chaos the Ratchet & Clank series is known for, that will set it apart from anything else the studio has created in the past.
"New abilities expand how Ratchet can traverse the dimensions using Rift Tethers and combine with a suite of tried-and-true returning moves to create a move set that feels empowering and expressive," he says of your ability to whip across combat spaces in an instant through dimensional portals that litter the combat spaces. "Ratchet's core movement is faster and more responsive, with faster and smoother transitions from move to move, making Ratchet feel more agile than ever. Our traversal move set enables us to create traversal challenges that have you mix moves together in a satisfying chain, and lets players be more creative with how they move around the battlefield to outmanoeuvre enemies."
Rift Apart is being built as a celebration of the Ratchet & Clank games that have come before it. But it's also a glimpse into Insomniac's future, following its acquisition by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Smith says that the studio is trying to cater to more players than ever before, noting that if you've never played a Ratchet & Clank game before, this is an excellent one to start with, as the adventure is a stand-alone storyline. Still, long-time fans of the series will find deeper layers of connection to previous games."
Insomniac assures us that what we've seen of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart so far is but a hint of the chaos this upcoming action-platformer will offer. "Insomniac is so out of control that several of our designers are wanted across several star clusters," laughs Smith. "It has been an incredibly rewarding process of learning to shed outdated 'best practice' that has been in place due to constraints of loading times. While so often new hardware feels like an upgrade to visuals alone, working on the PS5 has been a paradigm shift in the way we do all things, from the near-instant level loading to 3D audio design, and yes, an enormous leap in visuals. It's exciting to think that we're still so early in the lifecycle and everyone is just scratching the surface of what can be done. So excited to know it's only going to get crazier!"
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is one of our most anticipated games of the year, set to arrive in 2021 exclusively for PS5. For more on the biggest releases on the near horizon, check in on our Big in 2021 (opens in new tab) coverage hub as it is updated all throughout January.