Ratchet & Clank Retrospective Part 7: Into the Nexus

John continues his Ratchet & Clank Retrospective with the most dissapointing one yet, Into the Nexus

Into the Nexus header

You can reads all parts of our Retrosepctive here.

There is a rea­son I’ve only been cov­er­ing the large flag­ship re­leas­es in the Ratchet & Clank se­ries dur­ing this ret­ro­spec­tive; they show a clear pro­gres­sion from game to game, and whilst some of them might be a step side­ways — like Deadlocked/Gladiator — none of the games can be said to be a step back­wards. That was un­til the 2013 re­lease of Into the Nexus, which is the first game in the se­ries to be a clear re­gres­sion in al­most every aspect.

I’d held off play­ing through Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus (or just Ratchet & Clank: Nexus in Europe) un­til re­cent­ly even though I al­ready owned it. The first time I played the game I got a sense of fore­bod­ing right off the bat that this wasn’t a Ratchet & Clank game I was go­ing to enjoy.

The biggest prob­lem hit me straight away: the low­er FPS. It’s easy to tell the game is run­ning be­low 30fps in some sec­tions, and this makes the game a mis­ery to play com­pared to the most­ly rock-solid 60fps the rest of the games on the PS3 sport. The vi­su­als are flashier, and there is a nice dy­nam­ic light­ing sys­tem this time, but why a styl­ized game like Ratchet & Clank would you sac­ri­fice flu­id­i­ty of game­play for graph­i­cal bells and whis­tles baf­fles me. This also gives the plat­form­ing, com­bat, and an­i­ma­tions a much chop­pi­er feel. It’s hard to ar­tic­u­late, but af­ter play­ing all of the Ratchet & Clank games in se­quence this one re­al­ly messed with my tim­ing. It makes the game less fun, and can make com­bat a scram­ble when the fram­er­ate stut­ters mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to do the rapid flips and dodg­ing the se­ries re­lies upon.

Nexus insert 1

Insomniac even re­leased a post on their web­site try­ing to hand-wave away this fram­er­ate change. They cit­ed no sales dif­fer­ence be­tween 60fps and 30fps games, even though Into the Nexus was the poor­est re­ceived game of the se­ries by far, and I sus­pect by the lack of avail­abil­i­ty I ex­pe­ri­enced it also sold very poor­ly also (Editor’s note: This is backed up by VGChartz sales num­bers). The ob­jec­tive here was ob­vi­ous­ly to dan­gle flashier graph­ics in front of the con­sumer, even though in terms of vi­su­al de­sign the game is a down­grade over­all. The light­ing sys­tem in­tro­duces no­tice­able shim­mer­ing and alias­ing that can make dis­tant ob­jects indistinct.

A big prob­lem with the in­tro to the game is the al­most im­me­di­ate death of Cronk and Zephyr — two mi­nor char­ac­ters from Tools of Destruction. You are meant to feel re­al­ly sad about the death these two char­ac­ters that have about 10 min­utes of screen-time in this game, and who you didn’t see at all in A Crack in Time. The game does not earn this sup­posed emo­tion­al gut-punch, and it feels like a lazy way to make you dis­like the new vil­lains who only get the barest amount of flesh­ing out through audio-logs.

I’m sor­ry, I just don’t care about Cronk and Zephyr. Their “old man ro­bot” shtick from Tools of Destruction was nev­er that fun­ny or en­dear­ing. It was irritating.

The sto­ry premise this time is Vendra Prog, a crim­i­nal you are trans­port­ing, is bro­ken out of your ves­sel by her broth­er Neftin Prog. They then at­tempt to bring crea­tures called The Nethers from a par­al­lel uni­verse — and they are to­tal­ly not the Cragmites by us­ing a home-made ver­sion of the Dimensionator from Tools of Destruction.

nexus insert 3

The Grav-Tether in action.

This game is much short­er than pre­vi­ous en­tries, fea­tur­ing only four full plan­ets and one bat­tle are­na. Gone is the space-flight and op­tion­al plan­ets that made A Crack in Time have such a wealth of con­tent. Also gone are the time me­chan­ics, and lengthy Clank sec­tions. This time all we have for Clank to do are 2D plat­form­ing ses­sions which are al­most a straight rip-off of the game VVVVVV with its ori­en­ta­tion flip­ping me­chan­ics. There is no hack­ing and puz­zle mini-game for the first time in Ratchet & Clank his­to­ry, and I think you only use the Swingshot a cou­ple of times.

The main new gad­get on show here is the Grav-Tether, which is just a pink Excursion Funnel from Portal 2. They even look and func­tion ex­act­ly the same as the Excursion Funnel; they’re just pink and you can place them be­tween A and B tar­gets. There are no dif­fi­cult puz­zles with this gad­get. You just set up the teth­ers in the right or­der and ride to the next part of the level.

The weapons are one sav­ing grace of the game as there is at least a half de­cent se­lec­tion on show here. Even though with a short­er game you are bound to get less weapons as well. Mostly, we get the same type of fare as we did in A Crack in Time. The “Transform en­e­mies into a thing” weapon this time is the Winterizer, but baf­fling­ly it uses ammo and so de­feats the pur­pose that cat­e­go­ry of weapon has had since the orig­i­nal Ratchet & Clank ti­tle. The Nethers, the thugs, and a few crab-like en­e­mies you see is all the en­e­my va­ri­ety Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus has to of­fer. Even with­in the short play time of this game you will get sick of fight­ing the same things over and over again.


Ratchet has been slight­ly re-designed in Into the Nexus, and they have him look­ing more like a young car­toon mas­cot. Captain Quark also looks re­al­ly weird, de­formed, and frankly creepy. How do you fuck up this bad­ly in only four years? The Gadets sys­tem is re-worked; re­mov­ing the abil­i­ty for the cir­cle but­ton to fire weapons, and in­stead be­comes a pure­ly con­tent sen­si­tive gad­get but­ton. This means if you are in mid-air, and the game de­cides you are slight­ly the wrong an­gle to reg­is­ter one of these con­text sen­si­tive com­mands, you’re out of luck.

We’re giv­en a jet­pack sim­i­lar to the Levitator in Ratchet & Clank 2, but not a huge amount to do with it be­sides awk­ward­ly fly around the map and a few Thugs for Less cours­es. Combat with the jet­pack is mis­er­able; you are bet­ter at land­ing if you aim up­wards. The hov­er boots also make a come­back late in the game, but there isn’t any­where near as much to do with them as in A Crack in Time. And they are also im­ple­ment­ed poor­ly, now hav­ing a ded­i­cat­ed but­ton press. The prob­lem is it’s the same but­ton you need to press to do the boost-jump move, and if you have any mo­men­tum at all you will de­ploy the hover-boots and sail off the edge of a plat­form — a need­less­ly frus­trat­ing de­sign. Why can’t we just use the D‑pad to se­lect Gadgets like in the pre­vi­ous game? That was a great sys­tem, and now the D‑pad does sweet fuck all. I don’t un­der­stand how the se­ries can regress like this.

Another main prob­lem with the game is that is doesn’t seem to grasp the lore and char­ac­ter of the call-backs it is mak­ing to the oth­er games. When A Crack in Time brought back Dr. Nefarious, it did so per­fect­ly and seam­less­ly. When Into the Nexus brings back Thugs for Less they might as well be any oth­er gener­ic en­e­my. There are ad­mirable at­tempts to bring some per­son­al­i­ty to them dur­ing their bat­tle are­na sec­tions, but we don’t have a Thug leader this time to bring them any unique char­ac­ter as an or­ga­ni­za­tion. They are just kind of there. I swear to god I also heard one char­ac­ter talk about “The Explosion of the Great Clock” which makes ab­solute­ly zero sense.

nexus insert 2

Into the Nexus feels more like a rushed se­quel to Tools of Destruction, and fails to builds upon the con­tin­u­ous sto­ry arc in A Crack in Time. There was so much po­ten­tial, and so many un­fol­lowed threads in that game, and none of them are re­vis­it­ed here.

What hap­pened to Orvis? Are peo­ple just go­ing to leave the Great Clock alone now its se­cret is out? If there is tem­po­ral in­sta­bil­i­ty caused by the Progs? Why hasn’t the Great Clock picked it up?

You can’t in­tro­duce an all-powerful de­vice like the Great Clock in a sup­pos­ed­ly con­tin­u­ous se­ries that has been build­ing on the log­ic of the pre­vi­ous games for the past two and a half en­tries and ex­pect peo­ple to for­get it ex­ists. If you’re a fan of the game like I am, then Into the Nexus has many nig­gling frus­tra­tions like this. It feels like it was de­vel­oped by a team that didn’t have the same grasp of the se­ries as the pre­vi­ous games. It’s de­press­ing to have such a wide uni­verse set up just to go off on some 5 hour side-quest against foes you don’t re­al­ly care about.

I can’t in all good con­science rec­om­mend Into the Nexus be­cause of its un­even fram­er­ate alone. When a die-hard fan like me has trou­ble mak­ing it past the in­tro be­cause the lens-flare and stut­ter­ing is giv­ing me headache then I dread to think what some­one used to the but­ter smooth­ness of a mod­ern Mario game would think. I can’t stress just how dra­mat­ic the change of game­play feels in this game. You can ad­just to it giv­en some time, but why should you have to play around a poor and lazy de­sign choice? It’s not a hor­ri­ble game oth­er­wise aside from that — just a short and dis­ap­point­ing one. The game goes through the mo­tions of be­ing Ratchet & Clank, but squander’s the op­por­tu­ni­ties hard won by its predecessors.

Favorited Weapon: The Zurkon Family

Favourite Gadget: The Excursion Funnel- I mean Grav-Tether, since it’s the only gad­get you re­al­ly use.

Thanks for read­ing! Stay tuned for fu­ture ret­ro­spec­tives!


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John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in en­gi­neer­ing. He writes long-form ed­i­to­r­i­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games me­dia and in­ter­net cul­ture. He also does the oc­ca­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly col­umn about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our in­ter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven me­dia and sus­pi­cious of un­ac­cou­table au­thor­i­ty but al­ways hope­ful for change.