Since its announcement earlier this year, Ghostrunner 2 has been on many gamers’ “Most Anticipated Games of 2023” lists. As a sequel to the original 2020 game that sensationalized connoisseurship, this new development from One More Level promises another vivid journey filled with challenge, blood, and mayhem. It all comes at surprisingly high speeds, presenting a gorgeous audio-visual style with every step.
But are fans’ concerns quite appropriate? After all, the developers have ventured into a more ambitious project, expanding the scope and adding new mechanics to the basic concepts that made the first Ghostrunner great. Don’t worry, Ghostrunner 2 lives up to all expectations.
- Developer: One More Level
- Publisher: 505 Games
- Release Date: October 26, 2023
In a game that unfolds a year after the events of the first installment, players once again return to the story of the protagonist, Jack’a. With the fall of Keymaster, Dharma Tower – the last stronghold of humanity – has once again fallen into chaos. New factions have sprung up, fighting amongst themselves for power. One group, known as the Climbers, seeks to bring peace back to this lawless reality.
As part of the Interface Council, players will witness a new conspiracy brewing as another Ghostrunners series, Cyborgs, emerges. The latest tie-in is decidedly story-driven, and players will need to figure out the backstory to understand why what’s happening is happening.
So, without revealing any details, just prepare to meet a variety of characters – both familiar and new – as well as big plot twists. But really, most players are here for Ghostrunner 2’s intense combat-oriented gameplay.
Those who fell in love with the gameplay of the 2020 game will be able to fully dive into Ghostrunner 2. The fundamentals here aren’t just perfectly preserved, but improved upon. First off, Jack’s controls are as you’d expect: he can dash and block attacks or parry them with his signature sword. He also has his iconic Sensory Support, which can slow down time around him for precision attacks and dodging, though it does cost stamina.
In turn, blocking enemy attacks reduces his stamina supply. When it is gone, the character becomes vulnerable, so dodging and blocking must be used with caution. As you might expect, Jack can destroy enemies with a single hit – but the same is true for him. This means players must be alert at all times, even against thrash mobs. To support his efforts, Jack’a has a variety of utilities. He has three main abilities acquired over the course of the game: Shuriken, Shadow, and Storm.
The first throws the Shuriken at a target, which is great for defeating smaller enemies and stunning larger ones. Shadow makes Jack invisible and triggers a decoy at the location where the ability was used – perfect to draw attention away from him. The last one, Storm, is a returning ability from the original Ghostrunner game and allows Jack to launch a gust of wind that sends enemies airborne.
All of these abilities can also be used in the environment, such as using the Shuriken to press switches, the Storm to move crates, and so on. Yes, the game places as much emphasis on platforming as it does on combat. Jack can also crouch-slide, run up walls, and use his hook to reach distant points (including stunned enemies). Combined with the tight, linear design work, this is bound to immerse players in a Zen-like state of laser-focus.
Finally, the game also features ultimatum abilities that can be changed at any point in battle. There are five in total, and they will be gained over the course of Ghostrunner 2: Flicker, Flow, Sensory Overload, Motoric Overheat, and Overlord. The latter, which returns from the first game, and Motoric Overheat, have become my main ultimatum abilities. They allow you to temporarily control your opponent’s mind and improve Jack’s movement accordingly.
Overall, the fights are interesting and fair, and they are definitely the game’s main asset. Patient players willing to master them can pull off an anime-like series of kills. However, the platforming sections can feel clunky at times. In particular, grappling and jumping into air holes must be perfect, because hitting a small piece of geometry can send the player into the abyss, spoiling a perfect run.
It goes without saying that Ghostrunner 2 is a difficult game. It’s not on the level of, say, the Soulsborne series, but it’s still quite capable of making players who refuse to learn the basics just tear their hair out in frustration. The rhythm changes frequently between combat and platforming, saving the gameplay from tedium.
The set of enemies gets bigger as players progress through the story. From the usual hooligans swinging guns in combat and robots spewing laser projectiles to zombies on jetpacks and vehicles, players need to be on guard at all times. Each has its own attack scenario, and knowing how to eliminate them is key to progressing.
Anyone who has already played the first game will probably appreciate the challenges offered. Considering how well it turned out, that’s not a bad thing at all. But there are some new challenges as well. Welcome Roguerunner.exe mode. This unique game mode is a variation on the formula-style roguelike theme, which is perfect considering Ghostrunner 2’s “one shot, one kill” mechanics.
In this mode, players fight through a node system, much like the map system in Slay The Spire. Unlike the main game, Jack has a limited number of attempts to pass successfully. Fortunately, after successfully completing a sub-section, you can gain extra lives or a modifier to change your play style. Those who want more replayability from Ghostrunner 2 are sure to enjoy it.
In terms of replayability, Ghostrunner 2 offers a sort of install modifiers that can drastically change the gameplay. As in the first game, players can purchase various upgrades to install on the motherboard, which in turn can be improved using purple Memory Fragments. Enhancements affect various elements of Ghostrunner, such as optimizing the jerk so that it requires less stamina.
Each enhancement has a cost that reduces the overall memory cost, so players will need to think about how to place each piece on the motherboard. Additionally, some enhancements may have additional levels that become active when placed in certain locations, making the process an interesting challenge.
Ghostrunner 2 includes collectibles in the form of in-game lore and cosmetics. On the one hand, Artifacts and Audio logs are presented. Both deepen the game’s world in text and audio formats. Cosmetics consist mainly of Gloves and Swords. The former can be obtained by traversing levels in the Roguerunner.exe mode, while the latter are distributed throughout the levels.
Ghostrunner 2 has over a dozen levels, many of which feature Artifact, Audio Log, Memory Fragment, and Sword Sheaths. Most of these are often hidden behind an optional challenge level, requiring going off the beaten path or requiring dexterous maneuvering to obtain. Fortunately, players can replay completed missions to go back and find the missed collectible.
Probably the biggest attraction in Ghostrunner 2 is the motorcycle. Widely shown off in promotional materials like trailers and artwork, this shiny beast is Jack’s primary means of transportation around the post-apocalyptic outskirts of Dharma Tower. There’s nothing quite like the sense of speed and style that comes with getting around on a motorcycle, especially where players need to maintain momentum to keep up with the signal. Thankfully, most motorcycle rides are otherwise organic and can be completed at your own pace. In other words, developer One More Level switches to a semi-linear sandbox format midway through Ghostrunner 2.
The most impressive part of Ghostrunner 2 is the boss battles. Players who were disappointed with the first game can rest easy, as the battles are greatly improved in the second installment. Without a detailed spoiler, the main focus will be on battles with other humanoid enemies that become real bosses this time around.
These enemies will test everything players have learned up to this point, so they should make sure their movement, dodging, and blocking skills are sufficiently honed. Each battle will be unique, and with the variety of thrilling action games, it will be hard to be disappointed.
Ghostrunner 2 is developed on the Unreal Engine 4 engine, just like the first installment. Given the preference of some games to be developed on Unreal Engine 5, this may come as a bit of a surprise. However, the developers have made the most of the engine, resulting in stunning visuals in all aspects of the game.
From the glittering neon interiors of the Dharma Tower to the desolate outskirts, everything looks really good. Plus, the electronic soundtrack complements the atmosphere of the game so perfectly. Visuals can sometimes suffer in some open areas with noticeable frame sags, especially with graphics settings at max.
For the most part, the game performed well, delivering framerates well above 60fps, even at 1440p resolution and settings at max. Unfortunately, performance in the open world occasionally dipped down to 40fps, especially with the bigger problem that games using the Unreal Engine face: shader compilation hangs.
Given the speed at which players move through the street sandbox, they should be prepared for some lag when loading resources into the game. This happens even in the limited linear areas of Dharma Tower, so additional optimization on this front would be helpful. The game also crashed out once when I was exploring the open world.
Additionally, it’s not uncommon for vehicles or even enemies to get stuck in geometry. Thankfully, the game often sets save points, which reduces the pain of going back and replaying levels.
Ghostrunner 2 also offers a photo mode where players can save a stunning moment. However, this preview version of the review lacks ray tracing, so it could not be tested and will only be available in the full version of the game.
Ghostrunner 2 is an impressive sequel to the first game and arguably fixes some of the problems players encountered in the original. It introduces new ideas and executes them brilliantly, keeping the core aspects that make the gameplay so addictive. However, it’s not perfect.
Aside from some minor design issues and platforming flaws, the game has technical issues, especially in the open world. Thankfully, none of these are enough to ruin the impression of Ghostrunner 2 and makes it a must-have for fans of the series and newcomers alike.
- Extremely high dynamics
- Feeling of euphoria after passing difficult sections
- Pieces of bodies flying beautifully in different directions
- A distinctive slasher that is unlike anything else out there
- Annoying bugs in some places
- No relaxations or compromises for those who are not good at “skilling”
- Short duration: the campaign takes 6 hours to complete