In 2020, Ghostrunner carved out a niche for itself in the first-person action genre with its intense, high-speed cyberpunk gameplay. Set in the towering, neon-soaked city of Dharma, players took on the role of the titular Ghostrunner – a deadly cyborg ninja armed with just a katana and some parkour skills against a dystopian world. Despite some repetition, Ghostrunner’s exhilarating movement and demanding combat made it a cult hit.
Now with Ghostrunner 2, developers One More Level are running it back for another pass at Dharma City. This direct sequel picks up where the last game left off, with players once again assuming the role of the cybernetically enhanced Jack as he battles rival Ghostrunners and the forces controlling the city. The core formula of swift mobility and one hit kill swordplay returns, but an array of new abilities and a shocking wasteland outside Dharma promise evolution on the original.
In this review, we’ll slice through both the highs and lows of Ghostrunner 2 to see if One More Level has crafted a worthy follow-up. While the sequel delivers on much of the kinetic fun of the first game, some technical hiccups and physics issues disrupt the flow at times. However, with expanded abilities, a motorcycle, and stunning new environments, Ghostrunner 2 ultimately evolves the franchise to thrilling new heights. If you were a fan of the original, this is a sequel worthy of your time, despite some rough edges. Let’s dive in to see if you have what it takes to survive the cyberpunk gauntlet once more.
Dancing Between Death and Destruction
At its core, Ghostrunner 2 retains the intense and demanding gameplay loop that defined its predecessor. As the cybernetically enhanced Jack, players must utilize swift reflexes and mastery of movement to conquer the game’s many challenges. A single hit from any enemy or hazard means instant death, so survival depends on quickly eliminating threats while navigating environments with flair.
Fortunately, Ghostrunner 2 provides players with plenty of tools to even the odds against Dharma’s ruthless inhabitants. An upgraded arsenal of abilities complements Jack’s trusty katana, offering more options and flexibility compared to the first game. Along with returning tricks like bullet time and grappling hooks, Jack now has shurikens at his disposal. These let him quickly stagger or eliminate distant foes, opening up new strategies. An invisibility skill also allows Jack to reposition or ambush enemies that would overwhelm him head-on.
Smart use of these skills is necessary, as combat arenas are densely packed with threats. From shielded guards with batons to aerial drones equipped with lasers, enemies require different approaches to overcome. This diversity keeps each encounter tense, with the player trying to quickly assess and prioritize targets. It’s immensely satisfying to thread the needle of chaos, chaining kills and abilities together into a blood-soaked ballet.
Generous checkpoints ensure that death rarely feels punitive. Quickly jumping back into the action keeps frustration minimal, allowing ample opportunity to refine tactics. An upgrade system based around unlockable skill chips also provides a great incentive to revisit levels. Finding hidden upgrades then applying them to modify your playstyle becomes almost as rewarding as conquering the combat itself.
Not all of Ghostrunner 2’s additions achieve their ambition, however. Most notably, the motorcycle segments intended to expand the game’s mobility options are hit or miss. At their best, these high-speed chase sequences are an absolute thrill, with Jack leaping between walls and launching off ramps. But the bike’s physics are unreliable at times, often getting caught on debris or clipping into the environment. These awkward hang-ups force frustrating backtracking, undermining the intended flow.
Similar minor technical issues plague some of the platforming as well. Though chaining wall runs and grapple swings through Dharma’s labyrinth remains satisfying, Jack will sometimes become stuck in pieces of scenery. These immersion breaking moments disrupt the exhilarating parkour gameplay.
While not flawless, Ghostrunner 2’s gameplay demonstrates a measurable evolution from the first game. The expanded moveset and greater encounter variety create new opportunities for creative problem solving within the familiar one-hit-kill framework. Some technical problems do require patience, but the fluid mobility and demanding combat successfully build on the strong core of the original. Fans eager for more high-octane cyber-ninja action have much to sink their katanas into.
Neon Towers and Dead Highways
While narrative takes a backseat to gameplay, Ghostrunner 2 does expand on the cyberpunk dystopia established in the first game. The initial hours spent navigating the familiar corridors of Dharma Tower benefit from increased visual variety. Moving between the dingy slums, opulent aristocratic areas and industrial zones offers environmental diversity lacking before. Though an imposing megastructure, Dharma feels more realized as a functioning city this time.
Venturing outside the Tower also provides some literal breathing room. The empty highways and crumbling rural areas offer a nice change of pace from the claustrophobic urban spaces. Devoid of humanity, these sections instill a haunting sense of loneliness and ruin. Populated only by salvagers and scavengers, it’s a reminder of the society the Tower precariously protects.
To fill in details about this world, Ghostrunner 2 features significantly more lore through collectibles and NPC dialog. Conversations with Jack’s allies at the rebel base provide interesting context about Dharma’s politics and history. Though still not as substantial, this expanded world-building gives context to the power struggle at the heart of the plot.
That said, story remains secondary to stylish gameplay. Narrative exists mainly to push Jack from one arena or set-piece to the next. Yet within that framework, Ghostrunner 2 crafts a serviceable cyberpunk backdrop. The decayed, lived-in aesthetics drive home the inequality and exploitation of Dharma. Players who want more environmental storytelling will appreciate the improved world-building.
Art direction and score also do much of the heavy narrative lifting. Dharma’s contrasting neon lights and grimy alleys perfectly encapsulate cyberpunk visuals. The electronic soundtrack from artists like Dan Terminus injects the action with rhythmic energy. These aesthetic and audio elements bring more life to the world than dialogue or plot ever could.
While the setting and story merely provide context, Ghostrunner 2 does flesh them out beyond the first game. The cyber-ninja gameplay remains front and center, but the expanded environments and lore give helpful narrative grounding. Dharma City feels more fully conceived, even if exploring it through gameplay is still the main attraction.
A Visual Feast, With Some Stale Leftovers
One area where Ghostrunner 2 unquestionably improves upon its predecessor is visual presentation. Dharma City simply looks stunning, realized with an impressive level of detail and scale. Vibrant neon lights flood the environments, contrasted by dark alleys strewn with debris and destitution. Projectiles streak by in slow motion as the player smoothly navigates through the chaos. The kinetic gameplay is perfectly complemented by the aesthetic.
This impressive look extends across both the enclosed cyberpunk tower levels and the lonely open wastelands. Dharma’s grimy slums seamlessly transition into glittering aristocratic quarters, lending a sense of societal stratification to the setting. Meanwhile, the destroyed rural highways feel hauntingly empty, punctuated only by the remains of civilization. Both settings are rendered beautifully to match their contrasting tones.
These environments are so stellar that the occasionally lackluster character models tend to pale in comparison. While Jack and important NPCs look sufficiently detailed, many enemies and allies suffer from stiff animations and muted textures. Standing out from the lavish backgrounds, they have an oddly plastic look that breaks immersion. It’s a minor flaw in an otherwise gorgeous presentation.
From a technical perspective, Ghostrunner 2 mostly maintains a smooth framerate during frantic action. Occasional slowdowns and frame pacing issues were present during review, but rarely severe enough to impact gameplay. Loading times when restarting checkpoints or entering new areas were also impressively fast. Aside from some wonky physics, the engine keeps up well with the rapid mobility and combat.
In nearly every way, Ghostrunner 2 builds and improves upon the distinctive cyberpunk visuals of its predecessor. Dharma City truly feels like a lived-in future metropolis, despite some weaker character models. Coupled with a pounding synth soundtrack, the presentation goes a long way towards selling the setting and tone when the story falters. Though not perfect, the vibrant style and smooth performance help the action pop off the screen.
Upgrades Incentivize Mastery
While not overly long, Ghostrunner 2 offers worthwhile replay value through its progression system and extra modes. The main story can be completed in 7-10 hours, but there are compelling reasons to keep revisiting levels beyond that. An overhaul to progression ditching the convoluted mechanics of the first game is a welcome change.
Instead of awkwardly arranging upgrade blocks, players now find and equip upgrade chips. These chips grant impactful bonuses like more health, damage resistance, or ability improvements. To unlock more chip slots, players must locate hidden Purple Cubes in each level. This creates an incentive to fully explore the environment rather than just rushing to the exit.
Chips can be freely swapped out as well, allowing you to customize your build. You may opt for more health and defense for difficult bosses or equip chips that enhance your mobility for platforming challenges. This flexibility is far more engaging than the original system.
For those seeking even more challenge, the RogueRunner mode provides demanding randomized levels. Reminiscent of rogue-lites, stages are procedurally generated with various objectives to complete under strict life limits. Players must master abilities and adapt to unpredictable obstacles. Surviving long enough unlocks cosmetics for the main campaign.
RogueRunner essentially distills the tense difficulty of the core game into condensed bursts. With less room for error, it forces absolute precision and creativity from the player. While punishing, working to beat your high score can become addictive. The cosmetic rewards offer lasting goals beyond just completing the story.
Between the expanded progression, hidden collectibles, and RogueRunner mode, Ghostrunner 2 offers rewarding reasons to keep honing your skills. Whereas the first game could become repetitive, the sequel incentivizes repeat playthroughs. Fully upgrading your character and finding every secret help the compact story feel more substantial. For those seeking a challenge, it has plenty to offer.
One Step Forward, Stumbling Back
At its core, Ghostrunner 2 achieves what any good sequel should – iterating and expanding upon the original’s formula. The exhilarating mobility and demanding combat return sharper than ever, complemented by new abilities that add flexibility without overcomplicating. The visual presentation and soundtrack also outshine the first game to fully realize the distinctive cyberpunk aesthetic. Overall, the areas where Ghostrunner 2 innovates demonstrate intelligently designed evolution.
Unfortunately, the ambitious attempts to enhance the experience sometimes fall short. The motorcycle, while thrilling in theory, suffers from frustrating technical issues in execution. Likewise, open world elements falter when the game was clearly designed for linear, focused parkour challenges. These stumbled attempts at expansion highlight the difficulty of improving on a formula as tightly focused as the first Ghostrunner.
Yet even with the rough edges, Ghostrunner 2 delivers where it counts. The satisfying core loop of swift mobility and high-risk combat shows measurable improvement. New skills create opportunities for player creativity lacking before. Progression is also far more respectful of players’ time compared to the original. It demonstrates that One More Level understood the essence of what made the first game memorable.
Ghostrunner 2 possesses flaws that hold it back from being a masterpiece. However, for those who enjoyed the first game’s distinctive cyber-ninja gameplay, this is a worthy sequel. It wisely avoids reinventing the core experience while working to address shortcomings and expand possibilities. Not every new idea completely sticks the landing. But the spirit of creative, demanding action at its heart remains compelling as ever. For fans of high-speed sci-fi swordsmanship, Ghostrunner 2 delivers.
A Cyberpunk Sequel Done Right
When reviewing any sequel, the core question is whether it does justice to the original while also expanding upon it in meaningful ways. In the case of Ghostrunner 2, the answer is a resounding yes…for the most part. One More Level has crafted a follow-up that improves the overall formula, while working to inject new ideas with varying degrees of success. It isn’t perfect, but provides a thrilling next chapter for fans of high-speed, high-stakes sci-fi action.
At the heart of the experience, Ghostrunner 2 delivers everything that made its predecessor so memorable. The core loop of mobility and melee combat feels even more fluid and polished. Swinging through Dharma City chaining wall runs, grapples, and slides retains that kinetic flow, now complemented by new abilities. Shurikens, invisibility, and ultimate techniques add options without overcomplicating the intensely reflex-driven gameplay.
ThisExpanded arsenal couples beautifully with the gorgeous new environments and set pieces. Dharma City feels more alive than ever before, providing stimulating visual variety to match the diverse playstyles enabled. All the while, the pounding synth soundtrack drives home the exhilarating sci-fi action. Presentation has improved across the board.
Of course, some new additions stumble. The intriguing motorcycle shows promise but is held back by technical issues. And attempts to open up exploration reveal limitations of the core gameplay. Not every new idea completely hits the mark. Yet the heart of mobility and combat beats stronger than ever, showing intelligent iteration on the established formula.
Could story sequences and world-building be expanded more? Certainly. But they already exceed the cursory efforts of the first game. Narrative and lore exist mainly to set the stage for gameplay. On that front, Ghostrunner 2 delivers in spades. The city is yours to traverse and conquer however you see fit.
Ghostrunner 2 deserves commendation for cultivating what made its predecessor memorable while steering clear of overindulgence and bloat. The experience remains focused and demanding, pushing players to the limit of their reflexes and cleverness. There is always room for improvement, but as sequels go, One More Level has crafted an impressive evolution well worth experiencing. If you have what it takes, Dharma City awaits. Will you rise to the challenge?
Ghostrunner 2 delivers a thrilling evolution of the original's formula. The satisfying cyber-ninja gameplay is better than ever thanks to expanded abilities and improved progression. Dharma City comes alive with gorgeous new environments and set-pieces. However, technical issues like the unreliable motorcycle physics show room for improvement. Still, fans of the first game owe it to themselves to run the neon-lit gauntlet once more. Ghostrunner 2 sticks the landing often enough to be an excellent, if imperfect sequel.
- Satisfying high-mobility gameplay improved over original
- New abilities add depth and options without overcomplicating
- One-hit kills keep combat intense and demanding
- Excellent checkpoint system minimizes frustration
- Gorgeous cyberpunk visuals and environments
- Pumping synthwave soundtrack complements action
- Rogue-lite mode provides replayability
- Technical issues like motorcycle physics are immersion-breaking
- Open world elements reveal limitations of core gameplay
- Story and world-building still take a backseat to action
- Some weaker character/enemy models and textures
- Could benefit from more narrative sequences
- A few too many mechanics/ideas that don't fully land