The first Ghostrunner was a surprise hit in 2020, offering a short yet focused approach to a fast-paced ninja-like experience that was nothing short of thrilling. It found a community of Cyberpunk lovers, and everyone was ecstatic that the developer, One More Level, decided to expand on its universe, announcing a sequel. Well, it’s officially time as Ghostrunner 2 is here, and it brings the adrenaline-pumping gameplay back in full force with style. There are exciting moments throughout its 15-hour run time, and it solidifies itself as a justifiable sequel, even if it only does a little regarding innovation.
Story and Plot – Bring Order to the Dystopian World
The original story of Ghostrunner was about climbing Dharma Tower, humanity’s last known refuge, in a city plagued with poverty, violence, and overall dismay. Your job was to take down a Tyrannical Keymaster and liberate the people so they could finally live peacefully.
Ghostrunner 2 takes place one year after the event of the original, where you join a council whose mission is to bring order to the future dystopian world. Without nudging into spoiler territory, you can figure out from those two brief overviews of the first and second games that the stories are essentially the same plot.
The sequel brings a new dialogue option system to the game, where players can talk to characters at the hub and choose what to say. Having dialogue options is always nice in theory, but from what I could tell, these do not affect gameplay and don’t change the outcome of any story beats. They can help uncover more about the plot and lore of Ghostrunner, but to a certain extent, they felt pretty pointless.
Understandably, the story isn’t the Ghostrunner 2’s strong point, as the fun boils down to the combat for this type of game. Still, it’s not terrible, and the conversation between your character and the folks at the hub is quite interesting to listen to and makes you feel like a spy on a critical mission. This is especially true during the game’s mini cutscenes. While there are only a few of them, the cutscenes are absolutely gorgeous and done so well that they can make you feel like you’re watching a movie instead of playing a video game.
Combat and Gameplay – Slight Adjustments
Like any Ghostrunner fan, you’re here to learn about the gameplay experience and how it holds up in the second installment. If you crave the fast-paced, thinking-on-your-feet combat done so well in the first, you will feel right at home in Ghostrunner 2. It felt terrific to return to this Cyberpunk world and experience the feeling of turning into a ninja again, with Synthwave music blasting through my headphones, feeling like a total badass. This emulation type is a constant thrill that One More Level has perfected.
That said, I can’t help but be disappointed that the sequel feels too similar to the original during most missions. It follows the same formula of running across walls, grappling hooks, pulling a lever, and moving forward. Well, there are new puzzles, abilities, and enemies, but if you didn’t tell someone you were playing Ghostrunner 2, it would be almost impossible to know right off the bat that you’re not playing the first unless you were in the middle of particular missions. These specific missions that feel “new” involve a Motorcycle and Wingsuit.
If you didn’t think you could go faster than your speed in the original game, you were wrong, as these two ways of transportation increase the intensity tenfold. The Motorcycle and Wingsuit are phenomenal additions to the gameplay experience and arguably the best parts of the game. That is why it upsets me to say that the missions involving the Motorcycle are short-lived, with the Wingsuit missions lasting even shorter.
After completing the game and rolling credits, the parts that stuck in my mind were flying down a freeway at over 300 MPH on a Motorcycle or flying overhead significant gaps in the infrastructure with a Wingsuit, with no ground in sight. Everything else between these missions didn’t leave much of an impression on me and made me wonder why One More Level didn’t expand on its new additions.
That is not to say that all the missions between the Motorcycle and Wingsuit are bad because they’re not. Ghostrunner 2 does a phenomenal job at making the levels feel more like an acrobatic playground, with more hanging walls to run across, ways to approach enemy encounters, and open spaces that require you to change your approach. For example, check out the image below that features a whole bunch of hanging walls that emphasize the playground discussed.
It’s a ton of fun, and there are a few new abilities to use at your disposal that I want to focus on that make this playground work even better. The biggest standout is the Shuriken, a tool you can use to pick off enemies from afar or stun the stronger and newer enemy types. While the Shuriken was available in the first in the form of Remnants, a temporary boost, it wasn’t an ability the player had at all times.
Making the Shuriken an ability in your arsenal instead of temporary adds a new ranged combat approach, and nothing felt better than to slice someone with my sword and finish the encounter by throwing a Shuriken across the map for one final blow. It’s a solid addition to the overall Ghostrunner experience that makes you feel more powerful and one I can see all players having a lot of fun messing around with.
There are also new Ultimate abilities designed to get you out of a pickle and overcome an enemy encounter. Instead of seeing the constant “critical failure” Game Over screen, you can use your Ultimate, for example, “Flux,” and shoot off a laser beam that completely demolishes every enemy in proximity. While having a long cool-down time, these new Ultimates abilities made the game feel more forgiving than the first and allowed me to continue forward instead of wallowing in frustration.
Lastly, accessibility has been improved in Ghostrunner 2. The controls are easier to get down, and blocking projectiles isn’t locked behind a late-game ability. It’s this fact that the fluidity of the gameplay is an improvement over the first, making the sequel more relaxing to play.
Bosses – Mostly a Missed Opportunity
The bosses of Ghostrunner 2 have their highs and lows, with one being a massive standout of both the first and second installments. Using my newfound Motorcycle to scale the inside of a gigantic mechanical worm was some of the most fun I had in gaming for 2023 and is probably the biggest takeaway regarding the bosses in the sequel. Outside of that, it was underwhelming to fight the other big guys, and that’s saying a lot, considering there are only a few in total for the entire game.
This is the biggest letdown of Ghostrunner 2. The lack of bosses put a damper on things, and it would be okay if each of them left a lasting impression on the overall experience, but they don’t. Even the final boss was mediocre, and after beating it and the credits started to roll, I was surprised that the entire game was leading up to that fight. Since Ghostrunner 2 is a game with such cool combat at the forefront, you can’t help but imagine what could have been regarding boss fights.
Performance Issues – There Are None
It’s rare these days that the gaming community gets a game that runs perfectly with zero performance issues. During my 15-hour playtime, I received zero frame rate drops, zero crashes, and a smooth-as-butter experience from beginning to end. Better yet, the graphics are stunning, and when you mix those two factors of performance and pleasing to the eye, it puts those AAA games to shame. Big-budget titles can learn a thing or two from these independent studios.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Ghostrunner 2. It was an incredible feeling to get back to my ninja roots and play through the addicting gameplay loop that made the original loved by so many. The new features and additions improve the overall experience, and it’s better than the first in some regard, even though it’s way too similar in parts.
The best additions are the new forms of traversal, creating the most exciting missions of both the original and sequel combined. However, the time you spend with these is short-lived. Also, I can’t help but feel the bosses were a missed opportunity, where only one stands out and makes a name for itself. Nevertheless, more of a good thing is always nice, and if you found yourself a fan of the first, you’ll enjoy Ghostrunner 2, especially for the low 40-dollar price tag.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.