A sign of galloping anxiety taking hold of the collective imagination, or a fashion effect resurfacing from the past, cyberpunk is a genre that has been doing wonderfully for some time. The cultural products wearing its colors follow one another without ceasing, despite an inexorable saturation of the market. Also, when the young Polish studio One More Level announced Ghostrunner at GamesCom 2019, the news was warmly received. Well, we were wrong and are happy to admit it! The end of the world has taken place, humanity is on its knees and what remains of it is entrenched in a final bastion, the gigantic Dharma tower. The choice of verticality is not the result of chance since society is now hyper hierarchical in a caste system, held with an iron fist by The Master of Keys. Obviously, this authoritarian reorganization of society did not take place without dissent, but the rebellion was put down and is now bloodless. However, it was without counting on the awakening of a formidable cybernetic swordsman, thrown out of the tower and deprived of his memory, who will come to the aid of the only resistance still alive, by going to the assault of the tower. Floor after floor, the Ghostrunner will climb to the top, despite the injunctions to turn away from this noble fight, repeated by the Great Architect, a mysterious and disembodied being accompanying him throughout his quest. So much for the Ghostrunner scenario, whose narration is based entirely on in-game dialogues and unfortunately requires attention that we have all the trouble in the world to give it. And for good reason, we are tempted to focus primarily on the hectic action, in which the game plunges us brilliantly.
Harder, swashbuckler, faster, stronger
For its very first achievement, One More Level does not reinvent the genre but intelligently draws its inspiration from multiple sources, to obtain a hybridization of formidable efficiency. We thus find mirror's Edge-style parkour, associated with the frenetic rhythm of a fast-FPS at DOOM and the “one shot, one kill” bias of a SuperHot… The maxi best-of formula concocted by the Polish developer puts the player on an adrenaline drip and almost constantly keeps us under pressure. And here is our cybernetic ninja, in the false air of the mythical Gray Fox of MGS, leaps, runs against the walls, and executes his enemies with a single blow of the blade. They do it well because the slightest bullet is also fatal to us. The rhythm thus imprinted by the severity of the sanction, then leads to dozens and dozens of attempts to achieve its ends. Fortunately, it is possible to instantly leave the last checkpoint, a bit like a lane error, or off the road in Trackmania. Ghostrunner is also a pure die & retry which requires dying a very large number of times before being able to effectively grasp the different sequences making up the multiple levels, between enemies with very varied characteristics and perilous obstacle course. At first laborious, our progress becomes more and more fluid as our mastery of the superhuman abilities of the Ghostrunner and our increasingly instinctive reading of level design are refined.
A hero boosted with cybernetic augmentations
In addition to running, leaping, and sliding like a champion under EPO and growth hormones, our hero also has a kind of energy grapple allowing him to reach high-perched platforms. Also, the use of all these possibilities of movement gives rise to twirling, exhilarating and increasingly rewarding acrobatics as our mastery of them is refined. However, I regret that, occasionally, certain interactions with platforms do not trigger, while others occur without me having intended. Certainly little exceptional situations but which are difficult for a title playing the card of precision and speed of execution. That being said, the Ghostrunner's range of motion isn't limited to extraordinary athletic prowess. Our over-augmented swashbuckler can also count on a few sleights of hand quick to get him out of the most desperate situations. Foremost among these tips is the possibility, after a jump, of slowing downtime for a short time to shift left or right and thus avoid a shot that would checkmate us. An equally useful ability when it comes to procrastinating during a sequence of platforms whose frantic pace makes it difficult to read the terrain and anticipate the next obstacles for our modest human brain. In addition, during our progress, a set of special techniques is added, the use of which draws on a focus gauge that is restored over the executions. They are four in number:
- an instant strike that teleports us to the enemy in our line of sight;
- a blast sweeping the opponent like a straw;
- a horizontal wave of Strider-style energy capable of slicing through multiple attackers at once and from long range;
- the possibility of turning an enemy against his peers to assist us.
Each of these techniques can be boosted via a rather original improvement system consisting of a grid on which to place sets of blocks, Tetris style. It will then be a question of associating as well as possible the possibilities of an increase of various kinds, the most powerful obviously occupying the most space. Note that each location left vacant is not completely lost either, since it reduces the recharge time before the next use of one of these special techniques. There is also even an advantage in not filling the entire grid if one wishes to favor the frequency of use over the power. And that's pretty well seen from One More Level!
A murderous ballet that goes crescendo
With this particularly rich offensive repertoire, one might think that our cybernetic ninja walks with ease and casually in the middle of the hordes of enemies standing in his way. One More Level has cleverly orchestrated the program of festivities that await us and each level is thus an opportunity to rub shoulders with a new type of enemy or to assimilate a new environmental mechanic. From the basic gun holder, we quickly go to the soldier equipped with a heavy-gust blaster forcing us to stay constantly on the move. Then comes the solid fellow stashed behind an energy shield that forces us to take it from behind to get rid of it, or the melee specialist leaping to meet us to crush us to the ground, passing through the ninja at speed execution which has nothing to envy to ours. And that's without counting the projectile launcher teleporting as we approach and, finally, the disgusting crawling and explosive creatures that will necessarily have to flee with great strides. Everything is obviously punctuated by three boss fights, all equally successful, and in completely different styles. The same goes for the game environments which are gradually enriched with new interactions, thus expanding the range of maneuvers to be carried out to reach the end of each course. Whether it's new momentary abilities, like gigantic jumps, shurikens with which to deactivate electronic systems locking certain accesses, rails on which to hang to hurtle down them at full speed, or mobile structures to hack in the middle of To ensure its continuity and not to fall into a vacuum, Ghostrunner is full of good level design ideas. And if the first half of the 17 levels of the game deploys only the most conventional, the second goes all the way, each level concluding with a blissful smile from the player (and a certain feverishness, let's not be afraid to admit it. ). Only shadow in this beautiful painting, the Cybervoid. It is a virtual world where the game takes us on numerous occasions. It thus takes the form of intermediate levels essentially oriented towards platform and reflection. Aesthetically very successful, these parallel levels could have been welcome breaths in the frantic pace to which the game constrains us. Unfortunately, apart from the last of them - absolutely memorable - these levels are a succession of lazy puzzles and platform sequences including the only challenge is their mismatch with the game's supercharged gameplay, resulting in countless and inevitable crashes.
Two-speed artistic direction
Another grievance addressed to the first title of One More Level, the inequality of its artistic direction. The first half of the game looks like a generic production whose graphic assets seem to have been used in many other games, set in a cyberpunk universe. On its first seven or eight levels, Ghostrunner also struggles to impose a slightly original visual identity, so much so that we have the unpleasant impression that any new play area is only a repetition barely differentiated from the previous. We must then wait until we have arrived at the halfway point of the game so that the Polish studio finally gets us out of this somewhat austere succession of techno-grimy corridors and offers us more open and airy environments with much more worked atmospheres. Fortunately, the consistency with which the soundtrack composed by Daniel Deluxe carries us in convinced nods of the head distracts our attention from the monotony of the first environments. With an efficient succession of big edgy synth-wave sounds and powerful kick techno, the game's soundtrack is a feast for the ears. And if it sometimes happens that a track tires us out, it is only because the accumulation of failures leads us to stay a little too long in a level… And that unfortunately the composer cannot do much about. Finally, it remains for us to salute the technique of the game, at least on PC, the platform on which this review was carried out. Developed on Unreal Engine 4, the title of One More Level adapts very well to an average configuration. As far as we are concerned, we have not encountered any inconvenience on a machine equipped with a GTX 1080 Ti supported by 32 GB of Ram. Players with a more muscular configuration can even enjoy compatibility with DirectX 12 and thus enjoy Ray tracing.
We frankly did not expect much and yet Ghostrunner conquered us! Terribly lively and exhilarating, the first title of the Polish studio One More Level delighted us by chaining the moments of bravery, in the ten hours of play that our first run required (count three hours less if you are more as smart as your servant, that is to say, certainly for the majority of you). Difficulty full-bodied but progressive and well proportioned, the adventure that is proposed to us here really takes off, after the first half of the game. Before that, we must recognize that the pace may lack a little something and the news proposals put forward by the studio, a bit of madness. At the halfway point, however, the young studio unfolds a breathtaking scenario at the end of which we arrived on the knees but satisfied with the road traveled. To the point of forgetting a little the few errors of the title, such as interactions that sometimes forget to trigger, sequences in the Cybervoid that fall flat, or a mixed artistic direction. It would also be a shame to dwell on these few pitfalls. Ghostrunner a big shot of adrenaline summoning our most unsuspected reflexes and which will undoubtedly be the delight of speedrun enthusiasts. Because once the total control of the gameplay has been acquired, we will be happy to come back for more and more efficient runs and better and better choreographed.
Ghostrunner Review Conclusion
For a surprise, it's a good surprise! With this first achievement, One More Level comes out with honors for this supercharged action/platform game full of good gameplay and level design ideas. After the first half of the adventure somewhat withdrawn in terms of intensity and artistic direction, the game finally takes off for our greatest pleasure. And despite a few odds, especially during sequences in the Cybervoid or occasionally when interactions with the decor forget to trigger, Ghostrunner will undoubtedly delight lovers of challenges raised in lack of thrills. You can get more information regarding this game by visiting the Ghostrunner official website. If you have any comments about this post please feel free to leave your comment down below. Have a terrific day.