2023 has been a gaming treasure trove so far with incredible titles like Spiderman 2, Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate 3, and after experiencing this high octane, thrill of a game, I believe Ghostrunner 2 deserves its own spot on that list. Developers One More Level have managed to build on the foundations of what made the first game so good, allowing you to wall run, grapple, glide and slice through bad guys, feeling like the ninja you’ve always wanted to be. With a host of new upgrades and abilities, Mirrors Edge inspired parkour, Cyberpunk-style visuals and head bopping soundtrack, Ghostrunner 2 is a brilliantly challenging action game that had me hooked from the word go.
This is an abridged version of my video review, which is embedded below for your enjoyment.
At A Glance
|+ Seamless fast paced combat and freerunning
+ Excellent head bopping soundtrack
+ Become a ninja from the safety of your sofa
|– Story presentation could be better
– HUB area can distort the pacing somewhat
– Some lacklustre character visuals
|Xbox Series X|S
|Also Available On
|Find out about our scoring policy here.
One year on from the events of the first Ghostrunner, you return as our protagonist Jack, where your actions at the end of the first game has left a power vacuum in the city of Dharma, which several different factions are trying to fill. This includes a band of unique and well-designed ghost runners who are quickly established as the antagonists, in turn setting up some excellent boss fights throughout the game. A ghostrunner is the perfect combination of flesh and code, a human/machine hybrid that in Jack’s case, has taken a leaf from the Terminator and indeed “come back”. There is also a recap section of the first game in the extra’s menu, which was a very helpful refresher. We are reminded quickly that simply cutting the head of the hydra does not mean the job is done, but rather to prepare yourself for what grows next. The lore itself is interesting, however I felt that it wasn’t presented as well as it could have been, leaving me feeling that the story is not quite so polished.
The gameplay however is where Ghostrunner truly shines. In this one hit-kill-or-be-killed gameplay loop, you are tested in not only mechanical skill, reaction speed and ingenuity, but also your patience. If, and when, you die, you can instantly spawn back into the action with the push of a button, either trying to better the original plan, or reassess and try something different. Whether it be an alternate path, using one of your abilities in a different way, or using one of your ultimate powers to wipe out a group of frustrating baddies, there is always that “one more go” mentality that leaves you highly satisfied when you eventually pull it off. Each time you enter the fray, the area is cleverly designed to allow you to almost effortlessly dance through combat like a Bob Ross work of art, it’s incredible when your fingers flow around the controller in sequence as poetry unfolds on screen.
It’s not always about the action though, as there are plenty of free-running sections that also utilise the same abilities you use in combat. These parts of the game segment the action very nicely, and are also the times when we get the majority of the dialogue between the characters, as there is not a chance you’re paying attention to them while trying not to die for the 20th time while fighting. The cybervoid makes a reappearance and allows for some very gratifying moments when you manage to use several abilities in sequence in order to successfully navigate to the end. Some of the best sequences of the game in my opinion come from when you discover the motorbike, putting you in the seat of the batcycle, zooming through the city, blasting, slicing, and soaring through the skies.
Unlocking new abilities allows you to stylishly and seamlessly combine them; a cool example is being able to throw shurikens that kill weaker enemies or stun the stronger ones and turn them into grappling points – this allows you to flaunt a little more during combat and help you navigate the map more quickly and easily too. There’s also the shadow skill, that creates a duplicate of yourself whilst you turn invisible. These very cleverly serve as tools in battle but also in exploration, where both free running and combat can be treated as puzzles in figuring out how to best use your skills to overcome the challenge in front of you.
The upgrade system in Ghostrunner 2 is an improvement on that of the first game, where you purchase upgrade chips and install them onto your motherboard. You unlock more space on the board, and more points to use, by finding the many memory chips scattered throughout the levels. Depending on your playstyle, you can either focus more on your sword skills, your traversal kit, or perhaps if you’re feeling saucy, remove your ability to block to double your combo counter and invest into the Flow skills. Being able to go back to a level you’ve completed with a whole new toolbelt and tackle it differently is a great way to add variation and challenge to the game.
A good number of collectibles set out around each level provide an extra layer of exploration to reach. These aren’t just memory shards but audio logs, artifacts, and cosmetics for your cybernetic arms and sword. You can see how many you’ve collected at the end of each level, and if you miss any – fear not, as you’ll unlock the handy dandy level select. The trouble is, as much as I enjoy collecting, the need to do so goes against the narrative of what Ghostrunner 2 wants to achieve. The game is designed for you to blitz through the level as fast as possible, in a flow state of endorphins, so unless you plan on going through the game again, you’re very likely to miss a lot.
Along with the collectibles, there is also the rogue runner minigame, where you are given preset challenges on a roadmap of either parkour or battle arenas with a set number of lives. This mode sees you stripped of your usual abilities, unlocking them in part or gaining extra lives as you progress towards the end. The rewards for these are more cosmetics for Jack to strut his stuff.
Between each level during the campaign, you return to a hub where you can talk to your team, purchase upgrades, and take a breath as you make a well-deserved cup of tea. The characters you meet are both old and new, each one decently voice acted. I particularly enjoyed the dry and blunt humour that occasionally comes from our hero, although I did feel that I was getting relentlessly bullied during the boss fights. Some criticism I have though stems from the design of the good guys, as most feel lacklustre, and the facial expressions don’t match with the feeling of the dialogue. There are times as well where said dialogue can feel a tad awkward with the unnatural pauses between options. The hub of Ghostrunner 2 was a bit of a double-edged sword for me. On one hand it did help flesh out the characters, but on the other I just wanted to run past them to start the next level to continue the high-speed pace. Your pals do have their uses even if you ignore them, like when they make you a winged suit to take your recklessness to the next level.
The aesthetic is another sticking point. The city of Dharma is gorgeous, with bright neon lights and vibrant colours as you dance around the screen. But there’s a segment of the game in the outskirts of the city that seems to take a 180; where you’re met with 50 shades of grey, and not the fun kind. It makes sense with the area trying to reflect a dystopian environment, but for me it just felt a bit flat. Regardless, the head banging synth wave music that accompanies the action elevates the gameplay, and in many ways reminds me of Hotline Miami.
I completed Ghostrunner 2 on the Xbox Series X and I encountered very few issues with performance, counting on one hand the number of times there were noticeable frame drops. The time to credit roll was around 10 hours, not including all the extras. That is if you’re not a speed runner, who I’ve seen have already conquered the game in a tenth of that time.
All in all, Ghostrunner 2 is a blast, One More Level has done an amazing job at creating a sequel that is smoother, bigger, and faster than its predecessor. It’s a clean and streamlined experience that excels in its vision, fuelling not only the adrenaline but the need to dive back in again and again to master the blade. That isn’t to say that it’s not without its flaws, but if you’re looking for a badass dynamic action game to test your mettle, look no further.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.
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