Ghostrunner 2 is the follow up to the original Ghostrunner from One More Level. This game picks up where things left off and is sure to be one for fans of the original to pick up. For me, I didn’t play much of the first game, coming to Ghostrunner 2 without bias. It means I was intrigued to see just what this sword combat, cyber ninja based platforming series is all about. Would I survive the blistering fast cyberpunk parkour, or would I fall victim to the depths below?
Feeling very much like Mirror’s Edge, this first person platformer sees you take control of Jack. Now, not spending much time with the original, and the recap not really filling in the blanks, I was left bewildered a lot of the time when it came to meeting the characters and figuring out what exactly was going on lore wise. I can’t say Ghostrunner 2 is very welcoming to newcomers, so if you want to follow a story, definitely play the first game to catch up.
Movement is fast and button presses are many in Ghostrunner 2. Getting from A to B isn’t as simple as holding the stick forward. There are multiple paths through each level, and various obstacles in the way that can either help or hinder your progress. Walls and signs can be utilised with a wall run, but landing too low or jumping too early will result in failure. In addition you have your grapple that can grab on ledges and hooks that are littered around, helping propel you forward. You can also use enemies as a grapple point, but we will get to that momentarily.
Anyway, levels are futuristic cyberpunk-like playgrounds in which you need to utilise quick reflexes and accurate jumps to make your way through. This is where I found my first downfall – I suck at these games. It may be a perspective thing, but here I found myself constantly missing jumps or mistiming swings and wall runs, resulting in a long fall down. Dying is something that will happen a lot in Ghostrunner 2.
That is not just due to the platforming either, but because of the brutal one-hit one-kill rules for combat. I actually managed quite well at first, blocking, slicing, and dicing but as I progressed the need for constant movement and tricky parkour to survive these encounters left me with fingers tangled more than a bunch of noodles – it’s a lot to continually remember. Many times a death was caused because I mixed up the control for block with a shuriken throw; this may be testament to my shockingly bad skill level but with no difficulty scale to adjust, I had to work with the default difficulty and the often confusing control scheme.
In addition to your sword, you get shurikens. These projectiles can be thrown at enemies to either kill or stun them. Some stunned enemies also become grapple points for you to use to create additional movement options through the level. They can also be thrown at switches around the city to access previously locked areas; just look for the giant blue symbol above a locked door and throw to short circuit and open the new area. You’ll need to keep your energy level up to use the ninja stars however, so chop your way through some bad guys to top it up.
For example, during the first boss fight, you get help by a guy called Adrian on a jetpack. The boss zips about lightning fast and has huge AOE attacks that can end you quick. Figuring out the tactics to beating the bosses is fun, feeling very much like puzzles in their own right. Again though, just expect to die a lot.
The news is that reloads and checkpoints during levels are pretty decent. Make a wrong move and Jack is back in action super fast. The only part where the checkpoints are a tad harsh is during boss battles, these often put you way back from your point of death meaning repeating lots of sections over and over again. Within levels this isn’t so bad and usually you are loaded back to the platform you entered the room from.
Between dying and platforming, you do get a chance to actually speak to some NPCs in Ghostrunner 2. After missions you return to a makeshift base for your team where you can engage in conversation and progress the story. I had no real idea who any of these characters were, or what they had been through with Jack, and I wish the recap had been more in depth so I could fill in the blanks. Like I said above, I’m a newcomer to the franchise and coming in mostly blind, I think more could have been done to make the narrative more approachable.
You can upgrade Jack using the GR Augmentation Unit. This machine will allow you to purchase upgrade chips to increase your fighting capabilities. As you progress you unlock more chips for new upgrades and these change how you fight with your sword, shurikens and even how you traverse through the city. Installing them afterwards into your motherboard is a balancing act, you need to have the right amount of memory to install and use the upgrades; collecting memory shards around the city will do just that.
There are also collectibles littered around for you to nab in each area, such new skins for your sword. The cosmetics for the sword are really cool, and I went for a black and red colour scheme for most of my playthrough. Glove colour can also be changed, and whilst this may seem weird, your gloves and sword are the only things you see from the first person perspective, so this makes sense for the game.
Also customisable is your motorcycle. Yep, this time you get some wheels. The motorcycle isn’t used to freely traverse around the city, but instead you get linear levels where it can be used. These feel very much like the old Wipeout games and require a lot of quick reactions rather than accuracy. Fun enough for the most part, I was glad to even simply get through them at all.
So besides the story being confusing for a newcomer, and the platforming being a bit frustrating at times, did I actually enjoy my time with Ghostrunner 2? Not really. I never found the groove or the sweet spot where it all resonated. Fans of the series already may find themselves at home and welcome a new visit to the world of Ghostrunner, but for those trying out the franchise for the first time, this may not be the one for you. Other franchises have done a far better job at getting new players orientated than this does. Further, murky textures occasionally stood out more than they should in the neon soaked levels.
Frustrating combat and a world that expects you to be familiar with the franchise aside, Ghostrunner 2 has a good amount of fun provided you can keep up with the fast pace and the many button presses required to stay alive. One of trial and error, Ghostrunner 2 hasn’t clicked with me, however whilst it isn’t one for the faint hearted or casual gamer, it could still be a fun enough jaunt for those who give it a try.