The original Ghostrunner was something of a surprise hit when it launched back in 2020. Coming right before the launch Cyberpunk 2077, it would’ve been easy to dismiss the game on looks alone as riding on the latter game’s coat tails, at least aesthetically.
Those who took the risk of picking the game up however, found themselves more than well rewarded. A fast paced first person affair that mixed the parkour of something like Mirror’s Edge, but with the brutal instant death and retry mechanic familiar to Super Meat Boy fans, it was genuine fun, fast paced and – thanks in some small part to its contained setting – didn’t outstay its welcome, wrapping itself up very nicely and could be wrapped up in a weekend, if you wanted. And it proved very popular indeed – with the sequel being announced a little more than six months later.
Now that sequel is almost here, with the Ghostrunner 2 release date set for October. Naturally, One More Level is looking to expand the first game in every way. But crucially it needs to keep that sense of tight, slickness that made the first game so fun. It’s doing this in a multitude of ways, and if our hands-on time with an early build at this year’s Gamescom is anything to go by, they’re certainly on the right track to do so.
First off -most obviously, the sequel no longer just takes place in one building. Picking up almost from where the first game left off, our hero Jack is now pursuing the AI cult from the first game across an entire city, which greatly increases the size and scope of the cyberpunk playground you’ll be sliding, jumping and stabbing around in your time with the game. Rest assured, the movement is just as fluid and kinetic as you remember from the first game, and it’s a delight to control – glowing rails and fairly well signposted walls will let you perform amazing acrobatic moves without getting your fingers in a twist, or jumping somewhere you’re not supposed to go.
But, crucially, you never feel like you’re on rails either – with the neon-lit rooftops just inviting you forward. Levels are also non-linear, so there’ll be more than a few occasions where you can pick your own route. There’s a sense of urgency – not necessarily in such a way that you feel you’ll fail if you stop, but that keeps you moving forward and looking for the best way to keep your momentum going, and it’s helped with the thumping soundtrack and yes, that cyberpunk aesthetic that really works here.
Soon enough you’ll come across enemies, of course – but not to worry if you thought they’d make this follow-up a little easier. Pretty much everything can still bring a swift end to your endeavours in one hit, interrupting your run and sending you back to a checkpoint. Checkpoints are, however, much more generous this time – but this never feels like it makes things any easier, just more accessible and giving you enough space to catch your breath, figure out where you went wrong and try again without having to repeat huge chunks of the level. It’s this quick restart that keeps things moving, and keeps you on your toes as you master the controls and come up with more elaborate ways of avoiding death.
Sometimes you’ll even come across more open battle arenas. They’re similar to those found in games like Doom Eternal, where the usual forward flowing momentum is briefly interrupted to give you a challenging playground, with plenty of things to grind on, wall run and jump and you have the freedom to traverse this space how you want as you dispatch the baddies in any order, but can only proceed once they’re all taken care of.
The big new feature though is Jack’s motorbike. Yup, the world of Ghostrunner 2 has opened up so much that your player character sometimes needs two wheels to get around. The best news is that it plays brilliantly and feels like the most natural extension to your wall running exploits on foot. In the section we played, we found ourselves motoring through tunnels as we headed to our next destinations – but don’t get complacent, as here too there’s plenty of obstacles to avoid and barriers to take out with a slash of your sword. As the tunnels whistle past your head, you’ll find yourself riding along the walls, pulling off split-second near misses and generally feeling like a badass as you hurtle along at blistering speeds.
The bike provides some great variety to proceedings, while still feeling very much a key part of the Ghostrunner world, and we came away from our play session itching to play more. And it’ll certainly be a game that even those who didn’t play the first one will be welcomed with open arms. The new quality of life changes will let more people get to grips with the game, without removing any of the challenge that made the first game such a success. More frequent checkpoints, the block and parry mechanics (including a stamina meter, so you can’t just infinitely block) that allow you to plan your route a little more – all these little tweaks are indicative of a sequel that’s expanding in all the right ways, without taking on any bloat that could slow the series’ established pace down.
Providing Ghostrunner 2 can keep up that pace across the full game, anyone picking up the game is in for a treat when Ghostrunner arrives on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC this October 26.
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