It Can Die Even If It Doesn't Bleed .
Read Time 7 minutes
“ An intense fast-paced adventure through a highly futuristic dystopian megastructure ”
A first-person “hardcore” hack n' slash dripping with action, set in a gloomy, highly futuristic world is the way the developers found to describe Ghostrunner, and I believe there couldn't be a more appropriate way to put it. In the game we control a Ghostrunner, a type of badass human/android ninja sword-wielding knight of death that is one of a special elite force assembled for the protection and peace-keeping inside Dharma Tower, a megastructure designed to serve as housing for humanity's last surviving members, built in response to a cataclysmic event that tempted to end the entire world, rendering what remained of it completely inhospitable.
For the surprise of many — myself included, the first few minutes inside the game were both something that I could never expect and everything I thought it was: Ghostrunner is a platformer; a first-person platformer, to be precise. It was a first for me, to experience the verticality found mostly on 2D games from a first-person perspective with the obvious depth and complexity only 3D can offer, but thankfully adapting to it didn't take too long, with the introductory segment taking no more than just a few tries to complete.
With its own spin to what a futuristic society might look like, the game doesn't go too overboard with the concept, staying instead within a recognizable level of realism and fiction, all without completely abandoning the sense of meaning as well as purpose.
The story itself centers around retaking control of the tower city from a tyrannical ruler whom due to little care for human lives and resources got to a point of risking the future of humanity as a species.
Perfection Comes At A Cost: It Takes What It Takes .
Developer: One More Level...
Publisher: 505 Games...
Release Date: October 27, 2020
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With a one hit one kill mechanic for both players and enemies, Ghostrunner is an absurdly intense game, and by intense I mean it is surprisingly difficult, requiring great hand-eye coordination to clear out each level. After dying way more than I feel comfortable admitting, I can say for sure that Ghostrunner isn’t a game made for everyone, or at least for those who don't enjoy spending a great deal of time redoing entire segments because of a single, often small mistake. To make the player’s life easier, the game is at least generous enough with frequent checkpoint placement that should allow for faster transitions between death and getting back into the action, making it a smaller inconvenience having to deal with enemies over and over again.
Accompanied by a spectacular level-design, smooth gameplay, and easy to adapt controls, Ghostrunner feels both like the work of a pro and an amateur. With incredibly well-executed concepts, everything going from the general aesthetic to how the game plays, performance and gameplay-wise are all astoundingly great, with only a few issues of minimal proportions that make an exception to this rule.
An open setting makes navigating the streets of Dharma Tower a refreshing, empowering sensation, that combined with striking visuals, feels truly masterful.
Ghostrunner is crammed with content, and while some of it is thanks to its short size of only about 7-11 hours, most of the credit really has to go to the over-the-top effort of never letting the action-filled parts wear old. With the introduction of a wide variety of locations, abilities, as well as enemies, progression in the game is expected to be always met with higher-level encounters, increasingly complex platforming sequences, alongside new skills to meet the demand.
Although I can’t deny the game was almost flawless from a technical standpoint, it’s impossible to stop there and talk nothing about other crucial factors such as story, or narrative when a good writing can often save even a sinking ship. Though I couldn’t get a full grasp of the story — mainly due to it being easy to miss thanks to dialogue frequently appearing right in the middle of action-heavy parts — I understood enough of it to say that it was actually pretty basic overall and the plot was honestly quite predictable.
With a heavy emphasis on creating a world that is more challenging to the players, a few aspects just didn't get to shine as much as others...
To put it simply to avoid spoiling too much for those who still feel like playing the game, the story really won’t impress everyone, much less those who can't play something unless there's a really great storytelling going on, with an equally great conclusion to top it all off. In an even simpler way to put it, the entire narrative in Ghostrunner feels more like a side dish to the main course that is a sum of incredible platforming, awesome music, and intense action which are all really great in contrast to the story that accompanies it all. But that is not to say the story is bad, it's just that, as I mentioned before, it simply isn't anything incredible, and seems nothing out of ordinary when compared to the game's other more prominent characteristics.
A Ride Through The Neon Realm: Calm Amidst Chaos .
In addition to the game's major platforming sequences, another medium arose to find its way of contributing to the crazy futuristic aspect Ghostrunner should be well known for at this point; that would be Cybervoid, a place that looks both like heaven for any RGB lover and hell due to its vast extent of pure emptiness. Cybervoid is the place that allows us to communicate with the creator of the Ghostrunners, someone known as ''The Architect'', and the one who guides us through this otherworldly place to obtain new abilities, as well as upgrades that are described as of vital importance to a Ghostrunner's arsenal.
Having a little energy meter, skills take some time to recharge, so when to use them should be something you have to plan carefully so to not jump into the action unprepared.
Cybervoid is a place of mystery and revelations, an epitome of tranquility among all the gory stream of guts and flying limbs that is the outside world. Each time we get to interact with Cybervoid we are greeted to a series of puzzles, riddles, and more often than not a combination of the two, always to be rewarded with new abilities. These abilities that have been mentioned a few times by now offer many situational advantages that allow for more efficient and flexible ways to take down each encounter, adding a little spice to the basic Ghostrunner skillset.
Now, regarding puzzles, although simple in concept I found them to be very effective in delivering exactly that which they're supposed to be, and that is something you actually have to think in order to solve. They are nothing complicated, usually taking just a bit of extra effort and time to see patterns that are not visible at a first glance, but despite the simplicity, they can become quite frustrating if you fail to quickly recognize those patterns, something that is not unlikely to happen, due to the little amount of explanation that is given to players on how each mechanism work.
One of the coolest places, I've seen in a video-game. I actually enjoyed quite a bit of my time inside of Cybervoid, and that is not only because of its visual and narrative appealing aspects, but also for offering a break to the more intense, faster pacing of the outside world.
Another neat aspect of Ghostrunner is that due to its more intense, fast-paced nature, by the time you get close to the end of the game, you are so well-trained by its harsh teaching methods that going through each encounter starts to take much less time, and completing entire segments become a lot easier. At the end of the trip, you get so mechanically advanced that even the music starts to sound different, as if communicating directly with your brain, changing almost completely how you approach encounters, move around and react to the surroundings.
Adaptation Through Trial And Error: Improvement Comes With Time .
Approach encounters however you'd like, you are free to decide how to take down enemies — strike from above, or the sides, or literally whatever direction suits you better.
All that combined with basic knowledge of enemy attack patterns which you should have developed plenty of at this point, essentially turn you into a rampaging monster, or even better: a mass killing machine.
Mastering the game is an extremely enjoyable and rewarding feeling and slashing through enemies while zipping around the map is just as satisfying as it sounds. Too bad it's only by the very end of the game that everything sort of 'click' together, so the real fun just doesn't last for too long. But in any case, the game's short size didn't stop me from appreciating to the fullest one of the best sides of platforming games I've ever got to experience, at least all while it lasted.
Final Thoughts: A Highly Enjoyable Bite-Sized Experience .
Ghostrunner is the type of game that gets you exactly what you pay for, and that is a remarkable, highly enjoyable bite-sized experience. Although on the shorter side, the volume of content you get to see in the span of only a few hours is honestly pretty insane. With crazy-good futuristic visuals, an extremely detailed world, graphics that look like real next-gen, fluid movements and gameplay, controls that work well enough most of the time, and a difficulty level that is enough to put even experienced players on their toes — a game that is not to be looked down on by any means.
Even though there was a small letdown from the story's side, even that still didn't stop me from enjoying the rest of the game, with the other parts making up for it by a great margin.
If you're into a fast-paced, precision focused, highly punishing experience, Ghostrunner might just be exactly what you're looking for, a game that comes with all that and some more.
Impressive level design that remains fairly consistent throughout the entire seven to eleven-hour journey.
Awesome futuristic visuals with an absurd level of detail that bring in a unique feel to the game.
The music that accompanies it all is simply fantastic, beautifully setting up the tone for the overall pacing of the game.
Punishing but fair most of the time, thanks to frequent, often generous checkpoint placement.
Enemies have beyond normal reaction speeds, awfully similar to that achieved by aimbot programs.
Inconsistent basic movement-related abilities that make some parts feel slightly more frustrating than they should.
Simple, predictable story that feels more like a side thing running on in the background, failing to stand out.
Short with only a small amount of replay value, reserving very little content for second playthroughs.
An intense, fast paced first-person platformer that feels complete from top to bottom. Although short in size, the game was greatly remarkable thanks mostly to its incredible level design, futuristic visuals, alongside a highly punitive approach that brought in a real challenge.
03/01/2021 - Caius, The Cyber Ninja