Enter the Ninja
Move over speed-running: ghostrunning is the newest hip gamer trend! As seen in Ghostrunner, a split Danish/Polish developed title by Slipgate Ironworks and One More Level. First-person platforming is a challenging genre to tackle with the Mirror’s Edge series being its biggest proponent. However as they try to combine slick ninja action with first-person freerunning, do they stand a ghost of a chance?
Though the game immediately dazzles with its combination of a cyberpunk city and a cyborg ninja (aka gamer junk food) it doesn’t take long for the conceptual flaws of this title to present themselves. The first-person platforming is handled excellently, with sliding and wall-running reminiscent of Titanfall’s excellent controls.
As per the ten commandments of gaming, a grappling hook adds some spice to the proceedings but is disappointingly limited in its usage. You’ll also be able to use “Sensory Boost” – can we please just call things slow-motion? There’s nothing wrong with that term! We don’t need to reinvent the wheel for every sub-Matrix bullet-time equivalent! Sorry. This… sensory boost can be used to re-adjust for tricky jumps as well as weave around enemy firepower.
Revenge of the Ninja
Speaking of firepower: the combat is clunky and irritating. Immediately at odds with the platforming, Ghostrunner faces the same fatal flaw as Mirror’s Edge in this regard. Barrages of gunfire from off-screen foes and an unresponsive katana make for intensely frustrating encounters. Given the fantastic movement options, this results in a game of two halves. Upgrade options help to offset this as the game progresses but it leaves a terrible first impression.
It cannot be overstated how gorgeous the world of Ghostrunner is. Again, cyberpunk may be old-hat as an aesthetic now but it’s undeniably cool to see cyborgs wall-running to techno beats. If Ridley Scott had the editorial whims of George Lucas he would have definitely added parkour and katanas to Blade Runner.
Ghostrunner may be a mixed bag but would understandably be an attractive prospect for speed-running fanatics as well as cyberpunk dorks. It’s hard not to wish this was either solely a platformer or for the combat to be significantly tighter but for high-octane thrills, it hits the mark. As a complete package that includes the Project Hel expansion, this is a good entry point for those curious to enter Ghostrunner’s world before the upcoming sequel. For those who want a consistently great experience, however: keep running.