Ratchet & Clank are finally back with their first brand new story entry since the days of the PlayStation 3, something that even the pair themselves joke about during the celebratory parade held to honour them at the opening of the game. Rift Apart is not a mere nostalgia trip though, launching exclusively for PS5 on the 11th June, Insomniac's most ambitious and most interdimensional adventure yet arrives as perhaps the best looking console game to date, and a glorious example of what the machine is capable of.
- RATCHET // RIFT TETHER -
Making use of the superfast SSD storage and I/O throughput, Rift Apart ensures that the near-instantaneous shift from densely packed city to lush alien world is as much a part of the gameplay as it is the story. The all-action combat benefits from for some new moves too, such as the Rift Tether and Phantom Dash — you can even sprint this time — to get you around the battlefield in style, and the arsenal of outlandish weapons comes complete with haptic feedback and alternate firing modes depending on how far you pull the DualSense controller's adaptive triggers.
It is a delight to play, and even better to behold thanks to incredibly intricate environments, ridiculously detailed character models, as well as some stunning particle and lighting effects, including particularly well implemented ray-tracing, all wrapped up in a near flawless presentation. It is simply the most compelling vision of "next-gen" that we have seen yet on the PS5.
Get a well-lit shot of that detailed Lombax fur no matter where you are...
Dr. Nefarious may have found himself now an Emperor, through his misuse of the Dimentionator and insatiable appetite to "finally win", but he's not the only one taking things up a level. The charismatic female Lombax, Rivet, joins the team as a playable character and is arguably the star of the show, Clank discovers how he can manipulate dimensional possibilities in a clever addition to the game's puzzle solving mechanics, and the whole cast become willing photographic subjects in what is the first ever Ratchet & Clank game to feature a photo mode. What you choose to do with it as the story swaps back and forth between realities and present boundless opportunities may be limited only by your imagination.
Key Photo Mode Features:
Three-point studio lighting
Character posing & positioning options
From earlier previews, it was evident that Ratchet & Clank would receive an evolution of the already excellent photo mode tools from Insomniac Games and, having had a few days to get to know it myself, that seems to be a job well done. Bringing back almost all of the key features from virtual photography favourite Marvel's Spider-Man Miles Morales, Rift Apart delivers an impressive set of camera tools while also adding a few new surprises in a package that people will undoubtedly enjoy using.
- SURPRISE // R&C RIFT APART -
In typical fashion, the studio have included a free camera with user friendly inputs for truck, dolly, pan, tilt and crane, as well as an optional orbit mode for conveniently adjusting character portrait angles. Spider-Man's Selfie mode is gone, but that is arguably the right decision taken in context of the two differing franchises.
Accessed through the Options menu, or via optional D-Pad button binding, the photo mode uses a familiar UI layout now with 4 separate modes. Settings include field of view, focus and depth of field options, albeit still with an artificial foreground defocus, along with the likes of exposure compensation, film grain and sharpening. A bunch of filters, stylised frames and almost 400 stickers add to the creativity, but it is the return of the Insomniac's class leading studio lighting that is most satisfying to see.
Keep your composition untouched with the Lighting Mode camera...
The three customisable sphere / spot lights and granular natural light control make it possible to get a well-lit shot of that detailed Lombax fur no matter where you are, and Insomniac have managed to sneak in a handy usability upgrade as well.
Rather than needing to disrupt the viewfinder of the main camera to get a better look at where you are placing the studio lights, a second "Lighting Mode" camera view can be used to pull back for an overview, leaving the main composition intact. This is indeed a welcome addition that should probably just be the default view when entering the Light Mode tab, and my only real complaint is that the secondary camera carries over settings such as focus distance from the main camera that can result in a mismatch between views.
The rather fitting expressions go well with the personality of the game...
Another brand new feature in this photo mode is the entire Character Mode tab from which it is possible to select from up to 10 character poses and 15 facial expressions, equip any of the weapons you currently own, and rotate the character through 360°. While not adjustable beyond the presets, the poses are good and the rather fitting expressions definitely go well with the personality of the game, but don't let this distract you entirely from the excellent in-game character animations that can add a bit more variety.
Speaking of animations, the last addition to Insomniac's camera tools can be found right back on the very first UI tab as a single toggle reading Visual Effects: Play / Pause. Much like the animated environment of last year's Ghost of Tsushima, this option unfreezes the surrounding while keeping all characters in place, enabling you to capture moving images amidst firework displays, wafting foliage or pulsating rifts. There are even a couple of animated overlays in the filters section to be used here too, just remember that any frozen action such as weapon effects will fly away as soon as you un-pause.
So, that's a quick hands-on look at exactly what to expect from the Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart photo mode tomorrow. I'll be back with a more in-depth break down of each feature in the full review but for now, if you are wondering whether this is a game or photo mode that is worth your attention, it's an absolute yes from me...