Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, the intergalactic duo’s sixth PlayStation 3 outing, is a largely tedious affair. If you’ve ever played a Ratchet & Clank game before, well, you might as well have already played Into the Nexus. It is unequivocally Ratchet by the numbers, a quality that is both its selling point and its epitaph.
In terms of gameplay, Into the Nexus plays it safe. The overly familiar formula for the Lombax and robot is in full force: learn of galactic crisis, blast hundreds of alien dopes while sucking up bolts, planet hop, collect Ryno schematics, register for a seedy alien arena combat series, level-up guns, etc. It’s all there, everything you expect, and better yet, it all works; it’s just a bit tired and predictable at this point, especially for long tenured fans.
Ratchet’s previous two titles, All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault, tinkered heavily with the franchise’s recipe and were each met with a tepid response. Into the Nexus retreats to Insomniac’s comfort zone and the result is a game only die hard Ratchet fans need play. It’s easy to grasp and it’s easy to complete, which means it could be a small taster for players unfamiliar to the series, but it’s hard to imagine anyone starting a series with the tenth console installment. Ratchet’s formula is so familiar at this point you could probably strip the game of its quest markers, its UI, and still have no problem following it. It’s comforting, like returning home, but it’s hard to get truly excited about anymore.
Like Quest for Booty, Into the Nexus operates within an admittedly smaller scope. It does add a few new gadgets to Ratchet’s continually growing bag of tricks but neither mechanic is pushed in any meaningful way. You’ll play with pink tractor beams and pilot a Clank-based jetpack, but neither platforming mechanic alters the way you play or think about Ratchet & Clank in a fundamental way; they simply exist to disguise the same old spatial puzzles you’ve seen for the last decade. And after you’ve used each a few times they’re basically forgotten.
As has been the case before, Insomniac still can’t seem to decide what’s best for Clank. Following the fun-at-first-but-then-increasingly-annoying puzzles of A Crack in Time, Clank once again finds himself the victim of Insomniac’s perpetual quandary. This time Clank is subjected to a series of short sidescrolling missions where gravity can be altered at will, allowing Clank to run on walls and ceilings, or fall continuously in any of four directions. At first the puzzles feel novel, recalling gravity-based indie games like VVVVVV; it’s fun and refreshing, a nice break from the semi-mindless nature of Ratchet & Clank’s diet third-person shooting. However, it quickly overstays its welcome; a surprise considering how few times Clank is actually plunged into the Netherverse.
The best bit of Into the Nexus is its story, which wraps up the ‘Future‘ saga (though this title has conspicuously dropped the moniker) started in Tools of Destruction. The writing is still light and the characters still witty, but within its simple narrative, Insomniac takes a few risks that pay off, making the most of yet another galaxy at peril story.
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is an underwhelming conclusion for Sony’s duo on the PlayStation 3. It’s a fine game; it’s pretty, it’s got the series’ trademark weaponry, and yet, it’s just another Ratchet game. If that was Insomniac’s goal, well, mission accomplished. For anyone hoping for something more out of these space faring buddies, best wait for the inevitable PlayStation 4 iteration; maybe then they’ll put the ‘Future’ back in.