Ghostrunner 2 Preview
As a veteran of just about every Soulslike game, it’s fair to say I enjoy challenging games. I’ll amend that: I enjoy challenging games that are fair, and have clearly articulated goals and controls equal to the task. 2020’s Ghostrunner was a unique game. It married high-intensity, first-person arcade shooter-like action (with bladed weapons) to crazy fast movement around the environment. I previewed the upcoming Ghostrunner 2 and it takes the original, dials it up a notch or two, and adds some cool new toys.
We’ve all played action games where enemies are unrealistic bullet sponges. In Ghostrunner 2, enemies are dispatched in one swipe of the katana. The flipside is that so is the player. The smallest error results in an instant death. Miss blocking an incoming bullet? Dead. Miss a jump/wall run/grapple combination? Dead. You get the picture. There are no difficulty settings to dial back, and no beefy armor to mitigate damage. Ghostrunner 2 is either pure challenge or pure frustration, depending on skill, reaction time, and patience. Ghostrunner 2’s saving grace is that while death is common, it only takes a second to respawn and try again.
Ghostrunner 2 once again stars cyborg Jack and takes place a year after the original game. The location is the same, too, a neon-and-steam-drenched cyberpunk vision called Dharma Tower. We’ve seen similar environments in other cyberpunk games, but Ghostrunner 2 moves through the levels so fast that you might not have time to notice. In those rare moments of downtime, you’ll see a post-apocalyptic future world with a lot of gritty detail.
While the sequel tries mightily to be welcoming to new players, the Ghostrunner 2 definitely seems geared to series veterans first. Fans with a Ph.D. in Ghostrunner will be able to jump in and start slicing and dicing. Novices might be in for a surprise. Ghostrunner 2 is an error-free zone.
Movement is definitely the star of the show. Jack can wall run, jump, rail glide, air burst, and perform just about any parkour trick imaginable. The game’s stages are built for breakneck speed, puzzling, and combinations of combat and forward momentum. As if that wasn’t enough, Ghostrunner 2 introduces a motorcycle, allowing Jack to careen through tunnels and across highway walls with an incredible sense of reckless speed.
Only the Shadow Knows
The preview introduced a few new enemy types but a lot of the cyber-ninja foes return for the sequel. Jack has at least two new, upgradable abilities. The first is a Force Push-like ability called The Tempest, useful for both dispatching enemies and solving environmental puzzles. Also promised in the full game is the Shadow, where Jack can create decoy versions of himself.
Cyber-swordplay remains at the core of Ghostrunner 2. Jack can block and parry and perform very satisfying combos. For long-distance kills, he has deadly shuriken to mix things up. The game is a blood-soaked paean to the power of the blade but in the end, the violence is on the arcade side of the ledger.
If you bounced off of Ghostrunner for whatever reason — the unforgiving combat, the finicky movement — you might give the sequel a chance. Controls are tighter, there are more toys and there’s a bit more attention paid to easing new players into the game. That said, new players or veterans can still expect a fast, furious, and rigorously demanding action experience.
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