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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review – an unbelievably gorgeous sci-fi caper | Games

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At several points during my time with Ratchet & Clank – after landing on a new planet whose peculiar rocky landscape stretched off far into the distance, for instance, or while I was zipping around a collapsing city and battling a titanic robot as dimensional rifts catapulted me at speed through different worlds – I felt compelled to call my partner into the room to watch. If you want to know what the PlayStation 5 can do visually, this is the game that will show you. I have rarely been as awestruck by how a game looks; I think the last time was when I was drinking in the austere beauty of mythical Scandinavia in God of War. It’s hard to overstate how technically impressive Rift Apart is, and how much that contributed to the joy I felt playing it. This family-friendly action game might not do anything revolutionary with its structure or storytelling, but good lord, does it elevate the spectacle and fun to a new dimension.

This is a blissfully uncomplicated cartoon science-fiction escapade about two furry aliens trying to save the universe (multiple universes, in fact) from a robot supervillain with a gun that can tear open portals between dimensions. You run and jump around with an arsenal of bizarre weapons, from a sprinkler that turns foes into stationary topiary to a buzz-saw launcher to a good old-fashioned bazooka, and point them at space pirates and robot armies and alien critters until they explode. You wave a wrench around to smash up crates, which explode in gratifying cascades of bolts that you can use to buy and upgrade new toys. Everything you do feels good and showers you with sensory feedback, whether visually, aurally or through the controller’s haptic rumble.

Everything you do showers you with sensory feedback ... Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Everything you do showers you with sensory feedback … Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Photograph: Insomniac Games

There’s not a great deal of downtime between all the fighting and immense action set pieces – one of the only relatively chill spaces in this game is a Mos Eisley-style bar, which itself is filled with dancing, chattering aliens and adjacent to a battle arena. As a result, playing for too long feels like the video game equivalent of eating an entire packet of Haribo at once, or reading a book written entirely in all-caps. Rift Apart moves fast, and so do protagonists Ratchet and Rivet, especially when gliding around massive planets on jet-boots or grinding across city-spanning networks of rails. But if you stop to look around, you’ll notice the attention that’s been paid to the animation and set-dressing. Rivet’s furry ears even flap in the wind.

Everything is colourful and gorgeous. Imagine if Dreamworks made Star Wars, and you’re close to the aesthetic. There’s a lot of obvious Star Wars influence here, but all filtered through developer Insomniac Games’ charmingly goofy Californian lens – one planet is home to a cuddly race of teddy-bear aliens, but they all have Minnesotan accents. One planetary adventure, during which Ratchet skips between dimensions to make his way through a power station that’s derelict in one universe and buzzing with robot guards in the next, felt like an unexpected homage to Alien (and to Creative Assembly’s superb horror game Alien: Isolation), except with more humour and less peril.

Immense action set pieces ... Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Immense action set pieces … Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Photograph: Insomniac Games

Humour has always been a defining feature of Ratchet & Clank, right back to its origins on the PlayStation 2, but it doesn’t try too hard. It’s funny in a laid-back, undemanding way, and the story is similarly easy to digest. Rift Apart did not exactly challenge me, but it entertained me immensely. It’s just such a lot of fun, and so gorgeous I still can’t quite believe it. If this is an indication of how the new generation of consoles can infuse familiar-feeling games with new wonder, we’re in for a great few years.

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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