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Ghostrunner 2 is a disappointment. by Mischief Maker 02/10/2024, 9:55pm PST
Remember when I said playing the game Distance made me feel like a clueless mother telling her goth daughter how much prettier she'd look if she wore something other than black? Same deal here. On paper Ghostrunner 2 is a total improvement in the gameplay department over part 1, but several bizarre aesthetic choices sucked the fun out of the experience for me.

For those of you who don't know, Ghostrunner is basically a mix of Mirror's Edge and Hotline Miami where you play a cyborg ninja in a giant vertical cyberpunk arcology which is the last home of humanity in the radioactive wasteland of Earth. The first game was flawed, but on average excellent, and when you start to learn the advanced movement abilities you're flying across the stages with blinding speed.

Ghostrunner 2 makes an excellent first impression. You start in the gorgeous neon-soaked streets of Dharma City with a pumping darkwave soundtrack and noticeable gameplay improvements like indicators for offscreen attacks. Enemies now have glowing neon holo-tattoos that look cool and also improve visibility. Level design relies less on momentum-dependent precision platforming and more on the parkour combat that typified GR1 at its best, and cybervoid sections let you retain your full movement abilities.

But then you finish the first level and find yourself in the hub. It's the home base for the good guys and it sucks. You're forced to go around and have long dreary conversations with boring characters whose face models look terrible before the game with begrudgingly let you get back to the action. I suppose the big selling point for the developers is you can return to your character's room and see a big display wall with all the sword skins you've unlocked by finding secrets. The worst part of the hub is it's completely silent. No ambient music. Just stilted dialog with ugly models in what feels like a sensory deprivation tank. Completely kills the game's immersion and momentum, and it happens between every level. Someone on the team is way too in love with the world and the characters they've created.

Then halfway through the game you uncover a motorbike. And it sucks. It plays nothing like the skills you've trained up to this point, becomes a swirling mess when you're going through tunnels, and hitting the turbo boost feels more like putting the gameplay on fast forward than accelerating a vehicle. And you're rewarded for clearing the bike's first big obstacle course with the most wrongheaded idea in the entire game: venturing outside the tower! "Oh wouldn't that be cool?" asks the developer way too in love with his own setting.

You see, being outside the tower means you're trading the gorgeous colorful yet liminal spaces of the cyber tower for the same brown/grey blasted wasteland you've already seen in a zillion games before. But this brown and grey wasteland is populated by brown and grey zombie enemies that you can barely make out against the background. For once I actually needed the perk that gives enemies a red outline. The levels are huge, but it's mostly an excuse to keep riding the goddamn bike between action sections where you get off the bike and kill a bunch of enemies in order to open a door for the bike over, and over, and OVER again. Plus there's no darkwave music in these parts, just generic wasteland ambience. Finally the game lets you back into the cyberpunk tower, but not for long because the last two levels take place on the tower's roof, so it's pretty much monochrome like the wasteland, but more orangey. And the final two levels are supposed to be a mad chase to stop the destruction of humanity but the music is bizarrely mellow.

Then in the final level they give you a wingsuit, and it's the exact opposite of the bike, being fun and smoothly incorporated into your main moveset, with a whole speed and momentum mechanic based on the player climbing or diving. But it's only in the final level and they barely let you play with it.

And while I usually don't care that much about a videogame's story, if you're at the point where the villain reveals his master plan and the protagonist's response is, "Seriously? That's it?", maybe you should do another draft.

Also the newgame+ hardcore mode that was patched in a month after release is terrible. Instead of just increasing the number and variety of enemies like in GR1, they added a bunch of deadly forcefields across the platforming sections that look like barbed wire and I hate it.

Ghostrunner 1, for its flaws, has more and higher highs than Ghostrunner 2. In fact I kinda wanna play GR1 again to get the taste of GR2's disappointment out of my mouth. GR1's music is way better, too.

*sigh* I'm glad I waited for a sale to buy this one. Apparently my season pass with give me an infinite bike mode next fall. Gee whiz, can't wait for more of this game at its worst.

TL;DR they fixed the most glaring issues with the first title's gameplay, but buried all that goodwill beneath an avalanche of feature bloat and terrible aesthetic choices.
Ghostrunner 2 is a disappointment. by Mischief Maker 02/10/2024, 9:55pm PST NEW
    Ghostbummer NT by B( 02/10/2024, 11:42pm PST NEW
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