Neon-lit lights smothered in anti-establishment graffiti flash past as you effortlessly take down five enemies before they ever knew you were there. Where most games would have such a moment play out during an action-packed cutscene, Ghostrunner gives you the tools to pull off movie quality moments of action in the run of play. It’s honestly astounding.
You are Ghostrunner, a purpose-built killing machine and the last line of defence against a bloodthirsty tyrant. You and 100 of your kind are exterminated in the opening chapters of the game, but somehow you survived. Starting off at the bottom of a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk city overrun with electronically enhanced goons and robots, it’s your job to climb you up out of the depths and ascend to confront the evil dictator.
Ghostrunner is really something special. The way in which it presents its combat system is incredibly freeing. Every encounter hinges on the fact that a single hit leads to death, demanding total accuracy at all times. Fortunately, movement and combat are both incredibly fluid. As the Ghostrunner, you can deliver devastating blows with your samurai sword, dodge around enemies while in bullet time, and even deflect bullets and projectiles back at them.
That’s without taking into account the Mirror’s Edge style first person movement which enables you to run along walls, wall jump and eventually use electronic rope to attach to anchor points around the world. The movement system is incredibly smooth, both in combat and during the challenging platform sections scattered across the city.
As you grow more confident with the game, I found myself relying less on bullet time and instead using acrobatic abilities to their full effect. In one instance, I took down a group of enemies while wall-running and deflecting their bullets back at them.
There are also occasional puzzle sections which relate to upgrades and pickups. These puzzle sections typically teach you how to use a new ability or progress the narrative, but they never take you away from the action for too long. Fortunately, the puzzles are never too difficult and usually just take a little tinkering before you solve them. Upgrades unlocked later in the game make your Ghostrunner even more formidable, improving on your arsenal and adding to it. At one point you unlock a force push ability which can deflect projectiles back at enemies, making you feel like Neo from the Matrix.
Those aforementioned platforming sections really are very fun. The freedom of movement mixed with the elevated sections of wall runs and grapple points almost feel like they should be in a cutscene, but they aren’t. There are occasional issues with physics where Ghostrunner would suddenly jolt from a wall through no fault of my own. Fortunately, this rarely happened and never frequently enough to cause frustration. For those looking for an extra challenge while traversing the city, there are numerous secrets to be found in hard to reach places rewarding players with collectibles, additional lore and skins for Ghostrunner’s sword.
The only real problem I have with Ghostrunner in its current form is a major lack of accessibility options. Many puzzles throughout the game require colours to solve, but there aren’t any colour-blind options available. This could be especially frustrating during puzzles which include the colour yellow. I’d have also liked to see more accessibility options around the platforming and combat. Something akin to Celeste’s customisable physics would have made Ghostrunner a lot more accessible to a wider variety of ability levels.
I think it’s also worth noting that this is a game that really feels like it’s been built for mouse and keyboard, even though it’s coming out across PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch at the same time. I’ve tried using my Xbox One gamepad a few times and just found it a lot more difficult to do what I wanted. I’m not sure if tweaking the sensitivity could have fixed the issue, but at the moment mouse and keyboard feels like the only way to get the most out of Ghostrunner’s fluid combat and traversal system.
Ghostrunner is a visual treat that runs fantastically on my PC. Playing on an RTX 2060 with DLSS (Nvidia’s impressive upscaling software) I ran the game at max settings at a solid 120 FPS and upwards. If you’re looking for what next gen might look like on PC, it is undoubtedly something like Ghostrunner. An excellent original soundtrack by Daniel Deluxe accompanies all the action, making the futuristic city feel even more cyberpunk than it already does.