Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus PS3
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been with Insomniac from the beginning. You may even remember one of the later Spyro 2 levels – Metropolis – which was pretty much a Ratchet and Clank prototype. It even had clank in it, kind of. It was to Ratchet and Clank what Perfect Dark was to Goldeneye and Timespliters. It is an obvious a point where the dev’s took a step back and thought ‘Hold on a minute…that’s a bloody good idea…’ And look at how great the series has become now.
You will also know that, despite releasing several Ratchet and Clank titles over the past few years, there have been none that have continued the main storyline from where A Crack in Time left off, and coincidentally have been no outstandingly good games either. So, with Ratchet & Clank: Nexus being an epilogue to the story of A Crack in Time, it’s bound to be an incredible game, yes? Well… almost.
Vendra Prog and her brother Neftin Prog are the lead villains in this latest instalment. Ratchet and the gang are transporting Vendra to the ‘Vartax Detention Facility’ when Neftin shows his face, seizing the opportunity to rescue his unappreciative sister. But after dodging some meteorites, smashing some crates and walking up walls with Ratchet’s trusty ‘Gravity Boots’, you find a way to board Neftin’s ship and hitch a ride to planet Yerek in a haunted, abandoned sector in the Polaris Galaxy. Ratchet and Clank soon learn that Vendra plans to use the familiar ‘Dimentionator’ to bring the ‘Nethers’ from the ‘Netherverse’ into the current dimension, including the large eye with teeth ‘Mr Eye’, who seems to have convinced Vendra to free him from the Netherverse.
Ratchet & Clank: Nexus offers some new features and some old. As far as I am aware, the ‘long-jump’ move has been missing from many of the Ratchet and Clank games and involves jumping much further forward with help from the ‘heli-pack’. Not only is this ability good for jumping from platform to platform and a great deal of fun, but it is also very useful in dodging enemy attacks (especially on the harder difficulties). The ‘Thruster-pack’ you may be familiar with, used to hover and glide much like the heli-pack, now has a purpose other than looking aesthetically bad-ass, and allows you to freely fly about the place in areas containing a fuelling station. Some enemies are best fought airborne as you can ascend/descend as well as moving left and right, but you may wish to re-think your choice of weapon when in the air. For example, a grenade will be more difficult to aim than a heat-seeking rocket as it will fall out of range if it is not a direct hit.
One of the main new gadgets is the Grav-Tether’, which allows you to create a gravity stream between two ‘Grav-Targets’, flowing from one towards the other depending on the order in which they were shot. This is useful in reaching new areas and adding an extra puzzle element into each area. Sometime Grav-Streams overlap, sending you different directions before reaching your destination. By sending ratchet the wrong way, you can often find goodies including the formidable ‘Gold Bolts’. The ‘Rift-Cracker’ is also a new gadget, allowing clank to enter the Netherverse through a hidden crack in the dimension. There, Clank is faced with a 2D puzzle, the aim being to find a sleeping Nether and lure it back to the entrance, thus breaking the link between worlds and removing alien objects such as walls that should not exist in the current dimension. In order to reach said Nether and back again, you will need to change gravity with a flick of the right analogue stick. Not only does this allow Clank to run up walls and such, but it allows you to move platforms and crates in order to pass obstacles and press switches creating a safe route, which will all be done in a hurry on your return.
Despite only having around 12 weapons to play with this time, you still get the chance to play with the favourites of the series including the Omniblaster, Mr Zurkon (with both Jr Zurkon and Mother Zurkon all at once!), the heat-seeking warmonger, and, my personal favourite, the Fusion Grenades (or Bomb-Glove as I still call it). The RYNO also makes another appearance as it moves into its 7th iteration; eating its way through 1,000 rounds in a few seconds, firing everything from bullets to rockets. I am convinced that it uses some of the ammunition to launch fireworks too, you know, just for fun. And it plays music. Not just any old pop tune either, it plays the famous composition ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ by Mussorgsky. Excellent.
Collecting all of the ‘skill points’ will give you an extra challenge if you desire to collect them all, unlocking ‘cheats’ along the way. ‘Challenge Mode’ is unlocked upon finishing the game, and allows you to replay the game with all weapons and bolts on another difficulty. There is an added bonus too; a bolt multiplier which will increase after a bunch of enemies are defeated, but will reset if you take any damage. In a way this makes the harder difficulty easier because you really don’t want to lose your x10 multiplier and so pay more attention to the enemy’s attacks coming your way.
Although Ratchet & Clank: Nexus isn’t a full length game like A Crack in Time was, Insomniac have not cut back on any of the details; the environment art is beautiful and completely varied from planet to planet, the cutscenes are interestingly animated and regularly hilarious, the enemies are full of personality as are the main characters both good and evil, and the weapons will keep you entertained through more than a single play-through with all of the upgrades available. Insomniac have listened to their fans and have focused on a single player experience that I have enjoyed thoroughly. Even though it was a little shorter than I had hoped for, Ratchet & Clank: Nexus is still much longer than Quest for Booty and ties up the story of our heroes (and Quark) nicely. For now at least.