Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart (Sniper)
Genre: Action
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

This latest Ratchet title takes what Insomniac did in its pair of Spider-Man PlayStation 5 releases, and warps things into a whole new dimension: the characters, right down to their animations and furry faces, are more detailed and believable than the 2016 CGI film; the stage geometry has mind-boggling triangle counts, with clever programming tricks keeping the framerate pegged at sixty; and every scene is filled with real-time ray-traced reflections. But the star of the show is the lighting model, which is sophisticated enough to make this title the current bleeding-edge standard in graphics technology.

Clearly aiming for the "CGI film in real-time" aspiration, Rift Apart opts for highly dynamic, cue-based orchestra music which ebbs and flows with the action. It's not particularly memorable even as it's playing, but it does a decent job of emulating Hollywood film fare. As is expected these days from big budget releases, the voice acting on offer is excellent even by interdimensional standards, breathing a lot of life even into the new characters, such as "Rivet". The sound effects could be a little more emotive, which would help the player respond to triggers happening off-screen when the player is surrounded.

By itself and like most modern games, the gameplay in Rift Apart-- in this case, shooting, dodging, and platforming-- isn't enough to set the experience up for success: sure, the physics are nicely weighted and each weapon has an obvious and distinctive purpose-- but it's only when you marry those mechanics to the refreshingly non-open world level design and the story that the pieces congeal together. The game's pacing and length are perfect, with plenty of exploration to do and collectibles to find, but without taking over the player's life for six months, while leading to nice replay potential.

The Ratchet & Clank series is known for its over-the-top weapons-- like sprinklers which turn the enemies into shrubberies-- and sense of humor, combined with a penchant for pushing technological boundaries on each release's respective platforms. In this case, industry-best temporal anti-aliasing, volumetric lights galore, and sixty frames per second with ray-tracing lead to so many mind-boggling moments that the game's mechanics need only compliment the visuals-- not carry the star dust themselves. Even if its pure mechanics don't dazzle, the game's overall flow feels like a pleasant throw-back to the early 2000s.

Sniper's verdict: