Ghostrunner 2 review: Fast-paced platformer ups the ante

Ghostrunner 2 review: Fast-paced platformer ups the ante
Images via One More Level

Written by 

Tarran Stockton

Published 

23rd Oct 2023 16:00

The first Ghostrunner was a surprise hit back in 2020, capturing players with its fast-paced platforming gameplay and tense one-hit-kill action. It made for a refreshing experience that really focused on refined gameplay and engaging mechanics.

With Ghostrunner 2, the ante has been pushed up, and the developers have expanded the game in nearly every way, making for a bigger and bolder sequel that doesn't sacrifice what made the first so great.

GGRecon Verdict

Ghostrunner 2 is exactly the kind of sequel you'd want after the first game - expanding on the concept with more gameplay options, encounters, and mechanics to great effect.

Not all the improvements are straight home runs, and some bugginess does occasionally frustrate - but they aren't big enough deals to distract from what is an overwhelmingly fun gameplay loop.

Welcome back, Jack

Ghostrunner 2 cutscene showing the katana
Click to enlarge

Ghostrunner 2 takes players back to the apocalyptic ruins of Earth, inside humanity's last shelter from the outside world - a massive mega tower containing an aesthetic cyberpunk dystopia called Dharma City. In the first game, you freed this place from the tyrannical keymaster, but in the absence of one power, many more have risen up to take advantage. 

As is appropriate for a fast-paced action platformer, the game gets straight into things once you select a new game, and a quick cutscene is followed by the protagonist grinding on a rail down to the first enemy for you to slice up. 

The core gameplay loop is essentially the same as in the first game - but bigger. You'll spend most of your time platforming through levels by dashing, wall running, and grappling to meet your objective and get to the end. There are also a tonne of unique platforming mechanics that are contextual to different missions. 

For example, in some cyberspace missions, you can hack the environment to interact with certain walls or rails, forcing you to juggle your actual movement with hacking at the right time. This keeps platforming fresh throughout the game, as each level gives you a new method to just move around and stay engaged with your movements.

There is also the combat, where you and your enemies all die in one hit, creating these tense combat puzzles to try and find the best route to deal with enemies along linear paths or in slightly larger arenas.

Whether you're in a more linear, platforming section, or a large arena that's locked while you defeat all the enemies inside, the main focus of the game is speed - and it reinforces this theme consistently within its mechanics. 

You're encouraged to go as fast as possible when playing in a few ways, as you have a combo score that gets better as you string together attacks, and each level is timed, so you can see your pace on the leaderboard next to other players. This also has the benefit of giving the game innate replayability, and it's hard not to get excited over improving your time on a second run.

More Ghostrunner

wallrunning in Ghostrunner 2
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With Ghostrunner 2 there are more enemies, more set pieces, and more moves for you to perform; the gameplay feels like it's expanded upon naturally and all the new aspects fit right into place without losing the core of what it makes it tick. 

An example of this is the new motorbike. Some later missions take you outside of Dharma City into the cursed earth below on a motorbike, making for new gameplay opportunities and set pieces. 

The fast-paced platforming is all still here, but with a bike instead. It can take some getting used to, but the bike has just enough floatiness to make it enjoyable to use when making massive jumps between broken highways or zipping around tight corners. 

This can have the effect of making driving feel a little clunky when you're just on straight roads or trying to fight enemies, but it's a worthwhile design choice when it comes to the multiple sections that will have you bouncing from one roadway to another, dodging obstacles and traps. 

Bosses are also a big feature this time around, with several boss fights taking place throughout the story, instead of just a final boss to cap off the experience.

As you would expect, some fights are better than others, but they all feel different enough by prioritising certain gameplay elements and mechanics, and they retain the fast pace that makes the gameplay so enjoyable. 

Cyberscapes

bike gameplay in Ghostrunners 2
Click to enlarge

It's worth mentioning that Ghostrunner 2 is also a very pretty game to look at. The aesthetic of Dharma City is still the same, but the fidelity has been ramped up due to the game being next-gen exclusive and supporting ray tracing.

The sections that take place in the wasteland outside of the city, or missions in cyberspace also do a lot to keep the game fresh visually too, as hours of the same tightly-packed urban sprawl would easily get a little stale by the time the game ends around the ten-hour mark.

This visual boost does come with some downsides to performance on the PC version, though. My rig is well beyond the recommended specs, so I put everything right up to the max, but it still suffers from stutters and the occasional slowdown from seemingly nowhere. This is without ray tracing too, as the PC version won't receive it until launch, so performance could be even worse with it enabled. 

Issues go beyond performance too, with some annoying glitches and quirks when moving. While most of the time the platforming movement is all smooth, you can easily get stuck on the edges of objects. This is most prevalent when grappling, as sometimes it won't adjust for the angle you're coming from, smashing you into the side of a wall you can run on, instead of attaching you to it properly. 

These problems aren't enough to ruin the game and the fun I had with it, but they can add up over the course of the experience, so it may be worth waiting for a few patches if you want a smoother time.

The Verdict

platforming in Ghostrunner 2
Click to enlarge

Ghostrunner 2 is exactly the kind of sequel you'd want after the first game - expanding on the concept with more gameplay options, encounters, and mechanics to great effect.

Not all the improvements are straight home runs, and some bugginess does occasionally frustrate - but they aren't big enough deals to distract from what is an overwhelmingly fun gameplay loop.

4/5

Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.

Tarran is a Senior Guides Writer at GGRecon. He previously wrote reviews for his college newspaper before studying Media and Communication at university. His favourite genres include role-playing games, strategy games, and boomer shooters - along with anything indie. You can also find him in the pit at local hardcore shows.