Ghostrunner Review – 2049 Deaths
There’s a certain intensity in games where one hit kills you that just can’t be found in other games. Games like Hotline Miami provided this fun balance in gameplay where anything dies in one hit, but you would as well. It made going through the levels much more tense, as anything could end your run for that level. You’d plan out what you were going to do from the top down view you had, and execute that plan to the best of your ability. However, in games without such a view, you have to give the player other abilities to scope out their next step. That’s where Ghostrunner comes in.
Ghostrunner is a first person platforming slasher developed by One More Level, 3D Realms, and Slipgate Ironworks, while being published by 505 Games and All In! Games. With it, they wanted to create a hardcore game where you parkour around while slashing enemies to ribbons, like Hotline Miami combined with Mirror’s Edge.
A Tower In Trouble
The story starts out with you waking up in a place known as Dharma Tower to the voice of someone named Whisper, needing you to break him out of prison. You are what is known as a Ghostrunner, a formerly elite peacekeeping unit that has been wiped out, all except for you, who has been brought back by rebels. Not much later on, you find out Whisper is a man known as The Architect, who built the very tower you’re trying to ascend. Together, you set out to save the tower from that who runs it, Mara.
The story is fine. I thought it would have some interesting twists, but those never came to light. Instead it had some rather basic ones. The world building is more interesting, as you learn more about the world through environmental storytelling, narration from others, and little items you can pick up. All of these combine to create a rather interesting world. The characters in that world are fine enough as it is, they serve their purpose. If you’re looking for a good, engaging story, I would say not to go for this one.
Being A Ghostrunner
Ghostrunner itself controls rather well — as well as a game like this can, and it feels good, no doubt. I guess my one problem would be that, with the way the game makes you play, if you’re on mouse and keyboard, your hand will start to hurt.
The gameplay itself is where Ghostrunner shines the most. As I’ve talked about before, this is a game where almost everything can be killed in one hit, including yourself. However, the advantage you have is the amount of movement under your control. Running on walls, using grappling hooks, sliding, and a dash that can slow down time to move you mid-air, there is no shortage of ways to evade an enemy’s attack. As long as you keep moving, you should be able to end up on the other side without much trouble.
Of course, as you go on, things will get tougher. You go from thugs with guns to men with swords themselves, each of them requiring a different tactic. It’s like Ghostrunner is adding more pieces to a puzzle, a drip feed that is near constant throughout the game.
To keep up with this ever-evolving puzzle before you, you are given ways to upgrade your Ghostrunner. First is modules, a Tetris-like system where you are given upgrades, like the ability to deflect projectiles, in the form of differing shapes. With these, you must find the best configuration for the most efficient use of modules. As you go on in the game, you’ll unlock more room for more modules.
Second, there are four techniques you’ll earn just through playing the game. At specific points, you’ll receive a technique, like Blink, where you can slice multiple lined up enemies in a row. Now, these techniques require you to kill to fill a meter. Now, this meter carries over through death, so it gives the opportunity to get out of a sticky situation.
Third, there will be temporary buffs that are mostly used to traverse platforming challenges, but they can also be useful in combat, like the buff that slows down time. It can be used to slow down fans to pass through, and it can help with enemies that carry automatic weapons.
Other than that, there are collectibles you can find; things like audio logs, items that provide lore, and extra sword skins, in case you’re getting bored of the default one. These collectibles do require a lot of searching, and a good handle of the movement controls. In my playthrough, I found very little of these, so you might have to push the limits of where you think you can go.
The Tower’s Design
Speaking of where you can go, the world itself looks pretty good, when they show you the more interesting parts of it. As you know, I love cyberpunk, so the setting was what I most look forward to when playing this game. For the most part, you’ll be going through machinery and the behind-the-scenes places that make the tower run. For what those are, the game still looks pretty good, but when you get to the actual city parts of the tower, that’s where the environmental design shines.
And it’s not a cyberpunk game unless you got some tunes. The music really does a stellar job to facilitate just feeling awesome. The tracks they play fit in amazingly well with the pace of gameplay, serving to ensure that no matter what you do, everything still feels satisfying, even when the level design fails you.
The level design, for the most part, is rather well done. It does a good job of keeping with the gameplay style, and giving you multiple ways of taking on a room. If one way doesn’t fit with your style of playing, then there are surely other ways of taking others out.
However, there are some points where the level design doesn’t work best. The game encourages you to move around, make use of what the room offers. Then, sometimes, they’ll place you in a room that facilitates none of that. Rooms that make no use of the speed and mobility you are given, like rooms that are in a straight line with barely anything to run on.
This does add to the frustration Ghostrunner can put you through. There will be many a time where you’ll just go “that’s bull.” Checkpoints are pretty willy-nilly, not very consistent with where they are placed, but that’s not that big of a deal.
What is a bigger deal is that Ghostrunner has some bugs it needs to work out. Multiple times I have crashed, which got annoying after the first time. I’ve had enemies clip through geometry and just break their AI. I’ve had my respawn change because I killed the last enemy as they killed me, putting me right in the middle of the group. And sometimes fans will kill you even if you stopped them, but this was probably due to them not taking away the killbox fast enough.
Ghostrunning in the 90’s
So, with all that being said, the problems I have with Ghostrunner don’t outweigh the fun times I had with it. Sure, it was frustrating at times, and sometimes you will have to rely on trial and error (you’re going to die a lot), but overall the experience it gave me was a blast, and I might want to go back in to find those collectibles. Most likely, though, the parts that frustrate me will just keep me from doing that.
I will say, for the price it’s asking, if you’re really interested in this game and want to pick it up, I say go for it. However, if you’re not super into it, but might want to get it eventually, I would definitely recommend waiting for a sale. It’s a good game, just not one I would go out of my way to get.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on PC. Game provided by All In! Games.