Pax East Hands-On: Ghostrunner

[This is Robert J. Kijowski] and I am here with Radoslaw Ratusznik. We are talking about his groundbreaking game Ghostrunner. Fucking amazing. It got my blood pumping from start to finish. I liken it to Groundhog Day because you have to learn with each mistake.. and adaptability. That’s the name of the game. I love the level design as well because there’s more than one way to skin a cat. First of all, who the fuck skins cats and why did they come up with more than one way? What was the inspiration behind this?

RR: The main inspiration was our previous title, God’s Trigger, which was a top-down shooter that had a one-hit, one-kill mechanic. This was the core gameplay that influenced Ghostrunner. We mixed things up this time with enhanced movement- running, dashing, sliding, combined with Bullet-Timing. When we mixed it all up, it comes up with something unique and fresh that is super satisfying. The juicy slashes alone turn you from what is a ‘basic’ ninja into a cybernetic one. You are not so generic because you can run through and on walls, dodge bullets-

RJ: I did like the Bullet-Time Dodge because I felt as though I was Neo in the Matrix. Even if I died, I could change my course of action the next time to get that satisfying kill.

RR: That was totally our inspiration.

I know Wall-fu.

RJ: The sound design for the blade going ‘SNKKKT’ was great too. It made me a little giddy inside. I’m not gonna lie. Now, as a melee weapon as your only defense, was that a conscious choice? Were there other means of dispatch in the works?

RR: The main type of combat works for this game because you have to REACH the enemy. Had it been a shooter, you could shoot from afar or sneak up from a corner and fire. With this, you have direct combat with the enemies and are trying to find out different ways how to reach them. The level of design lets you do so. You can choose different paths, different walls to run on and it proves satisfying for different players.

RJ: That kind of reminds me of a scene in Leon: The Professional. Leon, the assassin teaches Matilda, his protege of sorts what the first level of being a hit person is. The sniper rifle is initial. It’s furthest from your client. The last level is the knife. It’s more personal. More intimate. That’s what I feel with this game.

RR: That’s an amazing comparison, oh yeah.

RJ: What grabbed me too was the music and the atmosphere. They both fed into one another. What was the inspiration for them?

RR: So, we’re in this CyberPunk world. The synth-wave and retro-wave music felt good in that setting, and our music producer Daniel Deluxe, from Denmark, knows the game and the soundtrack of the game really well.

RJ: I feel that the level design itself has a very Blade Runner-esque feel.

 

No witty caption. This is just gorgeous.

RR: Oh, yeah.

RJ: Very neo-noir, very post-apocalyptic- it leads into the music itself and vice versa. In terms of the characters themselves, there is the Key Master, which is the main villain, and there is the Architect, the person who built the whole thing. What was the inspiration behind those in terms of narrative?

RR: I can’t give much away, but there are a ton of references in the game.

RJ: I love that the world itself is nothing but up. You have to climb a tower. That is such a daunting journey. When you think of all great literature, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Rapunzel, there is an element of getting to the top. Even with old school games like Donkey Kong. To the top!

RR: The inspiration for it was Judge Dredd with added elements of Snowpiercer. You have to go forward to reach the highest ranks. You start at the bottom and then you have to climb, climb so you can encounter the final boss. It’s kind of simple in theory, but it truly works with this kind of gameplay.

RJ: If I may ask, no spoilers affixed, but are there any plans for the future, down the line with this amazing game?

RR: We haven’t shown it yet, but we’re going to have levels in Cyber Space. It will be a hacking mechanic, so we’re going to incorporate logical and action-platforming based puzzles. In that realm, the player may feel safer because your character can jump between two worlds, the physical and the cyber, where enemies can’t broach.

RJ: Jeeze, that adds a whole other depth to an already deep game. It’s pretty sweet to take a breather from the intense nature of the game and go into a more cerebral realm.

RR: It will be fun because it helps you slow down a little bit from all the chaos.

RJ: I find this game clever to be challenging and rewarding at the same time. The one hit, die mechanic makes it so addicting. It makes you rewire your brain about the next time you’re hitting that same scene.

RR: Well, we were inspired by Hotline: Miami. We were all big fans of it and we wanted to move that gameplay into a first perspective from our previous game, the same mechanics.

RJ: I like that because the one thing that is interesting to me is the music, the zero lag time throws you right back into the game. You WANT to fucking conquer that space in one fell swoop. Or try to. Norton taped me dying a shit ton but learning each time. Each death was rewarding because it was a new way to look at a level.

RR: And the next try you may have a different plan, you may have a different feat of the enemy. That’s part of the game. No failure is feeling like one. It’s just a different way to success and you have to be prepared for anything.

“Deep in the dungeons of rap…”

This will be on PC, PS4 and Xbox One for now. For the gameplay, it is addicting. It’s like Thief combined with Dishonored combined with a one-hit-kill that brings you into a rage quit… but without quitting. It feels great getting through a part of a level to be more clever than your last death. The graphics are very pretty, super-stylized and make you feel that you are truly in that world.  The challenge is super hard, but if you’re a perfectionist like me, you can easily spend hours of your life spending your time on a beat of a section.

If the rhythm section gives this 10 out of 10, I will give this 15 out of 10… factoring the ending fill.

P.S. Shout outs and big props to AJ Trulin from Stride PR and Radoslaw Ratuznik, Co-Founder of One More Level for being more than accomodating and being like the coolest people ever in a very chaotic PAX. You guys rule.

Robert Kijowski
Robert J. Kijowski is a screenwriter who enjoys a good chuckle and an even better weep when indulging in art both good and even better bad. He enjoys the company of strangers in a theatre but adores the camaraderie of friends watching Netflix. He also loves to talk- a lot. This can be read through his recaps and reviews on the Workprint or heard through his weekly movie podcast, After the Credits. His presence can be felt through Facebook, Spotify or Ouija. Don’t use the latter though- he almost always ghosts people.

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