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Gravity Rush 2 PS4 Review: Cat's Whiskers

After almost five years in development, Gravity Rush 2 is finally here. And yes, it was definitely worth the wait.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

The original Gravity Rush garnered quite the cult following when it was released on PlayStation Vita in 2012. The anime-like 3D open-world action adventure reached a wider audience almost twelve months ago when it was remastered for PlayStation 4, and ever since then, anticipation has been growing for its sequel, an all-new game built from the ground up specifically for Sony's flagship console.

Two characters from Gravity Rush 2 stand in conversation, faces turned away from the viewer.
Image credit: Sony

I actually didn't ever get around to playing Project Siren's original release, although having now spent a lot of time with the sequel, I'm thinking that perhaps I should go back and play it. Many of Gravity Rush's characters make reappearances in this latest game, and I'm really interested to find out more about their back-stories. Not that you really need to know them to enjoy Gravity Rush 2, but I've just found its plot so rich and interesting that I'm intrigued enough to want to know more about their origins.

The sequel opens with protagonist Kat – who's unfortunately lost her powers – and her friend Syd stuck in a floating backwater mining settlement called Banga, where they spend their days prospecting for ore inside gravity vortices. It's a fairly hum-drum life that soon becomes more interesting following the disappearance of Cicie, the step-daughter of Lisa, the mining operation's boss. Kat goes in search of the missing child, and eventually finds her on a nearby floating rock – and her arrival could not be better timed. Monsters known as Nevi start to appear out of the ether, and Kat is put on the defensive. Just as the situation begins to look hopeless, she's reunited with her magical cat, Dusty, who restores her gravity-bending abilities, enabling her to destroy the attacking Nevi and rescue Cicie.

Kat returns to Banga as a hero, although some of the settlement's characters are skeptical about her new powers. Fortunately, she gets the chance to show them off over a series of introductory missions that do an excellent job of introducing new characters, and getting the player up to speed on the breadth of her initial capabilities. Kat is able to negate the effects of gravity at the touch of a button, which makes her float up into the air. Once airborne, she can then "fall" in whichever direction she's pointed, essentially enabling her to fly around as long as her gravity meter remains full. When it's depleted, gravity takes over and she falls towards the ground, although the gravity meter quickly replenishes itself, enabling her to float again once it's full. A rather neat aspect of this effect is that if she's floating and touches a wall or ceiling, she'll automatically stand on it for as long as her gravity meter allows, which means she can run along virtually any surface, no matter what its orientation.

While floating, Kat can pull off a gravity kick, which results in her diving feet first towards whatever she's aiming at, whether that's a point in space or an enemy character. It's a powerful offensive move that's far more potent than the normal kicks she's able to perform while standing on the ground. Additionally, Kat is able to create a stasis field, which picks up nearby loose objects that can then be flung a considerable distance at a target, and she can also execute a damaging gravity slide that enables her to zoom along the ground at speed into objects and enemies.

As the game progresses, Kat learns additional powers, including the Jupiter and Moon gravity modes, which respectively make her heavier and more powerful, and lighter and faster. It's possible to swiftly switch between these different modes by swiping the controller's touchpad, giving rise to potential combos – perhaps leaping around the environment using Moon's extended jump capabilities to avoid enemies, and then switching to Jupiter to deliver a devastating, extra-heavy gravity kick.

While it does take a little getting used to, the control scheme works very well, and once you're fully au fait, you're able to fly around the game's open world quite spectacularly. The only problem I encountered was the occasional camera issue when I was zipping around at particularly high speed while making rapid changes in direction – usually when I was battling fast-moving enemies. The camera is sometimes slow to react to quick maneuvers, and as a consequence you can lose your bearings as it tries to follow what you're doing. Fortunately, it's possible to quickly reset or adjust the camera dynamically, but even so, in the heat of battle it can be quite disorienting. It's nothing game-breaking, but do be prepared for the occasional frustrating moment as you try to stay on the tail of a speedy denizen, or attempt to zoom down twisting passageways.

Once you've completed the introductory first episode, the action then moves to the floating city of Jirga Para Lhao, where the game really begins to open up. Gravity Rush 2's environment is expansive – almost three times as large as the one featured in the prior game. It's a fantastic place, comprised of a number of airborne islands, each of which has its own unique look and feel, from sumptuous mansions with beautiful gardens through administrative districts and colorful marketplaces to tumbledown shanty towns. There are many activities spread across this wonderful world, which include Story Missions, plot-thickening Side Missions, leaderboard-driven Challenges, and Treasure Hunts. The former is the real meat of the game, essentially giving the player a series of tasks to perform that advance the plot, while the latter three are optional exercises that can reward you with items and bonuses that, while useful, are not necessarily vital to completing the game.

Story Missions are incredibly varied and pack a myriad of activities: Sometimes they're quite mundane, such as queuing up to buy somebody a crepe (yes, really), or delivering party invitations, while others are spectacular set pieces involving Kat fighting armies of enemies, or even giant boss monsters. From the simple to the complex, I enjoyed pretty much every one. Basically, the designers use the game's mechanics very cleverly and creatively to deliver a broad array of different gameplay challenges that are either a lot of fun, or are so nicely wrapped up in the game's fiction that you're just utterly compelled to tackle them.

Speaking of which, the storyline is thoroughly engaging, and I dare even to use the word "enchanting", which is something I very rarely say about anything other than the likes of Studio Ghibli movies. A combination of manga-style comic book frames and cinematic sequences are beautifully woven together to spin what I think is an absolutely riveting flight of fancy, filled with colorful characters and some amazing plot twists and turns. There's never a dull moment: The dialog is light and fun, character development is expertly handled, and the pacing is spot-on, with the game ebbing and flowing in intensity as Kat moves from one key moment to the next.

If you're hoping for more in-depth information about the storyline, characters, and their various interactions, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. As far as I'm concerned, the less you know, the better, so I'm going out of my way to be spoiler-free. All I'll say is this: Gravity Rush 2 has been a huge surprise to me. I had very little knowledge of the game going into it, and the experience of playing it has been a real joy.

As well as packing a brilliant story and top-tier gameplay, the game's art direction is fabulous. It comprises cel-shaded characters and hand-painted backdrops that work together to create a game that looks like an anime brought to life. Sure, other games have done this before, but Gravity Rush 2 is one of the best-looking cartoon-style titles I've ever seen. From the characters to the scenery, it has its own unique aesthetic that is breathtaking. The detailing is often astonishing, and I've had a lot of fun simply running around the game's world, soaking in its wonderful atmosphere and admiring its fascinating design and architecture. The soundtrack is also terrific: Every location has its own theme, and missions often feature bespoke cinematic tracks that help enhance the action. It all adds up to an audio-visual treat that I think is incredibly impressive.

If I have any criticisms, it's that there are a few missions whose objectives are somewhat vague. For the most part, the game does a great job in explaining new mechanics and mission goals – but occasionally things aren't made clear, and that can result in a premature and unexpected death as you try to figure out what you're supposed to be doing. The difficulty level is also sometimes a little uneven, with a couple of missions being frustratingly tough – at least, they were for me. However, it wasn't anything that a little persistence and patience couldn’t conquer, so I can't complain too loudly.

Other than that, though, Gravity Rush 2 is absolutely brilliant – one of the biggest gaming surprises I've had in ages. I mean, I was expecting it to be fairly good based on the pedigree of its predecessor, but I really wasn't prepared for something quite so uniquely cinematic, charming, and as thoroughly fun as this is. Lovely stuff!

InterfaceVery good indeed. The game generally does a great job of explaining its complexities, and navigating around its menus is quick and easy.

Lasting AppealGravity Rush 2 offers a lot to get your teeth into. If you decide to tackle the side missions and challenges as well as the main story mode, you'll be kept busy for well in excess of 30 hours.

SoundKohei Tanaka's cinematic score is excellent, with a myriad of different themes, tunes, and ditties accompanying the action.

VisualsTop-notch stuff! The game looks like a blockbuster anime brought to life.

ConclusionGravity Rush 2 is a real treat for the eyes, ears, and reflexes. Its cinematic looks and score are wonderful, and its storyline is enthralling and thoroughly compelling. All combine brilliantly with the addictive and entertaining mission-based action to create a terrific game that's an absolute joy to play.

4.5 / 5.0

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