Ghostrunner is already shaping up to be one of my most-anticipated games of 2020, and up until this point much of its lore and setting has been shrouded in mystery. Who is the Ghostrunner? What is this tower we’re climbing? Who is the “whisper in your head?” Thankfully, during my most recent playthrough many of these questions were answered, while still saving some of that mystery for the full release.
Developer One More Level has been hard at work on Ghostrunner since its impressive public debut at PAX East, adding new areas, enemies, characters, and abilities ahead of its final release. The first demo ended with the Ghostrunner coming face-to-face with the “whisper in his head” that he had been blindly following through the underbelly of Dharma Tower. We now know this large, blue head is the Architect, and it will be guiding you through the entirety of your adventure.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=over-50-ghostrunner-screenshots&captions=true”]
We also got an introduction to our antagonist, the Dr. Ock-inspired character from the end of the cinematic trailer, a scientist known as Mara the Keymaster. As with most power hungry villains, Mara is hell-bent on seizing control of Dharma Tower and taking down anyone in her way. It’s briefly hinted at that she almost killed the Ghostrunner at some point, and the Architect’s role is to help you regain many of your lost abilities before your inevitable face-off with her once again.
Previously, we’ve only seen one section of Dharma Tower, the lowest portion, designed to acquaint players with movement and early abilities such as the Sensory Boost and Gapjammer.
While the original demo at PAX East gave us a look at the lower portions of Dharma Tower, this updated demo expands upwards into unseen territories. One of which is Dharma City, a large, sprawling commercial district flush with neon signs and advertisements. Additionally, there are yellow rails that can be utilized for quick transportation between rooftops and floating platforms. The fluidity of movement in Ghostrunner already feels great, but the addition of these rails makes it that much better.
[ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/06/13/ghostrunner-16-minute-gameplay-montage]
Another new area I encountered is the Cybervoid, a simulated reality where you’ll interact closely with the Architect to acquire new abilities through platforming sequences and short tutorial areas. The Cybervoid is designed to be slower, allowing players to catch their breath for a moment, as well as learn more about the overall story.
There are plenty of new enemies I encountered during my recent playthrough, as well. The first of which is a charge rifle-wielding enemy who shoots a volley of energy shots that you must dodge quickly before moving in for the strike. Enforcers are large foes that are reinforced with a red shield that requires you to flank them from behind in order to take them down. Attempting to attack them head-on will result in them bashing you with the shield and sending you flying to an almost certain death. Sluggers, meanwhile, are melee opponents that can close the gap on you quickly by jumping high into the air and slamming down with a large area-of-effect attack. You’ll need to master your Sensory Boost ability to dodge out of the way, either sideways or backwards, in order to avoid their strike. Finally, drones are a unique enemy that patrol Dharma Tower from above, shining spotlights down on the direction they are facing. If you are able to jump on them you can ride them like a hoverboard and eventually send them hurtling into a group of enemies to dispose of them easily. Some bad guys will also be reinforced by Beacons, blue shields that surround the enemy and provide invincibility from attack. These Beacons gather their energy from a nearby orb, as indicated by the energy trail leading away from the enemy it is protecting. In order to engage with these foes, you’ll need to destroy the nearby orb.
One of the new abilities the Ghostrunner will obtain is Tempest, a large force of energy that can send groups of the opposition flying at the push of a button. This ability has a cooldown, so timing will be extremely important. As you take down your targets, you’ll gain energy boosts towards your equipped ability, allowing you to use it more frequently. The force exerted by Tempest is so powerful it can even send Enforcers flying, shield and all, even if they are shielded by a nearby Beacon. Additionally, if you time it correctly you’ll also be able to reverse incoming bullets back at them.
[ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/06/13/ghostrunner-gameplay-trailer]
While this is the only new ability I was able to test, One More Level assured me that there would be more in the final release, including Blink (also seen in the cinematic trailer) that allows you to teleport to a specific enemy, slicing anyone in your path along the way. You’ll be able to switch between equipped abilities dynamically, but can only have one active at a time. Eventually, the Ghostrunner will also be able to upgrade himself and his abilities, such as additional dash charges, the ability to see enemies through walls, slice through bullets, as well as reducing the cooldown time of equipped abilities.
Ghostrunner is still on track for a 2020 release. When asked if the development has been impacted by COVID, the team at One More Level said it “doesn’t affect them much” and that they have been working hard from their homes and sharing their work with each other. In fact, they’ve actually found it to be a more productive time since they aren’t spending any time commuting.
[ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/05/06/ghostrunner-cinematic-trailer]
Ghostrunner will be available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One at launch. The team is looking into next-gen consoles but have not committed to anything just yet. Ghostrunner will support ray tracing on PC at launch, so a PS5 and Xbox Series X version would definitely be fitting. One More Level also stated it would like to develop more entries in the franchise if it’s successful. And, from what I’ve played so far, I don’t doubt that it will be.