Developer: One More Level, 3D Realms, Slipgate Ironworks
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: 505 Games, All in! Games
With the success of titles such as Hotline Miami, It was only a matter a time before a developer approached fast-difficult action in the 3D space. Now, leave it to a crew of developers from One More Level, 3D Realms, and Slipgate Ironworks to deliver us Ghostrunner. This punishing cyberpunk nightmare may be addictive as hell, but it comes at the cost of a few broken controllers.
As fast as Ghostrunner is, it does slow down between areas to tell a story. As the Ghostrunner, players awaken without memories in an unknown place with a voice guiding them through the opening sections. The situation is explained that a tyrant known as Mara has nearly wiped out Earth’s resources and humans on are their last leg. After saving the creator of these cybernetic advancements known as the Architect, you are off to put a stop to Mara.
There’s another character introduced named Zoe who is a part of a group of human rebels. There’s an interesting dynamic between her and the AI Architect, and they don’t always see eye to eye. While the player doesn’t really choose who to follow, it seems that trying to save everyone is the only thing on his mind. I would have liked to see more choices being made during this narrative, such as whether to take on a task to save humans or stay on the mission, but morality doesn’t really play into this narrative.
While these story segments are playing out, you’re pretty much running through an obstacle course of wall jumps and zip lines to your next destination. I appreciate how the stages increase their difficulty. You’ll catch onto it the more you play, but in the beginning, elements are introduced that will get tougher the further you get. The toughest part about the first level is getting used to how the camera controls and the strange controller inputs. Luckily, there are other controller mappings because I couldn’t get used to their default design.
After a few hours of parkour action, you’ll begin to master these segments, and that’s when some new element will be introduced, whether it’s a slowdown ability or a limited upgrade such as faster movement or ninja stars. Then after a while of that, you’ll hit areas that combine each of these elements back to back, which is exceptionally fun as your muscle memory kicks in, and you’re flying through.
However, there are some frustrating moments, such as when the wall-running doesn’t respond, or it’s not explicitly clear where to go. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but the game’s emphasis on speed puts a magnifying glass on these areas. It’s even worse when you get to the end of a section, and the last jump just doesn’t flow with the run, and you die and have to start back at the checkpoint.
Each destination usually has a few enemies that you’ll need to take out before you can progress. Again, the game introduces more challenging enemies the further you get, and they vary enough to offer a challenge and not feel repetitive. Sure, you’ll encounter multiple of the same type, but the environment layout makes each area almost like a playground of trying to create the best way to take them all out.
Ghostrunner is a one hit, and it’s “game over” type of game. It’s an added layer of challenge that I feel it needed to really make it memorable and fun. There’s very little room for mistakes, but it gives you several ways to approach any given situation. Had I had hit points, I think I would have taken advantage of it, and the experience wouldn’t be the same.
After the first boss, I think the difficulty really ramps up in terms of parkour action and enemy design. You encounter tougher mech-like enemies and a different variety of gun-wielding foes who will constantly put your skills to the test. Slowly, you’ll acquire new skills to make fighting easier, like a way slice through a line of enemies or push them off the edge.
Additionally, there’s a Tetris style upgrade system where you can add new skills that allow you to deflect bullets or provide you with various passive abilities. Here, you’ll have to figure out the best way to piece together these skills to get the most out of the feature. It ultimately encouraged different play styles as the bigger pieces were the more powerful upgrades, so it’s up to the player on how they wish to approach this.
Ghostrunner is a beautifully styled game that looks and feels amazing. Responsive controls are everything in a game like this, and I was left with a more than positive experience. The environments are well designed for the most part, but they end up looking too similar. Even when you get outside into the city, everything kind of looks the same. I liked the Bladerunner influences in the skyline, but there weren’t any significant scenery changes as the game kept true to its dreary cyberpunk color pallet.
Sound design and animation work were on point. I thought the voiceover was great, and the small touches added to make sure that you get to clearly hear the narrative, even if you die in the process. There’s more than a few quality of life touches found, which go along way with a game like this, such as instant restarts after death and multiple ways to approach situations. I should add that the soundtrack is really dope and make dying a thousand types not so bad.
Ghostrunner is an incredibly addictive action game that requires a high level of skill for its difficult systems. It’s unforgiving in that regard, but it does a great job of teaching the player how to master each element to become a parkour badass with a sword. There are some moments where the action is brought to a halt due to layout, but there’s honestly nothing standing in your way from getting the most out of this adventure. Well, only if you aren’t counting the hundreds of enemies and obstacles ready to take you down.
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