Ghostrunner 2: A rush of adrenaline through cyberpunk storms and motorcycle stunts
The sequel takes place a year after the events of the first game. We step into Jack's elegant shoes once more. Jack's mission remains unchanged: he's tasked with saving the world from destruction once again. The threat to humanity this time round is a menacing sect whose members aren't exactly subtle. Neither is Jack, though. With his katana, he cuts down the villains' schemes.
The pace of the game still moves at breakneck speed, but this time, the developers decided to slow down the action slightly. They introduced a base where the hero can stop by, chat with allies, and upgrade their skills.
Through most of the game, we maintain contact with our aforementioned allies - their conversations provide the hero with crucial details about unfolding plot. We also learn about the hero himself. If we can listen, that is. The bulk of these conversations occur when we're busy scaling walls. During these times, subtitles tend to take a back seat. So, it's kind of challenging to follow the narrative.
Infinite shurikens, endless action
The core rules of the game stay the same: we jump, dash, and eliminate enemies. Plus, the gameplay remains engaging. A new element in the combat system is the ability to parry attacks. But to keep the challenge alive, Jack can only block two bullets at a time - after which you need to look for cover or go into the offensive, as Jack dies after the third hit.
As for Jack's abilities, the storm is back. It functions as a strong gust of wind that moves objects and knocks down enemies. Among Jack's consistent abilities, we also find throwable shurikens. In the predecessor, this function was limited. Now, it's always available, although after a sequence of throwing, reloading is necessary.
As we navigate the levels, we encounter several types of adversaries. Generally, they fall into two categories: those who engage in direct combat, and those who fight from a distance. The enemies' appearance evolves throughout the game, but their attack patterns largely stay the same. The bosses (of which there are a few) are an exception, as they attack diversely.
When Jack's on the move..
A significant addition compared to the predecessor is the chance to ride a motorcycle. We first mount it around the midpoint of the game. Initially, we whizz through enclosed tunnels, which may cause dizziness in some players - then we transition to more "standard" roads.
True to their form, the developers throw in challenges, requiring us to dodge various obstacles or transition to different sections of the road. Sometimes you also have to shoot at enemies. But the most interesting feature is the ability to jump off the speeding bike and remount it mid-air, enabling you to bypass laser obstacles.
The motorcycle's speedometer can exceed 250 km/h - and the game truly gives you a sense of this speed. I view the motorcycle ride in Ghostrunner 2 as a compelling and well-devised idea - the high-speed rushes mesh perfectly with other gameplay components.
As for criticisms, the bike can occasionally become lodged on rocks or other roadside elements. But with careful driving, that can be avoided.
... checkpoints come in handy
Many shun the series, apprehensive that the gameplay might prove too taxing. Notably, there's no option to select the difficulty level. However, frustration is unlikely, as – similar to the first installment - the developers have provided plenty of checkpoints. You can retry certain sequences numerous times without breaking the game's flow.
The boss fights tend to be the most challenging – those with average reflexes might struggle from the first opponent. Thankfully, it follows a checkpoint system – the fight is divided into three stages, allowing you to resume from the last completed stage. But if you exit the game midway, the entire fight needs to be restarted.
Brighter horizons, please
The sequel introduces a more open level structure. If a sequence proves too difficult, the game suggests alternative routes. Such a feature was noticeable in the demo version of Ghostrunner 2, and I commended it then.
From the demo, I also noted the somewhat monotonous level design in the game's cyberpunk world, characterized by contrasting city neons against ubiquitous darkness. Although it's an engaging scene, I feel the series needed a bit of variety, which the developers delivered. Somewhere in the middle, we land in the wasteland, a complete shift from the usual color patterns and brightness in previous Ghostrunner experiences.
Given the game's unrelenting pace, few will recall the terrain they covered. But during visits to the base where we engage with our allies, take a closer look at the animations, the scenery, and the characters. Upon doing so, it's easy to get the feeling that the graphic design of the Ghostrunner sequel is starting to age.
On PlayStation 5, the game offers three graphic modes: quality, performance, and HFR. The quality option offers 30 FPS, performance at 60 FPS, while HFR delivers more than 60. In performance mode, the game runs quite smoothly – any pre-release bugs seem resolved with the latest patch.
Ghostrunner 2 presents several fresh features in its combat system and throws in the thrill of motorcycle riding. Jack traverses less linear and more diverse levels. However, the visual design falls a tad short. Furthermore, the inability to save game progress anytime is unfortunate. But overall, it's a successful game - although, it demands solid reflexes from players.
Note: I played the game on PS5. The review code was provided by the publisher.