Ghostrunner 2 – Review

Sometimes it’s worth taking a chance on a game. I missed the first Ghostrunner, probably full-up on the cyberpunk aesthetic at the time, but mostly through timing and my own aversion to the idea of a game where I can lose in one hit. However, I had some time – somehow between Baldur’s Gate 3 and Spider-Man 2 – and I’ve seen enough of the game to be hyped for it.

cyber ninja "ghostrunner", sword held vertically infront of their face

So here we are. You play as Jack, a cyborg ninja “Ghostrunner”. The story is a bit hard to pick up without the context of the first game, and no one has really defined what a Ghostrunner is. Thankfully, there’s enough context to make sense of things and a short recap animatic so you won’t be completely lost. You’re a special kind of cyborg and whatever evil you destroyed in the first game has somehow returned (there’s even an NPC conversation that digs at the whole “somehow Palpatine has returned” from Star Wars). There seem to be plenty of callbacks, returning characters and new twists for returning players but as someone unfamiliar with the plot of the first game the story feels kinda throw-away, and just there to justify the gameplay and move you from level to level.

first person view of cyberscape, sword held in guard with two red enemies in view

Each level tends to be a mix of combat encounters strung together with puzzles, exploration and platforming sections. The pacing is spot on and always drew me through to the next section for just one more encounter and the combat itself really gets the blood pumping. There’s a fair bit to learn quite quickly, but the advancement techniques and the tougher enemies are layered on gradually. 

first person view of the sun between two large industrial buildings, a sword is held off to the side crackling with energy

In first-person you’ll need to block and dodge shots in your approach to each foe before granting them a swift end by your sword. Getting the timing on each of these requires a flurry of finger work on your controller and can get rather challenging, especially when you have a room full of murder bots to deal with and none of them fancy politely waiting for you to deal with them one at a time. These larger rooms bring in a tactical puzzle element as it’s certainly easier to take certain enemies down first or pick them off one by one between cover.

first person view of a sword with white glow held in front of a street with red lighting

Look up a speedrun of one of these games and you’ll see how fluid and godlike you can be. Perfect timing, zipping around the level, taking care of business with one precise cut after the next, all while sidestepping laser beams and parrying melee attacks. This is the peak of what you’re aiming for, where the real good adrenalin is. It may take you a while to reach that skill level but you’ll be treated to other smaller moments where it seems like you can “see the Matrix”, small fist-pumping victories after clearing a room by the skin of your teeth and barely contained cheers each time you make a real pain in the butt enemy look like a fool. Until then, expect some panicked leapfrogging and random sword flailing. You’ll get there, it just takes practice.

neon drenched view down on a cyberpunk city

If that’s not enough then even the exploration and traversal can give you a rush too. There’s nothing like solving a puzzle to rush through a doorway just before it slams shut or is barred by deadly lasers. You have some manoeuvrability in the air, you can hold R1 to sidestep and spring into a dash which is crucial for dodging weapon fire, but also traversing between wall runs, grapple points and platforms. Parkour can be just as challenging and rewarding as the combat; like a 3D first-person cyberpunk Super Meatboy.

forest-like cyberscape with red holographic vines

The challenge of Ghostrunner 2 is not oppressive or punishing (which is why I don’t do well with Souls-like games). The key to this is that death will temporarily halt your progress but it won’t set you back far, or for long. Checkpoints tend to be exactly where I’d want them to be, right before each battle or parkour section and even in the middle of longer sequences. You still have all the same challenges to overcome, but retrying does not become a chore. You respawn and reload almost instantly, there’s no traipsing back through the level you’re just there, sword in hand and ready to go. I love it. It really encourages perseverance and experimentation, and it helped me feel like no death was unfair.

first person view of neon lit cyberpunk buildings

There’s so much variety in environments and enemies that things don’t get boring or repetitive either. You’ll even discover new abilities and be able to upgrade your skills to keep things moving, but then partway through the game, you’ll discover a motorbike. This is rather later in the story than I expected from the trailers but man is it worth reaching this point. It has the speed, excitement and precision of something like Wipeout, but now you’re dodging pillars and boosting through closing doorways. There’s an incredible bike-based boss battle and the game just keeps rewarding your perseverance with these cool moments. The motorbike can get tricky but the same respawn system is still in place so you can have moments of greatness followed by fiery death (or vice versa) and just keep playing.

first person view from a motorbike as a futuristic tunnel blurs by

Presentation-wise, things are good and I have to give some praise for it generally always being easy to see where you need to go or what you need to do. The design language tends to make wall runs, grapple points and other important stuff stand out. It’s not ground-breaking aesthetics; generally, the same neon-soaked cyberpunk or industrial post-apocalyptic environments we’ve seen elsewhere. The sound has the same kind of issue, it’s just the cyberpunk beats you’d expect – this isn’t a complaint, the music fits perfectly.

menacing enemy with two swords stands under a red neon sign

The only real niggles I’ve had are my lack of attachment to the story (which may be on me for not playing the first game) and a rare technical issue. A handful of times in my playthrough I hit what felt like serious frame drops filled with motion blur. It didn’t last long or impact my experience. I died often enough that it just seemed to reset on respawn. It was buttery and responsive the rest of the time and all that’s with the majority of playtime using quality mode because I’m a sucker for a pretty picture. There is a performance mode and 120hz mode if that’s more your speed.

cyber ninja "ghostrunner", sword held vertically infront of their face

Ghostrunner 2 is the perfect “just one more go” game but please try not to play it into the small hours -there’s just something about these jolts of adrenaline that make it hard to sleep afterwards. I recommend it for people who like challenge in their games, but have never really clicked with the Souls-like formula.

9/10 star rating

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 5

Publisher: 505 Games

Developer: One More Level






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