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Ghostrunner 2 Hands-On Preview: It’s an Evolution, not a Revolution

Ghostrunner was the surprise hit of 2020 when it was released, and alongside a successful stint on PlayStation Plus, the game has gone on to sell a huge 2.5 million units as of this month. With the sequel soon to be released, not only is this good news for the developer, but it is added pressure on them to get the sequel right.

During a hands-on preview at Gamescom 2023, I was lucky enough to sit down and play two sections of the upcoming hack-n-slash, free-running game, as well as talking to the Game Director Radoslaw Ratusznik – interview will be coming closer to release.

Related: As Sequel Looms, Ghostrunner hits an Impressive Milestone

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Ghostrunner 2 is not Reinventing What Came Before, but Refining

Ghostrunner 2

For many Ghostrunner represented an entirely new video game experience. If you could imagine Mirror’s Edge and Dark Souls having a child, then this is it, essentially. Free-running as a computer-aided samurai, where one hit from the multitude of enemies in front of you kills you? It’s the best mixture of frustrating, rewarding and at times ‘wow, that was awesome’.

Ghostrunner 2 looks to take everything that was good in the original and refine it, with some added features to justify a sequel. The two biggest of these will undoubtedly be the motorcycle mechanics on offer, where the free-running becomes free-riding, and the ability to parry attacks now rather than having to dodge or attack first.

The motorcycle free-riding follows a lot of the same rules as the free-running, except you don’t have the opportunity to stop and take a second to survey your surroundings. When you do end up escaping Dharma Tower for the first time, pretty early on in the game, you’ll be greeted with a wonderous vista to stare at, with destroyed and dilapidated towers and buildings as far as the eye can see, before you end up running down the very tower that housed the entire tale from the first game; it is certainly an incredible way to announce you’re opening things up.

Related: PlayStation Showcase: 505 Games Show Hectic and Exciting ‘GhostRunner II’ Cinematic Trailer, Showing Open-World Traversal

You’ll then be jumping on the bike, and before you know it, you’ll be whizzing along at hundreds of miles an hour, avoiding obstacles, trying to jump ramps and land, going upside down in tunnels and much more besides.

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It may not be quite the semi-open world that was reported when it was first announced, or at least the section I played wasn’t, but the semi-on-rails exploration of the world outside Dharma Tower is fun, fast and frenetic, and always beautiful to look at with the same neon-centric, cyberpunk themes seemingly present throughout, and thankfully the same mechanics for death are followed. If you die on the bike, you respawn immediately and can try a different tactic, or if you’re like me, the same tactic again and again until Radoslaw gives you a tip.

Parrying is a more contentious addition, with it undoubtedly going to be viewed as something included to make the game more accessible to newcomers, which some of the diehard fans of the franchise won’t like. Souls-like fans want their difficulty, they don’t want to be babied, after all. As Radoslaw said though, this is as much to make it more accessible as it is to offer a different dynamic to the game, and it means new and different enemies can be introduced, as well as some glorious samurai combat, because after all, why would you carry a samurai sword around without being able to defend with it?

As well as defending, you can counter, and oh boy, the counters are incredible. There’s nothing quite as visceral as watching someone get brutally chopped up in a first-person view, and the counters themselves were ALWAYS a joy to pull off and watch. It never got boring. I found myself waiting for the opportunity to counter, instead of just slicing my way through enemies, just to watch another.

And after spending some time learning the mechanic and using it, Radoslaw is exactly right, parrying allowed for a larger array of approaches and along with the new powers in the game, gave me a constantly different way of tackling an arena, ultimately making the game better.

Related: Prepare your Sword! Ghostrunner 2 Official Release Date

New Powers and More Await in Ghostrunner 2

Ghostrunner 2

Set a year after the end of the first game, a lot has changed in Ghostrunner 2 for GR-74, or Jack, as we know him. Zoe is the leader of the rebellion, Kira, a former scientist for The Architect, the antagonist of the first game, is now working with Jack, Zoe and the Rebellion as a whole, although somewhat begrudgingly, it seems. A entire troupe of enemy ghostrunners have emerged, who were biding their time to reveal themselves, and chose the downfall of The Architect to do so, and with these providing an entirely different challenge to the bosses of the first game, you’ll definitely need to be on your toes.

With these new obstacles comes new enhancements though; the aforementioned parry mechanics being one, and having new powers that you can unlock throughout the story being another. The familiar Ultimate from the first game is back, Tempest, but you can use it more readily and often, and in fact the game will require this in the form of completing puzzles too, with them now not only being reliant on you using the ranged weapons at your disposal. Radoslaw did say there were others, but understandably didn’t give much away, but it wouldn’t be odd to assume one may be super-speed, or invulnerability perhaps. We’ll soon find out.

Ghostrunner 2

The Tempest ability comes in handy during combat in a massive way, from throwing enemies at one another, off ledges into the dark abyss or even into those conveniently-placed red barrels, resulting in mass-killings, puzzle solves or just a nice explosion on screen. I also got to use the new Shuriken ability, which is exactly what it sounds like. Except it’s also electric. That Shuriken is a one-hit kill maestro, and between getting me out of jams, controlling the crowd and allowing for yet another string to my bow, attacking wise, it further proves that the team at One More Level understood what made the first game so great, and wanted to improve that with the second.

During my time with Radoslaw he said that the main thing to remember was that the sequel:

“It’s an evolution, not a revolution.”

And this is definitely the case, Enough is different for you to feel like you’re having a new experience with Ghostrunner 2, but most of it is familiar enough to make you feel like you’re still involved in the same story, environment and universe as the first game. New players will be welcomed and able to catch up quickly whereas fans of the first will be able to pick it up and carry on with some minor tweaks to their playbook, and continue their rampage of blood and jumping (and riding now).

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Written by Luke Addison

Luke Addison is the Lead Video Game Critic and Gaming Editor. As likely to be caught listening to noughties rock as he is watching the latest blockbuster cinema release, Luke is the quintessential millennial wistfully wishing after a forgotten era of entertainment. Also a diehard Chelsea fan, for his sins.

Twitter: @callmeafilmnerd