Developers: One More Level Games, 3D Realms
Publisher: All in! Games, 505 Games
Genre: First-Person Hack and Slash Platformer
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: ghostrunnergame.com
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Ghostrunner is one of the few games I’ve been genuinely excited about this year. Outside of DOOM Eternal, many great titles have either been released on other platforms or ended up incredibly poor. When it comes to Ghostrunner though, I went into it with nothing but excitement and optimism for its cyberpunk world. Watching it grow through several demos was a joy, leaving me eager to see how things are expanded. Now that I’ve taken the time to slice through its offerings, I’m happy to say that Ghostrunner is everything I could’ve hoped for (and even more in some areas).
A Story of Self Identity and Destruction
Ghostrunner tells the story of Jack, the final Ghostrunner of his kind. These creations are peacekeepers, who once worked to maintain order among Dharma Tower’s citizens. This last bastion of Earth is home to all remaining civilization after an event known as The Burst made the rest of the planet uninhabitable. Following a coup, your entire kind is slaughtered. That is, except for you. With a little help along the way, it’s up to you to ascend Dharma Tower and put an end to Mara the Keymaster’s tyrannical reign.
This story is the driving force for both you and the Ghostrunner. As you make your way up the Tower, you learn more about the world along with who you really are. While it’s quite predictable where things are going to go, it’s the journey that truly makes things truly special. Ghostrunner spends no time building up a secret twist but instead builds towards that change in a way that feels natural instead of out of the blue. I’ve criticized predictable stories in the past, but the way this game tackles it is something unique entirely.
Ghostrunner’s Cyberpunk Beauty
As I like to always say though, a story is only as good as its world-building. The way Ghostrunner’s Dharma Tower works is interesting, with clear societal divides displayed throughout the zones you encounter. From the industrial underbelly all the way to the pristine laboratories, you ascend the societal structure tearing apart everything in your wake. A technology-driven society, Dharma Tower makes it clear through every aspect of the design that if you lack intellect, you have no place in the upper class. Environmental artists went all out, telling a great story through Ghostrunner’s cyberpunk surroundings.
This entire journey is composed by the incredibly talented Daniel Deluxe. His various beats help to make the game feel like a cyberpunk DOOM. Each song accurately portrays its setting to great effect, with some being incredibly memorable. I’m happy to say I’m even listening to the soundtrack as I’m writing this review. From the beautiful tunes to the visceral slice through an opponent’s body, everything feels intense and serene in all the right places.
Slicing Your Way Through Ghostrunner’s World
Speaking of slicing, Ghostrunner has plenty of that. Every encounter is an elaborate dance you must perform, as one wrong move can spell the end of you. At the same time, it does what very few games manage to pull off right. Encounters feel like a challenge while remaining not frustrating. You can genuinely look at each encounter and say “yeah that’s where I messed up” only to try again quickly with the press of a button. Being able to jump back into the action so quickly is something I feel is underrated among today’s games, with the only other adventure to head that route being Katana Zero to my knowledge.
Where Ghostrunner borrows in some areas though, it innovates in others. Not only does it have a uniquely satisfying flow of combat, but even has a few tricks in terms of abilities. The higher skilled (not me) can use these abilities to full effect, chaining quick kills in a way that feels rewarding. I can’t wait to watch speedruns of this game, seeing the endless possibilities thanks to these options. Nothing will ever beat slicing and dicing through opponents though. As one of the characters in the game says, guns may have power, but a sword is timeless by design.
I know I’ve spent this review raving about how much of a masterpiece Ghostrunner is and, while it’s amazing, it has flaws. Some of the movement isn’t as great as I’d like. For example, sometimes Jack decides he doesn’t want to run on a wall you just flew into. These are minor but can be quite frustrating when slight mishaps can result in you restarting from the last checkpoint. Another issue comes in the form of the game’s length, but can be subjective. For around $39.99, you get just under five hours of content. With collectibles, that only increases an hour or two. Given collectibles are the only replayability outside of speedruns, the average player may be left wanting a lot more. For what it’s worth though, you don’t get much filler. What is filler is built into the narrative, building Jack up as a character along with his allies.
Verdict: Ghostrunner lives up to my expectations and exceeds in some areas, offering a cyberpunk experience I won’t soon forget. In exchange for its relatively short length, it offers constantly challenging action with a good story that makes use of its predictable nature. That, combined with some solid world-building and sound design, makes the experience feel like a cyberpunk DOOM. The minor issues I have with the game are greatly overshadowed by what it does right, making this easily one of the best games I’ve played this year. If Ghostrunner seems like your style of game, I have no doubts you’ll walk away pleasantly surprised and exhilarated.
- Incredibly satisfying gameplay
- Well-written story
- Great world-building
- Solid sound design
- Great ability variation
- Collectibles to add onto gameplay
- Control issues
- Bit on the short side