Ghostrunner is one of the best in the parkour genre we’ve seen so far. It’s out now for consoles (there’s even a Switch version) and PC – we tested it on a PlayStation 4 Pro.
There was a time where first person parkour was almost synonymous with Mirror’s Edge, but in recent years we’ve seen plenty of takes on the genre, including indie gems like Headup’s SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell – with many others also following that game’s emphasis on speed runs. There have been very few attempts at creating a narrative-driven experience with AAA production values though, and Ghostrunner is here to break that trend.
It not only embraces the kind of parkour gameplay that Mirror’s Edge pioneered, but also put it inside the context of a neon-drenched cyberpunk world not too unlike what CD Projekt Red is going to (for real this time) deliver to us next month. It may not sport the same amount of detail and the world may be less vibrant and alive, but Ghostrunner is a gorgeous game that can rival what the AAA scene is putting out there.
Set in a relatively confined futuristic game world, Ghostrunner provides plenty of verticality by using a giant skyscraper as its central playground – one where humans are the minority and cyborgs are dominant, but also one where an evil ruler sits at the top of the building. Your job, as a cyber assassin, is to take him out.
As mentioned, this is a narrative-driven game, but it doesn’t rely on cutscenes or set pieces like other games do. Instead, much of the narrative is delivered through voiceovers that play as you’re scaling walls or are engaged with combat. This created a bit of a pacing issue in the narrative sense – not necessarily because the story is poorly paced but because the delivery of the story isn’t timed so that you can digest it during calmer moments of gameplay.
The gameplay, as it is, would barely allow for this anyway – since the action is fairly non-stop and the parkour sections are challenging and require you to keep moving. Not doing so means you lose momentum, which often means you’ll fall to your demise or will need to start another run-up. Extreme jumps can be made easier with a grappling hook, and stringing together regular jumps, wall jumps and grappling can create a beautiful gameplay flow, especially when the sequence ends with you slashing your sword through an enemy that doesn’t know what hit him.
That’s all easier said than done though, as Ghostrunner is described as being ‘hardcore’ and is quite a bit harder than Mirror’s Edge was. Most of that challenge isn’t in the combat (which is melee-focused and you can use bullet time to evade gun fire and other attacks), but requires precise movement and combos. Failing to keep your momentum up can leave you in the line of fire, so the trick is to get in close and deliver a strike there.
Combat isn’t a simple case of running up to an enemy and striking him down either, since you can and have to pick different approach techniques based on the enemy type you’re facing. Some will have shields, and other will have attacks that you’ll want to avoid before getting your own chance to attack. The environment can be helpful in this regard, with some of the most impressive attacks coming from using a wall to get behind an enemy and then striking him down while you turn.
Ghostrunner requires a bit of practice before you get comfortable with it, but its stellar presentation and well implemented parkour mechanics make it a landmark title in the genre, and one of the surprise hits of the season – and at half price, certainly one of the most value-rich ones.