Ghostrunner 2 review – to die for

Ghostrunner 2 review – to die for

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Ghostrunner 2 is an elegant, dripping neon blur of motion and violence. It imagines a bleak, cyberpunk future chiseled by coiling industrial monoliths, polished metal, and the rhythmic thump of booming kicks. It plays with time by peddling blistering speed and split-second decisions that make the real world and even other games sluggish. This is a game that knows what it’s trying to achieve. Ghostrunner 2 is effortlessly stylish, focused, and so damn smooth and exhilarating to have in your hands.

It’s a successor to 2020’s Ghostrunner, the assuredly cool mid-pandemic first-person slasher-platformer that charts a cyborg’s chrome-carving dash up a hulking tower. Our stoic half-man, half-robot is booted up to save the world once again, sliding and grappling his way to boss fights, snapping up combat upgrades, and having the odd chin-wag with a gang of plucky do-gooders along the way.

Ghostrunner 2 review: cyberpunk alley with neon signs.

If you played the original, then not much has changed. Ghostrunner 2 is still a game that’s about mechanical precision and the joy that comes from it. This applies to linear combat and platforming sections, which often meld into one, propelled by some clever and intentional level design borrowed from the series’ first entry. Much like the original, the story is there for context and a spot of world-building, a functional scaffold for the acrobatics and platforming.

There’s an argument that the Polish developer stuck too close to the original formula. But recycling that crisp celebration of movement packaged with passable narrative dressing and a slew of fresh acrobatic playgrounds is a testament to a firm finger on a unique brand of bottled mechanical magic. And what is new, chiefly a motorbike to explore non-linear levels, works to amplify that sense of speed rather than subvert it with a tacked-on gimmick just for novelty’s sake. If ever there was proof that a tight, single-minded focus works then Ghostrunner 2 is just that. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Ghostrunner 2 review: giant hologram on a person with many arms.

Above all else, Ghostunner 2 is a puzzle game, but not in the traditional sense where you shift cubes or decipher obscure patterns. The notion feels a bit at odds with an acrobatic cyborg wielding a razor-sharp katana. But the baked-in fragility of the initially terrifying one-hit death (similar to games like Hotline Miami) means that power fantasy isn’t quite as clear cut.

Catch a stray bullet or mistime a dash, and you’ll die, the game booting you back to the nearest checkpoint to try again. Fortunately, respawning is fast and free of loading screens, and the checkpoints are generously placed, snapping you back to the action almost instantly. Rather than the rap on the knuckles it typically signals in most games, death is Ghostrunner 2’s most compelling feature.

Ghostrunner 2 review: neon cyberpunk street scene.

You are deadly, but so are enemies, a balance that’s impressed on the player and forces strategising to eke out the most optimal routes. If I grapple up to this platform and take out the gunner there, I’ll drop down, shuriken that robot, and slice up those two grunts. But, wait, that puts me in the path of a chrome-singing laser beam. Back to the drawing board to hatch another route through that zone’s puzzle.

And therein lies Ghostrunner 2 greatest strength and challenge: the need for repetitive graft, to optimise and fine-tune, to learn and practice. Success is measured in millimetres and how you stomach persistence. Death isn’t punishment but a rite of passage as you strive for perfection. After sinking a little over a dozen hours into One More Level’s sequel, I’m hard-pressed to recollect how many times I died. A thousand, at least? Maybe more. But rather than a highlight reel of clumsy deaths, it’s those rare, earned moments when the momentum flowed that stick in the mind.

Ghostrunner 2 review: a cyborg with a cloak kneeling down brandishing a katana.

It feels frustrating at times, and those after an easy game won’t find their fill here. But play into the loop, and you’ll get the same heartening, visceral hit as when you beat a testing FromSoft boss. There comes a point where you’ll wall run as if the angled billboards were covered in a layer of glue, leap and dash between platforms that previously felt miles apart, and tap into a flow state reminiscent of the underappreciated Rollerdrome. I’ll always marvel at games that elicit a genuine emotional response outside of story beats, and Ghostrunner 2 does so in commendable fashion and with evocative visuals.

It’s a shame Ghostrunner 2 is launching in this busy release window as titles with heftier marketing budgets will likely overshadow it. If you fancy a break from the glut of AAAs and souls-likes, most of them excellent but familiar tributes, Ghostrunner 2 is well worth the price of admission and then some.

Reviewed on PC. Copy provided by the publisher.

Ghostrunner 2 review: Jack perched near a neon cyberpunk skyline.


Ghostrunner 2 is bottled mechanical magic, a blisteringly-paced celebration of movement where death is a rite of passage.
9 Speed and movement One-hit death Visuals Story