Ghostrunner 2 Review

GhostRunner 2 artwork header

Ghostrunner 2 is essentially a cyber ninja simulator. If that doesn’t get you interested, I don’t really know what else to say. You’re telling me you’re not interested in a game where you run across walls while deflecting bullets back at enemies with your cyber katana? Slowing time and manoeuvring yourself around bullets in midair? Slicing up four enemies before they can so much as swing their weapons at you? This is what it means to be a Ghostrunner. That and thumping techno music.

Set one year after the first game, Ghostrunner 2 will feel immediately familiar to anyone who played it. It’s smooth, precise, and very hard. I died more than thirty times in the first level alone, when most tutorial levels would try to take it easy on you. It only takes one hit to take you down and there tends to be a lot of attacks directed towards you in quick succession.

Thankfully, you are a cyber ninja so you’ve got a few tricks of your own. Your dash is invaluable, both for getting out of the way of enemies and then getting very quickly into their way so you can stab them. If you hold the dash button whilst in the air, time will slow to a crawl and you’ll be able to move yourself out of the way of any incoming bullets and swords. Then there’s blocking, though you’ll only be able to stop a few hits before your guard is broken, so maybe you should try parrying instead for an instant kill, or deflect bullets back at your enemies.

Ghostrunner 2 wall running laser dodge

You have plenty of tools and you’ll unlock more through the game, such as shurikens for a quick ranged attack or, my favourite as always, the “activate a clone to distract enemies while you turn invisible,” which is called Shadow in this game. Due to all of these tools and the meticulously laid out levels, it’s almost always your fault when you die, because you forgot that one enemy or you misjudged a jump slightly, or your fingers got confused and decided to hit all the buttons at once instead of in the specific order you needed. That last one happens more often than you’d think.

It is almost always your fault, but that’s not to say Ghostrunner 2 is faultless. There are a few small niggles that wouldn’t stick out in another game, but in a game where efficiency and speed are the whole thing, they do. Using your grappling hook only for it to pull you into the side of a platform instead of onto the top of it is far more infuriating than it sounds, because now you have to redo the sequence up until that part again. The same happens when grappling to stunned enemies as well. They’re both rare and you can account for it, but they still happen occasionally, and they only ever happen on that run where you were totally certain you were going to nail the rest of it as well. Definitely.

Thankfully, death just drops you back at the nearest checkpoint and, outside of boss fights, these are actually pretty forgiving. Inside of boss fights you’ll get some absurdly complex platforming sequences that honestly look next to impossible at first but five minutes later you’ll be halfway through feeling like a cyber ninja god, at least for a few seconds until your inevitable 67th death. Maybe next time you can try a different route around the area, as the levels are semi-open, letting you choose how and from what angle you take care of the enemies.

Ghostrunner 2 after combat

Between the levels you’ll be able to upgrade your abilities, each upgrade taking a certain amount of memory and how much total memory you have depending on how many you’ve found hidden throughout the levels. This can help you tailor your playstyle a bit, whether you’d rather mark enemies through walls so you always know where they are, improve your dashing or deflecting skills, and so on. You’ll unlock ultimate abilities as well that can really help you out, whether by firing a big laser that cuts enemies in two or by slowing time to a crawl for a few seconds so you can cut them up yourself. That’s as satisfying as it sounds after falling to a group of enemies multiple times.

After a few hours (depending on how many times you die), you also get to hop onto the back of a motorcycle. It’s surprisingly similar to the on-foot gameplay, except you’re now on wheels. This bike can drive up and down walls, not to mention blast away with the guns on the front, and you’ll be jumping on and grappling back whilst it’s on motion. You also still have your katana handy to hit things as you’re whizzing by, like switches that open doors just in time for you to slip through.

Ghostrunner 2 motorbike gameplay

Your first go on the bike also comes alongside your escape from Dharma City, venturing into the desolate wasteland surrounding the huge city tower. Thankfully it has lots of roads and jumps for you to get around, though once again, the speed of the bike gameplay makes small quirks stick out. In general the bike gameplay is much less stressful than I’d anticipated, but taking some routes require extreme precision and there just a little too much floatiness to the bike handling. It’s still great fun though, and riding your cyber bike down disused, post apocalyptic highways and jumping through tiny gaps in closing doors is absolutely thrilling. Or it would be if I didn’t die so often along the way.

Outside of the main story comes a roguelike modes that puts you through a series of random combat and traversal challenges. You can choose between upgrades as you go through towards an encounter that unlocks some cosmetic gear. Whilst this isn’t unique I suppose – Superhot Mind Ctrl Delete comes to mind – it’s a lot of fun and allows you to have a quick Ghostrunner without committing to story sequences.

Ghostrunner 2 Dharma City

Ghostrunner 2 looks gorgeous, in that cyberpunk-y kind of way – vivid neon lights casting moody reds onto vaguely rundown buildings, it’s really stunning. It is a little less so between missions when you’re chatting to NPCs, where it’s all a bit too well lit and you can see that their faces are a little bit stiff, but it doesn’t really matter when you back out in the thick of the action a few moments later. I haven’t noticed a single framerate stutter either, even running at 60 frames per second. There is also an update coming to add raytracing to console versions, with PC players already getting this functionality in a day one patch.

Summary
Ghostrunner 2 is undoubtably excellent. While it's a tough and challenging game, the quick reloads help alleviate frustration and replace it with the "just one more try" drive to overcome it. There's a handful of small control niggles that might annoy, and if repeatedly dying is a pet video game peeve of yours, it might not be for you, but if the game gets its hooks into you, it's a sheer, visceral delight of dude slicing, shuriken flinging, laser dodging, taking a bullet to the face, reloading, and trying it all again.
Good
  • Incredibly fluid and smooth cyber-ninja action
  • Relentlessly cool at all times
  • Challenging, satisfying, and rewarding
  • Bike riding is a natural extension of the gameplay
Bad
  • Handful of small control quirks
  • Might be a bit too challenging/frustrating for some
9