Next-gen might be just around the corner, but there are still plenty of recent current-gen releases that deserve gamers’ attention. Ghostrunner, the stylish first-person action-platformer from the team at One More Level, is one such title, with its slick lightning-fast action and stellar level design making for one heck of an enjoyable venture through an impressive cyberpunk world.
Ghostrunner takes place in a futuristic city that has been overrun by a tyrannical overlord named Mara that holds power over the landscape through the comfort of a looming tower. Taking on the role of a cyber ninja known as a Ghostrunner that has survived what should have been a deadly fall, you ascend the tower in order to take her down… simple.
In fairness, the game makes a good effort to make the narrative feel quite meaningful, with some well-acted interactions between characters fleshing out the world and everything that’s going on. It’s predictable in design, sure, and it doesn’t necessarily offer anything that you wouldn’t have seen before, but it will definitely do enough to keep you invested in seeing your mission through.
Ghostrunner’s main gameplay loop revolves around dashing your way through a myriad of intricately designed levels that are full of platforming challenges for you to run, jump, slide, and grappling-hook your way through, all whilst slicing and dicing away at the various foes in your path. The best way to describe it would be like Mirror’s Edge but starring a cyber ninja with a sword – sounds like a pretty great idea, right?
Levels are cleverly designed to utilise all of your manoeuvrability skills, with the player expected to flow together an array of quick moves in order to get through the challenges in their path. You’ll definitely need a fair bit of finesse with your actions too, with wall-runs, slides, and swings of your grappling hook having to be synced together in quick succession at times. It can certainly be challenging, but it also makes for a thrilling experience where the action never seems to die down. New challenges are constantly introduced as you progress through the game too, so you can never get too comfortable and always have to be prepared for some additional obstacle types to get in your way. Add the occasional puzzle to the mix as well an array of hazards and you’ll quickly find that the level design is top notch throughout.
Of course, you’ll also have to show off your combat skills in Ghostrunner, with the player able to use their sword to one-hit kill the enemies that are blocking their progress – alternatively, you can also use it to deflect incoming projectiles right back at enemies, giving you a slick form of defence that dishes out some hurt too. You’ll unlock new abilities as you progress through the game that ensures that combat always feels like more than just swiping away with your sword too, with Tempest allowing you to blast away at your foes with a momentous push, Blink allowing you to dash towards multiple foes nimbly to take them down, and Overlord even letting you hack your opponents’ minds to have them help you out.
These abilities all add an element of tactical nuance to the enemy showdowns in Ghostrunner and they can be pretty vital to your success, especially since it only takes one hit from enemies to take you down. Yep, you might be a tough as nails cyber ninja, but it turns out your foes pack one hell of a punch too and you can expect to die a LOT as you unravel the best means to take them out. This is where Ghostrunner feels a bit like titles such as Hotline Miami, with combat situations almost puzzle-like in design where it’s not necessarily how good you are at killing that’ll determine how successful you are, but how clever you are in formulating a plan to take all of your enemies out. You’ll need to know when to defend, when to attack, and when to use your environment in order to get the upper hand over your foes, with each combat instance always having more than one way to approach it.
It can be pretty challenging and some enemy showdowns are a lot tougher than others, but it makes for a mighty satisfying gameplay loop that’ll keep you coming back for more and more – regardless of how many times you might die when you try to figure out an effective plan. Ghostrunner’s core strength lies in how good it makes you feel to traverse across levels and battle enemies, so having to re-play some areas over and over to try and defeat your foes never feel frustrating… it’s just stylishly slick fun. Of course, it also helps that respawning back to a previous checkpoint occurs pretty quickly, so you’re never out of the action for too long.
Those who like to shape their character’s skillset in games will be glad to see that there is an upgrade system in place in Ghostrunner which almost acts like a mini-game in itself, with players having to shift Tetris-like blocks carefully in order to make the most of each enhancement they have at their disposal. These allow you to improve the various elements of your skillset so it’s nice to be able to arrange them to suit your playstyle – even if it does means that you may not tinker with it too much once you’ve got a setup in place that works for you.
Visually, Ghostrunner looks stellar throughout, with its futuristic neon-lit cyberpunk world making for a wonderful landscape to venture through (and battle across). I didn’t come across any obvious visual issues on the PlayStation 4 and it managed to run smoothly throughout too, with the in-game action certainly holding up well when compared to all of the videos and screenshots I’d seen shared of the game on social media pre-release. Add to that a bumping soundtrack that fits the super stylish vibe perfectly and you’ll simply find yourself in awe of Ghostrunner’s fascinating world.
Ghostrunner’s stylish action-experience is super satisfying to play throughout thanks to its slick combat and fantastic level design. Whilst you’re a well-armed and acrobatic cyber ninja, there’s more to the game than just leaping and slicing around – you’ve got to think all of your actions out carefully, and honestly, it makes for a fascinating and enjoyable gameplay loop throughout.
Add to that some fantastic visuals and a bumping soundtrack that fits the tone of the action perfectly and you’ll quickly find that Ghostrunner is another impressive release that you DEFINITELY won’t want to skip. Just expect to die… a lot.
Developer: One More Level
Publisher: All In! Games, 505 Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC