How much do we like cyberpunk? No, I am not saying that "Cyberpunk", of which unfortunately we still cannot say if and how much we like it (which we actually like, we know) but about cyberpunk in general, the one that was born in the 80s, that by Gibson, Sterling, Dick and the other masters. They who made us fall in love with what we humans cannot even imagine, sometimes not even in first person, but thanks to works that reworked theirs on film, and thanks to which the combination of neon and rain has assumed an iconographic meaning that before he did not have. What if Cyberpunk (yes, quel Cyberpunk) is waiting so cruelly so why not spend a few afternoons in the company of titles that can satiate our desire for dystopian and brutal science fiction?
Ghostrunner, I'll tell you right away, it doesn't look the best and, if you've played the demo, maybe you too have a not-so-positive idea about the title. However, net of a drastically derivative style, the title of One More Level, 3D Realms and Slipgate Ironworks and published by 505 Games presents more than one positive surprise. And if the plot that sees us forced to insinuate ourselves into the bowels of a fallen metropolis in the umpteenth, desperate struggle for the protection of mankind is only a claim to slice enemies in every possible way, never mind: it is exactly what we are for. been created.
The dance of the spectrum
Without memory, if not obviously the muscular one, we are the Ghostrunner. We move easily through the city, among gigantic skyscrapers, hot metal, neon signs and machinery of all kinds, often deadly. Mara, leading biomechanics who plans to reprogram society, is our goal: she nearly killed us but she didn't finish the job, too bad for her. By delving into the mechatronic womb of the Dharma Tower and exploiting our mind interconnected with the digital network that seems to weave a reality of its own, we expand our psyche, strengthen our body, ready for the next sword stroke.
Like water, we are in constant motion, stop? Not recommended. Stop us? Impossible. Sharp as our sword, the determination that guides us is our most lethal weapon.
And you must really be determined in Ghostrunner, because, as anticipated by the subtitle of this piece, you die a lot and often and from the very first steps the game traps us in a mechanism bordering on masochism, a single mistake and it's game over, but this also applies to our adversaries, it only takes one shot to kill and be killed, the privilege of the "Press R to Restart" however, is ours alone. Few commands are given to us and those are enough and advance once we know how to master: jump, slide, sprint and throw our plasma grappling hook, that's all. But the rhythm is pounding like the electronic beat that accompanies our movements and it takes a good dose of reflexes and coordination to get the better of the fierce level design that marks the platform and combat sessions.
And it is precisely the latter that makes every test we undergo compelling, creating a ruthless playground where the margin of error is close to zero. The game effectively manages to bring the player to follow his flow, every now and then he forces his hand a little, not leaving us the freedom we would like, or that we would expect from the fluidity of the controls that make us really masters of the battlefield, especially after some - or more than a few - attempts. And once you learn how to move by the rules of the city, it's easy to enter an aerial dodge to avoid lasers or other obstacles in succession to get to the next challenge. The superhuman abilities of our avatar allow us to freeze time for a few moments when we are in midair and move accordingly to adjust the trajectory of a jump and calculate the next aerial shot to the millimeter.
The better we get, the more the game notices and adds, with a good difficulty curve despite some sporadic but not negligible peaks, increasingly invasive and frequent disturbing elements. However, as the level design becomes more complicated, with an increasingly marked and appreciated verticality, some elements scattered in the game "pictures" come to our rescue, allowing us, to name a few, to significantly slow down the course of time for a period limited, or to take super leaps, or even to launch shurikens charged with electricity that can activate otherwise unreachable switches. These mechanics are wisely dosed and well blended together, creating an effective and always fresh rhythm and adding a little twist to the playful formula each time and offering a “simple” but never repetitive experience.
One of Ghostrunner's greatest merits is precisely this, being able to entertain throughout its duration, always putting ourselves in front of different elements and possibilities, without watering down, weighing down or upsetting the formula. The biggest flaw lies in the physicality of the protagonist, with jumps and shots that are far too short that on more than one occasion give back a sense of heaviness and the feeling of often arriving "short" at the end of a jump. Some background smudges then, which at times dirty the most agitated phases giving us additional game overs which honestly do not feel the need, lower the value of production by a few points but without affecting the goodness of what was previously written. Getting around Ghostrunner's world is not easy but, once you get there, it's always satisfying.
Eat, Kill, Sleep, Die, Repeat
The heart of the game, and the most successful part of it, is combat. Thanks to the ninja moves discussed in the previous paragraph, gThe battles present a challenge that tests all our skills, leading us to face a good number of opponents able to force us to constantly change approach, especially when “mixed” properly within the levels. The fighting style of the same, whether they are simple soldiers with rifles, thugs devoted to melee or assault mechs, is the real flagship of the production, which manages to fully exploit a very simple attack system but which, conveyed precisely by rival strategic schemes, it turns out to be unexpectedly profound. Slashing slashes with our sword requires the press of a single button and there are no combos, but we can deflect enemy bullets if hit with the right timing and, with a specific skill, send them back to the sender.
It may seem "little" but considering that the title constantly requires lightning-fast reflexes of execution a mentality devoted to multitasking, having to keep more threats at bay and always being in overwhelming numerical inferiority, things get very complicated. In addition to our trusty blade, in the course of the game we are given some special skills of crucial importance to get the better of the fights, such as the ability to perform a gruesome and lightning bolt, cutting cleanly everything in between the starting point and that of arrival, or release an energy blade from our weapon, able to slice everything in its path and allowing us to wipe out an entire group of enemies in the blink of an eye. But there is more to discover and it is enough for you to know that every skill is as effective as we are able to exploit it and therefore, even in this case, the game never makes us passive but always leads to a complex reasoning on the opponent's deployment and the pitch.
There is no fear of death, and in this Ghostrunner he is more samurai than ninja perhaps, because only with constant errors - and therefore attempts - you can learn the winning strategy, to be used to get the better of that room that appears insurmountable, and that after a few seconds of satisfaction you quickly forget after having beaten it, committed to facing the next challenge with maximum concentration. Energy shields, drones armed to the teeth, hail of bullets and swords with which to cross the blade, there is so much to discover, face (and ultimately destroy) in Ghostrunner and it is a constant pleasure that shows again the wisdom of a team independent in creating an adventure "Slice 'n run" from the almost perfect rhythm to the final bars. In the queue, it is necessary to mention the presence of a handful of boss fights, not all perfectly guessed, or in any case not in all their phases, but still well packaged and with some peaks of fun not to be underestimated.
Ghostrunner's growth system is marked by some ad hoc phases in which, by delving into the digital coils of the Net, we learn notions relating to the characters and the plot of the title, and it is always in these cases that we are given the special skills related to the combat. Once you have completed one of these portions of the game, you get a new set of perks, which are divided into various categories that can more or less significantly change our skills and our style of play but to equip them it will not be enough to press a button. As if it were a sort of puzzle-themed mini game in fact, the game features a screen that sstrongly draws the eye to Tetris, giving each perk a specific form of the immortal puzzle game of 1984. Being able to effectively fit the various pieces together is not at all simple and it goes without saying that the most powerful skills are also those with the most cumbersome or at least complex shapes, bringing back the player to exploit the gray matter and create skill sets that do not necessarily turn out to be the most effective but simply the ones that best fit together. A real touch of style that adds a double layer of depth to the title, truly commendable.
The technical side of Ghostrunner shows light and shadow, weighing down the work of One More Level but without putting it down. The Unreal Engine 4 does its duty but does not strike properly and while packaging a pleasant overall picture, there is a certain underlying weakness in the polygonal bulk and in the attention to detail, also thanks to an artistic sector that is really too derivative and generic to as regards the cyberpunk declination of the work, which fails to have the bite that it shows instead in its exquisitely playful aspect. The real flaw, however, lies, as already mentioned, in the physicality of the characters and in the sense of "inconsistency" that the enemies return when they are cut, for example, which seem too fragile, almost ethereal and make our shots less "felt" and therefore satisfying. But this sense of lightness can be applied a little to the whole game, to the blows inflicted, to the animations of the protagonist and to a game world that seems almost a fragile film set.. There is also a fairly conspicuous but at the same time completely negligible asset recycling.
The technical side of Ghostrunner is certainly not a strength but it does not matter because its value emerges where it is most important, delivering an experience that is always fluid and anchored at 60 frames per second and this is enough to turn a blind eye to "muscular" imperfections of an independent work that can be almost completely forgotten considering the budget nature of the title.
Ghostrunner is not a perfect experience but one that, perhaps thanks to its flaws, manages to highlight all that is good. It takes about 13 hours to get to the credits, there is a small replay value related to finding collectibles and skins for our sword in the various game levels, it is not very inviting but it can be a decent excuse to indulge in a "second round. ”In the devious carousel of the Dharma Tower. In any case, the amount of hours necessary to finish the game turns out to be almost perfect and being kidnapped by the title of 505 Games is all too simple and you will probably slip into its trap without even realizing it. It is amazing how much the game experience improves with its pace and how the relationship of hate / love established in the early stages with the title has resulted in the detriment of the first. in such a sudden and natural way at the same time. Ghostrunner is one of those games that they like precisely because of their imperfection: it convinces with its ideas and the very solid defense of the same by the team, although they are not always focused or transposed in playful terms in the best way. Forget the demo, take a leap of faith and buy Ghostrunner directly, if you like challenges, if you are ready for a loop of death and satisfaction, even if affected by a few fifteen minutes of frustration, if you love action, the platformer and if "arcade" is your middle name, you will be largely satisfied.