It took a while before the Cyberpunk genre was fully developed into modern video games, and Ghostrunner was definitely one of those games that raised a few eyebrows upon its release (though maybe not as many as Cyberpunk 2077 did). The game is packed with a very frenetic first-person action that combines parkour elements with ninja-like close combat. All while maintaining a very Cyberpunk-esque essence. If you’re into challenging games with fun exploration and combat, you can’t miss out on Ghostrunner. The title is also receiving a sequel later this year, so it’s the perfect time to try out this unique game and climb the Dharma Tower as you slash your enemies on your way to the top!
Story – The Last Ghostrunner of a Cyberpunk City
We incarnate the last Ghostrunner of a rebellion (which later on gets deliberately baptized as “Jack”) in a Cyberpunk City known as “Dharma Tower”. This rebellion is occurring at the very moment the intro cinematic begins, and our mission is to bring down the supreme ruler of Dharma Tower with the help of a few friends. The climbing is going to be hard and steep, and the game makes sure to let you know as soon as it begins.
While the story isn’t the strongest element of Ghostrunner, it has a few narrative elements that are worth noting. Most of the dialogues occur through phone calls or even “telepathic messages”, so the game doesn’t have many cutscenes to develop its lore and characters. This obviously hurts a few narrative elements in the story, but it’s impressive how the developers managed to tell a complex story with mostly only dialogues and gameplay, probably to reduce the total cost of the development.
The only objectively negative side of both the story and narrative is probably the length and anti-climactic ending. The game is only 6 to 8 hours long, and most of the final sequences feel rushed and unpolished. I feel like it could have probably used 1/3 more of its total duration to develop a slightly better narrative toward the ending.
In any case, Ghostrunner’s story is fairly immersive and interesting. It is definitely not a determinant factor to keep you playing the game, but it’s as valuable as you would expect from any video game.
Gameplay – Challenging, Fast-Paced & Brutal
Ghostrunner’s gameplay is what makes it so unique. Yes, it can be easily compared to other modern first-person perspective games that have similar mechanics like Shadow Warrior 3, for example. But Ghostrunner is excellent at what it attempts and brings highly polished gameplay that stays with the player for a while.
First of all, our character is able to wall-run, dodge in slow motion, slide, jump, and dash forward with precision. The character’s mobility is really smooth, you just have to get used to it. We’re equipped with a single katana that is able to slash (most of) our enemies with only one strike, but you also die by getting shot once. You have to think fast and look for the opportunity to get close to your enemies and finish them off. However, we have the ability to watch the path of a bullet once it has been shot, so we have a few seconds to activate our dodging ability and get out of the way. We can also unlock more abilities and powers later on, but our Katana is always our primary source of damage.
Most levels are based on I would say 40% exploration, and 60% combat, which is a nice balance to keep the player entertained. Even when we’re just traversing the levels, it feels fun and challenging. We have to wall-run a lot, grab onto grapple points, and dodge the environmental threats. You can also go for hidden collectibles that unlock more designs and skins for your katana. On top of that, some levels feature a few puzzle sections that are also a great addition. They’re complex enough, but not too frustrating either.
There are also a few “boss fights” that are very exciting and require you to learn your enemy’s attack patterns. It may get as repetitive as a souls-like game since you’ll probably have to try thousands of times. Ghostrunner is not an easy game, so patience is key. It is challenging, fast-paced, and brutal. A great thing about it though is that you can die and retry as many times as you want, there are no punishments for it. And once you die, you can immediately respawn and try again without any loading screens. This makes the gameplay feel smooth and bearable, even if you have to try literally thousands of times before moving on to the next section. At the end of my first playthrough my death counter reached more than 1000, so there you have an estimated amount of death screens you’ll see.
However, dying doesn’t feel too frustrating compared to other high-difficulty games. Since we have the chance to immediately retry, going for new strategies is always fun. You won’t get punished with a tediously long loading screen for trying to perform a risky move, so you have nothing to lose other than a few seconds.
Ghostrunner is short and small in most aspects, but it really accomplishes delivering a valuable experience in what it attempts. It has very polished combat and exploration, and is a frenetic and highly rewarding challenge. If you’re the kind of player that’s into that kind of game, this one is definitely for you.
Graphics – Well-Crafted & Optimized
The graphics of Ghostrunner are not out of this world or anything like that, but they’re very well-made and the game has nothing to be ashamed of regarding this part of it. The cyberpunk aesthetics, the visual construction of the world, and the overall environments are amazing. The lighting effects during action moments make the game visually appealing as well. It is very easy to distinguish enemies, bullets, and everything in your environment that can be used to your advantage such as walls and grapple points. It really does an effort to put you under the robotic skin of a Ghostrunner and feel the tension after every enemy you kill and every bullet you dodge.
The PS5 version also comes with many graphic settings, including a fidelity mode to play in 4K, a performance mode to play at 120 fps, and the option to turn ray tracing on and off. This way, the game lets players choose to play with the highest resolution or framerate possible, which is always nice (especially if we’re talking about a challenging game where players need to feel comfortable with the visuals).
Sound – Highly Fitting & Immersive
The sound of Ghostrunner is very impressive, especially if we talk about the soundtrack. Daniel Deluxe did a wonderful job portraying the essence of the game in a varied, extensive, and immersive soundtrack. If there’s any kind of video game soundtrack that teleports you to a Cyberpunk world by just closing your eyes and listening to it, believe me when I say Ghostrunner has it. Every level has a different song along with a few generic ones for certain moments, but each song becomes one with the environment in every fight, every puzzle, and even every exploration bit. The electronic synth-wave sounds will keep you immersed in every moment without even making you wonder why. When you combine it with the gameplay and visuals, the soundtrack is what makes Ghostrunner the ultimate Cyberpunk experience.
If you want to listen to the OST by yourself, here you have the full album on Spotify. I personally recommend the track called “The Orb”, which is part of also my favorite level of the game!
Ghostrunner was reviewed on PS5.