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Ghostrunner Game review

Game review 26 October 2020, 15:00

author: Brittany Vincent

Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over a decade for publications like G4, Popular Science, Playboy, Empire, Complex, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, and more. Twitter: @MolotovCupcake

Ghostrunner Review - Eat Your Heart Out, Faith

I've just finished a really great first-person Polish studio game set in a dystopian, futuristic city. And I'm not talking about Cyberpunk 2077 at all - even before its premiere, an excellent Ghostrunner awaits you.

The review is based on the PC version.

  • Excellent cyberpunk aesthetic/graphical motif; 
  • Interesting futuristic story with a gripping narrative;
  • Satisfying mixture of parkour, gunplay, and sword combat;
  • Challenging enough for all levels of players.
  • Occasionally frustrating to the point of quitting. 
  • Pulling off some moves can be difficult at certain times. 

The gaming world is absolutely riddled with a variety of different titles seeking to perfectly encapsulate the concept of a cyberpunk future. Though there are massive players like CD Projekt RED currently working to bring games like Cyberpunk 2077 to light, there are also smaller developers with some very intriguing projects to share as well. Take Ghostrunner, a collaboration between One More Level, 3D Realms, and Slipgate Ironworks. 

It could have come straight from the inner sanctum of Night City, starring everyone's favorite cyborg ninja Raiden from the Metal Gear Solid series. It's a sleek, mesmerizing challenge that's at once tantalizing and spellbinding. Practically oozing with style, it's the product of a true love for cyberpunk as a storytelling vehicle and as an aesthetic, as well as gameplay formula that will keep you coming back for more every single time. Ghostrunner is an impressive feat that fans won't want to pass up.

Climbing Dharma Tower

Ghostrunner is a raucous first-person platformer, in which only the hardcore need to apply. You take on the role of cyberwarrior #74, the "living weapon" hereby tasked with climbing a megastructure in an austere cyberpunk world: the Dharma Tower. It's the last bastion for humanity following what can only be described as an extinction event.

As #74, you're a cyberwarrior capable of fighting in both the living world and in cyberspace, which makes for some very interesting encounter. It unfolds over several bits of dialogue as you unlock additional segments of the game. And while the narrative is indeed interesting to follow, the most exciting part of Ghostrunner is the frenetic action that unfolds as you make your way through the game.

Ghostrunner Review - Eat Your Heart Out, Faith - picture #1
Just the Ghostrunner fighting three samurais aboard a speeding train.

Jumping into the game means you'll be flooded with plenty of opportunities to drink in the stylized environments, from your character to the intriguing ways you interact with each setpiece strung along to the next. Ghostrunner is ready to wrap you up in its chaotic embrace and bring you along for the ride.

Dance Macabre

You could be forgotten for mistakenly inferring from the game's title that it's all about making as little fanfare as possible from point A to point B. That couldn't be further from the truth, though; the gameplay can be distilled into what feels like a satisfying mix of Superhot, Hotline Miami, and Mirror's Edge, all with a hefty dash of cyberpunk madness and the razor-sharp moves of a katana-wielding cybersoldier. It’s in-your-face action that anyone who loves to rise to the challenge that necessitates pinpoint precision will love. 

Ghostrunner Review - Eat Your Heart Out, Faith - picture #2
Cyberpunk aesthetics are pouring out of the screen.

Jetting from one area to the next requires you to employ some seriously impressive moves. You move with a startling quickness, and the game's fluidity implies that you're zipping around like a bolt of lightning. You'll enact some of the most impressive parkour moves this side of Mirror's Edge, wall running and employing time-slowing abilities, double-jumps, and deadly slashes as you move through the air.

One slash through an unfortunate enemy means they've been cut in two. However, you're just as vulnerable. When an enemy fires off a shot and hits you, you're dead where you stand (or soar), meaning you'll have to start over from where you are until you reach the next checkpoint. It's like a ballet of violence that forever tosses you out when you miss a step, then goads you on to try out new moves when you emerge victorious. It's blindingly frustrating when you can't pull of a certain section just right, but it feels like a slice of gaming nirvana when you can.

Chaining together special abilities to make progress feels fantastic, of course, and there are even different ways for you to approach each area. The game's dynamic set of movements offers you plenty of freedom, with nimble acrobatics, a grappling hook to zip from place to place, and enough instant respawns to remind you that you still need to "get good" when you first start Ghostrunner.

Ghostrunner Review - Eat Your Heart Out, Faith - picture #3
Welcome to the Matrix... I mean the Cybervoid.

From wallrunning to dodging bullets on the way to taking out the villainous Keymaster, Ghostrunner continually throws a torrent of challenges at you – some may even say too many – as it becomes increasingly more difficult. In the end, that's Ghostrunner's biggest drawback. Sometimes, the very momentum built by streaking through each level and swiftly taking out enemies is slowed by more challenging segments. 

It can occasionally be difficult to want to return to the game after failing a segment for the 20th time in a row, but that can generally be chalked up to the player's failure more than anything – except in certain situations, where it really would be preferable to be able to take more than just a single bullet.

Perfect Phantasm

Ghostrunner has many things going for it, but one of its most obvious accomplishments is how fantastic it looks. It features RTX-powered raytracing effects for some seriously astonishing environments. Neon signs punctuate every area you explore, and the colors pop, showing off dilapidated buildings and the corpses of megacorps everywhere you look. It's visually arresting.

There's a thumping soundtrack to go with it, as well as great voice acting to wrap it all up. It's not often needed outside of narration, but it's clear that a lot of work went into finding the right people for the job. There's a thread of quiet tension permeating the entirety of the game, and both visuals and audio work together to keep it from unraveling.

Ghostrunner Review - Eat Your Heart Out, Faith - picture #4
There are also some logic puzzles.

No Ghosting Here

Ghostrunner is an exemplary game with only a few small niggles – mostly based on how difficult it can be – and plenty of ideas to get players excited about. It's definitely worth jumping into, even with what many see as one of the biggest cyberpunk-styled titles getting ready to debut in less than a month. 

This is the kind of game you always hope to see come to VR, so you can bring the thrill to an environment you can explore as if you were seeing in real life. Ghostrunner is a game that you absolutely shouldn't miss, whether you're into embodying a cyber samurai or pulling off some super sweet parkour. Eat your heart out, Faith from Mirror's Edge.

Brittany Vincent | Gamepressure.com

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