Review – Ghostrunner 2
Ghostrunner is one of my favourite games that came out in 2020, a highly energetic and difficult action game that had me hooked with its parkour-like gameplay. It was followed by Project_Hel, which showed us all that the series had a lot of tricks up its sleeves by taking a much more combat-heavy approach. My anticipation for Ghostrunner 2 has been very high since its announcement and I’m glad to say that it has mostly delivered, though I don’t think it has managed to achieve the same heights as its pristine predecessor.
The game is some time after the events of the first game, and the world is very much still screwed. Most of humanity resides inside Dharma City, as the outside world has been ravaged by a mysterious event known as The Burst. As part of The Climbers, Jack acts as a sort of enforcer now to keep the city safe from any major threats. But as a new threat emerges, one that threatens the entire city, he must venture to the outside world to stop it.
Expanding on the lore of the base game, this sequel goes bigger with the story. You learn much more about the area surrounding Dharma City, and the history of the Ghostrunners all whilst dealing with a new threat. A new hub of sorts opens up that allows you to talk to the other climbers but this is entirely optional if you want to skip past the story. And if you don’t it rarely takes you away from the fast-paced action for too long. There’s some interesting stuff here and the great world-building has some pay-off so I would suggest taking the extra few minutes to soak it all in.
However; the potential of the Ghostrunner story is never reached and I found the ending to be incredibly underwhelming. Very quickly resolves itself without much satisfying closure; It feels like something is missing here. It’s a shame since I was enjoying it up until that point as well with some great characters and occasional funny dialogue.
Ghostrunner is a hardcore first-person parkour action game. You die in one hit but so do your enemies. For the most part, this plays pretty similar to the original. So if you like the first one this provides much more of that. Movement is fast-paced as you wall-run, dash, slide. Chaining these abilities together you can create a lot of momentum to move even faster as you swiftly jump between enemies cutting them down in a gruesome fashion. It’s as addictive as ever as I run around Cyberpunk environments as Genji from Overwatch constantly trying to make myself look as badass as ever.
A big change to the core gameplay is the introduction of a stamina meter. Now every ability you use will drain your stamina; dashing and the new blocking ability that allows you to block most small attacks, perfectly time the block of ranged attacks will deflect it. Upgrading Jack has also been moved from a Tetris-like mini-game to a motherboard where you slot in upgrade chips of the same type. It’s a simpler system but with more upgrades to install you can do some cool builds with Jack. Focusing your upgrades on specific abilities.
All of these changes make Ghostrunner 2 feel a little bit different without taking away from what made the original so special in my opinion. There’s a larger focus on abilities with Shurrikens and grappling hooks being used frequently throughout. And much like the predecessor is still very much a challenging game and you will die… a lot. In my first playthrough, some of the larger levels had me pushing close to 100 deaths. Yet it never feels frustrating thanks to the quick restarts and generous checkpoint placing ensuring you never lose too much progress.
The levels themselves are for the most part a fair bit larger, giving you several routes and paths to take. Able to entire combat arenas from different angles. You will find plenty of potential combat options scattered throughout. Each level provides something entirely different, with new enemies, mechanics and gimmicks introduced at a steady pace. It feels that as a franchise Ghostrunner has found its place.
There’s a solid combination of linear parkour challenges and more open-ended combat arenas to experiment with. It is constantly keeping the game feeling fresh with just about every level providing something different. I won’t spoil everything that has been included here but a big part of the marketing is the inclusion of a new bike that you will periodically take control of providing a different yet familiar feel.
Jack’s Bike is some of the most thrilling gameplay that I’ve experienced in a while. As you swiftly move at high speeds, riding on walls or upside down in the tunnels. Avoid traps and a wide variety of enemies that will chase you down or attempt to stop you. The extremely high-speed gameplay transitions beautifully to the bike with some exhilarating moments that had me on the edge of my seat. It controls reasonably well and I didn’t have too much trouble adapting on a keyboard. The bike also doesn’t overshadow the core freerunning mechanics which will still take up the majority of your playtime.
It’s not just that these running and bike sections work well individually it’s just how well they complement each other that makes it special. One of the biggest levels takes place outside of the city in a more open-ended level combining the two playstyles perfectly. Chaining attacks from your bike to jump off and then moving on seamlessly makes you feel like a badass every time even if it takes you several attempts to get there. However, it’s not perfect and the larger more open maps come with some caveats.
Unfortunately, I did encounter a good number of bugs throughout my playthrough, wall-running stopped working for me a few times on optional challenges. In a handful of instances, enemies would refuse to spawn causing me to restart an entire level. The bike can act wild on uneven terrain if you go off the beaten path. Flipping out randomly or just getting stuck. It lacks a layer of polish here that holds the experience back a little.
Outside of the brilliantly paced 8-10 hour campaign with incredibly strong replay value, there’s also roguerunner.exe mode. As the name implies this is a sort of roguelike mode that has you upgrading Jack through random encounters. The original did play with this idea in a post-launch update and I’m glad it’s back even if it is a bit simple. Then as I said in my Neon White review there’s nothing quite like the leaderboard chase of trying to get better times for each level, with the added challenge of going zero deaths. This game is a speedrunner’s heaven. After finishing the story I immediately started a fresh save to do as much as possible. Gathering all the collectables and just having a good time.
If there’s one thing for sure it’s that Ghostrunner 2 is constantly stylish from the main neon-soaked Dharma Tower that can make Cyberpunks 2077s Night City feel tame to a more traditional apocalyptic wasteland scattered with abandoned buildings and ancient tech. However; the larger scope of some of these levels reveals some rougher edges, with some low-quality texture work scattered throughout and unimpressive effects such as explosions which are especially noticeable during big set-piece sections.
For the most part, Ghostrunner 2 is pretty well optimised and the majority of combat sections are perfectly smooth with very few drops. However; faster transitional areas can see something a little bit more substantial. Your mileage may vary and it never impacted my gameplay experience but something to be aware of. Also for the fellow ultrawide users be aware that you will lose some vertical FOV only when playing on the bike; it’s easy enough to switch to 16:9 for these sections and I hope this gets fixed.
I also took the opportunity to test the game on Steam Deck. For the most part, this is a very mixed experience. Bringing the settings down to low with FSR set to balanced the game still looks pretty decent on the smaller screen of the Steam Deck. However; Performance is not where it needs to be for me to recommend this on Deck. A few pre-launch patches have improved performance so maybe there is more to come. As for the sound design, the incredible synth-inspired soundtrack makes a return and constantly puts you in the mood. There’s also a lot more dialogue in this one, with a bit more personality from the main cast. It won’t be for everyone’s taste but a lot of the time the dialogue doesn’t get in the way.
Ghostrunner 2 is an utterly exhilarating and constantly exciting experience. It is bigger and more ambitious than its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean it is always better than it. It has a few issues here and there, not to mention the fact that some of its additions and overall changes to the formula won’t exactly click with everyone. With that being said, it is still an excellent game. Whether this or the predecessor will be considered the better title between the title is up for personal preference, but I still recommend it without a doubt, and can’t wait to see what One More Level will do afterwards.
Visually grander with more spectacle than its predecessor but brings some really rough edges, all due to some glitches and issues.
Some bold changes and additions to the core gameplay makes Ghostrunner 2 feel much more than a standard sequel.
Another banger of a soundtrack, infusing heavy synth into epic action sequences.
Ghostrunner 2 isn’t perfect, but it’s constantly engaging. Not exactly better than its predecessor, due to the lack of surprise, but still a worthy sequel.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Ghostrunner 2 is available now on PC, Xbox Series and PlayStation 5.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 4070, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM. Game installed on the SSD. Tested on Steam Deck.
A copy of Ghostrunner 2 was provided by the publisher.