Ghostrunner 2 is a perplexing experience. Its predecessor, which was released at the tail end of 2020, provided us with a fast-paced, stylish, cyber-ninja-themed action platformer that managed to rival other games attempting a similar thing. However, with the sequel, developer One More Level has designed an entry that seemingly manages to provide that same exhilarating feeling, though at the cost of a bevy of performance and technical issues (at least on PS5). In both performance and fidelity modes, Ghostrunner 2 suffers from a wide array of frame drops and, more annoyingly, an absurd number of glitches that can easily take away from the fluidity it sets out to achieve with its traversal-focused gameplay sequences.
The story is a direct continuation of the previous game, focusing on a Ghostrunner by the name of Jack. After his reactivation following the climax of his last adventure, Jack now seeks to rebuild Dharma Tower, the last known bastion of humankind. However, soon enough, a massive power struggle emerges, and it's up to you to defeat an army of cybernetically enhanced foes. Eventually, the game presents you with the opportunity to explore the outskirts of Dharma Tower, which gives further context for the current state of the outside world.
While this may seem like nothing new for a game of this genre, Ghostrunner 2's narrative is often effectively told through its environmental design and lore-specific collectibles. Then again, the plot frequently suffers from poor pacing and difficult-to-understand intricacies that are rarely explained to the player. This can be further exemplified if you haven't played the original. Although Ghostrunner 2 offers a quick recap in its menus, it doesn't effectively encapsulate some of the key events required to fully grasp the story it wants to deliver. As a result, a lot of plot points can often feel rushed or underbaked, and ultimately lead to a somewhat anticlimactic ending.
However, the game's main focus lies within its gameplay and level design. In the same way as its predecessor, Ghostrunner 2 is an action-platformer with similarities to id Software's DOOM. Although that may seem like a strange comparison, both require the player to constantly move around levels, as standing idly by can lead to a quick death. That's where the comparison ends though, as instead of firing an arsenal of heavy weapons, you're limited to a sword and a few abilities. Despite having a limited pool of options, mastery of Ghostrunner 2's mechanics is how you steadily make your way through the campaign's stages.
Furthermore, there are some additional gameplay elements that can provide you with a much needed change of scenery. Boss encounters, for instance, are a breath of fresh air, as they often feel like a gigantic puzzle. For instance, one of the game's earlier bosses requires Jack to use his grapple to avoid certain attacks, before stunning the boss to whittle down its health bar. In addition to some fun bosses, Ghostrunner 2 also boasts a rogue-like mode aptly called RogueRunner.EXE, which sees Jack progressing through a series of combat or parkour-focused "nodes" with different paths to reach the end. Despite not having much weight on the overall narrative, this mode is a fun extra to experiment with once the credits roll.
Speaking of the levels themselves, we found them to be a mixed bag in regard to their quality. The earlier missions feel quite repetitive, as the environment does very little to shake things up, and you don't have immediate access to Jack's abilities. That aside, the game has a nice selection of levels that feel great to play through, especially when you get to test out a newly acquired skill or tool. For instance, one of the sequel's new additions is a motorcycle, which dramatically spices things up through faster sequences and creative open-world-like stages. However, one thing we noticed in our 10 hours of playtime is the game's tendency to quickly throw away fun ideas in exchange for the same carbon copy of a level you played a few hours prior.
Then again, the majority of the levels have clever environmental puzzles you need to complete in order to progress further. Most of the time, Jack is required to carve his way through a series of enemy encounters to move on with his mission. Typically, a room will have anywhere from a few to a dozen enemies, with each one having the power to take you out in one simple hit. However, this is where some of Ghostrunner 2's core issues lie, as although the challenge of figuring out an optimal route to victory can be fun, the game's serious performance issues cast a shadow over what its trying to achieve here. For example, there was one moment where we entered a room and the frame rate dropped to roughly 10-20 frames-per-second. This is especially frustrating when there's a lot of enemies or obstacles to avoid, which is something we constantly fought against during our playthrough.
Another example of this being an issue is during some of the game's parkour sections, which is where you'll spend most of your time between enemy and boss encounters. Ghostrunner 2 tries to juggle a lot of elements in its parkour mechanics, such as grind rails, wall running, using shurikens to activate switches, and effectively using your skills to navigate optimally. Nevertheless, there were many instances of the game's mechanics failing to work properly, as jumping on a grind rail doesn't have the same magnetism as what you'd normally expect, and wall running often leads to Jack climbing on top of it, leading to a cheap, meaningless death. We also noticed a wide array of visual glitches on PS5, and there was even a moment where we simply fell through the floor.
Ghostrunner 2 has some fun moments, though it can often be difficult to see past a lot of the performance issues and inconsistent level design. When the game's at its best, slicing through a horde of enemies and jumping around like a ninja, it can be an exhilarating experience. However, it might be worth waiting for a patch to address a lot of the core issues present at launch.