There are no spoilers for the story of Ghostrunner present in this review.
If you’ve ever watched a ninja movie before, you may have found yourself daydreaming about how amazing it would be to be a speedy force of nature. Weaving quickly through stunning landscapes and enemies with nothing more than a sword and pure instinct in mere seconds. Ghostrunner attempts to bring this concept to life in a cyberpunk setting, allowing you to leap from metal landscapes removing the limbs of enemies. This of course is an amazing concept for any videogame, promising the swiftness and freedom of a silent killer. However, being able to kill and move at great speeds is balanced by your own ability to die fast.
Developed by a handful of studios and publishers (One more level, ALL in! Games, Slipgate Ironworks, 3D Realms), Ghostrunner aims to make a very fast-paced and consequential first-person slasher/platformer. After playing through a portion of the game, I can confirm that they have achieved this experience with flying colours.
Ghostrunner sets out the story of Jack, one of 99 Ghostrunner units and presumably the last of his kind. After a hefty defeat, Jack is rebuilt and sets out to right some wrongs and dismember some painfully accurate bad guys. The story is told through some cutscenes as well as a heap of in-game dialogue and is straightforward for those in fear of a complicated tale. It also goes without saying that this world is beautiful, especially on PS5. The city rooftops and crevasses that you navigate are truly beautiful, in a similar sense that Cyberpunk 2077’s over modified landscapes are.
We must of course discuss the first-person slasher elements of combat, in most cases this is getting to your enemy before they get to you. Although this sounds simple, the level design is crafted so you must reach enemies as they usually hold a superior position. Even with that in mind, this sounds like a simple process because you’re the Ghostrunner? Surely, they won’t see you coming. Sometimes that is the case, but most of the time your situation will be reaching a target that is fully aware of your position. Even enemies within the early levels are fully capable of raising your death count, anticipating where you will move next in some cases. Ghostrunner allows you to hit hard, but you also die after 1 hit so you must be both quick and smart to survive combat encounters.
That brings me to the death mechanic, which all things considered is very generous with both timing and placement. Upon death, you will be popped back to before a platforming area or before the combat encounter with all enemies still alive. This is done to get you in the groove of plotting out a path that works for you so that after 20 deaths you can move seamlessly through an area. Obviously, this can vary due to player skill. As someone who tends to like to sit back and think, there was a lot of death from purely cracking under pressure. This can be frustrating at times, however, the forgiving respawns and the abilities that are gained through the levels make this easier.
Ghostrunner is genuinely an amazing experience if you can nail the platforming and pace that is required. I do have to say though that this game won’t be for everyone, the combat leaves very little wiggle room as you progress. For those players that struggle to match the pace that is required, you will struggle a lot of the time to get through some encounters. But for the players who strive for the challenge and have the patience and reactions for the job, this is a playground made for the ninja you always wanted to be.
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