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PAX EAST 2020: Ghostrunner Hands-On Impressions

As this generation comes to an end, the top trending theme is the theme of cyberpunk. Ruiner, Black Future ’88, and naturally, Cyberpunk 2077 are just a small inkling of games that take place within this genre of science fiction. As more games take to this theme, the need to stand out is essential, and Ghostrunner seeks to slice its way through the competition. Coming from 3D Realms and Developer One More Level,  Ghostrunner is a first-person action game where players shed their humanity in favor of a fully cybernetic body, and a katana that cuts straight through the bone. 

The world of Ghostrunner is dark and bleak. Humanity’s last shelter resides in a mammoth tower, so tall and imposing, it seemingly stretches forever into the sky. In this shelter, humanity struggles with violence and poverty. A class system keeps the wealthiest at the top and the poorest at the bottom. At the top lies the KeyMaster, who rules and governs this dystopia. It will take a cunning and skilled warrior to take back the tower and give humanity a better future. Players fight as a fully converted cyborg warrior. Not much is know about them, except that they seemingly died and we’re resurrected with very little of their organic body left. A mysterious voice calls to the player. They are locked within a prison and need to be broken free. 

The demo of Ghostrunner took me into the very underbelly of the tower. The objective is to free the prisoner and eliminate anyone that stands in the way of that goal. Armed only with their reflexes, and katana, players not only fight but use urban parkour to navigate the obstacles and gain a tactical advantage over their enemies. Ghostrunner is fast and incredibly kinetic! The protagonist moves with a slickness and smoothness that is rarely seen in most FPS’s, and the sensation of speed is incredible! I was able to scale ledges, run along walls, and slide down with the greatest of ease. Later in the demo, the grapple is introduced, giving a strong sensation of height and distance when used. It is tremendous, fluid, and enjoyable. 

Shortly after the demo began, the slow-motion mechanic is introduced. This allows the ability to slow down time, dodge incoming fire, and eliminate enemies. Enemies can be slain without slow-motion enabled, but it helps tremendously to be able to use this feature. Once I encountered my first enemy, Ghostrunner began to unveil more it’s gameplay mechanics, which are more challenging than expected. In Ghostrunner, a player can die in a single guy, but so can the enemy combatants. The katana blade, the primary weapon, deflects bullets when swung and instantly kills anyone within range. The challenge is moving in close enough to deliver the killing blow. To that end, Ghostrunner is exciting but puts up a challenge. I died quite often in my demo, but it was a result of my lack of familiarity with a mouse and keyboard. The movement used the traditional format of WASD to move and the mouse to aim, but the slow-motion mode was assigned to the L SHIFT key. This out a strong strain on my left hand, and made using the feature difficult, but doable. Despite this, I was able to complete the demo. 

Ghostrunner is stunning, even in the demo. Trash litters the living spaces, and massive ducts and pipes are everywhere. The little bit that we see if the protagonist features a solid and well-made cybernetic design  It’s a grey and dirty future which makes for a distinct setup. Slain enemies are brutally dismembered and the effects used in the demo’s conclusion are spectacular. After fighting the enemy and unlocking the prisoner, it turns out the prisoner isn’t a human being but likely an A.I, or human consciousness made digital. Erupting into a giant green digital head, reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz, the prisoner teases correcting your software, which he earns, may feel a little strange. The screen distorts and glitches and the demo comes to an end. 

I had a great time with Ghostrunner. While short, Ghostrunner is looking to be an engaging first-person experience with a unique story, strong gameplay, and an overall exciting game. Ghostrunner is launching in 2020, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. Next-generation systems are being looked into but at this time are not planned.

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