From the developers of God’s Trigger, One More Level (in association with Slipgate 6 and 3D Realms) presents Ghostrunner. Published by 505 Games and All in!, Ghostrunner is a fast-paced high-risk, cyberpunk FPS released on October 27th, 2020. Join us as we review this chaos laced neon slasher in a near re-imagining – if Blade Runner were taken more literally.
How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Ghostrunner through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters & story, content & length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design & cinematics. This product was evaluated on a 1050Ti 4Gb, 8GB Ram, with an i5-7300HQ, for full transparency: using a provided copy.
While there is more to cyberpunk than simply neon visuals dipped in liquid glass, Ghostrunner depicts the genre in a manner of mechanical industrialization in juxtaposition to its digital foundations. Not to say there aren’t seemingly random splatterings of brightly glowing signs pointing nowhere – just that One More Level doesn’t drown us in seas of sci-fi purple, then proceed to proclaim they nailed the aesthetic as many lazy creators in the genre often do. When not vibrant and colourful as cyberpunk locales often are, players are contrasted with the metallic & concrete innards of a futuristic superstructure. Parallels I had noticed in the genre movie Dredd were reinforced by Lead Designer and Producer Radosław Ratusznik. Overall, however, Ghostrunner is a beautiful game, to say the least. I oftentimes found myself consciously slowing down to appreciate the sights, as to not just Sonic The Hedgehog my way past them at breakneck speeds and miss out.
Moving on to performance, on relatively aging hardware Ghostrunner performed rather exceptionally on High settings. Ghostrunner runs (haha) on Unreal Engine 4. As usual, Motion Blur has been turned off because it’s gross and everything else was left alone. For the most part, while not consistently holding 60 FPS the game was exceptionally playable and only ever hitched when recording footage (applying additional weight to the CPU). With Vsync on and no use of supplemental hardware, there was little-to-no screen tearing. I didn’t notice any random artifacts or clipping, Ghostrunner looks very clean in its presentation. The only complaint I specifically had was in regards to unit models when targeting the player. Due to the enemy aiming mechanics and the instantaneousness of their attacks, hands snap from rested to firing positions in a choppy single-frame motion. When installed on a regular HDD vs SSD load times are quite long, although that’s generally because the game only does it once per level, not each area within. There’s no doubt about it – Ghostrunner is a pretty sexy looking game. On a final note, I did have a single occurrence of Unreal Engine 4 crashing during testing.
Characters & Story
Ghostrunner brings players to Dharma, humanity’s last refuge. As The Ghostrunner, ascend Dharma tower and stop Mara’s madness to free humankind from her corruption. It’s a short and cute synopsis, but it’ll get us started.
Disregarding the nameless foe players will innumerably discard through their tower ascension, Ghostrunner primarily hosts four characters. Initially, this may feel underwhelming, but it’s more than sufficient to portray the intended narrative. Each of the four characters, Whisper (Architect), Mara, Zoe, and Ghostrunner 74 contribute pivotally to the plot, each other’s conflicts, & motivations. Oftentimes the codependent nature of the story maintains a tight focus that keeps events from straying. Without going into spoiler territory, Ghostrunner wastes no time familiarizing you with your protagonists, antagonists and hero – with some tossed in ambiguity for good measure. Sure, for the keen of eye and sharp of mind it may be predictable, but quality and predictability aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Zoe added a welcome balance to the rigidity of its cast, all-around good writing. Before moving on I want to make specific note of the impressive character design for The Ghostrunner, Hel (boss), and Mara. Particularly that last one: Mara, the angrier, arm-ier Dr.Octopus. Spookie.
The way One More Level crafts a vast feeling tale with only 4 characters is intriguing, and it’s due to the continual worldbuilding and compelling dialogue between its characters. For such a concentrated title, I was surprised with the ideologic attention to detail with regards to topics such as collectivist thought, and dystopian oppression in Dharma. I enjoyed the creative originality of what I expected to be a generic cyberpunk copy where big-bad-corporation is big and bad. well done.
Content & Length
Unfortunately, while there isn’t much replay value here, speedrunners will adore shaving each and every possible second off of their level/playthrough times. Ghostrunner should keep players busy for at least 6-8 hours, assuming they’re an absolute beast who perfected their skillset instantly. Otherwise, Ghostrunner has the potential to keep players busy for upwards of 12-20 hours (max), assuming they struggled with engagements. I personally found it’s length just about right, giving players a decent amount of content while not overstaying its welcome. As well as improving times, players also have the option of discovering collectible items & cosmetic swords for their playthrough/curiosity. By the time players complete Ghostrunner, they will have defeated 3 Bosses over 17 levels. Containing 4 abilities and a rather varied (though underutilized) enemy types. Ghostrunner is a single player experience containing no multiplayer element.
A large contributing variable is specifically tied to Ghostrunner’s inherent difficulty. This is not a game for the faint of heart. As an evolution of God’s Trigger’s one-hit-kill/death mechanisms, you will die – a lot. More than 10, 100, maybe even 1000 times in the 17 levels. Now I’m a self-proclaimed glutton for punishment, a bit of a masochist for difficulty if you will. But Ghostrunner tested not just my skill, but patience too.
For example: the first boss T-073-M isn’t simply a test of player skill and application of learned traits. Rather it’s an exercise in trial and error memorization and perfect execution and implementation of said skills in slim timings. Maybe I just suck, but this boss made me saucy. Homie had to find that inner Chi and come back refreshed to slay it later. The margin of error is so small at times it may progress block some players permanently. Then again, hopefully, with resources such as this, they’ll know what they’re getting into. Point is, while I conceptually enjoyed this boss and its many spinny lasers, I hated every second of it. Granted beating it was mighty satisfying, however, that was likely partial relief knowing I’d never have to do it again.
Without getting into too much detail, bosses only get better from there with the second feeling a touch janky though creative, with a QTE-ish feel to it. I found myself enjoying Ghostrunner more the longer I played it as I began to understand its nuances. The final boss was a bit of a rhythm fight, I quite enjoyed it. A rather fitting end to the game, though it would have been nice if it had utilized more of its mechanics. Fun nonetheless.
Lastly in this section, let’s mention enemy variety and level design. First, enemies range from your standard singe shot ranged, to full auto bursts and melee jumpers. Then we have shield orbs, shield guys with guns, sword-wielders, wide shot robots, floaty shootie dudes, snipers, suicidal bombs, turrets, and more. There’s a pleasantly surprising amount for the length of this game. Lastly, the level design is above average, for the most part, giving players (usually) multiple paths of approach within each situation. There are however a few infinitely frustrating sections that feel intentionally cheap just to be difficult. The worst of which wasn’t even related to the design itself, rather the checkpoint system. To respawn in a “cybervoid” section from its start when its checkpoint is halfway through is impossible. You have to restart the entire level, and I found out the hard way. My tears are salty, apparently.
Controls & Gameplay
Ghostrunner uses its parkour segments both to test its player skills and pad its story sequences. Let me explain further: if you’re the kind of person who complained that DOOM Eternal’s parkour segments were only padding turn away now. You’re gonna have a bad time. If however, you enjoy copious wall-running, sliding, and jumping – you’re in luck. To clarify, the parkour is used as time padding occasionally to accommodate the audio dialogue, but it’s often welcome in my opinion. Now, the game primarily consists of combat segments strung together by parkour and/or puzzle sections. I reminisce of Titanfall’s parkour when playing Ghostrunner, if only it had a touch more polish.. regardless. Boosts such as super-jumping, time slows & throwable shurikens expand puzzle viability and combat variety. Yay for that as it helps break up the arena-style cage fights and give players a moment of respite.
Due to the one-hit-kill/death mechanic, it is essential that players use agility to their advantage. As previously stated, you will die a lot. What this means is that this game is 50-80% failure, and the rest gratifying success. Ghostrunner is a very Git Gud kind of game so when you do succeed, players chain together kills, skilfully weaving an orchestra of chaos and death. Therefore the parkour isn’t just important for traversal, but survival as well. Accompanying the standard look, move, crouch, and jump, we have a dash on the shift key. The unique part about this game is the Matrix-esque bullet-time strafe that triggers when players hold dash in air – very handy for dodging. For quality of life’s sake, wallrun has been made automatic when touching a “runnable” surface, a nice touch. Additionally, to pad out the tedium of running and jumping, levels have sections including rails, grapples, swings, and traps. All of the controls function as they should and the fluidity of the movement system is satisfying. Collectively what we have is a game reliant on muscle memory, and reflex dependency. Hone your skills for the perfect execution, my friends. Practice, practice, practice.
The Ghostrunner is equipped with his handy sword, a grapple? whip thing, and 4 unique abilities to overcome their obstacles and adversaries. I don’t want to spoil the fun of acquiring these so I won’t detail them, however, each one offers a fun variety to gameplay that opens new tactical options. With a more complete picture of our protagonist and their skillset, we can modify each aspect of them through the upgrade system. As players progress through the game they will unlock a few alterations to existing abilities such as double dashes, reflecting shots, etc. these variations occur in the form of Tetris style blocks that players arrange on the character’s unlocked grid. I quite liked this idea and thought it offered players a unique way to arrange and personalize their modifiers. Tie all this up into a nice bow, and I present a high octane (did I mention viscerally gory including glorious dismemberment) yet difficult joyride.
This game is controller enabled, including rebinds for both the former and mouse & keyboard. That being said, the layouts were weird, and there seemed to be a lesser degree of support (controller).
Sound Design & Cinematics
From the moment the game launched and the excellent introductory cinematic played, I knew I was conceptually sold. Grimy electronic music layered overtop some violent & visceral parkour tied into a short segment that reveals a taste of gameplay options and potential story ques to players. It exclaims: Welcome to Ghostrunner. Throughout the title, the sprinkled cinematics maintain consistency in that tense tone. Only at the end do things stylistically change pace for the outro. I welcomed this, along with it chills of the Frostpunk kind.
The fantastic use of its soundtrack doesn’t end there, Ghostrunner applies its tight EDM ambiance throughout your playthrough to subtle yet impressive effect. Big shoutout to the crew that organized this OST, job well done. It’s intriguing, sharp, and energetic enough to keep the players’ blood pumping without giving them Mick Gordon crossing genres.
As far as voice acting goes, everyone contributed strong performances. I did notice, however, weaker delivery on Mara’s part in the final moments of the game. I found this an anticlimactic letdown audibly speaking. That aside (even so, a minor nitpick) excellent performances all around that strongly contributed to the game’s tone and immersiveness.
Overall Ghostrunner is an intentionally focused and concise product that knows exactly both what it is, and what it aims to provide players. Ghostrunner understands its target audience and caters to them exclusively unapologetically. You’ll probably only finish it once, but considering the asking price that’s more than fair for what you get. A well crafted, finely refine reflex FPS for those, who like their games, are tough as nails. Ghostrunner earns a solid 8.2/10 for its bold and inventive take on cyberpunk.
Ghostrunner is available for purchase on PS4, Xbox One, and PC (Steam, GOG, and Epic) for $29.99/€29.99/£24.99.
What did you think of Ghostrunner? Let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed this content, why not check out our Borderlands 3: Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck PS4 Review?
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As Satisfying As It Is Frustrating
- Score - 8.2/108.2/10
+ Visually Beautiful
+ Satisfying Gameplay
+ Good Story and Performances
– Occasionally Frustrating Level Design
Just a Canadian dude who’s passionate about gaming, and the industry as a whole.