Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus Playstation 3 Developed by Insomniac Games Released in 2013
After going through an identity crisis, we are back with what is considered the fourth title in the Future series: Into the Nexus or just Nexus in Europe. Finally! After the varied takes on the series, maybe they got the break they needed and could go back to creating something that recreates the glory days of Tools of Destruction or even Ratchet and Clank 2. As a bonus, you do get Quest for Booty for free when you purchase Nexus digitally. I don’t know if that is a well meant extra or a punch in the face, but hopefully: Nexus won’t share the same fate.
Just a day at work
Ratchet and Clank, alongside their new companions from the Polaris Defense Force, are transferring a criminal by the name of Vendra to her new prison. While on the mission, a bunch of space-crocodiles and one huge space-ape, who is supposedly Vendra’s twin brother, free her and try to kill Ratchet, Clank and everyone on board. The setup is a passable one, you have a villain you will have to stop before powers beyond her control take over. Sadly, this is quite a short story, with little to no development. Our main characters don’t really interact with each other, besides one part in the middle that is an okay, though obvious revelation, and even the humor is lacking. Actually, there are very few characters to meet in this journey and the most memorable one is Qwark, who barely appears towards the end and doesn’t offer much purpose.
They admirably attempt to establish some backstory for the villains in one part of the game, but it is so quickly glanced over, it is easy to overlook and rather feels like something to capitalize on the success of how Bioshock elaborated on its lore, since there are audio logs to find, but only in one building. On a more positive note, the characters are likeable, despite not being uniquely portrayed. Nothing in the story is outright bad, it’s just average.
Story Score: 5/10
A small, but charming memento of what once was
After choosing how challenging you want your game to be, you are set in the more familiar style of Ratchet and Clank-games, that being a third person shooter platformer. Ratchet has gotten his double-jump, long- and high jump, and can descent slowly with the help of Clank. The platforming is nice and enjoyable, but very simple, with the occasional orbs you must swing from with the grapple hook being as complex as it gets.
The platforming is still fun, but not very creative or demanding. New to Ratchet’s way for traversing is the Grav tech. This gun makes a gravitational light from one specific panel to another, depending on which you shot at first. It seems quite restricted at first, but some panels are hidden as part of the world, such as billboards or streetlamps, which is very smart for finding different paths. Ratchet and Clank will get some other upgrades for traversing areas, with the hoverboots and Clank’s jetpack returning. Both are well utilized for exploring areas, with the jetpack only being usable when there is a fuel station, which is a nice way to not make it broken.
There aren’t many tight jumps you will have to do in this game and your wrench will most likely only be used for opening doors, breaking boxes, and the occasional and forgettable puzzles. This is because, similar to the main-titles in the series, Nexus is about the hectic shooting. It is glorious. While in combat, it will demand you being on the move and jumping away from dangerous shots and, of course, use your favorite, creative guns. You get plenty of unique weapons, from the familiar ones such as The Netherblades being the old buzzblade, to the newer ones like the Temporal Repulsor, which is a unique form of shotgun. You can upgrade weapons by shooting enemies all the way to level 3. By their last level, they get a more interesting and clearer upgrade such as making the shotguns shots trap enemies in stasis bubbles. Killing enemies in general, will also upgrade Ratchet health’s, so the carnage will always be important and plenty.
Expanding your arsenal will be done by using the bolts collected from from fallen enemies and crates in stores. Here you will be able to purchase weapons and 2 armour upgrades. Raritarium also returns for upgrading your weapons more specifically in a skill-tree fashion. This is a fantastic way to personalize the weapons you enjoy the most, and since Raritanium is more common, putting points into a weapon you will use less, never feels like a waste. Sadly, despite how fun fighting enemies can be, there isn’t much variety to them. Some will attack by melee, others will shoot and some will have more health than the regular bad guys. They are still a decent challenge, making the guns feel useful due to their unique shots and the enemy-placements makes combat always an enjoyable time, but it becomes lacking when you shoot at only a couple of enemy types. The boss-fights all fall in the same category as well. While they are all fun and have you be on your toes and dodging, they aren’t much different from each other and can easily be taken down due to their health being quickly depleted.
Clank has his segments once again, where he will go through rifts you can find with a radar you will acquire. These are 2D platforming segments where the goal for all of them is to reach a sleeping beast called Nether, punch it, then race back to the beginning while it chases you. It has terribly stiff controls, but with a unique gimmick that makes these segments quite enjoyable. You can shift between which way gravity is pulled to with the right analog-stick, making it so you will have to navigate through a new mechanic. Each stage takes good advantage of testing your skills with them through platforming, and puzzles will also be affected by the gravitations.
So far, it all seems good. However, the game is underdeveloped. The reason for this, is because Into the Nexus is short. There are only 5 planets to visit and one tutorial level. Each has something unique to them thankfully, with a jungle-area that focuses on exploration and collecting crystals from giant monsters, another is the familiar Arena where you can score bolts and take on challenges, and one is just a museum with a fun commentator. They are all pleasant, as they provide something to make the game more memorable and are big enough to be worth exploring
The only exception is the tutorial stage. It is long and dull due to holding your hand the entire time, even teaching you how to use your camera. There is a decent mechanic here, where you must jump to gravitational-pulling platforms by aiming and leaping, but these are not expanded upon or even used until the final boss, making it an interesting concept, but forgettable. There are also some minor unfortunate issues. Enemies have odd hitboxes when shot at from a distance, making precise shots hard to land and there were two glitches I encountered, where I couldn’t leave certain areas. Luckily, a quick reset fixed this and I did not encounter any more glitches.
Nexus is too short to fully expand on all of its ideas. This is a huge shame as all the planets in the game have great variety that is barely touched upon. However, it is fun all the way through, despite the minor technical issues. It is just a shame it is over before it got good.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
The importance of colors
First of, Nexus is quite nice technically, with good lighting-effects and the character-models are great, with Ratchet’s hair being very detailed. Despite this, the enemies and in-game characters have poor variety, with only new colors added to the more dangerous version of an enemy-type and the occasional clothes for the NPCs.
The worlds don’t fair much better. While they share the same quality in technical aspects, they are very uninteresting. They differ a great deal from each other, but only have a few colors to themselves that blend with each other, making it easier to remember the planets by their color, rather than the natural or urban environments in them. They become very one dimensional because of this, despite having more than one area to them and good attention to details. This minor issue, makes them become as bland as a wasteland. Below the surface are also some poor textures in bottomless pits, which is bizarre, but a clever place to dump bad graphics.
CG returns again for the cutscenes and they are still quite nice-looking, even if they are few and far between. What will stick with you, are the weapons. The guns are satisfying with plenty of visually intriguing ammo to fire and the sounds accompanying them are a blast. Unfortunately, the framerate does take a hit quite often because of this and it is not pleasant. On the sound department, the cast lends great voices to their characters, despite them not always having something interesting to say. Michael Bross returns and adds a more symphonic tone to the game’s soundtrack. It is nice, but much more atmospheric with longer notes being held, and limited sound of clear instruments. This makes the soundtrack forgettable and can easily be replaced with other soundtracks, which is depressing.
Presentation Score: 6/10
Those golden guns are sweet
Since the skillpoints require you to do specific things for unlockable cheats that aren’t very interesting, let’s look at the more interesting part of the post-game content. Exploring the planets and going off the main path to find some hidden ones, are well made and will grant you goodies, possibly including pieces for the best weapon in the game or Golden Bolts. The Golden Bolts are well hidden and used to pay for upgrading weapons in the returning Challenge mode, which is their way of saying New Game Plus. Here, you will get to keep all the weapons you earned and have a multiplier for bolts, which increases as you kill enemies. Getting hit, will take it down to zero. This is still as fun as always, and adding to the replay value, is the returning Arena.
Here known as Destructapalooza, the challenges you take on are always different to keep you hooked. One will have you dodge an electrical floor while shooting at enemies, while another will have you race with your jetpack. These are all good, but unfortunately like the rest of the game, it is short lived. After one extra runthrough, which will be even shorter than the first time, there is not much reasons to ever play Nexus again, as the overall content is limited. However, I always had fun and making me play through the game one more time for the sake of completing, is not an easy feat.
Extra Score: 6.5/10
It is hard to say who to really recommend Ratchet and Clank: Nexus to. On one hand, it is a good trip down memory lane, reminding you of why this series was fun and at times great to begin with. On the other, it feels like a bit under 50% of a finished game and as mentioned plenty of times: can be a forgettable title. It is quite short and doesn’t have much content, but what is here, is definitely serviceable. If you have played all the other main-titles and are a fan, it is worth one or two playthroughs. For others, the PS3 has so many platformers that this one will surely be a forgettable one.