Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is the capstone game for the Ratchet & Clank Future series on PS3. The subtitle Into the Nexus can be read as a component of the game, or more abstractly, as the fate of the series as developers start putting money towards the PS4. After playing Into the Nexus, I hope the PS4 contains some of the solid gameplay found within.
Into the Nexus is primarily a third-person platformer title with third-person shooter combat. Like most modern third-person platformers, there is a heavy focus on exploring each level to find objects which will unlock more items in the game – in this case, weapons and armor. The game is short with a focus on replayability, and offers a lot of content for the short quest which comprises Into the Nexus.
As usual, the heroes of the Ratchet & Clank series, Ratchet and Clank, return and are both playable in Into the Nexus. The game opens up in space as the duo are escorting prisoner Vendra Prog to the Vartax Detention Center. Of course, no one reaches the destination, as Vendra’s brother Neftin attacks with hired goons from the Thug mercenary group and blows the ship up. Ratchet and Clank must then track down and stop the brother/sister combo and their plan to unleash an other-dimensional being into their sector of space.
Clank spends most of the game strapped to Ratchet’s back and is used primarily for advice and traversal. This gives Ratchet the time to engage in some slick run and gun action across all five of the visited worlds in the game. Both platforming and combat are well done, but the selection of guns made available in this short game is well done. 12 different weapons are available, and while most are direct damage there are a few which redirect enemy attention or create a gravity sphere to hold enemies in place while Ratchet blasts them. Certain guns also have their own theme music, like the Winterizer, which plays jolly seasonal music as it turns enemies into snowmen which detonate into presents filled with the game’s currency. The gameplay is great, and players looking for a challenge should tackle the game’s most difficult setting. Not only are damage values adjusted, but so are shots as all auto-aiming is turned off. There is a lot of fun to be had with Into the Nexus.
Clank gets his moments during the game’s puzzle level sequences which take place inside – say it with me – a nexus. Clank is restricted to 2D platforming versus Ratchet’s 3D levels, but restricted is used in the loosest way possible here. Clank traverses these levels using standard 2D running and jumping, but players can control the gravity during these levels to help navigate hazards and move objects in the level. Some of these levels appears simple, but are well-thought out in relation to accomplishing the tasks set before Clank, and again; the levels are fun.
While playing Into the Nexus, players will unlock skill points, which in turn unlock concept art and cheats, the latter of which are available to activate in-game at any time. Every time a cinematic is viewed, players have access to it from not only the main menu but also the in-game start menu. Place a soapbox under this text, but these are fantastic ideas which should be available in every other game. Beating the game will also unlock Challenge Mode, a mode where players can spend the in-game currency to earn upgraded versions of weapons bought the first time around, and then raise the maximum levels for maximum carnage.
Graphically, the game is great. Cutscenes are reminiscent of well-done CG animated movies and draw viewers in easily. The game is fairly smooth, though there are rare instances where the camera will get stuck behind objects or once, inside Ratchet’s skull. This did not make Into the Nexus a first-person shooter for those few moments, by the way. The experience was creepy the same way reversing a William Shatner mask will generate Michael Myers.
Sound and music are well-done. As stated above, some of the weapons have their own theme music, which adds a nice touch to weapons use. The score is, again, reminiscent of CG animated movies which help get into the game. Overall, between graphics and sound Into the Nexus presents itself quite well.
The story Into the Nexus tells is fairly standard and appears builds upon events in previous Ratchet & Clank Future games. The writing is solid and the characters interact well with each other. However, some things appear glossed over without knowledge of previous Ratchet & Clank games. Having only part of Tools of Destruction under my belt, it felt as if there was a great deal of plot and characterization missing. While the gameplay is certainly enjoyable, in terms of plot the game left a feeling as if there was something missing the entire time. Little time is spent on characterization, leaving an impression of who these characters are without the ability to get to know them. The game makes repeated references to Ratchet being the last Lombax in the galaxy; specifically that Ratchet has turned down the opportunity to join the other Lombaxes, but gives little to viewers to ascertain at what personal cost this has affected upon Ratchet. In turn, a bittersweet moment in the ending suffers because there is no reference to make that moment bittersweet. Providing this background is the only part of the game where there is a lack of content. Into the Nexus does come with a Quest for Booty, which helps; but even that game picks up where the previous titles left off with a sparse intro before throwing players into combat – and that intro does not mention much of what happened either.
Into the Nexus is the last PS3 game in the Ratchet & Clank Future titles and does appear to be made with fans of the series in mind. But do not let this detract a playthrough of the game. While Into the Nexus is short, there is a lot of replay value, some decent challenge on the harder difficulties, and a lot of stuff to unlock. The game is also packaged with Quest for Booty for players who might have missed out on that title. Overall, Into the Nexus is a solid and enjoyable romp for both fans and newcomers alike.