The original Gravity Rush was a hidden gem stuck on a doomed handheld. Fans of the game were skeptical that it would ever receive a sequel, especially with so many unanswered questions. Thankfully, fortune was smiling down upon them and in 2015 the announcement for the sequel on the PS4 rejuvenated the series from fading into obscurity. Two years later, the game finally released and what we got was a worthy successor to an underrated title.
Gravity Rush 2
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer:SIE Japan Studio, Project Siren
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: January 20th, 2017
Price: $39.99 (Review Copy Purchased)
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review above, or read the full review of the game below.
Gravity Rush 2 is one of the most gorgeous titles that has come out this year. In an industry of making games look photo realistic, Gravity Rush 2 instead opts for a strong, colorful aesthetic that makes it stand out from much of the competition. The use of color in its environment design is masterful, making each unique zone have a distinct color palette in order for it to stand out as well as convey its tone. The game goes to make everything cell shaded, which helps to make the colors stand out even more to ultimately create a fantastic and distinct looking game.
The environments themselves are absolutely enormous, with both hub worlds feeling like actual cities and not just simply a collection of buildings. The new city in the game, Jirga Para Lhao, has a great sense of verticality to it. This not only helps give it a sense of identity, but also gives us insight on how the city functions.
Story moments, like in the previous entry, are presented through comic book styled panels with a sprinkling of in-game cutscenes. While some people might be turned off by this style of storytelling, it works great in this context since both the character portraits and the panels themselves are beautifully drawn and do a great job at accurately conveying the appropriate mood of each story beat. They also don’t use them all the time, as they wisely use the in-game cutscenes whenever an action set piece occurs in order to keep those scenes from losing their impact.
It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows in the graphics department, however, as Gravity Rush 2 suffers from some of the most egregious pop ins I’ve seen. Moving from zone to zone can result in textures not loading properly, which results in low quality texture work everywhere to upwards of 10 seconds. While it’s only really noticeable within the first city of the game, it does heavily hinder what is otherwise a fantastic presentation.
Gravity Rush 2 is the one game I’ve had the most enjoyment in simply traveling from place to place. Using your gravity powers to “fly” around Jirga Para Lhao was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve had this year so far. Thanks to improved controls, this is the one game where I try to use the quick travel mechanic as little as possible. Instead, I like to bask myself in the beautiful vistas the game presents me.
Combat is by far the most improved element from the first game, with more variety and better balancing. Dive Kicking got considerably nerfed, making it not nearly as viable and universal as it was in Gravity Rush. The trade-off here is that ground combat and projectile attacks are much more useful. The Stasis Field received the biggest improvement, making it so that you can instantaneously pick up items to use as projectiles. In some instances the Stasis Field can be seen as overpowered, but they balanced it so that dispatching enemies with the Stasis Field projectiles does not add to your special meter, which allows you to use special moves.
The biggest difference to combat is the addition to Gravity styles. On top of your regular style, there are the new Lunar Style and Jupiter Style. Lunar style has an emphasis on lightweight and floaty movement with fast paced and evasive combat, while Jupiter style focuses on slow but powerful attacks and faster speeds while shifting gravity. The new styles add way more variety to combat, as you’ll find yourself switching between them quite frequently in order to match the current situation. All of the gravity styles can be further upgraded with Jewels, either improving the gravity meter cost, adding additional properties or simply making them more powerful.
The upgrade system is complimented with a brand new talisman system, which allows you to equip various gems in order to upgrade your gravity styles. While not unappreciated, the gem system is a little too simplistic and barebones, and you’ll most likely not be fooling around with it much.
Gravity Rush 2 boasts a ton of side quests to distract the player from the main story. While I enjoyed all the little stories they had to tell, I felt that they were quite uneven in terms of their rewards. Some of them had some pretty meaningful rewards like exclusive talismans, health and gravity bar upgrades, and even some new costumes. This is something that the previous game gave of a taste of but never fully explored. Half of the side quests I completed, however, had pretty superfluous rewards in the form of prop items that you can use in photo mode. Most of these items are pretty unremarkable and the fact that they’re even rewards to begin with feels like a copout. That being said I still enjoyed them quite, I just wish they had more worthwhile payoffs.
Time trials also make a return from the previous game, only this time with a few more activities thrown into the mix to add more variety. Unlike side quests, time trials always have a good payoff, rewarding the player with gems the better they do so you can further upgrade your powers.
With refined combat and a slew of activities to do, gameplay is only marred down a pretty unwieldy camera at times. It generally works when the player is in wide open areas, but there are moments where the game places you in more confined spaces, and this is when the camera becomes an issue. You’ll find yourself fighting to keep control of the camera and reorienting yourself constantly. One chapter in particular suffers from some pretty unstable camera control, making it much more frustrating than it was fun. This is compounded by the fact that the chapter in question was when you first get the Jupiter Gravity style, making what should have been a triumphant moment into a frustrating chore.
If you like jazz, you will absolutely adore this soundtrack. This is the kind of soundtrack that you might constantly want to be playing in the real world, it’s simply that good. From the high tempo and lively nightlife theme of Plajeune to the slower paced and sophistication of Lei Havina, this soundtrack boasts an impressive variety of jazz music. There’s also have more traditional orchestral tracks for action set pieces and boss fights, which are also excellent. There was no point in which I ever get tired of any of the songs, and this is an exemplary soundtrack in a year full of great soundtracks.
Like the previous entry, voice acting is spoken through a made up language which sounds like a mix of French and Japanese, which is very nice on the ears. My only real complaint is that there isn’t a whole lot of it, as most of the story isn’t told through dialogue but text bubbles, so I never get a full feel for this language that I wanted to hear more of.
Gravity Rush 2’s story feels less like one cohesive narrative and more like three separate stories loosely strung along. For starters, it begins in unfamiliar territory, with locations and characters we’ve never seen before. That’s because it takes place right after the anime special that was made before it’s launch, so watching that is somewhat required in order to not be totally lost. Luckily, it does have the decency of explaining what’s going on once the intro ends. After that though, it’s pretty smooth sailing from there, right until you reach the end of the first act.
After the act one climax, the game completely shifts gears and almost abandons the plot in said act in favor of a different, seemingly unrelated story. It’s only towards the end of the second act where the connection arises, but even then I felt it wasn’t particularly well done, feeling more rushed then anything. The third and final act actually answers a lot of the mysteries that the first game set up, albeit not in the greatest way. Without getting into spoilers, there are a lot of missed opportunities coupled with some pretty bad pacing. At the very least there aren’t any loose ends left.
Luckily, the story still ends up being entertaining simply by the fact that Kat is just such a likeable character. Pair her up with an equally likeable cast and you have a story that won’t fail to make you smile. Something about Kat’s naiveté and her willingness to help strangers makes her a character you root for from beginning to end. The fact that she also likes dressing up in various cute outfits is also a bonus.
Gravity Rush 2 is a worthy follow up to its predecessor, despite some of its most glaring issues. With a gorgeous presentation, amazing music, improved gameplay, and a great lead, if you were a fan of the first Gravity Rush and just so happen to have a PS4, do yourself a favor and pick a copy up.
Gravity Rush 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a retail copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 8.5
- Great presentation
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Improved combat
- Kat is still best girl
- Textures popping in can get pretty egregious
- Main story feels fragmented and poorly paced towards the end
- Camera can be annoying to deal with in certain scenarios