Ghostrunner 2 ups the ante on the original’s intense action

Some games are memorable because of their intriguing themes, deep stories, or memorable worlds. Others are just damn fun to play. The original Ghostrunner, which was released by One More Level and 505 Games in 2020, is a game that embraces the latter category.

It was a frenetic first-person action game where players dashed around neon-soaked sci-fi levels, slashing through any enemies that got in their way. It wasn’t that complex of an experience, but it was a ton of fun from the moment I picked it up. That’s why I’m happy that One More Level and 505 Games are following it up with Ghostrunner 2, a direct sequel.

I recently had the chance to play some of Ghostrunner 2 ahead of its launch this October and found that it reliably carries forward the fast-paced fun of its predecessor that its PlayStation Showcase reveal hinted at. It even tries to up the cool factor with motorbike action set pieces — although I’m not quite as sold on those segments as I am on the satisfying-as-ever combat.

Retaining the charm

My Ghostrunner 2 demo began with Jack, the ghostrunner from the first game, chasing someone named Mitra across the rooftops of the dystopian, neon-infused Dharma Tower. Within 30 seconds, Jack encountered some enemies from the Hammer gang, and the action began. As I got reacquainted with the Ghostrunner series’ now trademark combat, it felt like I was picking up the original for the first time again as I slashed through the initial couple of enemies.

Ghostrunner 2, like its predecessor, emphasizes speed and offense to create puzzle-like combat situations. Enemies only take a hit or two to defeat, but Jack also goes down similarly. As the encounters ramped up in difficulty, it was always important to keep moving, monitor whether or not the enemies near me had close- or long-range attacks, and watch for the right windows to dodge, block, or parry. If I did all that, I could always swoop in with a devastating counterblow and feel like a badass.

In-between those segments, light first-person platforming — that incorporates sliding, swinging, wall running, air-dashing, rail-grinding, and grappling — reinforces that feeling. These are all things the original Ghostrunner excelled at, and One More Level didn’t lose any of that magic with this sequel. In fact, it made the game’s levels more expansive from the start, so there are now multiple angles from which to approach many of the enemy encounters. If you just wanted more Ghostrunner, this sequel delivers.

An enemy with two swords approaches Jack in Ghostrunner 2.
505 Games

New ideas

The game isn’t devoid of any new ideas, though. After fighting through the enemy forces, I came upon a warehouse. Inside, I found a motorbike, and before I knew it, Jack had hopped on to continue chasing Mitra. Driving on rooftops and walls, I could slash at certain switches to open doors, but mainly was trying to keep up my speed to stay in the range of Mitra’s signal while doing my best to dodge obstacles on the road.

Adding a high-octane vehicle segment like this is a natural evolution of the quick-kill, quick-death formula. It’s a gameplay gimmick common in many classic beat ’em ups, something that Ghostrunner 2 may be considered a modern interpretation of. But like the infamous Turbo Tunnel in Battletoads, the Ghostrunner 2 motorbike set piece in this demo wasn’t forgiving and was rougher around the edges than the slick combat.

One More Level has now had two games (and some DLC) worth of time to refine the first-person hack-and-slash combat, so it makes sense that it feels as great as ever. That’s why it’s a bit more apparent that this is its first outing with the motorbike gameplay mechanics, as it controls a bit looser than I feel like it should, which caused me to just barely not be able to dodge certain obstacles in time. Whenever I had to ride on a wall or in a circular tube, the field-of-view felt too tight to see what was ahead properly.

Jack rides a motorbike in Ghostrunner 2.

There is an inherent satisfactory rush to riding a motorbike like this in a video game, though, and after some more playtime, I’ll probably learn to adapt to this gameplay style’s kinks. Still, as these motorbike segments don’t feel as tightly designed as the returning hack-and-slash encounters, I hope they are relegated to the occasional surprise excursion in the final game and not prioritized over what Ghostrunner 2 does best.

I don’t know if that’s the case yet, as my demo ended with Jack chasing Mitra outside the Dharma Tower and riding the motorbike down the megastructure’s side. As a fan of the original, though, there was still more than enough intense gratification in this 30-minute Ghostrunner 2 demo that I’m eager to dive back into the sequel.

Ghostrunner 2 comes out on October 26 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S.

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