I’m not opposed to difficulty in games as long as it doesn’t emerge from things like janky controls or design choices that deliberately limit the player in ridiculous ways. GhostRunner II’s best qualities manage to parkour over its flaws and deliver a great if not sometimes frustrating, experience. One More Level took notes from their first run through the cyberpunk tower of Dharma and has built-in some genuinely good upgrades. I spent around 20 hours playing GhostRunner II and had an interesting experience. Especially since I have spatial awareness issues that made playing it more challenging. Here is my review.
GhostRunner II takes place a short time after the end of the first game. With the tyrannical Architect and the Key Holders now gone, the last city of humanity, Dharma, is trapped in a power vacuum with a new conflict bubbling under its surface. During the significant conflict, Jack emerges to stop a new threat. This new threat is called the Asura. The Asura are fellow GhostRunners however, their values do not align with Jack’s. Jack wishes to protect, but the Asura wants only to destroy. Jack must now fight an enemy on par with his own abilities and must discover their valid reason for spreading carnage. The story feels light on the narrative as a whole yet interesting enough to see it through to the end. Ghostrunner 2 plot does an excellent job of adding new elements to the world-building of Dharma and the post-apocalypse. You meet several new characters who act as Jack’s background support and you get a pretty decent mix of personalities. I grew to like Kira, primarily for her sassy attitude. On the other hand, I found The Asura to be a little one-note. They still make for an excellent antagonistic force for Jack to overcome at the end of the day but a little more time to flesh them out would have gone a long way.
Fighting enemies in Ghostrunner 2 is extremely fast-paced just like in the first one. You need to move, swing, slide, attack, and move on to the next kill in one motion. What is interesting is that exploration and combat in Ghostrunner II are intertwined. You need to explore for chips to upgrade your upgrade board use more skills, and you get experience from battle. You have limited upgrade space based on your upgrade board size. You also find new tools that are used in both combat and platforming. In battle, most of the tools are needed to defeat new threats you encounter, and also give you a new way to approach enemies. The tools when used for platforming allow you to hit far-away switches or moving blocks to allow you to traverse and also keep the kill train running. One big addition Ghostrunner II adds is a motorcycle that adds some adrenaline-pumping set pieces. The turn radius is almost perfect, and reaching top speed is a rad feeling.
Ghostrunner II stages are incredibly well-designed. In your traversal portions, there is only one way to progress, and combat requires you to kill all enemies in the area. Discovering the most optimal way to get around to each enemy and completing it successfully is a large part of the fun. However, the first-person perspective causes the possibility you may not see which section you need to get to next. This also applied to combat as sometimes I could not see the placement of an enemy right next to me and got what I felt were cheap shots. This leads to repeating the segment multiple times, proceeding through intense trial and error. Deaths from where I tried to jump to wall run sometimes ended with me getting to the wall but not running across it. Or I ended up on a side I didn’t want to be on. There were moments when I thought I met the height requirements to climb just to plummet. And despite this raising my death count much higher than I care to admit. Even though at times, I was in a death loop, I still was having a lot of fun. I recently played the first game to prepare for this release, and the changes made will make it hard to go back. The new controls in Ghostrunner II are much better than the first one. Blocking as long as you have stamina, is a huge bonus. The Boss Battles are also handled better. The thrill of defeating a boss always feels fantastic. Once you have completed a level you can also come back with everything you have to see if you can complete it in less time and less deaths.
Although GhostRunner II’s presentation is strong, there are a few spots of rust on the chrome. The game doesn’t sport the most advanced graphics from something of this gen. There are low-quality assets for minor things, weird blurriness from bloom, and the frame rate drops in certain fast-paced spots. Reloading my save seemed to fix the drops, however. I also encountered a couple of bugs with corpses freaking out. These minor bugs did not ruin my experience. The HUD and menus are all sufficiently cyberpunk in aesthetics and easy to navigate and understand. One More Level has a clear understanding of what makes cyberpunk cool as an artistic style. Despite the monochrome approach to the world, using lighting and color from said lighting keeps the world from being too bland. I never tired of the primarily same-looking parts of the city, but the sections in the unknown parts of the tower and CyberVoid are striking. The main character designs are nothing mind-blowing, but they have little flourishes. Enemy variety is also pretty good despite how short Ghost Runner II will be for those who master the game.
Was the 20 hours of shouting and cursing because I died a lot from frustrating things I felt I had no control over? Oh Yea. Is it also 20 hours of fun in a cyberpunk world that I would come back to play more? Hell yea! During my playthrough, I estimate that I may have found 75% of the collectibles. For the sake of time, I didn’t do many of the in-level challenges, but I know when I come back to those, I’ll have those ready to help me sharpen my skills further. I also can’t wait to see the speed runs for this game. Ghostrunner II has some issues, but it’s not a bad game, and I did enjoy myself a lot, despite the cursing.
Ghostrunner II Review
Imperfect, but still fun.
GhostRunner II is a fun game at the end of the day. Story is thin and It did make me curse out loud, but the game play when it flows and gets to take advantage of what it offers allows me to forgive that.