Ghostrunner 2 on PS5
The first Ghostrunner game was a pleasant surprise for many, bringing a brand of high-octane parkour action that is hard to beat, especially set against the dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic that just leaves players wanting more.
Naturally, that makes the sequel something to look forward to, and although Ghostrunner 2 continues to shine where it matters the most, some of the risks One More Level has taken have not exactly paid off, resulting in a fast-moving adventure that grinds to a halt at various junctures.
Picking things up one year after the Ghostrunner had seemingly liberated the people of Dharma Tower from the vicious Keymaster, things have not exactly improved. The lack of a figurehead has led to a power struggle between violent gangs and secretive cult members, and only the player and the Interface Council can bring order to this dystopia once more.
There is a greater emphasis on storytelling this time around, with a hub area that allows for more conversations than in the first game with actual, living characters instead of just a face. That said, the performances of the supporting cast leave much to be desired.
While the information shared can be insightful and fleshes out the lore of this universe, the visuals on-screen are not lively enough to hold the player’s attention otherwise. It feels nice to be connected to something larger, but it could have been so much more if the quality was on par with the main gameplay sections, which would have gone a long way in pushing a more interesting narrative of saving the day yet again.
Speaking of the gameplay, the bulk of it will involve plenty of action and movement, something that Ghostrunner 2 does better than most. One More Level has certainly elevated its craft for the sequel, where skilled players can easily navigate a level with fatal precision without missing a beat. Even newcomers need not feel intimidated, with plenty of learning opportunities present in the game to help you hone your craft.
Think of each level as a puzzle that can be solved in a number of ways; the appeal is in doing it more efficiently and stylishly than before, which is a feedback loop that kept me coming back for more. Whether you are moving from platform to platform quickly using the various parkour moves, throwing shurikens at distant enemies, or slicing fools up close, all of it unfolds in a way that makes you feel like a true futuristic killer with a mission to complete.
The tension is significantly increased as a single hit can end a run instantly, which keeps things moving briskly without necessarily losing the risk-and-reward nature of its combat and platforming.
The frustrations that can come from repetitive runs are less apparent when you can jump back into things in an instant, constantly working your way to a better solution. Add to that a stamina system that governs dashing and blocking, and players have more than enough tools at their disposal to dive into Ghostrunner 2 and its gauntlet of combat arenas and parkour challenges.
Further upgrades can be obtained through progression and via the hub area, enhancing your destructive capabilities even further while maintaining that sheen of cyberpunk awesomeness. Flux is a particular favorite; after all, who doesn’t love being able to unleash a laser beam of unspeakable damage to eliminate all who stand before you?
These upgrades also form a great incentive for players to take in more of their surroundings, as exploration will lead to hidden collectibles that can increase slots for equipping upgrade chips, as well as a selection of groovy cosmetics.
Ghostrunner 2 also goes further with the new motorcycle sections, which are going to be some of the coolest moments you will find in video games this year. From high-speed chases to gravity-defying stunts, getting behind the throttle is always a good time within the confines of Dharma Tower.
However, the addition of an exterior world is a mixed bag. The aforementioned motorcycle can be used to explore this new desert wasteland, but there is simply not that much to see or do, especially if you find yourself on foot. Granted, it was never going to be on the same level as those meticulously designed levels within the urban environment, but it feels like a missed opportunity to further dive into the aftermath of the end of the world beyond a challenging fight or two.
If you ever find yourself itching for more and want to take a break from the story, there is also the spectacular Roguerunner.exe roguelike mode found at the hub. It features limited lives, randomized upgrades, enemies, and powers together with a mix of procedurally generated parkour and combat scenarios, and what awaits is an absorbing time for those who are seeking an increased challenge without feeling constrained by familiarity.
Of course, all of the time spent in Ghostrunner 2 will be punctuated by its excellent soundtrack, which marches to the beat of your actions in perfect synchronicity. Not only does this make the game flow even more naturally, but it elicits the kind of alertness and drive to keep players going and going, all the way to the end of the murderous rampage.
It is great that Ghostrunner 2 exists, as there are simply not many games that can match the quality of its brand of action. With its formula and level design, players are always going to be finding something new to marvel at, impressed by its thumping music and the majority of its visuals. Yet, its attempt at stringing together a more cohesive and engaging narrative is not of the same quality, which is a shame. Nevertheless, for those seeking an exhilarating time full of mindblowing moments driven by your own ingenuity, Dharma Tower lies ahead, and I hope you are ready for it.
Futuristic visuals stay long in the memory.
Action is among the best the medium can offer.
Roguerunner.exe is a blast.
Makes repetition mostly fun.
Narrative can do with some work.
Open-world areas are not the most compelling.
October 26, 2023
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Copy provided by Publisher