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Game Review: Gravity Rush 2 (PS4)

Game Review: Gravity Rush 2 (PS4)
2.5
Game Name: Gravity Rush 2
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 4 Pro
Publisher(s): Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer(s): SIE Japan Studio, Project Siren
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Release Date: January 18, 2017
ESRB Rating: T- Teen: Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol

The original Gravity Rush started its life as a PlayStation Vita title to a fairly warm reception. It wasn’t until the PS4 remaster, however; that I really sunk much time into it. Its awkward movement controls seemed far easier with a controller than tilting and turning a portable gaming system around in one’s hands. Its sequel, the plainly titled Gravity Rush 2, sadly does nothing to fix the problems of the original and gives us more of the same in ways that are good and in many ways that are, unfortunately, very bad.

Being a typical sequel that tends to go bigger than its predecessor, Gravity Rush 2 does a few things right; it gives us a bigger and more colorful world than the bland Hekseville and its surrounding areas from the prior game, and it introduces us to new gravity powers for our heroine, Kat, giving us something fresh and new to this Playstation 4 exclusive. While the new location Jirga Para Lhao is bright and colorful, it is also packed full of far more detail than any location in the previous outing and looks absolutely gorgeous.

Gravity Rush 2 takes place following the conclusion of the last game and also follows events that take place after the 2 part Gravity Rush animated web series. The story here is all over the place and feels more like several short stories trying to share some tiny narrative thread to keep them all connected. Various side quests do contain some fun stories, but due to an instant fail system attached to many of the tasks you attempt, they become far more tedious than they should be. After the first wave of credits roll, there is a side mission that furthers the story here, including one painfully slow chapter that has you roaming the halls of an empty castle and another that feels more like some sort of puzzle game.

Previous characters from Gravity Rush: Remastered make appearances here, some major and some minor. These encounters are used to great effect and further show off the wonderful characters this series has. Syd and Raven are both here in large rolls, and the new characters Cecie and Lisa are just as entertaining. The story also digs into who Kat is and how she came about arriving in Hekseville at the start of the first game. Gravity Rush 2 allows us to play as Raven, and its first wave of story DLC this March will further this as it seems centered around her, and that’s a good thing.

Kat unlocks two new powers at different points in the story. First up is the Lunar style which makes Kat extremely light and able to do some fun dash attacks. She can also Superman jump, however; it only seemed to really be useful when certain challenges would disable your gravity powers. The Jupiter style works to the opposite and makes Kat control very slow and heavy. Her attacks require some time to pull off but should you be lucky enough to fully charge the attack, then it will have a very devastating outcome. Aside from a few moments in the game, I found that the regular powers Kat had to be far more effective and reliable, and that is mainly due to the poor controls and a lack of a true targeting system for combat.

Despite the jump to new hardware and no reliance on a Vita version to hold it back, the controls haven’t been fixed or made easier here. You can still use the analog sticks or the motion control built into the PlayStation 4 controller, and your reliance on either will depend on how comfortable you are with the gravity falling. There is still no targeting system and the loose targeting the game has is rather poor and simply can’t be relied upon during intense moments. My opinion on the gravity flying controls haven’t changed since the prior game, so feel free to check out my review for that here. Kat still is awkward to control as you never truly feel like you have much control of her, especially during gravity slides. When you see Raven flying around she looks calm, and in charge, a feeling you never have as Kat, or even during the brief moments playing as Raven herself. There is still an insane amount of over correction needed should you nearly miss a target or accidentally cling to the side of some object when you are merely trying to race by it. Gravity Rush 2 still controls so painfully poor that I’m surprised that no effort was made to make it easier to do so. Sequels should improve upon the prior game and Gravity Rush 2 in some ways makes things a lot worse.

The new locations in Jirga Para Lhao are packed with detail and feels far more alive than any area showed so far. These new areas also give us tons to throw as Kat has the ability to grab multiple objects to whip and toss at various enemies. I relied greatly on this power as it has a lock-on mechanic that works far better than the loose lock-on you have during your ‘flying’ moments. Large scale fights in some of the city streets can be a bit too much for the camera and can make combat a chore. Streets are filled with people that can be used during side missions to talk with, hand flyers out to or just take pictures of with the game’s camera item. There are floating chunks of city all around you, with the richer folk living higher up and the poor living far far below. This rich and poor dynamic fits into parts of the main story and many of the side quests as well.

There are also timed events and move based challenges here that should you be comfortable and capable of moving Kat around, can offer a nice distraction from the main story and side quests offered. I couldn’t complete a few of them due to the sheer complication of moving Kat around and had my PS4 not deleted my save file, I would have come back to them and wrapped them all up. This bodes true of a few side quests I had planned on completing, but that sadly won’t happen now. Thankfully, before my save was deleted, I was able to complete the main story campaign.

Visually, Gravity Rush 2 is fantastic and its art direction, much like the last game, is to be applauded. The characters and environments are stunning and wonderfully designed. The visual differences between the PS4 version and the PS4 Pro aren’t drastic, but the game does look slightly better on the PS4 Pro due to its use of geometry up-scaling. This allows the PS4 Pro to display a ‘pseudo-4k’ image where edges appear to operate at a native 4K while pixel shader operations continue to display a standard 1080p image. It’s a bit of a trade off since while edges of buildings and objects are crisp and sharp, the textures and shading contained within are displayed at quarter resolution. Each version is locked at 30 frames per second, whereas Gravity Rush: Remastered ran at a fairly smooth 60fps, which could be one of the reasons the prior game controlled better.

The game also features the return of the comic book style cutscenes and these are great. You can tilt the controller to get some added depth to them, even if doesn’t really make them better. There are numerous cutscenes and many of them are vastly entertaining. The one issue I had with the standard in-game cutscenes is that they revert back to the regular costume for Kat even if you have her wearing something else, despite the cutscenes using the in-game engine.

I was extremely hopeful for Gravity Rush 2, a game I had been looking forward to for quite some time. After being in development for nearly five years, I had hoped that the issues surrounding the previous game would have been addressed or fixed in some way. The game can at times work and function as intended, but sadly those moments are too few. Combat can be hectic and truly frustrating due to the poor camera system and lack of any reliable targeting system. Gravity Rush 2 is fantastic to take in, admire and enjoy, just don’t expect playing it to be much fun.

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