With all the excitement of next-gen consoles launching, it would be easy to forget about Ratchet and Clank’s final adventure releasing on the PS3, but that would definitely be a mistake. While not as grand as most of the Lombax’s adventures, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus returns to the classic gameplay of the series to great results. This is very welcome after All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault tried to experiment with the formula with less success and makes for a very good final outing for the destructive duo on the PlayStation 3.
Into the Nexus finds Ratchet and Clank transporting Vendra Prog, a dangerous criminal, to prison. When her twin brother Neftin frees her from the transport, Ratchet must deal with the consequences and try to set things right. Into the Nexus is billed as an epilogue to the Future series. While it certainly deals with things from that trilogy, it doesn’t quite wrap everything up. I was very happy to see Talwyn, Cronk and Zephyr make an appearance here though. Particularly Talwyn. After being such a big part of Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty, her absence in A Crack in Time was always a bummer to me. There are some interesting parallels to be drawn between Ratchet and the antagonists as well. Overall it is a fun tale with plenty of laughs, but I must admit that if anything is hurt by the shorter runtime of the game, it is the narrative. There just isn’t as much time to develop the new characters over the course of this adventure and things suffer a little because of it. It’s also worth noting that one section of the game features a look back on the series clearly intended for longtime fans and I think it is something everyone will really get a kick out of. I know I did.
The gameplay really feels like a return to form. It features that classic mix of platforming and shooting the series is known for. Other than the use of Full Frontal Assault’s control scheme which I’m still not fully accustomed to and the odd omission of rail-grinding sections, it really does feel like classic Ratchet. The weapon set features some new ones like the Nightmare Box (a Jack in the Box that scares enemies temporarily distracting them) and new twists on old favorites like the Winterizer (a morphing weapon that turns enemies into snowmen). I even liked the new shotgun which eventually upgrades to float enemies in the air. Due to the shorter length, the weapons only upgrade to level 3 through experience, but with a deep upgrade grid unlocked via raritanium and a set of Omega upgrades purchasable during Challenge mode that isn’t really much of a problem. It’s a pretty solid R&C weapon set and pretty great one compared to most games which makes for some really fun combat like you’d expect from the series.
Despite shooting for more of a classic feel to the gameplay, Into the Nexus adds some new elements that work great and fit well into this outing. Almost all of these new ideas toy with gravity. A new gadget called the Grav-Tether allows you to connect certain points and produce a beam to float between inside and travel to different areas. The new Clank sections are 2D puzzle-platforming levels where using the right stick allows you to change the direction of gravity. These short segments will have you walking on walls and ceilings to help open new paths in various levels so Ratchet can continue onward. There aren’t a ton of them, but they don’t wear out their welcome either. My favorite addition in this game is definitely the new Jetpack. Along with allowing you to explore new places that you can’t reach on foot, this device brings battles to the air for a new spin on the game’s typical combat scenarios.
A lot will be made of the length of the game. It probably takes about 6-7 hours to finish. Given this is half the price of ToD and ACiT, being about half the length seems fine to me. That’s still longer than a lot of full priced games. But obviously what’s right for the price is going to depend on the person. Another thing in its favor is that there is lots of replay value unlike say Quest for Booty. Between the upgrades, the gold bolts, the collectible RYNO parts, the arena challenges and Challenge mode (R&C‘s version of New Game+), there is a lot to do here. I also think it helps that while there aren’t a ton of different planets each feels really meaty. My favorite is planet Thram. Much like Leviathan Souls in previous games, this world features a similar item collected by defeating large enemies and exploring the world. The really cool part is that you unlock a couple of abilities (like being able to use the aforementioned Jetpack) as you progress through this level that allow you to search more and more of the planet. There are even a couple of little side missions to tackle here. It’s a really fantastic level.
It kind of goes without saying that Insomniac’s Ratchet games are great looking titles and that is of course the case here. Despite the somewhat long-in-the-tooth PS3, Ratchet’s colorful galaxies still continue to shine on the hardware. The voice-acting is quality stuff too and the music works well including a couple of tunes that fittingly accompany the Winterizer and RYNO VII. I even liked the soothing melody that played when you were floating in a grav-stream.
In an ideal world, we’d have gotten another full-sized Ratchet & Clank here at the end of the PlayStation 3’s life. But despite the shorter length, I feel like Into the Nexus delivers what fans have been wanting, a return to classic R&C gameplay, and the pricing means it still has plenty of value like its big brothers. It feels like a can’t-miss for fans of the series and a good purchase for anyone looking for a colorful, humor-filled action-platformer on the PS3.