Ghostrunner 2 PC Review: A Truly Remarkable Sequel
I wasn’t a huge fan of the original Ghostrunner, in part due to not being prepared for its punishing gameplay loop where one wrong move meant death. However, I had the sense to give its sequel, aptly named Ghostrunner 2, a go. Not only is this fast-paced, hardcore first-person action platformer an absolute blast, but it has also enabled me to appreciate what an underrated gem this series truly is.
“Unlike the original Ghostrunner, the sequel places a far greater focus on narrative.”
Ghostrunner II is set one year after the events of the first game, where the tyrant Keymaster of Dharma Tower was defeated, and an AI cult has appeared, threatening to upend society once again. Of course, it is up to the protagonist, Jack, to face them and reshape the fate of humanity.
Unlike the original Ghostrunner, the sequel places a far greater focus on narrative, with Jack being able to select different dialogue options during specific sequences. There is even a hub world in which you can talk to different NPCs, which allows for an even deeper exploration of the world, its lore, and colorful cast of characters.
I found a lot of it to be quite original, helping expand upon the already intriguing world teased in the first game. However, it’s nothing special, and while it is improved in the sequel, it often takes a backseat to the truly breathtaking action. I personally wouldn’t consider it a flaw, but for those hoping for something more story-driven, you’ll feel a little cheated, although I’d imagine still very much impressed.
“Progression in Ghostrunner 2 keeps the experience feeling consistently fresh throughout.”
When it comes to gameplay, you’ll feel immediately familiar with what’s on offer if you’ve played the first game. Returning from Ghostrunner is the always satisfying yet extremely challenging risk-reward gameplay loop in which everything dies in one hit, but so do you. The majority of your time will be spent engaging in fast-paced combat encounters, traversing through difficult parkour sections, and occasionally solving puzzles and taking down bosses.
As you progress through the main campaign, you gain access to more advanced abilities and tools but also more difficult enemies. This sense of progression keeps the experience feeling consistently fresh, ramping up the difficulty whenever you get too comfortable while making sure you’re never outmatched. The punishing nature of the game does require you to be on your toes at all times, as death is usually right around the corner, but it’s never unfair. Not only is there a generous checkpoint system and fast load times to ease some of the difficulty, but the game has been so expertly crafted that you can always learn from any mistakes you make.
The core combat system largely remains the same as the first game, albeit with some tweaks. Jack has his trusty katana to slice and dice enemies, as well as the ability to jump and dash. However, he now has access to shurikens that can be thrown at exploding barrels or unsuspecting enemies, as well as a shadow ability to summon a clone while turning himself invisible. There are also “ultimate” abilities that can be equipped to provide game-changing skills, such as the ability to slow down time. Perhaps the greatest addition to Ghostrunner II is the ability to block and perfect parry.
“The motorbike sequences look utterly incredible and feel just as phenomenal, thanks to impressive sound design and visual effects.”
When you’re not slicing enemies apart with your katana, you’ll be parkouring through intricately crafted levels. You’ll run on walls, grind on rails, grapple to ledges, bounce off air vents, and activate platforms all through one seamless experience. The game slowly eases you into the increasingly difficult acrobatic movements you must master with intuitive controls and a balanced learning curve.
As you obtain more tools into your arsenal, you’ll also be able to integrate those with certain platforming sections, such as using a shuriken to disable traps or placing a clone in front of sensors. Each level becomes an even deadlier dance of reflexes and strategy when parkour sections are mixed in with combat encounters.
Another welcome addition to gameplay is the motorbike, where you must ride through dangerous sections by dodging lasers, opening switches, and riding on walls. The one-hit-kill philosophy remains here, which can make for some extremely difficult sections on your bike. Of course, it’s all part of the Ghostrunner experience, and enthusiasts wouldn’t have it any other way. It also helps that these sequences look utterly incredible and feel just as phenomenal, thanks to impressive sound design and visual effects.
“Perhaps the most surprising inclusion in Ghostrunner 2 is a mini rogue-like game mode called Roguerunner.exe.”
Fortunately, Ghostunner II encourages multiple playthroughs thanks to not only its engrossing gameplay loop but also its plethora of collectibles and challenges. For example, you’ll find hidden secrets throughout each level, begging you to explore every nook and cranny. Additionally, the parkour challenges are timed and scored, giving you a rating between Bronze and Gold for each checkpoint you clear.
Furthermore, the overall progression system has also been overhauled, allowing players to experiment with different abilities via chips that can be installed or uninstalled on demand. You’ll want to hop back in to test each one out, as well as climb up the community leaderboards, which fortunately make a welcome return.
Perhaps the most surprising inclusion in Ghostrunner II is a mini rogue-like game mode called Roguerunner.exe that can be booted up at your base HQ or through the main menu. You unlock more levels in this mode as you progress in the campaign, and clearing them rewards you handsomely with cosmetic items. Stages are broken down into either combat or parkour nodes, and you have a set amount of lives before you lose for good. It’s a fun and very much welcome distraction from the main game that also allows you to hone your skills in a mostly consequence-free environment.
“Ghostrunner 2’s overall art direction evokes strong feelings of a bleak yet captivating future.”
Of course, it goes without saying, but Ghostrunner II is a visual masterpiece, a gloriously mesmerizing work of art that never fails to impress. Ghostrunner II continues to create its own unique cyberpunk world while paying homage to the classics of the genre, with its neon-drenched, dystopian cityscape being a truly exceptional sight to behold.
Perhaps more so than the first game, Ghostrunner II’s overall art direction evokes strong feelings of a bleak yet captivating future, paralleled by the game’s brilliant writing. This is greatly complemented by the phenomenal electric synthwave soundtrack that perfectly heightens the game’s atmosphere and immerses you effortlessly into its cyberpunk hellscape. It’s also worth mentioning that the sound design, everything from katanas clashing to characters conversing, is brilliant.
I played the Steam version of the game with my PC running an RTX 3080 with 32GB of RAM. Suffice it to say, Ghostrunner II’s performance is excellent, and everything ran crisply and smoothly for me. Load times were astonishingly quick, animations extremely polished, and frame rates stable. However, make sure you have enough space on your machine as this game takes up a whopping 65GB of space, whereas the first game only required about 22GB.
“To make matters worse for newcomers and casual players, there are practically no accessibility options here other than subtitle options and key rebindings.”
Unfortunately, despite generally loving my time with Ghostrunner II, I do have a few gripes that I imagine some players may share. For starters, this is undoubtedly a very hard game. The steep learning curve, at times, punishing difficulty, and risk-infused gameplay loop ensures that you’ll have to grind away at it to get good, especially if you’ve not played the previous game.
To make matters worse for newcomers and casual players, there are practically no accessibility options here other than subtitle options and key rebindings. If you get stuck on a particular level or fight, you will need to persevere through trial and error, as nothing will make it any easier beyond raw skill. Of course, as I mentioned previously, the game does give you all the tools you need to succeed, ensuring it’s an extremely tough but very fair experience overall.
Finally, during fights with multiple enemies, it can also be hard to see if an attack is coming for you from the side or behind. The game does have faint markers on the screen to indicate it, but it’s not very clear, and I found myself dying too many times to an enemy I couldn’t even see. Similarly, for parkour sections, the hitboxes need some tweaking, as there were many times in which I clearly landed or grabbed onto a platform only for the game not to register it and for me to fall to my death.
“Ghostrunner 2 is a speedrunner’s dream, featuring a punishing yet rewarding gameplay loop that’s hard to put down.”
Ghostrunner II is an exceptional game, especially if you enjoyed the first game in the series. It successfully builds upon its predecessor in almost every single way, offering impressive visuals, a killer soundtrack, refreshing gameplay additions, and a more nuanced and fleshed-out narrative.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides, especially if you’re not a fan of particularly challenging titles. The difficulty spikes can be a little overwhelming, and newcomers may struggle to find the patience to truly get to grips with the game’s mechanics. It does an admirable job of ensuring that any death is your mistake and not thanks to fiddly controls, but that doesn’t mean that some players won’t be turned off by the overall challenge.
However, I ultimately found Ghostrunner II to be an adrenaline-fueled experience that brilliantly blends parkour, combat, and storytelling. It is a speedrunner’s dream, featuring a punishing yet rewarding gameplay loop that’s hard to put down and one I highly recommend to those looking for something a little more challenging.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC; code was provided by the Publisher.
Ghostrunner II Review
Ghostrunner II improves and builds upon its predecessor in almost every single way. Its narrative, gameplay loop, and combat has been significantly fleshed-out, and the addition of a rogue-like mode as well as new motorcycle sequences make it a far more replayable and engrossing package overall. Of course, the hardcore nature of the game is still there, and some casual players may find it to be too challenging. However, the rewarding gameplay loop makes it hard to put down, and I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a unique and challenging cyberpunk experience.