Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus review

“Now entering the Hall of Villainy. If you see your face here, chances are you did not listen to your mother while you were growing up.”

Ratchet & Clank Nexus is a return to the series roots following Insomniac’s disastrously-received attempts to tinker with a winning formula in All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault. A lean, succinct adventure that brings an end to the series on the PS3, it contains all the traditional hallmarks of what makes the R&C games so great and focuses chiefly on gun-toting mayhem to great effect. Effortlessly enjoyable, welcome back Ratchet & Clank.

Nexus takes place after A Crack In Time, the duo have agreed to transport one of the most dangerous criminals in the universe to a detention centre, however before long she’s rescued by her twin brother and they must travel throughout the galaxy once again to save the universe. It’s been much made of that it’s a short game and coming in at around 5-6 hours along it’s a far cry from the meatier adventures that we’re used to. But Nexus has been priced accordingly, you can get it very cheap these days so I wouldn’t worry about feeling ripped off, there’s plenty of quality content here for what you’re paying and extras such as collectables and challenge modes.

Although it acts as an epilogue to the Future trilogy, it didn’t really feel like it, sure there’s a few returning characters and key plot devices such as the Dimensionator are given a prominent role, but the fact that the new villainous duo are completely new and because the short length doesn’t allow ample time to develop them further, they don’t have anywhere near as much presence compared to their predecessors in the fully-fledged titles. It means that overall, it doesn’t hit the narrative highs of a Crack In Time.

With every new iteration in the series, the gameplay just gets more and more polished and this remains the case with Nexus; controls are tight and precise with gadgets such as hoverboots and the swingshot not even required to be equipped to use them as and when needed. It makes the game a complete breeze to play, some might say too easy but that’s not what these games have ever been about, the signature action-platforming blend has been chiselled to a fine point.

Well this is the… (how many games has it been now?) entry in the series, so by now I’m sure you’ll know what to expect from the gameplay and the overall structure, you take control of Ratchet for the vast majority of the game and you’ll be spending your time doing the same things you’ve been doing in all the other games as before. Nexus does indeed introduce some new things albeit minor, to the series such as the brilliantly entertaining zero-G sections and a gravity beam weapon completely ripped out of Portal 2 to get across previously inaccessible areas. Other than that the key staples of the Ratchet and Clank formula are present and somewhat comforting in its familiarity, guns, boxes, explosions, bolts and more guns in case you’ve forgotten.

However perhaps due to it’s length, there’s a distinct lack of puzzles or traditional platforming here bar the Clank sections, indeed for an ‘action-platformer’, Nexus is crystal clear in it’s focus for the player to be shooting at legions of enemies, blowing them up or whacking them over the head with your trusty OmniWrench. That’s not to say this isn’t enjoyable, far from it in fact, it keeps the pacing lightening quick and you’ll rarely ever feel frustrated during the course of the game. It may be R&C stripped down to the mere basics, but the fact remains that the basics are still so damn good.

Clank’s sections meanwhile involve a series of visits to the ‘Nether’ dimension where he traverses the confined environment through the manipulation of gravity, controlled using the right thumb-stick. These sections play out in the style of a 2D platformer and it works well, it quickly becomes challenging and changes up the pace from the action-heavy gameplay that makes up the rest of the game.

The most iconic aspect of Ratchet and Clank has always been its wacky weaponry, however perhaps due to the shortness of the adventure, the arsenal is somewhat slim and even lighter on creativity. Mr. Zurkon returns and he even brings his similarly insane family along for the ride, a weapon that turns enemies into harmless snowmen is the only other kooky addition. The rest are the usual blaster, shotgun and rocket fare although they’re all extremely fun to wield in part due to the streamlined aiming mechanics. Weapons as usual level up as you use them, becoming more powerful and gaining new abilities, the collectable material ‘raritanium’ can also be used to upgrade weapons in aspects such as rate of fire, ammo capacity and so on. But if fans are hoping for some especially crazy weaponry to unleash during the game, you’ll probably be somewhat disappointed.

Nexus also retains the trademark humour of the series, indeed it seems that Insomniac is just making the game funnier as time goes on, for instance the bumbling Thugs-4-Less goons have numerous hilarious lines to throw at you whilst you’re blasting them to pieces, additionally Insomniac have become acutely aware of the often illogical scenarios that a R&C player has become accustomed to and have parodied it to great effect. For instance when you’re taking part in the arena challenges, the fact that the reward is something incredibly specific such as a special gadget to help R&C, it’s ribbed at continuously. The script is great as is the voice cast; jokes are delivered with an expert subtlety and the overriding warmth of the characters means the game just sparkles with charm.

The art style blossoms too as Insomniac attempted to take advantage of the PS3’s graphical grunt for a final time, character models and environments all look incredibly crisp although admittedly it isn’t a huge step up from the gorgeous Crack In Time. Nexus keeps the series tradition by presenting an array of highly diverse planets and scenarios to experience, from a futuristic shimmering metropolis, to eerie swamplands and the chaotic interior of a doomed spaceship. It’s just great to see how vibrant the series is on a visual level now and all this without even mentioning until now how superb the CG cut-scenes are which would be worthy of any big-name animated movie and the stunning score. A truly delightful visual package.

In sum, Ratchet & Clank Nexus is a lovely swansong for the Future trilogy on the PS3, the gameplay has been refined to achieve a sweet sense of fluidity, while the faultless pacing and tight structure ensures that the adventure has never been as focused.

The adventure may be short but it still has all that Ratchet & Clank magic in abundance.

8/10

+ Superb, silky-smooth gameplay

+Focused level design

+Brilliantly witty

+Crisp art style

Short length

Disappointing new villains