Ratchet & Clank has always been one of my favorite franchises. Ever since the original’s release in 2002, there was something special about the series. Recently, Insomniac’s community director, James Stevenson, took to ResetEra to confirm that the PlayStation 4 remake is the developer’s most successful release to date. Although successful, it was a large disappointment to myself and other longtime fans of the series.

Fun but Lacking Gameplay

First things first, the gameplay in the remake is the best the franchise has seen. It is fun and fast-paced that is also able to improve on Ratchet’s strafing abilities. Fan favorite weapons reappear from all over the series like Mr. Zurkon and the RYNO, but there is also a new one called the Pixelizer. Some weapons return like the Pyrociter, but besides that, not a lot seen in the original can be found. No Visibombs, Devastators, or Suck Cannons. If this was a true remake, why wouldn’t almost all of the original gadgets return?

Although the combat is fun, the rest of the gameplay is stale. Branching paths were a staple of the PS2 version. These seem to be abandoned in favor of a more linear one. Paths with multiple routes are condensed into one long sequence. It isn’t true to the original and takes away from any sense of exploration.

Gold bolts also make a return, but skill points don’t. Before, skill points were a way of doing hidden challenges and discovering what the universe has to offer. In a way, they were mini-achievements that could unlock cheats for the game, such as a Big Head Mode. This is a feature that is completely missing that could have added depth to each level. Cheats do return but feel overpowered since they are infinite ammo and invincibility. A weapon upgrade system is added, but it comes off as tedious and more of a hassle than it should be. These new upgrades aren’t meaningful, because no matter what, players can get through a level with ease with or without the skill branch.

Lastly, level design is at its worst. Along with taking away branching paths, strategic enemy placement is no more. What boosted the difficulty of the original was how enemies were placed. This made certain battles a bit more strategic with what weapons were to be used and where to attack first. In the PS4 version, the difficulty is created by having wave after wave of enemies. These rely on whether the player has enough ammo and if they can avoid attacks. There is no thinking just shooting.

A Pixar Story

In 2002, Ratchet & Clank found its way onto the PlayStation 2 receiving rave reviews. A story about two buddies on a quest to save the galaxy. At least, in its simplest form that’s what it was. The original had a full sense of adventure and high stakes. Ratchet was originally from the lifeless planet, Veldin, and was desperate to find a way out. Clank, crash lands on Veldin and is discovered by our Lombax protagonist, later revealing Chairman Drek’s plans to destroy the galaxy to create a new planet. The two embark on a journey to find Captain Qwark and hope to enlist his help to foil these plans.

This storyline is completely altered, instead, Ratchet lies to Clank posing as a Galactic Ranger. The Rangers are supposed to be a group that protects the galaxy, which is headed by Qwark. Ratchet is a fanboy of the group and hopes that this can help lead him to meet them. It is obvious that the game was aimed at a new audience and it feels like an attempt at a Pixaresque movie than an actual attempt at being original. The original’s humor and dialogue is gone and replaced with childish quips and meme talk.

Of course, this was meant to be a movie tie-in, but that doesn’t mean it should rewrite plot points. The Galactic Rangers were never involved before and the main protagonists’ motives are completely off. The whole aesthetic of the game is off as well, the characters are meant to look tougher and able to put up a fight in the original. Ratchet, in this version, comes off as an adolescent eager to be apart of any action.

Granted, the series was never really known for its plot. Gameplay and character design are what made this franchise what it was. Yet, the story here is made far worse. Much of the plot doesn’t make much sense, character motivations and decisions are hindered by the writing. Cutscenes are directly inserted from the movie which also takes away from any sense of immersion. The remake is outdone by the original in this respect and could have been much better had it not been a tie-in aimed at a younger audience.

Untrue to the Characters

The one thing that completely separates itself from the game it is meant to remake are its characters. This is a different cast of characters even though they are the same ones, if that makes sense. For starters, Ratchet is a bland talking Lombax. He has no emotion and no depth. Before, he was snarky, sarcastic, and filled with emotion. Here, he is just a cog in the machine to help get the story going. His charisma is completely gone and is replaced with a lifeless character.

Clank, on the other hand, is an annoying side-kick that mostly just gives you warnings about potential dangers. The 2002 version gave him an intelligent feel who had hope to restore the galaxy. His innocent bliss was what kept him going and what brought Ratchet aboard. He had a plan and it was stuck to. Now, this is replaced with him being dubbed a nerd and brainiac that nobody cares to listen to, for some reason.

Captain Qwark is another victim of rewrites. The story is told from his point of view, which is something that was not in the previous game. This creates multiple instances where Qwark is made omnipresent and tells you what you can and can’t do. So much so, in fact, that he becomes an annoying side piece. SPOILER He becomes jealous of Ratchet’s new found attention and sets out to destroy him by working with Drek. A big departure from the original because his betrayal to the heroes there is due to him being the new spokesperson for the upcoming new planet. His plans are foiled and he doesn’t find redemption until the third game of the series. His previous character arc is now replaced with a 90-minute movie.

Side characters are also removed almost entirely. Small one-offs that were seen in the original are nowhere to be found. The plumber is only on one planet instead of his previous two, Al’s cousin on Pokitaru isn’t there, and the Gadgetron help desk lady is absent as well. Not only this but Dr. Nefarious, the villain from the third game, is shoe-horned in. This makes for a weird addition and makes this game feel convoluted and confusing.

Finally, the biggest and most crucial change is the relationship between Ratchet and Clank. These two had a complicated, but understandable friendship in the PS2 release. Ratchet is a bit more skeptical and later hostile towards Clank. Clank attempts to gain his trust while also continuing on his quest to warn Qwark. As the events unfold, the two grow apart but have to work together. Near the end of the original, they put everything aside, and realize that working together is better than working alone. A great premise that is lost. From the start of the remake, the two are best friends that are inseparable. A happy-go-lucky pair with no depth that will ultimately save the universe.

This remake is an utter disappointment to longtime fans of the franchise. The story, gameplay, and character development are all completely off. Not to mention, the original soundtrack is replaced with a movie score that falls flat and hurts the overall atmosphere. It doesn’t feel like a remake of the original, but an entirely new game that redefines the series, and not in a good way. Newcomers to the franchise will not notice any of these and can actually enjoy it for what it is. Yet, longtime fans, such as myself, could feel underwhelmed and may just want to replay the HD remakes of the original Ratchet & Clank trilogy found on the PS3. This is by no means a horrible game, those looking for a fun 3D platformer should pick this up, but be aware that the original is the superior product. Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 could have been so much better and hopefully in the future, Insomniac returns to what made the series so great.