From start to finish, you’re in for a ride with Ghostrunner. It feels a lot like a Summer blockbuster—those movies that are just high octane action from start to finish. To me, what comes to mind is John Wick when playing Ghostrunner. Both comprise mostly non-stop, badass action sequences with a soundtrack that pumps you up. The lore is a bit vague on the surface, but it becomes much deeper as time goes on. Not to mention the fact that John Wick and the protagonist of Ghostrunner are just total killing machines. As you can probably tell, you’re in for a hell of a good time with Ghostrunner.
Ghostrunner‘s Amazing Visuals and Insane Technology
With the next generation of consoles around the corner, technology is going to get better and better. This means that games are going to look great and push the boundaries of what’s possible. When I think of Ghostrunner, I feel like it’s safe to classify this game as one of the first “next generation” game I’ve played since the last console cycle.
Playing on PC with a 144 hertz monitor is, well, phenomenal. Ghostrunner is an extremely fast-paced, smooth game, and you’ll want to have the hardware to complement the speed of the gameplay. Even if you don’t have a fancy monitor, the visuals are still something to marvel. Ghostrunner is a game with a gritty, rusty, and industrial look. Of course, you’ll also find plenty of cyberpunk staples like neon signs with zany advertisements and strange, future tech.
Ghostrunner is a spectacle to behold and is easily one of the most beautiful games I’ve played in recent memory. The irony of using the word “beautiful” is not lost on me, as Ghostrunner is a gritty, ugly future; yet, it’s one that just looks so damn good.
If you’re able to run Ghostrunner on PC and have the proper hardware (I’m talking about RTX cards, mainly), you can really take advantage of the tech behind this title. Nvidia’s incredible DLSS technology allows Ghostrunner to perform well under pressure and pump out some extra frames. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can flick on that sweet, sweet raytracing to get a boost in visuals. Though, on my RTX 2070 Super at 1080p, I noticed a significant hit to performance and experienced some choppy frames, which was something I expected. I can’t blame the developer’s for this, as RTX is still a bit of a novelty that only those with the most souped up rigs can afford. While I did experience some larger drops in frames here and there even without RTX on, I never experienced anything unplayable on max settings.
Ghostrunner is a Display of Excellence in Gameplay and Level Design
Taking inspiration from games such as Hotline Miami and Titanfall, those are some pretty big titles to live up to. Hotline Miami revolutionized the gaming world with its fast-paced one-hit, one-kill mechanic; meanwhile, Titanfall (and its sequel, Titanfall 2) remains the king of parkour mechanics. Ghostrunner feels like a mix between these two games and definitely pulls it off.
In Ghostrunner, you’re tasked with rising to the top of Dharma Tower in an effort to kill Mara, a tyrannical ruler with nefarious ambitions. Starting from the bottom and rising to the top of this gargantuan complex requires you to navigate various obstacles while slaying anyone unfortunate enough to get in your way. The only way forward is going level by level, rising ever higher.
Ghostrunner truly excels in its level design. There’s plenty of platforming segments that take advantage of your parkour abilities. You, the Ghostrunner, can use a grappling hook, wall run, ledge grab, and jump around with ease, and the areas are created in such a way that it heavily encourages the use of these abilities. Many areas in Ghostrunner offer challenging but fair segments of thrilling parkour. Yet, to move onward in this action title, more often than not players will have to kill some enemies.
The areas in which enemies are found look and feel like large, open combat arenas. These arenas feel like playgrounds where there’s just tons of different ways to approach combat; for example, many areas make use of grappling spots on walls, which you can then run on to evade attacks and get into position to take out some bad guys. These areas are very well done and thoughtfully crafted by hand. No combat encounter in Ghostrunner feels the same, as each one provides a new and exciting challenge through its intelligent level design and enemy placement.
While Ghostrunner offers some serious challenge, the developers offer a generous amount of checkpoints. Just be prepared to die dozens of times in a level, because sometimes combat encounters are a matter of trial and error.
Make no mistake, as overpowered as you may feel at times, Ghostrunner is a very difficult game. Hearkening to its Hotline Miami roots, every enemy in this title is killed with a single swipe of your sword. You are just as flimsy as those enemies, though. If you get shot, you’re done for and have to restart.
Combat is, for the most part, very fun. With the ability to dash forward and slow time in the air to dodge blaster shots, combat is very satisfying and captures the feeling of speed. Enemy variety isn’t necessarily large, but there’s certainly a number of different foes to encounter: shielded soldiers, robots, drones, and goons with pistols. But, in a few instances, players will also face off against bosses. Bosses in Ghostrunner are, plain and simple, the bane of my existence. These encounters are frustrating beyond belief. They are more lethal than standard enemies and have more health. You still die in one hit, so be prepared to die over and over again. The first boss in particular, which requires you to dodge pretty much a literal spiderweb of deadly laser beams, was enough to make a grown man cry.
The Upgrades and Abilities of Ghostrunner
In Ghostrunner, you’re armed with a sword from start to finish. Chopping enemies in half with this katana is badass, but the gameplay would feel stale without a few abilities here and there. Thankfully, Ghostrunner offers an upgrade system and different abilities to tackle the many combat scenarios thrown your way.
There’s four different main abilities the Ghostrunner can use. One allows you to target multiple enemies and dash forward, taking your targets out in one quick slice, while another shoots out a sharp and wide projectile that takes enemies out from afar. Another, and my personal favorite, allows you to shoot out a powerful gust of air that tears bad guys to shreds. Lastly, there’s an ability to mind control a single opponent. It’s important to explain these abilities because, while they are varied and fun to use, you’re probably going to prefer using only one or two.
One ability doesn’t really seems stronger than the other, so there’s versatility to this system. Still, I never felt like I had to use one specific ability for a certain combat scenario. I like the choice and freedom, but enemies feel no weaker to one ability over another. Furthermore, it takes quite a bit to unlock each one—the mind control ability, called Overlord, is only granted to you near the end of Ghostrunner.
In addition to collectible items that give lore explanations, you’ll come across different swords. These are purely cosmetic, but I felt compelled to collect all of them. They look pretty cool, too.
Besides that, you can acquire passive upgrades that alter the behavior of certain abilities or add other benefits. One highlights collectibles on the map (great for completionists) while others give you extra resource gains so you can use abilities more often. You’re limited to only a select amount of upgrades. While being limited sounds frustrating, it’s implemented in quite a clever way.
Taking the form of tetrominoes, you stack these blocky upgrades on a grid and try to fit in as many as possible. It requires players to critically think about which upgrades to use while limiting you from being completely overpowered. You’ll get a good amount of these throughout your playthrough, so you can mix and match blocks that optimize your style of play. Other upgrades include sensory boosts, which are temporary powers found throughout levels. Some slow time while others let you jump extremely high. These boosts complement the level design and add even more variety to Ghostrunner‘s challenges.
Ghostrunner | Final Thoughts
Ghostrunner isn’t just mindless, non-stop action. There’s a narrative that naturally progresses as you play. I learned in my interview with Ghostrunner‘s main development studio, One More Level, the intention was to have the plot play without slowing down the action. One More Level pulls this off quite well, so while you navigate levels, characters will talk and explain the world. The story of Ghostrunner ends up being intriguing and very well-paced. The cast of characters, though small, are also well-done. I especially enjoyed listening to the Architect, an AI in the Ghostrunner’s head. The voice acting for this AI is superb, along with the rest of the cast. Although I believe the ending’s cutscene could have been done better, it’s a satisfying narrative from start to finish.
Along with an absolutely thrilling soundtrack that I can only describe as house music, Ghostrunner is a riveting and adrenaline-fueled romp from start to finish. Ghostrunner really shines in its gameplay and level design, but you also have plenty of upgrades and abilities to create a fleshed out and gratifying experience. It’s not perfect by any means, but the collaborative work of several studios and publishers is clear when you consider the quality of Ghostrunner. This is one cyberpunk game that you’re not going to want to pass up on.
TechRaptor reviewed Ghostrunner on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on GOG, the Epic Games Store, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. It will also release on next-generation consoles at a later date.