Developer: One More Level, 3d Realms, Slipgate Ironworks
Publisher: 505 Games, All in! Games
Genre: Action, Cyberpunk, Wallrunner
Platform: PC (Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 27/10/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Ghostrunner is an action platformer published by 505 games set in the post-apocalyptic yet visually vibrant Dharma Tower. In a world without hope, does Ghostrunner do enough to stand out? Find out in this Rapid Review.
The goal in Ghostrunner is simple: get to the end of each level by parkouring, swinging and slashing. The neon-lit streets of Dharma Tower are open in design. By no means an open world but there are often multiple routes that can be taken in each area. Due to the fast-paced movement and reaction times required, the game cleverly uses subtly integrated orange pipes and arrow signs across the city. This feature helped guide me towards the next precise platforming section or a swarm of enemies.
Movement feels fast and precise with clearly indicated areas which can be used to wall run, swing, sprint or zipline (and yes, ziplining is as fun as it sounds!). A dash function in the form of shift key slows down time which allows the player to boost forward onto a platform and recover from an otherwise failed parkour attempt. This feature reminds me of Superhot, the “slow-mo” effect whilst performing this manoeuvre looked visually impressive whilst moving to and fro different world elements.
Like the movement, combat in the game is unapologetically fast-paced. In addition to the speed, there is a genuine challenge present. Both the titular Ghostrunner and enemies operate on a one-hit one-kill system. This means that death is highly likely, and I can assure you death happened to me many times. Fortunately, at least on my system, there are no loading screens upon death, so a simple tap of a key meant I was back into the action resuming at a reasonable checkpoint. The game took me about nine hours to complete but bear in mind that I took the scenic route and thoroughly examined the death system.
Across this nine-hour journey, new abilities are unlocked and whilst I do not want to spoil what these new skills are, I had an abundance of fun unlocking and utilising the powers. These powers serve as a secondary aid but the main weapon comes as a samurai sword. Leaping from building to building, and then slowing down time before performing a deadly attack with my sword was an incredible pattern of gameplay that never felt repetitive. I should say that this sword-based combat does result in some gory moments and whilst violence in Ghostrunner is never too excessive thanks to its PEGI 16 age rating, it is worth bearing in mind.
Instead of a skill tree or a traditional XP, the game utilises a grid with Tetris-style blocks making up the choice of skills. The blocks must be arranged in such a way that the desired skills can all fit on the board. Upgrading thus becomes a puzzle of sorts, rearranging the blocks whenever a new skill is unlocked; the choice of keeping a block or switching it for the shiny new skill. You may be wondering why I’m addressing this relatively small feature in this review but it’s the extra original touches like this that can make a game stand out.
The World Of Dharma
Visually, Ghostrunner looks beautiful and the majority of these screenshots showcase the game with raytracing enabled. On my RTX 2070, I was managing about 30 frames per second with RTX and “performance” DLSS on. Due to the fast-paced nature, I disabled the RTX feature and was able to run the game at a consistent 144fps with the settings on max and DLSS once again enabled. Even without ray tracing, the game simply looks stunning with the neon-lit streets containing plenty of thought and detail.
When I wasn’t running through the cyberpunk districts of Dharma Tower, I was marvelling at the sights and sounds of the cybervoid. The cybervoid is a digital oasis of sorts, gifting new abilities and offering a chance to test them out in a non-competitive environment. If you’re familiar with Remedy’s Control, you may draw comparisons with the astral plane. Additionally, the cyber void hosts surprisingly challenging puzzles. The puzzles are mechanically basic, consisting of pushing buttons but a good level of logical understanding is needed in some areas of the void. I was expecting non-stop action, but the puzzles here work well within the overall game experience.
The Sounds Of Dharma
The audio in Ghostrunner is a real stand-out with strong cyberpunk electronic music setting the tempo for the fast-paced action. Additionally, the parkour and combat sound effects offered real oomph and satisfaction. Running through the streets, “the architect” offered me guidance and some dry humour whilst also setting exposition for the game’s world. The first-person perspective along with the audio design creates strong immersion into the world of Ghostrunner.
I really enjoyed the story of Ghostrunner, finding it to be a good balance between an action-movie 1980’s title like “Far Cry: Blood Dragon” whilst also having a narrative that holds up by itself. My one gripe with Ghostrunner is the inconsistency in mission length. Some missions took me under ten minutes with others being more than forty minutes. Checkpoints are active when death is reached but if the mission is exited then progress is reset to the beginning of that mission. An average mission length indicator or a mid-mission save function wouldn’t have gone amiss.
I’m not going to talk about specific plot details or character’s as I feel the game’s story is best experienced without prior knowledge and I think that the marketing of the game has also kept details relatively vague. If you think that you’d enjoy a cyberpunk, neon-lit atmosphere with post-apocalyptic themes, you will not be disappointed.
Run Or Hide?
So is Ghostrunner a title you should run toward or is it one best hidden from? I can wholeheartedly recommend Ghostrunner. With sleek parkour, responsive controls, impressive graphics and all-round excellent gameplay; Ghostrunner is one of the best games I’ve played, and certainly a game of the year contender.