As far as console mascots go, Ratchet and Clank have always had the potential to shine, but the PlayStation 3 generation has seen them side-lined in favour of grittier, bloodier characters who dominated the gaming scene.
And that’s a pity, because the duo have always released games that have been reliably fun to say the least. With a new console released around the same time as the latest adventure starring the loveable duo, the spotlight is once again shifting away from them. Which is a real shame, as Nexus is one of their finest adventures yet.
A finale to the sub-series of Ratchet and Clank games in the Future series, Nexus sees the pair busy with an escort mission to bring the captured space witch Vendra Prog back to jail. Naturally, things go awry when her massive, hulking brother Neftin Prog and an army of cheap rental mercenaries assault the ship carrying her, leading to a new chase and mission for Ratchet and Clank.
As far as stories go, it’s a simple setup with a surprising amount of heart, bolstered by some top notch performances from the cast of this game. And as far as Ratchet and Clank games go, the formula is pretty much intact.
Ratchet has access to various weapons and his handy omni-tool, with the levels being paced well enough to provide a light linear balance with taking on foes and using your items to get past several easy puzzles. It’s a good flow, and one that works pretty damn well when the new Nether mechanic is introduced.
When the barriers between dimensions start to crack, the game starts leaking in these etheric beings, which gives way to new challenges and obstacles, such as enemies getting trickier and tougher. It also unlocks a new ability in which Ratchet has to create tethers in order to navigate through levels.
Clank also gets another chance to shine, as he dives into the Netherverse and navigates his way through 2D levels with a gravity mechanic that makes these diversions far more fun than they should be, especially when an eventual beast rears its head and decides to chase the little robot down.
Like previous games in the series, Nexus does a fine job of giving players a gratifying sense of accomplishment, with unlocks and level ups a constant source of progression. Shooting is as simplistic as ever, with guns upgrading over time from fart-thrower through to world-smashing cannons, but the weapon wheel needed to switch between more than two guns during the middle of combat dampens that flow from time to time.
And there are plenty of guns and gadgets to choose from. Gravity streams, grenades, rocket boots and jetpacks are just the tip of the iceberg, with most of your arsenal available to upgrade through a skill tree which is unlocked with Raritanium. Level up an item, and you’ll unlock more pathways to help customise them even further in a rather enjoyable process.
Nexus has a ton of great ideas going on inside of it, but gameplay length isn’t one of them. It’s a smaller adventure than previous Ratchet and Clank games, and the ending feels a tad rushed, as if Sony wanted to get the game out before the PS4 hype completely drowned it. The main campaign can be beaten in an easy 5-7 hours, at which point you’ll get access challenge mode that tasks players with the same game, but with a few more tasks to complete.
There’s no multiplayer component to fool around with either, with the rest of the gameplay hours being left in the hands of side missions and explorations which keep the formula true to the franchise roots. As far as visuals go, the game is a treat.
Going in the opposite direction of the hyper-realism of The Last of Us, Nexus is a bright and vibrant world, with characters that look like they were ripped from a Pixar movie and lovingly redesigned. Constantly smooth with the rate of frames and twice as explosive, the game never disappoints on this front. Strong voice acting gives players that necessary emotional connection to keep the story rolling.
Ratchet and Clank: Nexus was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys on a PlayStation 3