Developer: One More Level, Slipgate6, and 3D Realms Publisher: 505 Games & All In! Games Release: 27 October 2020 Reviewed on: PC
Welcome to our Ghostrunner review, where we discuss our experience of this new high quality cyberpunk action game from One More Level, Slipgate6, and 3D Realms.
Before jumping into a world where you are a sword-wielding cyber ninja, you better strap yourself in for some keyboard-in-danger-of-a-beating moments and some extremely satisfying moments where your movements perfectly sync up and are executed in clinical perfection.
In our Ghostrunner review we look at what makes this game stand out from the crowd, highlighting features that we felt were worth discussing.
Before I head into the good and the bad of Ghostrunner, I want to start with some general stats of my playthrough of the game. It took me about 6.6 hours to complete, and here are the two pieces of data to use when calculating the effort required to complete this game: the amount of levels and the total deaths. The game has 17 different levels and across those 17 levels I racked up 691 deaths, yes you read that correctly, 691 deaths. If you do the math, that is 1,7 deaths per minute.
Ghostrunner maintains momentum like few other games
When you look at the number of deaths I experienced, it is easy to assume that it was an overall frustrating experience and reloading checkpoints is going to be your new life. That was not the case when playing Ghostrunner. The way they have designed the game is genius. Take, for example the 3rd level, “The Climb”, I died a total of 52 times on that level. It might seem like a lot, but when playing Ghostrunner it is crucial that you see death as progress and not loss or failure.
Enemies have been placed strategically by the developers and you have to execute a certain number of moves perfectly to move to the next checkpoint in the game. Every time you die, you put a piece of the puzzle together that will lead to you beating the section. Once you have pieced everything together your muscle memory will kick in and you will feel like a god when you slice through a complex area with over 8 enemies to dissect, leaving only dismembered corpses in your wake. This is where the satisfaction lies, and damn it feels good to execute your hard earned strategy. Furthermore, the fact that reloading to the last checkpoint is instant enables you to retry without overthinking your potential feelings of frustration.
When you play Ghostrunner, you might notice that the developers were generous to refrain from introducing new and complex enemies around every corner. For the first hour of the game (depending on how quickly you progressed), the enemies remain basic enough for you to get to grips with the game’s mechanics. After that, new enemies are introduced at a perfect pace. We noticed that every enemy introduction felt well considered, and there was never a time where a tough enemy gets introduced alongside other enemies that you have not yet mastered. The enemies you can expect vary from cyborg guys with basic pistols to walkers that shoot walls of laser beams. This keeps the game extremely exciting and just as you think these enemies are becoming too easy, a new type gets introduced.
Combat and movement
With combat and movement being the core mechanics of the game, it is paramount that both activities feel excellent, and we can confirm they do.
The movement in Ghostrunner is swift and extremely responsive. There are some areas where you have to traverse dangerous zones and these zones take on the same concept that we described earlier where you have to eventually rely on muscle memory to get through the section. The movement on its own is enough to get your heart racing, from wall running to leaping over an abyss using an electrical lasso. There truly is never a dull moment. After our time with Ghostrunner to write this review, other games will have a tough time to be as fun to move through.
Ghostrunner’s combat is quick, precise, and glorious. While you can only engage in melee combat as a ninja, lots of your enemies have guns. Ever heard of “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”? Well in Ghostrunner it is favourable to bring a sword to the gunfight. You can deflect an enemy project right back at them, resulting in a glorious (goreious) kill if timed correctly.
When you are not deflecting bullets and you are up close and personal with your foe, you will almost certainly slice them in half or decapitate them. We don’t know about you, but dismembering enemies in games has never been a bad idea and Ghostrunner is no exception. One thing that we absolutely loved about the combat is that the last enemy in each encounter provides you with a slow motion kill.
But wait, there’s more
Ghostrunner even sports a little RPG elements. As the game progresses, you unlock abilities and you can upgrade your circuit board in a Tetris-like fashion. The circuit board serves as a type of skill tree that can be respecced whenever you feel the need. Ghostrunner offers a variety of abilities that you can use to help navigate your way through difficult situations.
Although there are not a lot of abilities to choose from, we believe the developers did an outstanding job by keeping the abilities simple. The game already requires every bit of your attention, so adding unnecessary complexity is not a good idea. You won’t be able to upgrade your abilities further or branch out as you’d expect from other RPG titles.
The major benefit of the abilities is to give the player a breather every now and again. For instance, the Tempest ability sends out an extremely strong gust that obliterates any enemies in its path. The abilities’ availability is linked to an adrenaline meter, the more killing and jumping you do, the quicker your ability becomes available. There is nothing worse than going through your sequence of memorised actions, only to find you became sloppy at the last enemy. Luckily, if you have an ability ready, it will keep your sequence intact and will probably save you from dying again.
In another example, using the Overlord ability proved to also help us progress. Overlord gives you the ability to take control of any chosen enemy to add some more chaos into the mix. Sometimes the enemy you took control of kills another enemy and serves as a decoy, opening up an opportunity for you to slice and dice your way to victory.
Ghostrunner would have not been as immersive as it is without its stunning graphics. From the gritty sewer-like areas filled with steam to boss arenas with lots of laser beams ready to split you in half, they all look equally impressive. There is one specific scene where you enter a typical cyberpunk chinatown area. We actually had to stand still and take it in for a moment. Neon signs flashing, rain pouring down, visually it represented everything we love about a cyberpunk world. Although there are no NPC’s populating this world, they hit the nail on the head to make it feel like a desolate world that is surviving off the scraps of tyrants.
For a game that would not be considered a AAA title, we think Ghostrunner gives some other titles a run for their money when it comes to looks.
What we didn’t like about Ghostrunner
While it’s difficult to believe, we truly could not find any flaws worth mentioning with Ghostrunner for our review. The pace was perfect, the game’s length was perfect, and the moment-to-moment gameplay was phenomenal. If you wondered whether you should pick up Ghostrunner, we can wholeheartedly advise you to do so. While some may argue that the time to beat the game is too short, we felt that was the perfect length for such an action packed adrenaline pumping experience and a longer game might have been too exhausting.
We hope you found this review useful and please share your amount of deaths with us on our social pages.
Thanks to All In! Games for the Ghostrunner review code.