We saw a glimpse of next-gen capabilities during the announcement trailer for “Rift Apart” back in June, as well as an extended look at gameplay during Gamescom Opening Night Live last week. Gamescom gave the public the deepest dive yet on the game, showing seven and a half minutes of protagonists Ratchet and Clank fighting enemies and hopping through portals to instantaneously travel to new levels and different alien worlds, without interruptions like load times. Using a new mechanic called the rift tether, Ratchet is able to grab hold of dimensional rifts, open them up, and jump through them to teleport. The rift tether can be used in combat, too, as a tactical advantage to reach new vantage points.
“One of the cool things about it, is that it’s all still live gameplay where you can control your character,” game director Mike Daly said. “All those worlds that you’re traveling through during those sequences are real, fully fleshed out worlds that you could just, like, stop and play in under other circumstances.”
The technology behind it is impressive, utilizing the power of the PS5′s solid state drive, which developer Insomniac fiddled with and optimized for its upcoming games thanks to early adoptions of PS5 development kits provided by Sony. In an interview with Wired, for example, a demo from PS5 lead architect Mark Cerny detailed that fast-travel loading screens in 2018′s Spider-Man last 15 seconds on a PS4, and are cut to a mere 0.8 seconds when tested on a PS5. This is an impressive feat for a large, open-world game taking place in a densely populated digital Manhattan.
“As a studio, we were lucky enough to be one of the earlier developers who helped work with the new technologies as they were coming online,” creative director Marcus Smith told The Post in a recent interview. “Something is changing here. We’re not just talking about getting rid of loading screens, which is natural, but it enables us to do things at speeds that we’ve never, ever been able to do before.”
Smith calls the quicker loading times a “paradigm shift" for the next generation. With “Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart,” the game is able to load entire worlds in “less than a second,” Daly said. It’s also targeting 4K and 30 frames-per-second, and will include a performance mode, allowing players to experience the game at 60 frames-per-second, a first since 2009′s “Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.”
Haptic feedback with the DualSense controller is another feature that “Rift Apart” will widely use, particularly to add personality to your arsenal. Each weapon has a uniquely tailored haptic response. For example, you can feel the pulse of a grenade (called a Shadow Bomb) fade after you throw it, and a double-barreled shotgun (known as the Enforcer) can shoot one barrel if you gently push down on the trigger, or two barrels if you pull down the trigger entirely.
“There are strategic reasons to use one or the other,” he said. “Another example of that is the burst pistol, where it can stay accurate if you fire it slowly or you can just pull the trigger all the way down to fire quickly and sacrifice that accuracy for rate of fire.”
Insomniac has been working on the “Ratchet & Clank” series for nearly 20 years, with its debut on the PS2 system in 2002, and the franchise has had an overarching narrative continuing each game, excluding “Ratchet & Clank” on PS4 that served as a tie-in to the 2016 blockbuster film. With “Rift Apart," it will take place some time after the events of 2013′s “Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus.”
“Fans of the franchise are very invested in the story line that we have been building. The last time we built within that universe was in ['Into The Nexus']," Daly said. "We’re sticking to that storyline mostly because that’s the one that we were building to this entire time. The movie and the  ‘Ratchet & Clank’ reboot, it was a retelling as told by Qwark, a character who’s largely unreliable. So we figured we’d just stick with the much more reliable, canonical history that we’d been developing over time.”
Insomniac calls “Rift Apart” a uniquely immersive experience bolstered by next-gen tech, including 3D audio, which simulates the feeling that sound is coming from all around you within the virtual world.
“You’re hearing things that sound like they’re as dense as you would expect," Smith said. "You can hear it in the world and know where it’s coming from.”
These features can be more difficult to market during a worldwide pandemic, when the public can’t experience these new wrinkles in person, as it normally would at conventions like E3 and Gamescom. Now, methods of promotion are limited.
“Especially [at] Insomniac, I feel like we make games that feel very good,” Smith said. "We spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that the responsiveness of the camera and the responsiveness of the animation make for a very good experience. Being stuck in a place where people can only see videos, it doesn’t sell it as great as we know it is. So it’s frustrating that we don’t yet have people getting an opportunity to experience it, and we really just can’t wait until we get to the point where people can finally experience it for themselves.”