Ratchet & Clank 2016 is like video game candy for me. Delicious empty calories I can't help but gobble.

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bigsocrates

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Edited By bigsocrates

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Ratchet & Clank series. I have played every console game in the series at this point and written about a lot of them on this very blog. I originally started playing through the series because I wanted to get the full background before playing the PS4 reboot. It was mostly an excuse to go through a series that I primarily enjoy (looking at you All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault. Looking at you with a lot of side eye.) I accelerated my playthrough this year so that I could be caught up by the time Rift Apart launches in a couple months, and now I am.

Playing the Ratchet & Clank reboot so soon after playing so much of the rest of the series was jarring for a few reasons. The first is that although it is not faithful to the 2002 original in a lot of ways (it adds in more complicated upgrade systems from the Future series, as well as some other new mechanics, big level and boss changes, and refined controls) it does roughly follow the plot of that game, with some alterations, and many of the levels are pulled directly from that title, meaning they are much simpler and more straightforward than what you’d find in the PS3 game. I last played the original Ratchet & Clank in April 2018 so I had clear memories of various planets and areas, and coming back in glorious PS4-level detail (with the PS5 frame rate upgrade patch) was both exciting and nostalgic and a bit disappointing because of the familiarity and the simplicity of the levels. Did I really want to go through these environments yet again, just with updated controls and a fresh graphical gloss?

Yes. Yes I did.

And what a fresh graphical gloss it is. This game is a showcase for the PS4. Video games look great now!
And what a fresh graphical gloss it is. This game is a showcase for the PS4. Video games look great now!

While I started out a bit skeptical about the 2016 game those concerns quickly faded as I collected a few weapons, got a little further into the game, and found that old, familiar, groove.

Ratchet & Clank 2016 is a reboot of the series, tied in to the movie that came out at the same time and which was, itself, based on the original game in the series. It has the same basic set up, where Ratchet, an orphaned Lombax working at a garage but dreaming of being a hero, meets a defected and discarded cute little warbot named Clank who has escaped from destruction at the hands of the Blarg, who are scheming to destroy a bunch of inhabited worlds to build their own new planet as a replacement for the homeworld they ruined. The movie puts a new spin on some of these ideas; bringing in series main villain Dr. Nefarious to work alongside the game’s original villain Chairman Drek, and having Ratchet work much more closely with Captain Quark and the Galactic Rangers than he does in the original game, and this reboot incorporates those changes. The story in a Ratchet & Clank game doesn’t matter that much, but for what it’s worth I’d say that the reboot has much prettier cut scenes, of course, since it’s 13 years and 2 generations of hardware later and also incorporates bits from the CG movie, and more story, but lacks a lot of the tone and charm that the 2002 title brought. Everything looks better, and the performances are fine, but too much time is spent on supporting characters and the relationship between Ratchet & Clank gets short shrift. Even though they meet in the game they are instantly the best of friends (while in the original game they would snipe at one another) and there’s no real character development. Clank is your brave and encouraging buddy, not your snippy, neurotic, ally, and I miss the contrast.

Clank does get his own separate gameplay sections again, but they've been totally reworked and now involve chase sequences and a different type of puzzle. I don't think they're better or worse than the old levels, just different.
Clank does get his own separate gameplay sections again, but they've been totally reworked and now involve chase sequences and a different type of puzzle. I don't think they're better or worse than the old levels, just different.

The game’s layout has also been substantially condensed, either because of how expensive it is to produce these gorgeous, lush, 3D environments or to more closely match the movie’s plot, or most likely both. It’s disappointing that areas were cut, though a few planets were reworked or combined rather than cut altogether and in those cases the new designs are so much better than the old ones that I wish the game had just started fresh. A boss battle inside a huge factory where Ratchet uses his jetpack to fly around dodging attacks and picking up ammo is just delightful, and in fact all the boss battles are new and are much better than those from the original game. The condensation does mean that the game now clocks in at a lean 9 hours, and that’s with doing significant side content like all the optional objectives and completing the newly added open area on Gaspar, but the game cost $40 at launch and was recently given away literally for free with no PS+ subscription required, so it’s hard to fault it for being concise. It feels like a full Ratchet & Clank adventure, more so than something like Into the Nexus, it’s just on the short side.

For most of this year I’ve been playing games that I sort of liked but that had issues, or that I was interested in for whatever reason or that, to be frank, just plain sucked but I felt compelled to see the end of. There have been a lot of 6-7.5 our of 10 games for me, and at times I’ve wondered if I was a little burned out on video games after the amount I’ve been playing during the pandemic.

Ratchet & Clank quickly disabused me of that notion. This game sucked me in like a Vortex cannon and I finished it in a little over 24 hours, playing past midnight even though I was tired just because I wanted to do one more thing before I went to bed…about half a dozen times. Then I started playing again the next morning. It starts a little slow, but once the new upgrade mechanics unfurl, and you start getting the greatest hits arsenal from prior games and new weapons like the Pixelizer and upgrading those weapons..well…it’s the ultimate in video game empty calories. Ratchet & Clank feels good to control. The weapons and enemies are all fun and varied. You can make a tank dance with the Groovitron and then turn it into a sheep. You can point a fully upgraded Buzz Blades gun at a massive horde of enemies and just hold down the trigger until everything is dead, and then those dead enemies will shower you with massive piles of bolts, the game’s currency, like a row of slot machines rigged to always pay off. They’ve added collectable cards that drop at random and reference series lore, and refined and modernized the controls so that the game plays not just like a modern shooter but like a best in class modern shooter that actually wants you to enjoy yourself.

Shoot stuff, get bolts. That is the core Ratchet & Clank experience. It's a combination that tastes as good as spreading Nutella on a croissant.
Shoot stuff, get bolts. That is the core Ratchet & Clank experience. It's a combination that tastes as good as spreading Nutella on a croissant.

Video games are supposed to be fun to play. They’re supposed to be enjoyable. After wrestling with the stealth and controls in Assassin’s Creed IV, and dealing with difficulty spikes and glitches in Outriders Ratchet & Clank was a reminder that, oh yeah, these things can just be effortlessly enjoyable. They can be the equivalent of sitting on your couch and just eating a big bowl of potato chips or peanut butter M&Ms. Is it the healthiest or most productive thing you can do with your time? Obviously not. Is it easy and enjoyable and relaxing and pleasurable? Have you ever tasted a Peanut Butter M&M, bro?

Is the game perfect? No. I have a friend who started playing games again during the pandemic. He told me he tried this game but dropped it because it was too difficult on normal. I was surprised, because despite being a recent returnee to the hobby he was able to get through stuff like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Red Dead Redemption 2, and the new God of War game. Ratchet & Clank is fundamentally a kids game. How hard can it be? After playing it I understand what happened. The game does actually start out pretty hard. You don’t have a lot of guns, and they run out of ammo quickly, and your health starts quite low so when early areas toss a bunch of enemies at you it’s easy to get chewed up quick. The game does have a built in solution for this (other than just letting you bump down the difficulty if you want) because you keep all your currency and experience after you die, so even if you’re stuck on a checkpoint for a few tries you’re leveling up your weapons and your character and getting upgrade materials and chances are you’ll soon find yourself with the tools you need to get past the challenge. Conversely the later stages weren’t built for this deep an upgrade system or some of the available weapons, so by the end of the game you’re just melting everything in front of you and it’s a little too easy. The final stage tries to remedy this by throwing in some instafail mandatory stealth sections, and while it’s done in a cute way…I don’t need that in my fun little shooter. Ratchet & Clank is at its best when you’re unloading on everything in the room, not when you’re waiting for an enemy to turn his back on you so you can jump over a couple gaps and put your disguise back on before he sees you and hits the “kill Lombax” button he’s standing next to. On the plus side there’s clearly been some rebalancing of the more frustrating areas of the game, so the sewer escape when you get the hydro displacer didn’t take me 15 times to get through like it did in 2002 and again in 2018, and the hoverboard races are actually quick little diversions instead of slippery, frustrating, messes. I think I died a couple times when commands I pressed on the grind rail levels failed to register and that annoyed me, but would it really be a Ratchet & Clank grind rail area without some level of frustration? The world may never know.

The game also has some other minigames like ship combat, a turret sequence, and hoverboarding. They were not at all bashful about just playing the hits from the franchise's past.
The game also has some other minigames like ship combat, a turret sequence, and hoverboarding. They were not at all bashful about just playing the hits from the franchise's past.

Despite my gripes with the game I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. The fundamental moment to moment gameplay is just so fun and fluid, it raises the question of why so many games layer on so many mechanics and so much ‘depth’ at the expense of intuitiveness and simplicity. Ratchet & Clank isn’t a game that wants to punish you for not building your character properly or for being a little too aggressive in moving cover to cover. It’s a game that wants you to feel powerful and play with the stuff you want to play with and watch some scenes from a mediocre animated movie until you roll credits at the end. There’s lots to do to extend the value if you want it, including hunting for secrets and the robust New Game Plus mode (called Challenge Mode) that the R&C games have already had where you can further upgrade your weapons and focus on building combos in a different style of play. It doesn’t have quite the value of something like the Crash or Spyro remakes, where you got 3 games for the price of 1, but even though those games are beautiful, Ratchet & Clank is even prettier, and with a totally reworked arsenal and a number of redesigned levels it’s also had a lot more done to it than those faithful reproductions.

I’ve spent some time on these forums recently talking about how I tend to skip a lot of side stuff in games if it’s not fun. I didn’t do everything in Ratchet & Clank but I did a lot because almost everything is fun to do in the game, and the few things that aren’t are easy and painless to get through. A lot of people downplay these kinds of games because they aren’t deep. They don’t have an epic story that will touch your soul or a near impossible challenge level that will push you to your limits. There aren’t 100 hours of content and live service updates. You can’t lose yourself in an encyclopedia of deep lore.

This is what Ratchet & Clank lore looks like. One sentence and a few bullet points. Collecting three cards in a set gives you a gameplay bonus because the game likes you and wants you to have nice things.
This is what Ratchet & Clank lore looks like. One sentence and a few bullet points. Collecting three cards in a set gives you a gameplay bonus because the game likes you and wants you to have nice things.

So what? It’s fun to play. It’s engaging. It’s not full of bad parts and half baked mechanics and bugs. It’s all polished to a sheen and it goes down so easy, like chocolate ice cream or French fries. Insomniac are masters of this kind of design. Sunset Overdrive was fun to play every minute even with its dump story because the weapons were fun and the traversal was fun and everything felt good and worked like it should. Their Spider-Man games are lauded because swinging through the world feels good and right and empowering, and everything else from the story to the level design is built to accommodate and highlight that. So many games these days are focused on making you earn the cool stuff by ‘gitting gud’ or grinding through a 70 hour open world. You have to eat your meat if you want your pudding. Ratchet & Clank doesn’t even make you eat your cake. It just gives you a big spoon full of icing and a broad smile before saying “enjoy.” Thanks, Insomniac. I did.

Groovitrons and Proton Drums are a broken combo in smaller rooms. The game is pretty easy once your arsenal is in good shape but it's still so much fun to play with the toys!
Groovitrons and Proton Drums are a broken combo in smaller rooms. The game is pretty easy once your arsenal is in good shape but it's still so much fun to play with the toys!

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Junkerman

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Ill have to check this one out - the Franchise is one I've never played. I think I have it for free in my obtuse, unapproachable horde of PS Plus games I'll never have time to play.

Also, unrelated. It reminds me of Banjo and Kazooie Nuts and Bolts. I know they're not related. But the small brain part of me sees wrenches and little dude hanging off of another dude.

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baka_shinji17

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I really should play this. I loved the PS2 games, but fell off the series after that.

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noboners

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#3 noboners  Online

Been waiting for you to get to this one. I first beat it when it came out, but I've been working on the platinum since the ps5 update came out. It's just so much fun. Great writeup!

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bigsocrates

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@junkerman: Since this is a reboot it's a great place to start, and honestly I'm not even sure I'd recommend the older games to someone who doesn't particularly love this franchise or at least games like it. They've aged and while I still like them (I really enjoyed Into the Nexus this very year) they're not essential.

I am 100% sure that Banjo and Kazooie were an influence on Ratchet & Clank. It's not a coincidence that BK was a big hit on the N64 and then Sony created 2 series with fuzzy mascots paired with acerbic companions (though Clank lost his edge over time.) Banjo Kazooie showed how that design worked and Sony copied it. I think the wrench thing is less of a direct influence, but the character design is a copy.

@baka_shinji17: If you picked this up for free during the recent Sony give away you don't have much to lose. I would suggest pushing through the early part when the game feels both simple and a little frustrating until you get some weapon upgrades because it gets much better from there. If you enjoyed the PS2 games, well, this is a pseudo remake of the first game.

@noboners: Thanks for the read! I think chipping away at the platinum over time does sound pretty fun. It has a lot of pick up and play appeal because of how well it handles and how fun the various weapons are. I wish there were more big budget games that focused on just being fun above all else these days.

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Suparu

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#5  Edited By Suparu

I just started playing the reboot once the 60fps PS5 patch dropped, I’ve never played a R&C game before.

I loved the visuals and the style of everything right off the bat but I didn’t enjoy the beginning because all you had was a wrench and a standard pea-shooter gun with a few bullets. It had some difficulty in the beginning at times, where I thought maybe I selected hard mode. But those parts didn’t take more than a couple attempts and like he said, you don’t lose anything when you die. But after getting new gadgets, new guns and upped my arsenal, I absolutely love this game. Even if it does turn into a breeze, its fun factor is off the charts.

I honestly wasn’t too interested in Rift Apart before playing this, but now it’s a must-buy for me. In my eyes, bigsocrates is 100% on point 👍. THIS is how you make a video game!

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apewins

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#6  Edited By apewins

This game made me wonder if I had lost all connection to my inner child, because it seems like a game I should have liked, but didn't, and I can't really say what was wrong with it. I agree that the characters seem very one-dimensional, maybe you're expected to see the (apparently) abysmal movie that has essentially been erased from existence.

Anyway, the game gives you an enormous arsenal of diverse weapons and upgrades, but... what's the point when any one of them will do the job just fine. So I found myself sticking to the couple that worked the best for me, and occasionally using the sniper rifle for more difficult sections. I felt that Clank was really underused and the few puzzles in the game were really short and simple, and as I recall the game just flat out tells you what to do if you don't solve the puzzle immediately, and I hated that.

Maybe the game just has these balance issues for me due to it being a remake and trying to balance that line between old and new. I am still excited for Rift Apart given that it is a fully new game and hopefully doesn't suffer from these things.

I did beat the game and seem to recall there being some type of a New Game+. Maybe I'll give it another try to see if that would have more of a challenge for me. I do respect a game that has so many upgrades that they're seemingly impossible to get on one playthrough, because that means that your decisions have weight and it gives you incentive to play more after beating it.

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bigsocrates

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@apewins: I don't think it's necessarily your "inner child" that you've lost connection to, it may just be how you interact with games.

You ask about why there are all these diverse weapons and upgrades when a lot of weapons will work in most situations. The answer for me, personally, is that it's fun. It's fun to make a tank dance and then blast it with a shotgun that makes it more pixelated. Could I stand back and hit it with some Warmonger missiles at long range? Sure. That's more effective and easier, but I've been in what seems like a month long conversation with @lapsariangiraff and @imunbeatable80 about how efficiency in games just isn't what motivates me. I enjoy just being able to mess around and choose the weapons I enjoy rather than being pushed into a specific playstyle by a complex strength/weakness system. That's not how everyone enjoys games though.

I think that part of what you're talking about does relate to the fact that they were kind of remaking an old game so they used old enemies and level designs, but part of it is just inherent to Ratchet & Clank. None of the games have been that tough, and they've always been about the joys of turning bad guys into sheep rather than some complex system where you need to build and execute an effective strategy.

R&C does have a challenge mode, which is not super hard but at least gives you the incentive of building and maintaining a combo and adds depth to the gameplay that way if you enjoy those sort of systems. It also gives you 5 more levels to gain in each weapon so in fact it's literally impossible to fully upgrade everything on your first playthrough even if you grind because half the upgrade levels are locked behind New Game Plus. I don't know if it will give you what you're looking for, though, because this is not a game where your decisions are supposed to have "weight." They're supposed to be cool and flashy and empowering.

There's a reason I described it as candy. It's a sweet but empty experience. Not everyone likes candy. Even some kids don't like it.

P.S. The Clank puzzles don't actually tell you the answer they just give you a hint like "you should use the rotating platform." I also found that annoying, especially because it repeats, but even more annoying is the constant prompt to use the autohack function during the Trespasser sequences. It made me feel real dumb because a few of them stumped me for a while and there was Clank just saying "hey stupid, you know you can skip this, right dummy?" I wish you could turn that off.

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glots

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Really enjoyed the game, disliked the story a lot and it really didn't help that they also had to chop it up because of the (very middling) movie. When they announced Rift Apart, my favorite thing about it was that it wasn't going to continue the reboot's story.

Anyway, I also fired this up recently because of the patch. Didn't play through the whole thing again, but damn if it didn't get me even more hyped for the next one. I'm half-expecting it, but I really hope there won't be any delays happening at this point anymore.

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ape_dosmil

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I loved my time with R&C 2016. I don't generally care about achievements and this remains the only game I've platinumed. My memory is that there weren't any massively challenging trophies so it's probably a good one to go for a platinum on. Probably not a game I would go back to anytime soon, but while it lasted I had an absolute blast.

In terms of story, I'm in the Dan Ryckert school of thought. If a game has a stand out story then that's great but it's not what I come to games for. The story was completely forgettable here and that's fine.

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#10 noboners  Online

@ape_dosmil: yeah I also was thinking about how easy it is to platinum on your 2nd playthrough once you look up the hidden trophies.

That was until I beat it last night and must have missed one or two enemies with the groovatron because that trophy didn't pop for me...

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This was one of the few games I immediately played a second time after finishing, both because the platinum seemed within reach and I just wanted to have more fun with the fully upgraded weapons and finish some of their challenges. I wound up falling off around the halfway point but mostly because other things just grabbed my attention.

Like DOOM 2016, it has a wide arsenal of fun weapons and pretty much all of them are viable in any situation. Combined with a light challenge/kills system for upgrading the weapons to their final form, I just loved flipping from weapon to weapon as I scoured the maps for collectibles and gears. Just simple, empty calorie fun like you said that has just enough challenge to keep you honest but never really penalizes you for just goofing around, either.

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The Ratchet and Clank games were some of my absolute favorites growing up, and the 2016 remake was a major dose of nostalgic dopamine for me. It seemed there were the Jak and Daxter folks or the Ratchet and Clank folks (and those few enlightened folks who happened to enjoy both), and I definitely was a Ratchet kid. It always struck me as one the most pure and unapologetically fun game series in every way. From the writing, to the characters, to the art, to the gameplay, it seemed to completely nail that 90's Saturday morning cartoon vibe.

And now I'm bummed because I doubt I'll be able to find a PS5 before Rift Apart releases.

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This was my first game into the series. I really enjoyed it although I personally found the final boss super irritating.

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ape_dosmil

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@noboners: I had scrubbed the groovatron trophy from my memory, you're right that's a bitch.

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I agree 100%. I played and finished Ratchet and Clank 2016 4 times. The last being recently after the 60fps update. The only downside is the game being a little too easy, even on the highest difficulty.

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#16  Edited By Junkerman

@bigsocrates: Alright I suspect I'll be finishing my first playthrough today or tomorrow.

I don't think I'd even call this game empty calories - its just plain old fun. I think the limited ammo for each of the weapons is perfectly balanced to ensure you're constantly experimenting but also have 'enough' to stick to your preferred weapons.

There is a nice drip feed of new gameplay mechanics that, while very simple, are fun and used sparingly enough it doesn't get repetitive in the least. Games need more of this. Are the Grav Boots going to win an award? Hell no - but for a 30 seconds here and there you go 'Wow neat!' and then its over before you realize all you did was really have a horizon change or play a simple rhythm game on a rail/track.

Everything feels very tight and polished (at least in 2021) and the game just chugs along with a nice momentum that I rarely feel these days with how bloated most games are.

My only complaint is that the story seems to have been done dirty with the weird crossover to the movie which I haven't seen. Not that I expect a Lombax and a cute robot to be Children of Men but I suspect the story could be a little more freeform and exciting if it was just left to do its own thing.

These days my Tired Family Man review scale is pretty simple.

1. Games I Finish (The highest possible praise)

2. Games I Fall Asleep Playing (Most games these days)

Since I'm on the last mission I feel pretty confident this will be the former!

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bigsocrates

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@junkerman: I'm glad you've enjoyed yourself. It's a fun game.

When I said that it was "empty calories" I didn't mean that in a bad way, I meant that it's very easy to digest or "low friction." There's not some deep story to unravel, or difficult puzzles you need to get through, or even super tough combat challenges (though it's not the easiest game of all time.) It's all super accessible and it's a 'friendly' game that wants to serve itself up to you and be enjoyed.

Compared to games where you need to do a lot of work to get to the enjoyment it's more like simple sugar that is immediately gratifying and hits the blood stream as soon as you start playing.

If you're a busy, tired, father with limited gaming time then there's a lot to be said for a game that's going to be enjoyable even if you only have 30 tired minutes to play. It's not a bad thing.

As for the story, I do think that it suffers from the movie connection but even though Insomniac can do very good storytelling (Miles Morales has a great story) no Ratchet & Clank story has been great. The original game had a pretty good story for an action game from 2002, but really Ratchet & Clank is just an excuse for a bunch of gags. I guess you could argue that the Ratchet & Clank Future games tell a more compelling narrative, and Crack in Time has some emotional moments, but it's not the series strength.

If you're going to call yourself a tired family man on a gaming forum you're going to get the Street Fighter 2 reference.  That's law.
If you're going to call yourself a tired family man on a gaming forum you're going to get the Street Fighter 2 reference. That's law.

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#18  Edited By ThePebble

Didn't expect to see so many folks jump on with this one. I wasn't able to stick with it because the story was so terrible compared to the other games, but I'm glad folks enjoyed it. I would really recommend anyone reading this thread go back through the older games. Total video game candy, but without the empty part.

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While I obviously hope that Rift Apart has a better story to tell, I’ve now seen that 15 minute snippet of gameplay footage from State of Play and holy hell. I think I might now also just settle for a very average story too, because that thing looks incredible and fun to play, with more mobility added.