Ghostrunner 2 Review

by Gamingstry
ghostrunner 2

Release Date : 26 October, 2023
Developer(s) : One More Level
Publisher(s) : 505 Games
Platforms : PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC

Ghostrunner is back with a second episode, three years after its successful release on PC and consoles… Remember, it’s a die-and-replay game set in a cyberpunk universe. So here’s our review of the sequel from One More Level studio and 505 Games.

In a city with more neon lights than people, a cyber-ninja defends the widow and the orphan. So, no, this isn’t Cyberpunk 2077 but Ghostrunner 2, a sequel to the first action game we enjoyed so much three years ago. We must admit that the One More Level | 505 Games duo was right on target right from the start, with a solid technique, smooth gameplay, and a constantly evolving adventure (new techniques, new enemies, increasingly complex level design).

In short, the result was super-clean. Is it still the case this time, with enough innovation and ambition to give life to a worthy sequel? Let’s find out.

Previously, in Ghostrunner:

Although the plot isn’t Ghostrunner’s “big” selling point, here are a few details. This second episode takes place a year after the conclusion of the last installment… The Mistress of the Keys is gone, and the Dharma Tower (humanity’s last refuge) is doing its best to survive. Of course, the peace is only temporary. An AI cult wants to shape the future of mankind.

Like the first episode, Ghostrunner 2 gives us control of Jack, a powerful, agile, but not super-strong “robot-ninja”… Here, as in Hotline Miami, the slightest hit can knock you down (and the same goes for your opponents). One More Level’s action phases are always challenging and dynamic. Yes, to avoid ending up in pieces, Jack can dash, run on walls, slow down time in the air, slide – and even launch himself thanks to grappling hooks. And let’s not forget the offensive side of things, including a sword attack, tools like shurikens, and powerful special powers.

At this point, it’s worth highlighting several changes from the first Ghostrunner. For a start, dash attacks are no longer limited to a specific number of uses – but rather to a single stamina bar. So, right from the start of the adventure, without having any upgrades at all, you can dash four times in a row. Another major difference is that you can now block shots by holding down the “L1” key. In this case, you won’t be invulnerable either. The more projectiles you take, the more your stamina dries up, until you’re left defenseless (without the option to dash or block). In other words, if this happens to you, you’re as good as dead! Note that by pressing “L1” just before receiving a close-combat blow, you can perform a pretty stylish counter-attack. Handy when you’re up against enemies capable of parrying.

One More Level doesn’t revolutionize Ghostrunner’s “core gameplay” ( which isn’t what we’re asking for), and once again offers levels that mix action, with arenas to clear, and platforming. On this point, it works like a charm! The first few hours of this second opus easily recapture the exhilaration of fast movements and swordplay, thanks to sensations that are both fluid and impactful…

However, the acceleration curve has been reduced – especially after a “wall run” – and a few problems keep recurring. Yes, in Ghostrunner 2, it’s still quite common to step on a wall you simply want to climb, or even to land on a hidden part of the scenery after a fall (when you should be pressing reset). Nothing too serious, but it’s the sort of thing we’d like to see corrected.

You might be wondering at this point: how does Ghostrunner keep renewing itself? Well, with bigger levels than before, where players can choose their approach. A new direction that works perfectly with the re-designed Motherboard, a.k.a. the skill tree of this second installment. Throughout the adventure, various bonuses will become available for purchase. There are eight categories in all, divided between swords, moves, and shurikens. For example, you can electrocute surrounding opponents after a perfect parry, increase your speed by 5% with each combo, and launch three projectiles instead of one…

With 48 upgrades in all, there’s plenty to do. Note that Jack can only use a limited number of them, but this limit is increased with progress, by finding Memory Shards hidden throughout the levels. What’s more, you can switch builds at any time from the Pause menu. This can come in handy when you get stuck in an arena full of enemies.

Overall, Ghostrunner 2 takes a much more action-adventure turn than its predecessor. In addition to more advanced customization and a scenario that still serves as a link between the different levels, One More Level features a new “hub” where NPCs are waiting to chat with you; motorbike passages – quite successful by the way – and even phases in a large semi-open area, where you can move around on foot and on two wheels. After all, why not, especially as the openness and atmosphere offered by this area are good for the game’s pace. But in fact, in its quest to be “bigger” than before, Ghostrunner 2 has lost focus on the fundamentals.

More specifically, we found the level design of this sequel to be less successful, more open but not really appropriate to a Trial-and-Error game. It’s hard to find an optimal route and enjoy yourself when you’re constantly getting smacked on the back – out of nowhere. Even worse, on bigger levels, it’s harder to find the right path. For a game that had found its cruising speed so well – right from the first episode – it’s a bit of a shame.

There are also some scenes in the “Cybervoid” (One More Level’s “Tron” mode) that break the rhythm awkwardly, with puzzles we could have done without… For the rest, there’s clearly nothing to dismiss, and when the studio returns to a more classic level design, it immediately hits the bull’s-eye. Special mention must be made of certain passages – such as “The Sandworm”.

During its 8 to 10-hour lifespan, the Ghostrunner 2 engine runs hot and cold… An in-between situation that can be found in other aspects too: the technical side, which is disappointing on the PS5; some welcome new powers, such as Invisibility or Flux (a large energy beam), but which don’t fit in well with the overall picture; side challenges that oddly appear in levels where all you want to do is run at full speed; a “rogue-like” mode taken from the first game, which doesn’t go beyond the mini-game stage; a bestiary that’s certainly improved, but which struggles to set up relevant situations. As you can see, Ghostrunner 2 has probably left the production line a little early.

With Ghostrunner 2, studio One More Level has made a shift towards an action-adventure experience but not without a few setbacks. By relying on larger, not always very precise zones, we lose some of the charm of the first game… Here, “Trial-and-Error” is more often synonymous with frustration, resulting in a less addictive experience! The adventure is punctuated by attempts (more or less successful) to flesh out the experience – with a few passages that stand out, particularly in the second half. The result is a pleasant experience, driven by a gameplay that’s always effective, but that often gets a little lost.

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