You know how Cyberpunk tropes always have this hooded mysterious fella with a katana as his weapon of choice? You know, the guy that just appears out of nowhere and slashes people to pieces, despite the fact that every other person in the story has a highly sophisticated and advanced gun. Well, this is the kind of guy you get to be in Ghostrunner. So, as Johnny Mnemonic says; “hit me!“
You can find this review in video format as well.
Ghostrunner is quite the masterpiece and I am here today to explain to you why. It is no secret that I am a huge cyberpunk fan, a Mirror’s Edge games enthusiast and a pro Genji main, but trust me when I say that this review was written with little to no bias. Well, ok, maybe a little bit.
Ghostrunner is the creation of Polish indie studio One More Level with the help of 3D Realms and Slipgate Ironworks. Publishing was done by All In! Games and 505 Games, which is known for bringing us quite a few indie gems in the last couple of years. It is the kind of game that is borderline indie at this point, but we of course don’t mind that too much and therefore took a dip in the sea of awesomeness that is Ghostrunner.
Let’s start with visuals and audio. It is honestly an understatement to say the game looks good, considering everything looks perfect. The characters, the environments and the special visual effects are all top notch and it is very clear that the developers put a lot of love into how the game looks. One thing that really stood out for me was the fact that each stage had very unique objects and textures in it. You could find different graffiti on the walls with only a few repeated ones and the objects were so many that you would rarely ever feel like the same art assets are being used to build your surroundings.
The animation of the game flows amazingly well and that is something that extremely important for a game that relies so heavily on movement. Both your character and the enemies move in a very natural way that rarely ever feels like it’s weird or too artificial. The times it does feel artificial, it is meant to be so and that is what is great about it. The slash animation of the protagonist feel amazing from the first till the very last level of the game and actually give the feeling of something being brutally cut.
The cyberpunk feel already comes out really fast through the visuals of the game with a lot of neon lights, fancily high-tech armored opponents and the very rural looking environments you will have to explore as you climb the infamous tower.
A good feel for the cyberpunk theme would not be complete without a badass soundtrack though. The game delivers perfectly on the promise of making you feel as punk as possible through its sounds and the OST is honestly something that deserves huge recognition in this case. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Daniel Deluxe before, but you will definitely hear a lot of him after you’ve played the game. Retrowave beats play all throughout the game with some great percussion accompanying you every step of your body-slashing way.
But why are you on a katana-slashing frenzy you ask? Well, of course there is story to the game and it would not be very cyberpunk if it didn’t include rebels, an AI and a protagonist with a lost memory. Jokes aside, it is actually very refreshing to see a game with good gameplay have a decent story to accompany the action. It might be extremely simple and very cliche, but it is something that keeps you going and gives you purpose as you climb the tower. For the tl;dr version of the story without spoilers, I will just say that there is a big baddie who has taken control of the tower city and you are humanity’s last hope in restoring the balance with an AI guiding you along the way.
Simple, but more than just a filler story, which is nice. It also perfectly lines up with the very hyped upcoming release of Cyberpunk 2077. It serves as the perfect appetizer for what will later be the main course by CD Projekt Red.
Now, the gameplay, oh my the gameplay.
Think of Mirror’s Edge, but faster, with swords, guns, cool power-ups, intuitive abilities and a flow that never breaks no matter what. The game could be described as a Genji-goes-crazy simulator, a Mirror’s Edge-on-drugs or even an extreme run and gun first person platformer. Ghostrunner excels at delivering the feel of being a cyborg ninja with a huge katana who is hellbent on cutting through everyone he sees till he reaches the top of the tower.
The gameplay mechanics are simple; run, dash, jump, wall run, grapple, jump and dash to slow down time, use abilities like blink and push, parry attacks, deflect shots, pick up power-ups, ride drones in the air, use ziplines and so much more. Did I say simple? Oh, my bad, it really isn’t simple at all and that is what makes it so amazing. Ghostrunner manages to perfectly teach you all of these mechanics as you play the game through its progressive difficulty. The more you play, the harder it will get, but in the meantime, you will also be getting better at the game.
Three stages in and you already start to feel the flow of the game come naturally to you. You see grapple points and you just grapple. You see walls and you are already in the air, dashing towards them to make a wall run. Unlike Mirror’s Edge, Ghostrunner doesn’t need the painted-red objects around the map in order for you to fully enjoy the parkour parts of it all. The player is the one that guides the action and that feels so much more satisfying.
The game never gets boring either. It took me about seven hours to complete the game at 100% and I would gladly go through it all again. Throughout my playthrough, I never felt tired of repeating the same moves since there was always something to keep things interesting and exciting. New enemies with new types of weapons or abilities, new power-ups or even secret unlockable swords, all played their role in making me want to go further.
Even the tetris-like modding system that allows you to equip upgrades was interesting in its own way and I have to admit that I spent almost an hour playing around with the pieces in order to find a way to fit all of them there.
Ghostrunner is hard though. Not frusrating, just hard. Maybe I am the one getting old and some things are harder to follow now, but the game felt like it had quite a challenging difficulty to it. Having said that, I have to also say that I thoroughly enjoyed that added layer of difficulty after every stage since the continuous checkpoints never allowed me to feel like I was getting punished too much for dying over and over again.
I cannot express how much I am looking forward to watching people speed-run this game. Players that are ten times better than me at platformers will most definitely make this look even better than how it felt when I played it myself. I also cannot wait to see zero-deaths runs.
Ghostrunner is most definitely one of the best games I have personally played in 2020 and probably one of those games that I will keep coming back to in the future. I ended up finishing Mirror’s Edge at least once every two years or so and Ghostrunner looks like it will be easily replacing it. I cannot recommend Ghostrunner enough for all first person platformer fans, all speed-running enthusiasts, all cyberpunk lovers and last but not least, all the Genji mains out there.
This is one of the best additions you will ever make to your Steam library.
You can find Ghostrunner on Steam.
~Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis
We would like to thank the developers/publishers for providing us with a copy of this game for coverage purposes. As a non-commercial press team, it is our honor and our delight to be able to provide our opinion on it.