Review – Ghostrunner
What happens when you take Genji from Overwatch, give him a parkour-esque movement scheme from Mirror’s Edge and put him into 3D, souped up version of the excellent 2D action platformer Katana Zero? You get Ghostrunner. An addictive hardcore action platformer where you die in one hit, but so do your enemies.
After a major cataclysmic event known as “the burst” has left the majority of the Earth’s surface uninhabitable, the surviving humans must live in giant super towers. You play as a Ghostrunner, a sort of superpowered peacekeeper for these cities. After a mission gone wrong, you awaken at the bottom of a tower with no memory of who you are. All you know is you are looking for revenge against the Keymaker, who has taken control over the tower, and by extension, the remnants of humanity. You are assisted by an AI known as the Architect and the last surviving resistance fighter.
For the most part; the story of Ghostrunner is your basic sci-fi trope filled adventure with a lot of similarities between movies like Karl Urban’s amazing Dredd portrayal. I quite enjoyed the story, as it featured some decent characters and a couple of interesting plot points. Best of all, the story is usually presented in a way that doesn’t slow down the gameplay at all. Dialogue is played over quieter platforming sections rather than during combat heavy moments. The few cutscenes that do exist are brief. If all you want is an action game, the story is really easy to tune out.
The core gameplay of Ghostrunner is really easy to pick up, but difficult to master. As a Ghostrunner, you are only equipped with a sword and a dash ability which slows you down whilst in mid-air to help you get around enemies for a quick kill. You die in one hit, so it’s critical you use your advanced wall running, grappling hook and quick movement techniques to survive.
Throughout the course of the game, the Ghostrunner will gain access to four special abilities that can devastate enemies. They are: Blink, that allows the runner to dash through a number of enemies killing them instantly; Tempest, that deflects shots and push enemies back; Surge sends out a shockwave to kill enemies; and Overload, which temporarily turns enemies onto one another. These abilities recharge slowly, so you really need to pick when and where to use them but if used properly can help you wipe out the most difficult encounters with ease.
When you enter a new area you typically have a handful of paths to chose from, each of which leading you to different enemies that you will need to take out in different order. It’s brilliant level design that really allows you to use your favorite playstyle. That’s not to mention the additional mechanics that are introduced every couple of missions that add that little bit extra oomph to make the game more fun. You can find upgrades that allow you throw shurikens, jump higher or slow down time for a short time, and more. Usually, these are used in platforming sections but you can also find them scattered in the occasional enemy encounter.
To say Ghostrunner is a tough game is an understatement. This game is brutally difficult, and any mistake that you make will be punished by death. Much like the fantastic Celeste, you can end up dying dozens of times in the space of only a few minutes. Thankfully, the quick restart allows you to get straight back into the action and try again instantly. Ghostrunner isn’t difficulty for difficulty sake; the vast majority of the encounters are remarkably well balanced, where it rewards creative play. To help you on your journey, a small upgrade mechanic exists that allow you to arrange Tetris blocks that enhance your abilities. These can be special ability augments all the way up to finding collectables or deflecting projectiles. It’s a neat system that rewards planning of your abilities.
Throughout the game you will encounter a good variety in enemy designs, starting off with your basic gun wielding guards that are fairly simple to deal with all the way up to turrets, shielded opponents, and even ninjas that you need to parry. Each enemy has a different strategy to take them out, and when multiple types of them are thrown into the arena, things can get really interesting. Then you’ve got the game’s small handful of bosses that test everything you’ve learned up to that point. The first boss in particular, that one is a wonderful parkour-based gauntlet that puts your movement skills to their limits.
Visually, Ghostrunner is treat to look at. I’m a sucker for neon lights in a dystopian sci-fi setting, and the developers here have done a phenomenal job. The glow of the neon lights in the night time are wonderful to look at, and so do some of the more industrial looking sections. If you have the capable hardware, this game also supports ray-tracing for its reflections, and they look really good. However if they are worth the performance impact is up to you. Sound design is also badass. Whilst the voice acting does a good enough job telling a simple story I actually enjoyed it. The small cast of characters are all likable and their motivations are made clear. The best part of the sound design though is with the amazing synthwave soundtrack that plays constantly throughout the entire game yet never gets old, and even has a place in my Spotify playlist.
Ghostrunner is one of the most fun games I’ve played this year. The fast and difficult one-hit-kill gameplay is constantly thrilling, whilst a surprisingly decent story and progression system help keep things interesting. Not to mention the killer soundtrack and fantastic visuals. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got my times to beat. I won’t stop playing this one for a while.
Derma City looks absolutely stunning and if you have the proper hardware, Ray Tracing propels that even further.
The addictive core gameplay, featuring high-octane attacks and stylish parkour-based movement, is one of the best this year.
Stunning synthwave soundtrack that deserves a place in your Spotify playlist, couple with actually decent voice acting.
Fun Factor: 10
Ghostrunner is some of the most fun I’ve had with a game for a long time. The addictively challenging gameplay loop is one that I will keep coming back to.
Final Verdict: 10
Ghostrunner is available now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4
Played on PC with a RTX 2060, 3600x and 16GB RAM.
A copy of Ghostrunner was provided by the publisher.