Ratchet & Clank lost its way with recent entries in the series. Moving away from the Future story arc and the third person shooting/platforming hybrid with it, All 4 One was a one-screen four player co-op adventure. While good, it lost the sense of adventure and became a much more linear affair. QForce might have returned to the traditional third person viewpoint, but tried to substitute the exploration for a take on tower defence gameplay.
So Nexus is a return to form for the franchise, advancing the traditional Ratchet & Clank gameplay and taking it to the next level. There’s platforming, there are weapons, there’s the trusty old wrench, but now there’s a whole load of new features, mainly focused around the manipulation of gravity.
The very first level throws the duo onto the outside of their ship in space, having to protect it from Neftin, who is making every attempt to try and rescue their malevolent prisoner and his sister, Vendra. This leads to an extremely impressive and explosive intro, which sees the use of the Gravity Boots to cling to surfaces on both the outside and inside of the ship, defeating enemies as you play.
It’s mostly standard fare from here on out, with set-pieces shifting things up a notch from the simple jumping and shooting that we’re used to. Even so, guns are a blast to use – there’s a standard blaster, a grenade glove and more exotic weapons such as the Nightmare Box, which allows you to fire a devilish jack-in-the-box to distract enemies.
Gadgets play a big part too, and while the trusty Swingshot is back in action, new items such as the Gravity Tether allow for some puzzling tractor-beam action. This gadget is executed really well and offers some fantastic puzzles to break apart the shooting and platforming, albeit rather simple in the section I played.
They’ve really just perfected the Ratchet & Clank formula from what I’ve seen, with brilliant gunplay, excellent platforming, spot-on humour and a story that’s left me wanting to find out more. There’s multiple routes through planets, RYNO pieces to collect, weapon levels to achieve which will bring upgrades. It’s more of the same, yes, but it’s a welcome return and the new features make it feel as fresh as ever, with plenty of throwbacks offering a good dose of nostalgia.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the game, you probably knew about most of that already, but what may have slipped under your radar are the playable Clank sections.
Each title in the series features a new mechanic for Clank, ranging from fairly standard platforming to some brilliant time-twisting puzzle sections in A Crack In Time. Nexus’ twist might just be the best yet, at least in terms of style and execution. Essentially, Clank can enter Rifts and this then transforms the game into a 2D side scroller.
It’s not your traditional side scrolling platformer though, with gravity manipulation once again playing a big part. A flick of the right stick will hurtle Clank in a direction, and you’ll have to use this to avoid landing in the purple goo, before leading a Nether creature back to the opening rift, essentially opening a door for Ratchet & Clank to go through and progress further into the level. These sections have a distinct art style, with everything black and purple; it looks fantastic.
And the game looks great overall, even if there are some slight issues with aliasing and low resolution cutscenes. There’s a really subtle particle system, which compliments the joyous animation of the characters in the most excellent of ways. Lighting plays a big role too, and works really well.
It’s the colourful, fun and explosive adventure that Ratchet & Clank fans have been asking for, and perhaps a perfectly suited final outing for the duo on PS3, forgetting the previous two oddities and creating what looks to be a worthy follow-up to A Crack In Time. It’s very nostalgic and funny, as any good game starring our favourite Lombax should be, and definitely something to tide you over from November 13th until the PS4 releases at the end of the month.