Gravity Rush 2 for PS4
Gravity Rush 2 is a game which veers between delightful and infuriating pretty consistently throughout its playtime, but just about balances out on delightful. I played the remastered PS4 version of the Vita original last year and those hoping that leaving a handheld for the PS4 would lead to a massive upgrade may be disappointed. Everything is shinier and bigger, but the core mechanics are the same as they were on the Vita. This leads to a game which somehow manages to have a truly magnificent sense of scale but also, at times, feel a bit small and unambitious.
Gravity Rush 2 picks up with a powerless Kat in the travelling mining colony of Banga, having been flung from Hekseville by a gravity story along with Raven and Syd. It isn’t long before she regains her powers and the colony arrive at the city of Jirga Para Lhao, a beautiful city nonetheless riven my terrible inequality and ruled by an uncaring elite. Kat sets about the save the poor of the city. The closing chapters of the game also address the dangling thread of Kat’s past and how she first came to crash, amnesiac, into Hekseville at the beginning of the first game.
The plot of Gravity Rush 2 is, overall, better than the first, but it still feels a bit incoherent. The inequality storyline in Jirga Para Lhao is easily the best part. The first game was at its best when it grounded itself in the familiar and the same is the case here. A return to Hekseville in the second half of the game strays into more bizarre territory, with a conclusion which dips into Akira-esque body horror. The final section details Kat’s backstory and it is here that the game descends into utter nonsense. The lore of this series is fairly complex and convoluted, much more than it needs to be. Gravity Rush is at its best when Kat is dealing with genuine human problems in beautiful settings. A lot of this is because Kat is so likeable as a character. She is, in many ways, your classic doofy wacky anime girl, but there’s a spine of genuine empathy and toughness which elevates her beyond that. The supporting cast is extensive, probably too much so, but there are some really loveable characters here. None are developed as well as they should be, particularly the villain of the second section who, whilst intriguing, is introduced and dispatched before we get a solid understanding of who he is.
From a mechanical stand point things are much the same, for better or for worse. Soaring through the skies is a joy, particularly in the new, more vertical oriented Jirga Para Lhao. The combat also feels a bit tightened up; I didn’t find myself soaring past enemies and missing entirely quite as much as I did in the last game. I honestly couldn’t tell you how they tightened this up, but clearly they did something because the combat actually feels good in this game which it didn’t really in the last one. A series of excellent boss fights showcase the combat best, with the level of frantic madness and escalation beginning to stray into Platinum Games territory. They’re exciting, challenging and, most importantly, really fun. New gravity powers are introduced in the ability to switch between different ‘gravity styles.’ Alongside the default we’re familiar with, Kat can also switch into the ‘Lunar style’, which makes her lighter and floatier with a range of new combat techniques, as well as ‘Jupiter style’ which makes her heavier and more powerful. Switching on the fly between the three lends combat a more tactical edge and by the end I was freely switching between the three during all combat encounters. Many games like this offer you loads of powers but you only really use a few, but I found myself using almost the entire toolbox of Gravity Rush 2, which is impressive.
There is a lot to do in this game, with 27 core main story quests and many more side quests. Some are simply fun little challenges to earn experience for powering up, but a lot are more involved, containing story to flesh out the world and the characters. All round, the mission design is the game’s biggest flaw. Some of the missions are brilliant and exciting, using the gravity powers in a range of interesting and fun ways. A baffling number however, both in the story and in side missions, strip your powers from you. This is pretty much always a bad design decision; feeling powerless is not fun in a game about the joy of having super powers. To make matters worse, a lot of the time these are stealth missions, which are all awful. Stealth missions in non-stealth games were so universally bad that it became a bit of a cliché a few years ago and they started to drop off. After Final Fantasy XV did the same thing late last year, I’m scared that the dodgy stealth mission is making a comeback. Kat doesn’t control subtly, she moves in big swinging motions, which is fine because the game is meant to be about soaring through the sky, but it doesn’t work for stealth.
Visually Gravity Rush 2 is lovely, and Jirga Para Lhao deserves to be considered alongside the best cities in gaming. The mid game return to the smaller, less vertical Heskeville is therefore underwhelming, which makes sense; Heskeville was designed for a PS Vita and Jirga Para Lhao for the PS4. As soon as I was taken from Jirga Para Lhao I wanted to go back. The comic book story panels are back, which is fine, with the characters still babbling in their vaguely French sounding nonsense language. The music is lovely, with a lot of very catchy new tunes around Jirga Para Lhao. I liked the character designs much more than the last game, particularly for Lisa, the matriarch for the mining community of Banga. Gravity Rush 2 does still look like an upscaled Vita game and I suspect it was produced for around the same budget as the first game. It’s no visual marvel, but for a game where the camera spins around so much a steady frame rate is pretty vital for avoiding nausea and it remained good throughout.
Gravity Rush 2 is a game which is intensely likeable, but too irritating to love. The charming world, characters and core mechanics do manage to save it from being dragged down too far by some very suspect mission design and storytelling, and I still feel that this series has yet to reach its true potential.