Title: Ghostrunner 2
Developer: One More Level
Release Date: October 26, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: 505 Games
Genre: Action Platformer
The Ghostrunner series burst onto the scene with a sprint when it first debuted in 2020. The allure of bounding through sci-fi settings with heart-pounding action was undeniably magnetic, given the countless times you probably restarted a level. So, it was only natural for the creators to double down on the excitement with the sequel, Ghostrunner 2. Developer One More Level, however, went above and beyond mere expansion by bestowing upon us an expansive universe for players to wholly immerse themselves in—an experience that will etch itself indelibly in your memory.
The Engaging Narrative
Ghostrunner 2’s tale unfolds in the aftermath of the inaugural game. This time around, the narrative takes a much more prominent role as Jack now finds himself leading a band of Climbers on a mission to cleanse the city. It’s not as straightforward as it may seem, and with other characters becoming entwined in the narrative, I’ll refrain from divulging any spoilers. Suffice to say, this installment introduces an abundance of twists and revelations, skillfully tying up loose plot threads from its predecessor.
Ghostrunner 2 is undeniably challenging, yet there’s always a path forward.
Jack is no longer an empty vessel for players to insert themselves into; the narrative delves into the darker facets of his past and motivations. Powerful adversaries covet his formidable abilities, casting him into a high-stakes struggle where various characters vie for his assistance. But Jack, as his own distinct character, is no longer an unquestioning pawn. I found this transformation to be one of the most compelling aspects of the expanded narrative. He no longer blindly follows orders, approaching missions with unwavering determination, regardless of others’ support.
This shift is accentuated by the narrative’s seamless integration into platforming segments, ensuring that story moments don’t disrupt the flow of action. Additionally, the introduction of a motorbike, which we’ll delve into later, allows characters to experience a different facet of the dystopian future, while still drawing on familiar faces from the inaugural game. Therefore, it’s advisable to experience the original title beforehand.
Mastering Traversal and Combat
Ghostrunner 2 boasts an array of new traversal methods, but the core concept remains unchanged: reach the end of the mission by wall-running, grapple-hooking, dashing, and dispatching adversaries. At the mission’s conclusion, speed is paramount, with the game actively encouraging players to push their limits. While Ghostrunner featured a similar setup, the developer has elevated the art of level design, granting players multiple avenues to engage in combat, leveraging the Ghostrunner’s array of skills.
In addition to the fresh non-linear levels, which we’ll discuss shortly, the game lays the foundation for unlocking and mastering abilities and skills to adapt to various in-game scenarios. The controller’s every button serves a distinct function, leaving me reliant on muscle memory during intense battles. Thankfully, these systems are introduced methodically over the first three to five hours before releasing you to utilize your skills to the fullest.
At one juncture in the game, you acquire a motorbike and embark on a journey down the post-apocalyptic highway beyond the Dharma Tower’s confines. This introduction of non-linear design disrupts any sense of comfort you may have developed in the game thus far, thrusting you into uncharted territory. Beyond the tower’s confines, new adversaries surface, introducing a fresh mission structure. While astride your bike, you can shoot, boost, and even leap off the bike to grapple your way back, fostering moments of mobile platforming. It may take some getting used to, but it effectively prevents any encroaching monotony.
Skillful Progression and Challenges
Skills are procured through points earned in missions, and while unlocking abilities is one thing, they must also be installed into Jack’s motherboard, which necessitates periodic upgrades. This process seamlessly transpires during gameplay, although locating motherboard chips throughout levels can prove more challenging. While the skills aren’t strictly mandatory, they afford players a tactical advantage without trivializing the game. You can’t install every skill, necessitating sacrifices or honing your abilities.
Ghostrunner 2 embodies the epitome of a well-executed sequel.
Ghostrunner 2 is undeniably challenging, yet there’s always a path forward. The game incorporates an abundance of checkpoints this time around, ensuring steady progression. At times, I found myself replaying sections solely to rectify a messy encounter. However, my advice is to save your speedrunning strategies for subsequent playthroughs; even if your initial attempt feels clumsy, so long as you survive, simply press on. The base offers various mini-games for optional cosmetics, which can also be found within levels or purchased. These cosmetics, however, appear to be purely aesthetic and don’t impact gameplay.
Combat dominates your gameplay experience, with melee attacks, blocks, and dodges forming the core of your actions. Each is essential in every encounter, compelling you to remain in perpetual motion. Skills are bound to the D-pad, allowing you to throw shurikens or push adversaries. Navigating these skills rapidly isn’t the most intuitive process, but the developers kindly minimize the need for frequent combat skill swaps. Shurikens, in particular, prove invaluable for stunning enemies and subsequently grappling them for a lethal takedown. It creates a foundation for exhilarating encounters that make you feel exceptionally adept.
The introduction of new abilities, expanded non-linear level design, and refined movement mechanics render this game a must-play for those looking to hone their 3D platforming skills.
I found the balance in level design’s challenge to be quite enjoyable. There are moments when you blaze through stages, uncertain whether the developers are providing a respite or your own skills are shining. These moments empower players to approach each situation as if it were a playground—a somewhat misleading analogy given the game’s focus on combat, but you get the idea. Upon entering a new level section, you’re presented with multiple avenues of approach for each encounter. This formula consistently works, and I commend the development team for the excellent level of design they showcase here.
The Aesthetics and Overall Experience
Occasionally, I encountered frame rate hiccups or distant enemies appearing like cardboard cutouts. Nonetheless, these issues didn’t significantly affect my overall gameplay experience. In instances where I got stuck, the checkpoint system proved a valuable safety net. However, it’s worth noting that the non-linear levels, while ambitious, occasionally made the world feel smaller due to the dearth of meaningful content away from the beaten path.
Nevertheless, Ghostrunner 2 is an aesthetic marvel, showcasing the team’s exceptional talents. The environments are thoughtfully crafted to minimize confusion during stages, and the inclusion of character interactions in the base adds an extra layer of depth. The journey is punctuated by awe-inspiring moments, and the conclusion is both challenging and epic. My completion time clocked in at roughly 20 hours, although this accounted for numerous deaths and excluded obtaining the highest rankings in optional missions. The game offers substantial content for casual players, while the post-game caters to speedrunning enthusiasts. I’m eager to witness the community’s prowess in navigating these levels.
Ghostrunner 2 embodies the epitome of a well-executed sequel. It doesn’t overshadow its precursor; instead, it leverages the original as a foundation for expansion and enhancement. The world-building and character development represent a significant leap in quality, and the unwavering pace of action propels it into a class of its own. The introduction of new abilities, expanded non-linear level design, and refined movement mechanics render this game a must-play for those looking to hone their 3D platforming skills.
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