Developer: One More Level
Platforms tested on PC and Base PS4
Genre: Action/ First Person Platforming
Download size: 20GB
Platforms available on Steam, Epic Games Store, GOG, PlayStation Store, Xbox Store, and Nintendo EShop
Progress Made: Beat the main story in 6.5 hours
Before I start my review, let me get through some housekeeping. This game crashes a lot on base PS4. I tested this game on three different base PS4s, and it crashed multiple times on all of them. I would’ve given it a pass if there were only one or two rare crashes. But the crashes in this game are so frequent that they detract from the enjoyment. Plus, if you are in the middle of a level and you crash, you start from the very beginning as the game doesn’t save at checkpoints mid-level.
For this reason alone, I would strongly advise against playing it on a base PS4. And I have no idea about the performance of the PS4 Pro. This game will receive a free PS5 upgrade during this year, so I would suggest waiting for that if you’re a console player or wait until they’ve fixed these crashing issues on the base PS4. I will add that many of my friends played it on PS5, and it was a smooth experience for them. But I can’t give my actual thoughts on something that I haven’t experienced.
Everything which I say in this review is based on my experience with the PC version. Also, what’s up with these Polish developers screwing the pooch on consoles? ( Also, this review is being written with the very first patch in mind. If they’ve fixed the game on base PS4 with any recent patches, I don’t have any knowledge of that. So apologies in advance)
Let’s get the performance out of the way first. I played it on a PC with i7-7700K, GTX 1070, 16 GB RAM, and installed it on an HDD. As for the performance itself, this game was giving me a locked 60FPS at all the settings cranked to near max at 1440p. But I dropped them to the lower end of the spectrum to get a stable 144FPS(at 1440p). Even on the lower settings, it’s still a pretty looking game, and for me, the gain in performance was much better than all the visual candy this game had to offer on it’s highest. The load times take around 30 seconds to load from the start screen to in-game. But after that, there are no loading times when you’re in-game. Respawn from death is instantaneous. As for the crashes on PC, I had none.
Coming to the gameplay, this is where this game shines. And it shines brighter than Agent 47’s Ray Traced scalp. The levels are intricately designed, which encourage a relentless constant forward momentum while also keeping its brief 6-hour runtime unique by throwing you into a blend of situations where you get new abilities, new environmental mechanics, and new types of enemies that require you to shake up your tactics which are entirely in-sync with the open-ended encounter design. Though some of these levels do end up feeling gimmicky at times, they weren’t a detriment to my overall experience.
Enemies die in one hit, and so do you. But the game never feels unfair. Aside from the extremely tight and responsive controls (Keyboard and Mouse) and pixel perfect platforming(which makes Respawn’s FPS 2016 Masterclass Titanfall 2 look amateurish in a comparison), the checkpoints are also very lenient. Most of the time, you’d be placed right before an encounter where you last died. This may sound troublesome, but since this entire game is based on speed and precision, the faster you go, the higher the chances of completing the encounters in a jiffy. But the chances of getting stuck on a particular encounter are also high if you cannot land that one perfect jump. This is what makes the challenge of this game enjoyable for me.
But amidst all this, there’s one glaring overlook. If you quit to the main menu, you’ll have to restart the level from the beginning. This is extremely stupid as people with limited time can’t always finish a level, especially considering that this game can get hard as nails, so if you think that you can keep this game aside and come back with a fresh mind, then good luck with that because you’ll have to do the previous 10-20 minutes before you manage to reach the place which was giving you trouble. Now I am not an elitist prick who dictates how developers should implement checkpoints in their games. But if you try to put your feet in two ships ( having Uncharted and COD Esque checkpoints on one hand and having From Software’s lack of checkpoints on the other), then sinking is an inevitable outcome. I really wish the developers look into it and can patch it out shortly.
The game also features an upgrade tree, which requires you to arrange the pieces in an optimal way, which is very similar to a game of Tetris. Technically speaking, there is nothing wrong with this idea conceptually or in execution. But I was never a fan of Tetris, as seeing so many geometrical shapes at once shuts down my brain entirely. So for me, this upgrade tree only hampered my ultra-fast momentum. Also, if you leave some unused spaces in the upgrade tree, your focus (a mechanic that allows you to use any one of the four special abilities you unlock in the campaign) will regenerate faster; this, combined with my inherent dislike towards Tetris, made it hard for me to care about the skill tree. With that being said, I am pretty sure that I am in the minority here, and for most people, this will be a non-issue.
When it comes to the audio-visual department, this game is a no-slouch either. The cyberpunk aesthetic is brought to life by immaculately rendered environments. Couple with well-detailed models and a clever application of lighting, this game ends up being a looker. Also, massive props to the animation team as slicing your foes into two with your katana after performing a complex chain of aerobics never gets old and feels super satisfying. As for the audio, I really enjoyed the synth-wave soundtrack of the game. It did a great job of setting up the mood and perfectly complemented the aesthetics and the action. Though I would add that no piece stuck with me after I was done with the game.
Coming to the story, without spoiling anything, I would say that it’s quite predictable. I could figure out most of the tropes by the time I was halfway through the tutorial level. With that being said, I still ended up enjoying it. Even though the story mostly relies on exposition dumps, it never slows down the gameplay, and I love it. You can either choose to stand still and absorb all of it or, you are free to blast through all of it, which means essentially zero downtime. Once again, it reminds me of Titanfall 2, which had a similar story structure, but the character writing was much stronger. The voiceover work was fine. But just like the rest of the story, nothing to write home about.
Ghostrunner is an amazing game and an extremely exhilarating experience from start to finish, and I managed to ooze adrenaline out of my body for the entirety of its runtime. It was amongst my top 5 games of 2020 and is one of those games that I will continue coming back to again and again. For 30$, this game is a steal.