Playing Mirror’s Edge for the very first time gave me a sense of joy I hadn’t felt from a first-person adventure before.
Up to then I’d been used to FPS playing mostly the same way – Run, Gun, Duck, Jump. Mirror’s Edge took those same core principles while managing to rip up the rule book and instil this unmatched sense of adrenaline.
I still find it something of a travesty EA haven’t done more with Mirror’s Edge, but it’s with some fortune that, as of this week at least, we have Ghostrunner, the closest a game has come to feeling like Mirror’s Edge in some years.
But while the links to Faith’s adventure are clear for all to see, Ghostunner plays out more like a marriage between a Cyberpunk thriller and Spider-Man. Your super athletic speedster spends most of the game whipping around a post-apocalyptic, gritty futuristic world, full of graffiti, laster weapons, and graph-like mazes. And does so by swinging between dangling hooks and bouncing between walls.
Yes, the trailer makes this look like a futuristic Mirror’s Edge, but truthfully I felt more like the web-slinger, flinging myself through the air, moving between platform to platform at break-neck pace.
Great care has been taken to build something full of epic set-pieces, crafting a unique world. As such, Ghostrunner can be incredibly slick as you quickly soar through the skies and blink through your enemies, but the truth is it doesn’t quite hit those same highs of the DICE original.
It’s got the speed, for sure. Ghostrunner is blisteringly fast and absolutely dizzying as you alternate between the bumper buttons to jump and dash. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me nauseous from time to time. And as you slice through your enemies, you will feel this sense of glee as body parts split in various different directions.
But something that became immediately apparent is how much the game really exposes your blind spots. Sometimes you’ll be jumping into the unknown, hoping you’ve found the right path forward. Other times, you’re jumping exactly where you’re supposed to but don’t mount a wall properly and plummet to your death.
Then there’s the enemies and their ridiculously lightning-fast reflexes and trigger happy fingers. As you’d expect, Ghostrunner is a game that relies on you being fast-footed and those who stand still will quickly pay the price. But the game is also stupidly unforgiving, with enemies killing you before you’ve even seen them. And when you think you’ve found a path to killing them, sometimes the game completely betrays its own sense of rhythm by having enemies pre-empt what you’re about to do, even though they wouldn’t have seen you at that point.
Mirror’s Edge certainly had its share of frustrating sequences, but Ghostrunner has doubled down on them and shoved them together within the game’s first three levels, let alone its later ones.
Put it this way, if you’re easily frustrated this may not be for you. I died plenty early on and had to restart the same sections over and over and over. Sometimes it’s made worse by poor checkpointing, though the game isn’t completely unreasonable in that department. Thankfully.
Narratively, it’s also not the strongest. I mean, the character’s nicknamed Jack because, wait for it, he was ‘jacked up’ on drugs and the name stuck. Ugh. Plotwise, it also follows typical tropes you’d expect with a character being the only one who can restore balance to a fractured world, enlisting aid from an AI like character and a sole member of a failing resistance.
And yet, despite the numerous restarts, the insta-deaths, and the frustrating falls which weren’t even my fault, I worked myself into the game and had more fun with it the deeper I got.
I loved transitioning from sliding down rampways, to walking along walls, then jumping down on top of enemies and taking them apart. But the game also does a good job of pacing, gradually introducing you to new abilities, being creative with its world, and adding new characters into the mix.
The other cool thing the game does is put you in these tetronimo mazes which require you to solve puzzles in order to earn points which can be spent on upgrades. The neat part? You actually have to slot your abilities together on a grid using these same Tetris shapes. It’s a unique way to level up, even if it is a tad gimmicky.
Ghostrunner is both hard and easy to love. It has a wonderful sense of style and there’s an interesting world that’s been built up here, but it definitely puts you through the wringer to get some free-flowing action and to appreciate everything that’s been cultivated.
While it won’t be for everyone, there’s a fairly solid game to find under the blemishes and when you connect with it, you’re guaranteed one hell of a ride.
+ Fast paced action is great fun
+ Game offers some cool abilities
– Enemies lightning reactions are brutal
– Sometimes feels like you’re jumping into nothing
– Difficulty curve will really test your patience
Ghostrunner releases on PC, PS4, and XO on October 27th.
Code kindly provided by 505 Games
Tested on PC