Ghostrunner 2 preview: Jack's back with a sharper edge
"This must be excruciating to watch for you," I tell One More Level's CEO and Studio Head, Szymon Bryla, as my cyborg ninja, Jack, swings from a bar and drops into the same bottomless pit for the third time in thirty seconds.
Once I reach the end of my 25-minute Ghostrunner 2 demo, I've racked up no fewer than seventy deaths - but Bryla assures me it's not the worst he's seen (I'm pretty sure he's just being nice).
Ghostrunner 2 continues the lineage of challenge set by its predecessor, which burst onto the scene almost three years ago. I reviewed that game at a prior outlet, but in the time that's passed, it's clear I've lost my edge - but I can't wait to hone it again when Ghostrunner 2 launches in October.
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Run, run, as fast as you can
In this preview, our protagonist has to work his way through a cyberpunk cityscape to retrieve an unknown parcel.
While the locale and fluidity of movement certainly bring to mind the original, this time around Jack has a few new tricks up his cybernetic sleeves.
Blocking bullets returns, but new finishers reward players for timing their melee blocks just right this time around. Each animation is grislier than the next, calling to mind DOOM's Glory Kills but with a little more ruthless efficiency - heads pop, necks are sliced, and even the new Shinobi enemies, whose skills match your own, are no match for a well-timed counter.
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Bryla tells me the progression system has been revamped for Ghostrunner 2, and while I wasn't able to see that in action, I was able to check out some of its new more open-ended areas. One room had multiple points of access, allowing Jack to close the gap with precision on enemies firing at him, while another offered destructible walls for aggressive flanking.
Then there are explosive barrels, which were just as enjoyable to use, sending foes flying across the room.
One area comprised a circular room with enemies at regular intervals, and then some in the centre on a raised platform, and the joy of racking up such a high death count was getting to re-attempt the same combat puzzle multiple times.
Grinding on rails, running on walls, and unleashing shurikens made me feel particularly skilful, never once touching the ground before dropping in to give those Shinobi a quick slice from my blade.
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The package Jack is working towards, as it turns out, is the feature of Ghostrunner 2 that's seen the most focus in recent trailers - the new motorcycle.
Ghostrunner was fast, but with two wheels, Ghostrunner 2 feels breakneck. Zooming through service tunnels, this section of the preview started slow (or at least, as slow as it could), with switches needing to be slashed to open doors to speed through.
There is no let-up, however, with the main objective staying close to a constantly moving signal. That means it's simply not possible to slow down, turning Ghostrunner 2's vehicular sections into a tense obstacle course that's every bit as exhilarating as the on-foot action.
Using boost to clear jumps, dodging exercises, opening doors and, coolest of all, wall-riding, is the only way you'll get yourself to the end in anything close to one piece. By the time I was finished, I had a huge smile on my face - even with seventy deaths.
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The best news for fans of the original is that Ghostrunner 2 still has so much to show - the motorcycle acting as a bridge to a much more expanded world than we saw in the first game's Dharma Tower.
As Jack leaves the city, my demo ended, and I cannot wait to see how Ghostrunner 2 differentiates itself visually and mechanically when it takes place in the wilds outside of the first game's urban sprawl.
Ghostrunner 2 launches October 26, 2023. For more from Gamescom, check out our preview of HYENAS.