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Ghostrunner 2 review: an imperfect game that understands the rule of cool

It's not the game of the year, it's not big, and it's not that clever. It is – however – hilariously fun.

4 star review header for Ghostrunner 2, saying: "engaging, exhilarating, and exceptionally enjoyable”
Image credit: VG247

Ghostrunner 2 is not a perfect game. I don't believe it'll be taking home many game of the year awards. It won't shake the industry to the ground. There are better games out there right now, 2023 being the monstrous year that it is. So why am I – at 3am Saturday morning – glued to the cyberpunk sequel? The answer is simple: Ghostrunner 2 knows exactly what its audience wants. There's a good chance it has what you want, too.

But first, some background. Ghostrunner 2 is the sequel to a moderately successful first-person action game from Polish developer OneMoreLevel. In it you play as Jack, the sole-surviving tech-laden superhuman Ghostrunner, one year after the climax of the original game. With tyrannical rulers taken out in spectacular fashion, it's up to you and your compatriots to face off against a whole new threat from inside (and, maybe, even outside) the Dharma tower.

Anyone who has taken even a brief glance at Ghostrunner or Ghostrunner 2 will know action is the heart of the experience here. The game is so damn fun. Whether you're perfectly parrying cybernetic ninjas, slow-mo dashing past incoming fire, or throwing shurikens at hardy mechs, Ghostrunner 2 is a blast. For all the game's faults – and it does have a few – the folks at OneMoreLevel clearly understand how to make a challenging action game like this engaging, exhilarating, and exceptionally enjoyable.

The game is hard, but fair. It introduces every new enemy, ability, and mechanic gradually at first, before trusting the player to apply what they learn to life-or-death battles and testing puzzles. Throwing yourself at the game repeatedly in order to find the right way to clear an encounter is expected. The only thing you can do wrong is stop moving forward, and any strategy you can think of to overcome the odds is fair game.

This naturely encourages you to discover the most efficient and stylish way around the game's numerous roadblocks in a loop that tickles the same part of your brain that Doom (2016) or a high-chaos Dishonored run does. Ghostrunner 2 never struggles to stay interesting.

Player, from first-person view, holds a sword and looks out over the red neon and black shadows of Ghostrunner 2's world.
We built this city and stocks and goals. | Image credit: OneMoreLevel

It's clear this core action-heavy experience is the focus. Ghostrunner 2 knows what the people playing Ghostrunner 2 want. It wastes no time getting you back into the thick of things as fast as possible. This is fine, but this dedication to the sauce comes at the detriment to other aspects of the game.

For example, the story isn't exactly jaw-dropping. It has its moments of intrigue and shock for sure, but don't expect a thrilling, emotive narrative, here. It's a one-note journey through various action and puzzle set-pieces, but it also guides the player to cyber cathedrals with giant robots littered about. Just so you get to soak it all in, when you're not dashing from fight to fight.

I love the audio-visual experience that is Ghostrunner 2. The game knows what it is and takes no shame indulging itself in a futuristic spectacle whenever possible. It loves pushing the player through the gritty mechanical guts that make up the world, splashing techno-futurism, neon lights, and a banger electro-synth soundtrack you may just develop a sweet tooth for. The game nails the cyberpunk aesthetic at a macro level; it knows exactly what it's doing when it shoves a giant robot into the background of a level, Simon Stålenhag-style.

That said, I do think that the game fails in some areas visually. It is not the most gorgeous game in the world – I got the impression that the team would rather focus its energy on making the various vistas you run into visually appealing, rather than making sure the faces of people you chat with at the pre-mission hub look... natural. The occasional NPC interaction is jarring at times. Early on in the game, a key side character may as well have been taken prisoner by 80's era GI Joes in a scene that tore a sudden giggle out of me.

A laser is fired from the player POV at an enemy, as the player character is wallrunning, in Ghostrunner 2.
Major lasers. | Image credit: OneMoreLevel

Voice acting is also a genuine mixed bag. Ghostrunner 2's cast tries its utmost - Carl G. Brooks returns as the gruff robotic protagonist, Jack, and nails the role he was given, as does Matthew Curtis (as Connor) who was a highlight throughout. Ghostrunner 2 is not afraid to joke around with its characters, nor is it shy about vaulting over a cliff of cringe – something I admit I didn't think a game so keen to embrace absurdity could pull off. Even if I didn't quite vibe with the narrative as a whole, I must give kudos to the writers and VO staff for bringing the ragtag Ghostrunner crew to daft, brilliant life.

Any initial worries I had that could prohibit certain folks from giving Ghostrunner 2 a go is addressed in the settings. In the original Ghostrunner, certain players experienced motion sickness, and the team has learned from this. You have the option to switch off camera shakes and adjust your field of view to remedy this. In addition, if you're not super fond of challenging games, you can adjust the difficulty, worry-free. This may not help with platforming puzzles, but it should go a long way in making the game a touch more palatable.

A cybernetically-enhanced enemy screams at you, looking pained, with bolts of electricity amping off his implants. Game: Ghostrunner 2.
Very DOOM. | Image credit: OneMoreLevel

Sitting back and thinking about why I dig Ghostrunner 2 so much, I've landed firmly on the belief that it's because OneMoreLevel's dedication to building a game with the 'rule of cool' in mind has crossed over into my own personal tastes. For those who gain pleasure (guilty or otherwise) from an unashamed love of katanas and cybernetic augmentation, Ghostrunner 2 is pouring the gravy you love straight down your throat.

If that sort of thing ain't for you, then I'd wager even Ghostrunner 2's rad action platforming won't be able to win you over. It sucks to drive a car you like with a coat of paint you hate, after all. Ghostrunner 2 is an electric green Nissan Skyline. With the spoiler! A dream for some, a nightmare for others. Grab the demo on Steam, try it out, and if you like what you see rest assured the full package is for you.

Ghostrunner 2 lands on Xbox, PlayStation and PC on October 26.

This review was conducted on PC, with a code provided by the publisher.

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