As I type this, I am still listening to the special track that plays at the main menu after completing the game. It's so goddamn hype. And it's the best way to type a review about Into the Nexus. Because, upon completion, no exaggeration... I had concluded that it'd been one of the nuttiest games I had ever played.
Granted, that impression is mostly based off the final sections of the game. Which are fucking nuts. In a good way. A mess. But, a lovely mess. A mess worth rolling around in.
But, I'm getting way too far ahead of myself already talking about how awesome the ending is. I need to take this step by step. I'm-... I'm just so excited to tell you all of this awesome game. So, siddown and listen.
Oh my god.
Okay. I've switched off the game, brought myself a little more down to our Earth, and calmed down. So that I can retain my journalistic credibility. Gotta have a lot of that.
I've been with the Ratchet & Clank franchise for a long time. I remember when Going Commando, the second Lombax -cross- robot outing, was a new thing that I had to have.
The first three were among my most played games of that era. It was all just shootin' stuff, but as an ADHD-ridden 11-15 year-old, that was just great. And, as a person who shall forever be young at heart, it's still just fucking great (because I can cuss whenever I want now).
Into the Nexus continues that trend of just shootin' stuff rather well. Most of what you'll find yourself doing is just shootin' stuff. Strafing, flipping, and.. shootin' stuff. It's all still very solid and responsive. And, in that respect, as well as many others, Into the Nexus feels like a very proper and welcoming return to form.
There's no tower defense. There's no lame co-op focus. It's just shootin' stuff.
Well, alright. There's some platforming as well.
Thankfully, whatever major changes that have been made are related to said platforming. The second-hand bit to your classic Ratchet & Clank formula. Although, that's not to say that it's ever been awful. You just mainly come for the stuff to shoot.
The modest, new Ratchet platforming gimmick works a lot like Portal 2's Excursion Funnels. Only here you can place multiple funnels, occasionally jumping in-between them. It's a fun little mechanic that, while seeming solely very "copycat" in the beginning, starting feeling more natural and interesting as the game went on (although, predictably, it's implementation is far less frequent, though never forgotten, towards the end).
Clank also gets a new platforming trick that easily becomes a respectable addition to the Ratchet & Clank spectrum. Like with Ratchet, these indie-styled 2D sections felt very derivative at first. However, they eventually got fairly mind-bending, going as far as to, cleverly, pop up even during the very final bit.
Still, even ignoring all of the initially underwhelming new gameplay, this adventure doesn't exactly start out on a high note. It was just for a short while, but it seemed as if the game was doomed right from the start.
It all begins on a big ol' space shuttle, with Ratchet, Clank, and two other robots (who I must've forgot about in these last 4 years without a proper, canon R&C title) escorting a dastardly duo of brother and sister villains.
As I am much better with faces and descriptions than I am with names, one's big and muscly, the other's tiny and magical. And they make for decent Saturday morning cartoon-esque baddies. They stand out, they look cool, they ham up a line or two, their grunts are disorderly and make you chuckle, it's all standable. Certainly at least better than the annoying Emperor Tachyon from Tools of Destruction.
But, what makes this introduction for Into the Nexus so underwhelming are the parts that you actually get to play, which, for the most part, feel very... "modern". In the worst of ways. Walk forward for a bit, trigger an NPC, then get slowly escorted through a couple sets of doors to a cutscene. Fast forward to me stopping in my tracks to watch a mega sweet action setpiece, and similar events happened several times.
This is fine for your Call of Duty's or even (I'll bite my tongue later) your recent Dead Space outings, but when you mix them in with a Ratchet & Clank game, you start to get me peeved. We're talking about classic, early-PS2, arcade shooting and platforming. Even the tiniest wiff of BRO(!)-friendly design is going to raise an eyebrow.
I half-expected to be required to reload my default weapon. God forbid if there were any QTE's.
Shortly thereafter, though, the game starts to really get going. Around 30+ minutes in, all of that nonsense disappears and it starts to show it's true quality.
I said that this was a return to form in more ways than one. Not just in it's treading of old formulas, but in it's overall aesthetic flavor and progression. You'll find yourself in a metro-like city, an evil-orange/red arena, an open swamp, and so on. The game's second planet, an overgrown future city with bright purple spirits flying about, is a good deal more interesting, but the majority of the game's aesthetics felt very olden Ratchet & Clank.
Some may find this aspect dull, and say the developers got lazy.
Personally, though? I loved it. Just imagine: We haven't had a true-blue Ratchet & Clank in quite a while, and even A Crack In Time didn't necessarily feel like your typical outing. It was on a much larger scale, with ultra fancy locales, and complex Clank puzzles (unlike these here Into the Nexus puzzles, which mostly revolve around quick-think platforming). Immediately after that, we had to endure seeing our heroes go through generally failed experimentation for 4 years.
A return to simplicity in all aspects, minus the hilarious and awesome new weapons (the Nightmare Box was an absolute joy to experiment with), was, I feel, exactly what this franchise needed. Like you and an old friend reminiscing about ventures had long, long ago.
Another surprisingly classic aspect was found in the game's challenge.
Even on Normal difficulty, it will get pretty damn tense. Several moments went down to the very last second, down to the wire. "WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO?!", "OH MY GOD EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING AT ONCE!", and "No. NO. BULLSHIT!" were among the many things I found myself scream as I attempted to blast through these often relentless waves of killer croc-things and Nether-mantas.
I died several times, and I realized that making full use of your extensive arsenal was sometimes the only option. The Nightmare Box to scare your foes (even the bosses) stiff, trusty Mr. Zurcon to back you up, and bouncing between 2 or more other wondrous toys to deal most of the damage.
And there are still plenty of out of reach collectables, crates and environmental props to destroy for bolts (or health/ammo)... folks, this is a motherfucking Ratchet & Clank game.
With plenty of reasons to keep playing beyond the main 4-6 hour experience (the arena, swamp planet sidequests, the addictive upgrade system that carries into the game's NG+, etc.), a classic vibe, lots of reckless destruction, and instances of hilarity (in context and gameplay), this is one fun time.
It may not be the most inspiring Ratchet & Clank, but it's exactly what fans needed to see: Another one done right.