Nexus, or Into the Nexus if you’re not in Europe, is a return to form for a series which has tried to branch out from the classic platforming-shooter gameplay into co-operative adventure and tower defence styles in recent instalments. It’s brimming with tons of throwbacks and references for fans, while managing to evolve the gameplay without deviating from the excellent core formula.
This adventure sees the titular duo attempting to thwart the threat of siblings Vendra and Neftin Prog, who aim to unleash powerful Nether creatures into the Galaxy from the Netherverse, causing destruction on a huge scale. This takes them on an adventure across several planets, where they’ll find new guns, upgrades and gadgets to assist them. It’s actually a great story, which doesn’t repeat anything that’s been told before in the series, with brilliant new villains the highlight.
Nexus’ core theme is gravity, or rather the manipulation of it. We’ve seen this in the series before with the Gravity Boots – and they make a return from the beginning – but with each planet comes a new gravity-manipulating gadget, including a tractor-beam inducing Gravity Tether, which is utilised for traversing through the first planet and beyond, upgraded versions of the Hover Boots which see Ratchet zooming across land and jumping across chasms, and a Jetpack upgrade for Clank, allowing you to fly around certain areas freely.
Out of all of these new mechanics, Clank’s GrummelNet Jetpack upgrade is the most notable, as it opens up the planets for Ratchet to explore more freely while unleashing air-based assaults on his foes. In truth, all of the planets are more open – there’s still linearity in going from section to section, but there’s more freedom in how you tackle each part, and at times in which order you do so.
Each planet is distinct, so there’s no chance of fatigue setting in with the same environments or enemies, though some sections do feel very similar to previous games, and it’s more action-focused than some fans may like. Thankfully, to break this apart there are fantastic side scrolling Clank sections, which see him traversing into the Netherverse and manipulating gravity with the flick of a stick to reach the end of the level, and then back again with a Nether on his tail. They don’t quite reach the majesty or length of A Crack In Time’s Clank sections, but they fit in very well here.
But it’s truly the arsenal of weapons that Ratchet & Clank is known for, and while there’s yet again no melee options aside from the Omniwrench, there are twelve new firearms, including blasters, grenade and rocket launchers, rifles, blade guns and more unique weapons, such as the Nightmare Box which fires out a devilish Jack-in-the-box to scare, distract and fight enemies, or the Vortex Grenade, which fires out a devastating black hole to suck enemies in.
And all of the weapons are extremely upgradable: there are three levels for each weapon on your first playthrough, with the final level offering a huge change, but there’s also an array of upgrades which can be purchased using Raritanium, and the upgrade paths offer further unique upgrades depending on which direction you take. Beyond that, there are the Omega weapons which offer the opportunity for you to level them up to a sixth level, and can be purchased at a higher price in Challenge Mode.
As well as upgraded weapons, Challenge Mode offers bolt multipliers which ramps up the amount of currency you collect, so long as you aren’t hit by enemy fire, along with a higher level of difficulty. It ultimately means that Nexus warrants a replay, and even if you’re not the kind to play through games more than once, there’s still a lot of content on offer.
It’s nowhere near the length of A Crack In Time, but it is closer to Tools of Destruction than Ratchet’s previous downloadable adventure, Quest for Booty. There’s even an arena section – the Destructapalooza – which brings new challenges but feels as though it could’ve offered more in terms of variety and challenges.
Unfortunately, due to the title being a couple of hours shorter than a usual outing, it really misses out on two important Ratchet & Clank features, namely puzzle sections – of which there are few, even with the game focused on shooting – and rail grinding sequences, which are omitted entirely in favour of the new gravity-fuelled mechanics.
Even without these features, Nexus includes a lot of fan service, and it’s quite nostalgic in its execution, with the last planet offering something brilliant that fans of the series absolutely can’t miss. It’s not only an fantastic bookend to the series, and a true advancement rather than a deviation from the core formula, but a great way to say farewell to your PS3 as Sony’s next machine approaches in the coming weeks.
It’s such a great looking and sounding game too – it’s obviously not Pixar quality, and there’s still some noticeable aliasing, but it’s as good as the series can achieve on current generation hardware. This is managed with the use (and perhaps overuse in some cases) of a particle system, a vivid colour palette and some excellent animation, along with some suitably epic music and sound design which only matches the charm and style of the game.
If you’re a fan of Ratchet & Clank, you don’t want to miss out on Nexus. If you’ve been craving a more traditional entry to the series since A Crack In Time, then this will suit you perfectly. It’s not the longest or best game in the series, but it’s a budget title and full of fan service, though that may turn non-fans away and it’s hardly the best entry point into this universe.
It’s simply a wonderful adventure for the duo, featuring almost everything you could want from Ratchet & Clank and bringing some brilliant new mechanics which advance the series in the correct way. Don’t expect an adventure the size of A Crack in Time here, but for the budget price (around £20), it’s just about perfectly scaled.