Insomniac Games has been rather busy with its Ratchet and Clank franchise over the past few years. It introduced some fast-paced antics with the trio of games in the Future side series, Tools of Destruction, Quest For Booty and A Crack In Time. After that, the developers tried some unique ideas, first with the cooperative-powered shooter All 4 One, and then with a tower defense/action game Full Frontal Assault. While both of those releases were well-received, fans were wondering when the "old style" of play would return. With Into the Nexus, Insomniac Games is doing just that.
First introduced last month, this latest entry in the series pits the brave Lombax and his logical robot counterpart against a new enemy, one who wants to crush the universe flat. It's up to these guys – along with some of their familiar friends, including the ego-laden Captain Qwark – to stop him.
As with the games in the Future series, Into the Nexus sticks with straightforward shooting action. Ratchet will be able to fend off enemies using a variety of weapons, while occasionally using his wrench as a throwing weapon. This is useful in case he needs to melee someone or break up nearby crates to earn bolts, which can be turned around for weapons. He'll also need it to occasionally turn gears, which will open up nearby doors or move switches into place.
As for the guns, there are several that you'll be able to buy and add to your arsenal this time around. A new gravity bomb gun will launch enemies into the air – and keep them there – while you unload bullets into them. There's also an effective nightmare spewing gun, which shoots ammunition that turns into ghouls that will scare your opponents silly – making them easy pickings for your other guns. Finally, for those of you trying to catch the holiday spirit early, there's a gun that transforms enemies into snowmen and other Christmas-related items, letting you smash them with one quick swing of your wrench. Even against the strongest enemies, this gun is quite effective. Festive, too.
That's not all Ratchet will be able to use to his advantage. Turrets are scattered throughout certain parts of each stage. He can jump behind these and unleash a barrage of bullets on both airborne and grounded enemies. These can also tear through certain gates, allowing him to proceed further into the level.
Into the Nexus also introduces helpful gravity beams. There are certain targets that you'll be able to activate, which create a tractor beam for Ratchet to travel across. You simply need to shoot one portal as your point of origin, then shoot a connecting portal to activate the beam. It can go both ways, so you'll have to decide which direction works best for you to get further into the stage. You can have more than one beam going as well, in case you need to jump across two to reach a higher platform.
Clank also has a part to play here. In the stage we saw during our hands-on demo, we came across a section too small for Ratchet to fit through. However, his pint-sized robot pal has no problem getting in.
While here, Into the Nexus switches to a classic side-scrolling stage, a change of pace from the 3D action. Clank will use a flashlight to see his way around dark, creepy caves, eventually getting to an activation point, which in turn will open a door for Ratchet to get through.
There's a catch, though. Once this is activated, a vicious-looking creature will pursue Clank, who will have to reach a safety point to return back to Ratchet – or he'll become dog food. In this particular section, Clank can use gravity to his advantage, able to switch from ceiling to floor or wall to wall with the push of a button. He'll need to do this in order to avoid spikes, while at the same time keeping up enough momentum to work his way to the exit. It's a bit tricky at first – especially when you're dodging several strips of spikes in succession – but it's a noble addition to the game.
We've only seen one stage of Into the Nexus thus far, but it's a refreshing feeling seeing Insomniac Games return to the accustomed style of play that fans first grew up with, either with the PS3 Future games or the original PS2 releases. We'll see how this downloadable release fares when it arrives for PlayStation Network later this year.