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! SweeneyConsoleConsole RetrospectiveConsole Retrospective,Ratchet & ClankYou 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…
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John Sweeney
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.