For nearly 2 decades I’ve been playing Ratchet and Clank games. That’s over 7300 days of lombax powered gaming.
Since their first outing on the PlayStation two, I’ve been hooked on Ratchet and Clank’s eclectic mix a fun-filled platforming, and upgrade fuelled gunplay.
Every Sony console, except the PS1, has provided yet another ratchet and clank adventure to drop into.
And now, with the reveal of the PlayStation 5, we have another Ratchet game to bolt ourselves onto. And boy, is it a looker!
In this article, I’ll walk through the trailer we were shown in the PS5 games reveal and talk about what the PS5 will offer the Ratchet and Clank series, plus what it means for other PS5 games.
Let’s get started! But just encase you haven’t seen the Video, check it out below.
0:13 – Big Eyed Bug
On first fade from black, we are greeted by what seems to be a large-eyed bug scampering on an alien plant.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a render taken straight from a Pixar movie. But this bug, just like the rest of this video, is rendered in real-time by the PS5.
At 4K and 30fps no less.
This first moment was so packed with graphical “WOW!” moments, it kept me talking for hours. Sorry team!
The first thing I noticed was the quality of the texture work on the bug’s eyes and the leaf it’s walking across. The leaf was particularly impressive as it’s partially transparent with the veins in it clearly visible as the sunlight passes through its green mass. This may be using some form of subsurface scattering plus, transparencies to actually show the internal structure of the leaf. Either way, it looks beautiful.
In the background, even more detail washes over the surrounding rock as spongy moss bubbles and wisps in a simulated breeze.
You’ve likely seen this style of 3-D texture projection in the current generation of consoles. For example, in games like Ubisoft’s Far Cry, it’s used to simulate, not very accuartly, animal fur. But we’ve never seen it with this level of clarity and accuracy. I honestly feel like I could reach out and smooth the rock.
And finally, this is a perfect time to point out Insomniac’s superb per-object motion blur. The blurring effect uses a very high sample rate from multiple past frames and gives the action a movie like feel. And, on top of that, there are absolutely no visible graphical artifacts, which are often found when motion blue is used in PS4 and Xbox One games.
0:28 – Ratchet & Clank Are Back
After nearly 30 seconds we see Ratchet on the screen for the first time. And he’s never looked better. He must’ve been working out in between console generations. Or at least the PlayStation 5 has.
Other than the huge level of detail that is provided by I’m sure millions of polygons, it Ratchet’s fur that looks, once again, like a pre-render. Previous generation games, when simulating fur, would use a similar effect to what the rock used in the previous section above. It gave a pseudo-realistic type of fur but never looked quite right.
Ratchet’s new fur almost looks like insomniac has gone to the trouble to render every single hair on his body. I’m sure they haven’t done this. But the way the fur moves and contorts and bunches up as Ratchet moves really is something we haven’t seen in real-time rendering before.
Also, this is the first time we get a good look at the shadows in the game. Rift Apart seems to be employing some high-level shadow filtering mixed with contact hardening, making the shadows seem crisper at the source of the projection and becoming more diffuse as they move away. This really helps to ground the objects in the scene. Ray tracing may be in use here, but it’s hard to tell just from a video.
0:35 – Nice Vista Mr!
At this point, the camera pans back to give us a view of the expensive world Ratchet and Clank has fallen into.
And what a world it is.
With the power of the PS5, the geometric level of detail is extended way beyond what the PS4 could handle. The tiny detailed structures in the distance are clear, moving and rich in incidental features. This is a testament to the PS5’s power to push huge amounts of raw polygons.
Remember the PS5 has over 10 teraflops of computing power to make use of. And that’ not even taking into account the next-generation architecture that effectively makes a PS5 teraflop 50% more powerful than a PS4 teraflop. So you’re looking at a console at is graphicly, in effect, 3.5 times more powerful than a PS4 Pro and over 7 times more powerful than the original PS4.
In addition to shear detail, we see a playful mixing of light shafts and volumetric fog bathe the environment in a sunlit haze that lends depth to the scene. And again there is not a graphical artifact insight.
0:37 – Clank: It’s Time For Some… Self Reflection
This is the first scene in which we have definitive proof that ray tracing or RT is in action in Ratchet and Clank.
Now, before I get stuck into talking about the scene, I just want to say how shocked I am that first-generation PlayStation 5 games are already using ray tracing. Ray tracing is an incredibly computationally intensive graphical task for a computer as it involves sending “ray” from every pixel on-screen and bouncing it around the scene to collect color and light information. This information is then used to create reflection, shadows, and other effects. The problem is, the higher resolution your game is running at, the more rays you need for the scene to collect the data And the more rays, the more computationally expensive it is. I really didn’t think early games would use it because it’s so expensive computationally and devs are only just getting their heads around the new hardware. Yet nearly every single PlayStation 5 game that was shown used ray tracing in some form or another. If this is the case for the first wave of games, I cannot wait to see what later games on the PlayStation 5 look like and how they use Ray tracing.
Anyway, back to the game…
In this scene, if you take a look at Clank’s lower jaw, you can clearly see his entire upper body and shoulders reflecting in the metal on his chin. I am 100% convinced this is Ray tracing because we see reflections of things we can’t see on the screen. Typical screen-space reflections, reflection used on current-gen hardware, will only reflect what is actually on the screen. So in this case, if it were using screen-space reflections, Clank’s upper shoulder area would not be reflected because we can’t directly see it on screen. There is no information to be reflected. But this is not the case. Clank’s shoulders are clearly reflected.
0:49 – Particle Perfection
At this point in the trailer, our furry and metallic friends get attacked by what appeared to be extra-dimensional beings.
A flurry of laser fire is sent screeching towards Ratchet and Clank impacting the rock they are standing on. As the blaster bolts hit rock they send a fountain of slag and sparks sizzling into the air. This is proof that heavy particle use, a hallmark of the series, is still in full effect.
1:03 – Level Loading Lunacy
In this scene, we get a first look at the power of the PlayStation 5’s superfast solid-state drive.
After being chased by a bunch of enemies, a purple rift in space and time, which almost looks like cracked mirror glass to me, opened before our heroes.
With no time to maneuver out of the way, Clank and Ratchet dive into the purple rift and within seconds reappear in a new world. This new world of course is an entirely new level, with its own Texture sets and geometry. And it was loaded in real-time while playing the previous level.
In just over 2.5 seconds the game dumps the old level out of RAM and reloads 16 GBs, or close to it, worth of level assets.
Needless to say, this would have been impossible on any of the previous generation consoles.
In the past, developers would’ve been limited to streaming megabytes of data from the hard-drive per second. This allowed them to stream level assets. For example in Spider-Man on the PlayStation four, the game streams in assets such as bins or mailboxes. But it was nowhere near fast enough to load entire levels in real-time in the background.
On the PlayStation 5, however, the new SSD effectively allows developers to completely re-write the RAM pool in 2 1/2 seconds. This leads to extreamly short transitions between levels.
It really does look like Sony are set to deliver on the promise of instant loading times. And I can’t wait to see what developers use the new SSD for.
1:39 – All hands on… Deck?
After multiple jumps between worlds, all loaded in real-time, our heroes land on what seems like a wooden pirate ship. It’s at this point we jump to what seems to be good old Ratchet and Clank gameplay for the first time.
1:44 – Welcome To The Pirate Ship Party!
As the gameplay and the shooting gets underway we are re-introduced to the classic R&C gameplay.
Everything seems present and correct, from the slight zoom when aiming weapons, to the sideways somersault jump.
But what really sees a change is the particle density. Seriously, it’s like being in a Snowdonia snowstorm. In winter. From weapons fire impacts to detonating scenery, the boat is literally exploding particle maelstrom. Every impact blooms into puffs of orange and reds. Boxes blast part of the faintest whiff of laser fire. And the deck of the ship splinters as it comes under continuous assault.
With my rose-tinted glasses slid back up my nose, this is how I remember the Ratchet and Clank games on the PS2 and PS3. But I know that isn’t the case. I know that no game on any previouse PlayStation console has ever thrown around as many particles this. And it looks absolutely stunning.
1:46 – A Cracking Kraken
After a few seconds of gameplay, and what seems like a galaxies worth of laser fire, the tentacles of a Kraken emerge from the deep and start tearing the ship apart and throwing enemies overboard.
In the ensuing destruction, the ship explodes and sends our heroes flying towards the camera. The background melts into a haze as high precision depth of field kicks in.
And, as an extra special treat, we even see clanks chin reflect the unseen world in the distance behind the camera. It’s a nice nod to the introduction of ray tracing.
2:09 – Read all about it! Ratchet Out, New Lombax in!
As Ratchet and Clank are hurtling through the air they get thrown through a rift to new worlds. But our heroes are separated as they travel through the shattered portal.
A second or two later, we land with Clank, alone, in a technologically advanced world filled with rolling darkness and traffic jams of foes.
As clank asks, “Where am I”, a new lombax lands behind him.
This new character is a testament to the modeling talent that insomniac games. The model, as a given, is exquisitely detailed with a number of interesting features teased including a mechanical arm and what seems like a power hammer. Is this new lombax our new hero? Will we play as Ratchet again? And who is this new lombax? We’ll find out this November when the game releases.
We didn’t see a huge amount of gameplay in this reveal. But we do know that everything we saw was rendered at 4K at 30 frames per second.
But, of the gameplay I did see, it’s easy to tell Insomniac have crafted the same Ratchet and Clank gameplay I know and love. And I’m thrilled with that.
Are we witnessing a revolution in graphical fidelity?
I’d say it’s an evolution of what has come before. Ray tracing is big news, but it just seems, for now like it’s being used sparingly. We may see that change in the future. But I think, for the PS5’s generation, Ray tracing is going to be an optional extra for games, and not the defacto rendering technique used by every developer. We’ll see it used in creative ways.
Are we witnessing a revolution in gameplay given the instant loading of levels? Potentially yes. I can see many uses for this. How about a time-traveling game where you can travel to the same level just thousands of years apart? From the time of the dinosaurs, to the present day, thento the far future, and all within a few seconds.
Regardless, after what I have seen I’m extremely excited to play the game come November. And I can’t wait to see what the future of PlayStation 5 and all of its technology holds for us gamers.