With the release Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, the next generation of games is really here. Despite the fact that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X were released last November, we haven’t really seen the extent of the capabilities of both consoles until now.
While games like Profit showed us the unique joys of the DualSense controller, Rift Apart take advantage of the PS5’s greater techier side. Most notably, it uses the system’s super-fast SSD to virtually eliminate load times as Ratchet jumps between sizes. It’s an absolute sight that turns the game into a surprising technical prowess.
I sat down with Mike Fitzgerald, Insomniac’s chief technology officer, to dig deeper. Fitzgerald unravels some of the little tricks that make up Rift Apart work and why walking through a door is the hardest feat.
The Immediate Impressions of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is its afternoon dance game. At some point, the game puts the player in an alternate reality. In a particularly impressive first game sequence, Ratchet drops through several portals, instantly teleporting from world to world without a loading screen. That moment may have sent some fans frantically searching for the seams, but Fitzgerald says there’s no real illusion at play; PS5 is just that fast.
Fitzgerald told Digital Trends: “We don’t secretly load levels in the background and just swap to them. “According to the sequence in which you are falling through the portals, we do not start loading the next location until you are in the middle of space. We convert you into it and then unload the old one and load the new one. All in just .7 seconds you are there. “
Any little tricks Insomniac uses are so minor, players can blink and miss them. For example, when a player smashes a crystal to switch a world to its alternate version, a white flash briefly flashes off the screen. All swapped levels will load immediately when the screen is switched out.
Perhaps most surprising is the planetary transition. Whenever Ratchet or Rivet travel to a new planet, a cutscene shows their spaceship departing from one dock and arriving at another. Players might think it’s a complicated way to load a whole new planet, but Fitzgerald notes that those moments are purely for storytelling purposes, not author loading sequences.
“Technically, there’s nothing stopping us from having a hole open below you and you crash down on another planet,” says Fitzgerald. “We use it in the game in a number of carefully structured ways for game reasons. From a technical point of view, we can go to any of those worlds at any time. “
That concept is what makes Rift Apart so special. Players can move flexibly between locations without pausing for a moment. That’s especially noticeable in the game’s pocket size. At different points, Ratchet and Rivet can use their lanyards to open a portal into a kind of bonus stage. They basically ripped a hole in the world and went to a whole other level.
It went so smoothly that it was easy to forget how far such a headache could develop. According to Fitzgerald, simply getting a character through that hole is the game’s most impressive engineering feat.
“Walking through a hole to the other side of a pocket size is incredibly complicated,” says Fitzgerald. “That pocket space in the world coordinate of the engine is miles and miles away. When you walk through a portal, we’re teleporting your character thousands of miles away in an instant. If you do it naively, all motion blur will be messed up, any physics based elements will be confused. Even if you can massage that to make it look smooth, then you have the camera, which is miles away from the character and still needs to behave correctly.”
The PS5’s prowess was most apparent in those times, but it also manifests itself in much more subtle ways. One of Fitzgerald’s proudest achievements is something that shouldn’t necessarily be considered a technical feat. Rift ApartHer cutscene features a number of editing tricks, from Star Wars-style wipes to split screen showing both Ratchet and Rivet.
“It’s really not something we were able to do before,” says Fitzgerald. “We are rendering two full, quality scenes at the same time. We are showing two videos at the same time. I think it’s a great cinematic touch that you’ll see in the movies. It feels like watching a sci-fi movie when you see wipes like that, and being able to assemble all the technology to do that is really fun.”
It’s a small reminder that a generational panel change isn’t just about better visuals. With a machine as powerful as the PS5, creators just have more options when it comes to how they tell a story or pace a game. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart It’s packed with flashy effects that are sure to wow PS5 owners, but it’s the little touches that make it shine.