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Ghostrunner Hands-on Preview

Ghostrunner

All in! Games recently released a limited-time demo for their upcoming first-person cyberpunk parkour game, Ghostrunner. Developed as a collaboration by One More Level, Slipgate Ironworks, and 3D Realms; the game lets you jump, dash, and wall-run your way through a cyberpunk dystopia as a cybernetically-enhanced ninja.

The demo is currently available on Steam, and offers a quick taste of the first 15 minutes or so of gameplay. Here are my first impressions after completing it.

Ghostrunner is set in Dharma Tower, a massive megastructure that the last remnants of humanity call home. This towering, dystopian metropolis is ruled by the tyrannical and enigmatic Mara the Keymaster. Resources are dwindling, with civil unrest, violence, and chaos becoming the norm for the citizens that dwell in Dharma’s neon-lit slums.

Ghostrunner

The demo opens with a mysterious voice in your cybernetic head guiding you. The voice is urging you forward, telling you to come break him out of a maximum security prison, while the authorities are preoccupied with quelling a rebellion organized by the city’s lower caste.

Ghostrunner is an extremely fast, free-flowing first-person parkour game, which means that nabbing solid screenshots was a tad difficult. Each area is full of walls to run along, hanging chains that you can grapple from, ramps to slide down to build up speed, and small spaces you can squeeze under to get around enemies.

So far, the areas follow the same basic formula: use the environment to your advantage to traverse the area as you slice enemies to ribbons with your katana. You are given a decent amount of freedom in the order in which you approach the areas, and they are usually arranged in such a way that you can easily circle back around by bounding off walls or swinging from grappling hooks.

Ghostrunner

The actual combat is all based on one-hit kills, for both yourself and your enemies. Death can come very fast and frequent if you aren’t on your toes, but the game’s checkpoint system is very generous. Upon death, you are usually kicked back to the start of the area you died in, ensuring that you won’t need to travel far to try again.

The only actual weapon you have is a katana, which tends to cut enemies apart in satisfying sprays of viscera. This means that the combat is all about dodging plasma bolts, and using the environment to get close enough to an enemy to deliver a single killing stroke.

Besides using the actual environment, you also have a dash move. You can hold the dash key to temporarily enter a bullet time state, allowing you to dodges projectiles in midair.

Ghostrunner

The controls are very smooth and responsive. It took a while to get used to figuring out my character’s hitboxes, and how far you need to dash to avoid an incoming projectile, but I never felt like a death was unfair. When you die, you feel like it was due to your own incompetence, or your fat sausage fingers failing to move fast enough to avoid the incoming glowing bolts of death.

Speaking of smooth, the visuals are also fantastic so far. The demo has you navigating all manner of grimy industrial areas and slums suspended over bottomless pits.

There’s lots of neon lights, futuristic billboards, and graffiti using a mix of English and kanji to reinforce the aesthetic you’d expect from a cyberpunk game. The visuals are also accompanied by a pulsing electronic soundtrack that nicely complements the action and theme of the game.

The performance is great for a demo that presumably represents a work in progress build of the game. My GTX 1070 was able to play on ultra settings, and the game maintained 60 FPS the entire way through the demo. I have no idea what the game will be like on consoles, but it’s clear that a lot of care went into the PC version.

Ghostrunner

While Ghostrunner‘s demo is extremely short, it gives very good first impressions. The gameplay is already very slick and responsive, and it feels great to run along walls, dodging projectiles as a nimble cyborg ninja. The game’s combat is brutal but fair, and the generous checkpoints put you right back into the action.

It’s also very impressive to see a demo perform so well, which presumably implies that the game isn’t too far off from release. If you want to try the demo for yourself, you can find it on the game’s Steam page. The demo will remain up until May 13th.

Ghostrunner is set to release in 2020 for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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Frank Streva

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Niche Gamer’s resident indie expert. Digs through the Steam new releases so you don’t have to. Massive fan of miniature and board games as well.