Great on paper, not so much in practice
Thank you to 505 Games & All in! Games for providing the early review copy.
Ghostrunner is a title that I desperately wanted to love, and in some regards I do. The combination of first-person, parkour platforming in a dystopian cyberpunk setting, mixed with incredibly fast-paced combat whose difficulty is in the vein of Superhot is an excellent blend for a game, at least in theory. Two of those ingredients are superb, but there’s one that unfortunately, for the most part, tarnishes the entire experience. Because of that tainted ingredient, I was unfortunately unable to complete the game, and so this won’t be a full review with a final score; think of this as just my unfiltered, honest thoughts of the title based on the three or so hours I have played. Before we delve into that, however, the positive aspects of this game are undoubtedly worth mentioning as they are near phenomenal. To start, we’ll discuss the strongest part of the experience: combat. As previously mentioned, the combat featured in Ghostrunner draws inspiration from Superhot, yet at the same time is its polar opposite. Your character still dies in one hit, like the aforementioned Superhot, but unlike it time doesn’t only progress when you move. Instead, Ghostrunner encourages the player to constantly be on the move to avoid sustaining a fatal blow. This inverse is impeccable, and results in the combat being high-octane and adrenaline inducing. The one shot health increases the challenge, which forces the player to rely on not only speed but precision as well. The katana you brandish is the perfect weapon for this gameplay blend (although it doesn’t always work when trying to deflect bullets), and your character’s movement while dispatching enemy after enemy is extremely fluid, from running and sliding to dodging and weaving. There aren’t an absurd amount of inputs needed to pull these movements off either, as controls are minimal but intuitive. Next, let’s discuss the second compelling component of Ghostrunner: the setting. While the story is intriguing at first, I don’t know much past the initial three hours to fully judge it. However, from what I have played it shows great promise with its interesting, slightly unique premise that I won’t spoil here. The setting, though, fits the story and gameplay themes splendidly with a gorgeous digitized art-style that obviously borrows some elements from the beloved Shadow Warrior series. Furthermore the graphics, especially for a $30 USD title, are exceptional and fit the art-style perfectly. This is where my praise for Ghostrunner comes to an end though, as the final topic to be covered, platforming, is utterly abysmal and abhorrent.
I died to platforming sections at an exorbitant degree compared to gunfire. In short, the platforming level design is too intricate and requires far more precision than the gameplay mechanics allow, and the title doesn’t provide the player with any checkpoints mid-way through these sections (and before anyone asks, I’ll provide examples). The most often occurrence would be attempting a wall-run and sliding off of said wall and dying, even though my character clearly made contact with the surface. There were also instances of using the grappling hook successfully at first, but then being detached mid-transit or slamming into the hooks and falling. Other times, merely trying to scale a raised platform of unsubstantial height would result in yet another cycle of face-planting and falling to my doom. Finally, the dodge mechanic is inconsistent to say the least, as I had bullets track me through dodges and still kill my character. Ghostunner, overall, shows brilliant promise and potential with its gameplay, combat, setting and story; but is completely undermined by some of the most egregiously busted platforming mechanics I have ever experienced. I would wager a patch or rework of some of the level-design is necessary before expecting players to shell out their hard-earned cash.