Ghostrunner 2 review: Slo-mo thriller, katana killer

Ghostrunner 2 enhances the feeling of being a cybernetic ninja with a one-hit kill katana but some design changes stop it from overtaking its predecessor.

One More Level

The year was 2020, and just about every developer was preparing to capitalize on the movement that was about to become Cyberpunk 2077 at the end of the year. Among the many cyberpunk-style games that released, there stood one that was head and shoulders above the rest: Ghostrunner. This elegant and fierce title sliced its way into my heart and set my adrenaline ablaze as I tore through foes with a katana. Now, some three years later, Ghostrunner 2 is here to continue the story of Jack and his ragtag crew. Though the sequel refines the combat and injects more pulse-pounding synth into your veins, the overall experience is slightly lesser than its predecessor due to the pacing and flow as well as some design changes.

Jack’s back

The Asura stand around a reactor, ready to fight
Though not as original as the first game, Ghostrunner 2's narrative provides a fitting conclusion to the story.
Source: Shacknews

Ghostrunner 2 kicks off one year after the events of the first game. The death of the Keymaster has resulted in a power vacuum that some are trying to fill. This has led to the appearance of the Asura, a group of prototype Ghostrunners set on reclaiming the world for their own, and it’s up to you to stop them.

Most of the story comes at you in the form of lengthy conversations between Jack and members of his crew as you’re platforming and parkouring through levels. I often found it tough to concentrate on the threads of the narrative while also trying to focus on the sometimes tricky platforming sections or intense fights.

But the story is also presented in face-to-face conversations in a base of operations. This hub houses Jack’s allies and it’s where you’ll be spending a bit of time after nearly every mission. You’ll debrief with characters, talk about what you’re doing next, and stop in at the upgrade machine to unlock new abilities.

While the whole story is a nice capstone on what was started in the original Ghostrunner, it’s not quite as inspired as the first. More than anything, it can wind up feeling as though the story takes away from the focus of what made the first game so great: the gameplay.

Combat: Enhanced

An enemy runs at the player, ready to attack
Ghostrunner 2 fine tunes the combat while keeping the intensity high.
Source: One More Level

What Ghostrunner 2 gets right is it’s refinement of many of the elements from the first game. The combat is vicious and fast, rewarding those players who are capable of stringing together jumps, wall-runs, and mid-air dashes with the satisfying slash of Jack’s one-hit-kill katana.

Many of the skills and abilities from the first game make their return. Jack’s still got his shuriken, a blink that sees him slice between foes, and his Force push-like move. But his toolkit has been expanded with a couple of new offerings like a laser beam that blasts from his palm, an actual bullet time ultimate, and a neat cloak-and-clone ability.

Ghostrunner 2 still manages to nail that joy of entering a new room and performing an optical pat down of the arena. You’ll note the wallrun spots, the fans to propel you into the air, and any flying foes you can grab for a free trip all while you’re already sprinting off to your first target. Even if you do get hit and die (and you will die a lot), it’s still lightning fast to retry the section and the sequel is certainly more forgiving with its checkpoints than the first game.

Jacks swings from a bar while deactivating his clone
The traversal challenges are a step up from the original, but new ideas tend to only appear once and are then dropped.
Source: Shacknews

What I thoroughly enjoyed were the new movement puzzles that One More Level introduced. Some of the best puzzles were those where I had to activate or deactivate traversal points while on the move. In one puzzle, looking at the next grind rail and tapping a button would activate it but would deactivate the wall I was currently running along. The trick then was to time my movements, activating the next traversal point as I was leaping to it. The end result was an electrifying series of movements that made me feel like an actual big brain ninja.

Unfortunately, One More Level dropped these traversal puzzles just as quickly as they were introduced. I’d of loved to see more complex movement puzzles like these echoed throughout the game. And that’s a sentiment that permeated my whole playthrough. I was just starting to enjoy some element of the game and it would either not be utilized again or the intensity would come to a shuddering stop.

Jack rides a motorcycle through Dharma Tower
The motorcycle sections are exhilarating. But then the game shifts into a quasi-open world level with too many stop-starts.
Source: One More Level

Take for instance one of the most action-packed sequences I’ve played in a while. Ghostrunner 2 introduces a motorcycle about halfway through the story and for the next 10 minutes, you’re racing through narrow corridors and tube structures, literally riding up the walls and around the inside of pipes, all while dodging, shooting explosive enemies, and traveling at a breakneck speed.

But then the speed and thrill comes to a whiplash stop when you reach the outside of Dharma Tower. At this point, you need to move from location to location, getting off the bike every hundred feet to open a door so you can drive a bit further to open another door. To make matters worse, the bike can get snagged on little rocks requiring you to slowly back out of the jam.

It’s a crying shame, because Ghostrunner was always at its best when you felt like a calisthenics-obsessed hooded death figure swinging and slicing your way around a jungle gym. All too often it felt like things were just starting to heat up and Ghostrunner 2 stumbled in its speed and intensity.

The upgrade tree in Ghostrunner 2
You drag and drop skills into the available nodes. It's not as unique or clever as the skill system in the first game.
Source: Shacknews

These missteps extend from gameplay into design decisions. Gone are the polyomino skill blocks of the first game, a design choice I applauded in my review of the original. Instead, players will need to collect chips that increase how many skills you can equip. Skills are purchased by earning XP which is acquired from defeating enemies, clearing missions, and playing the various challenges dotted throughout each level. This felt like a step back from the original game’s unique idea and puts Ghostrunner 2’s upgrade system in-line with more traditional and trite design choices.

In saying this, the skills were enjoyable to tinker with and there’s plenty of customization here so players can eke out a bit more power in certain areas. Though not quite needed for completing the campaign, the usefulness is evident when trying to attain the gold-tier reward in the challenges.

Clean the katana and go again

Jack slows down time by dodging in mid-air while circling around a boss
The boss fights are more intense and demand you utilize Jack's full suite of abilities.
Source: Shacknews

While a few of the decisions feel like a step back from what made the original Ghostrunner so great, the whole package here vibrates with a similar intensity as the first game. I would forget the woes I had with Ghostrunner 2 while I expertly carved my way through new enemy types in some synth-cathedral with music that can only be described as techno-hymns. Plus, nothing can quite diminish the joy of dodging in mid-air to slow down time so I can twist around laser blasts and slice at some of the challenging bosses after outmaneuvering them.

Even the level-based challenges I mentioned earlier are a welcome addition to the game. By interacting with a terminal, you can engage in timed challenges that task you with clearing the area or running through checkpoints. Complete it fast enough to net some more upgrade points or cosmetics. This adds a bit of replay value once you roll credits. 


Jack wallruns while avoiding a laser beam
Ghostrunner 2 would exceed the first game, were it not for a few hiccups along the way.
Source: One More Level

One More Level has nailed the important bits in Ghostrunner 2: the combat, the movement, the visuals, the soundtrack, and the challenge. It’s all a cacophony of intense action and pulse-pounding exhilaration – it’s just that the connective tissue keeps it from being a cohesive vision. By increasing the scope and breadth of the game, Ghostrunner 2 loses part of the essence of what made the first game so great. And yet, for the faults I do have with Ghostrunner 2, it’s still an awesome game that had my head bobbing to synthwave beats as I slow-moed around lasers and turned my foes into giblets with a flick of my cybernetic katana.

This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Ghostrunner 2 launches on October 26, 2023 on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler brings a bit of the southern hemisphere flair to his work. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and entering the video game industry, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can message him on X: @SamuelChandler 

Review for
Ghostrunner 2
  • Tight and vicious combat
  • Traversal movements are fluid with some tricky platforming to test you
  • New abilities and skills freshen up the gameplay
  • In-level challenges for cosmetics and upgrades
  • Story isn't as strong as the first game and dialogue can be a bit stilted
  • Odd pacing of the action with intensity falling off just as it's getting good
  • Upgrade and skill point system is a downgrade from the first game
From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola