I never played 2012’s Gravity Rush. At the time it was almost a PS Vita must have. Not only because it was one of the few stand out games on the handheld but because its main feature required you to move the console around, basically showing off the fancy features of the then, fairly new Vita. It has since been remastered for the Playstation 4 and after playing Project Siren’s ambitious sequel, my agitation may prevent me from ever doing so.
Before I revisit a place that I don’t really want to go to again, let me lay down the premise. After the events of the first game, our heroine Kat and friend Syd have been transported to a floating mining colony named Banga. Powerless and wondering how to get back home to Hekseville, Kat is basically under the colony’s leader Lisa’s rule. When Dusty (the cosmic cat who gives Kat her powers) shows back up, Kat becomes an integral part of this community, protecting them from evil doers.
When Vogo, a businessmen man who has a trade agreement with Banga tries to deceive them, it sets in motion a war between social classes, the military and the monster like Nevi.
That’s just scratching the surface. There are so many sub plots and rapidly changing narratives that I’m not sure even GR2‘s writers can make sense of how incoherent it is. Villains change on a whim, locations are forgotten and the most egregious part is that set pieces or characters motives just happen without any organic reason or explanation. GR2 is a game that wants you to experience some cool moments, it just doesn’t want to tell you why they’re happening.
That being said, I enjoyed much of its charming little story for about half of the game. It was quirky and cute and occasionally hilarious in a way that anime fans will quickly understand. Kat is adorable even if she is stupidly naive and impractical. Raven returns from the first game to tell Kat that she is basically being a dill at every crucial moment, so her appearances serve an important purpose.
The way GR2 is presented is probably it’s most captivating feature. There are cut scenes which encompass every anime staple you can imagine (a lot of yelling and fusion/super moves) but the bulk of its narrative is told through beautiful looking motion comics. The whole game (at least for us) being in Japanese subtitles are already a necessity. The simplistic and detailed way in which these comics play out though are fantastic and it drew me in to its story in a way that it’s cut scenes never managed to.
In general GR2 is visually on point. Its cel-shaded, colourful and populated. There are people everywhere, and buildings pop. Kat looks incredible when her armour glows and little details like her hair raising up when she is descending into a mining site are great little touches. What really struck me though was how unique each location feels. The islands are separated by class so where the higher two are incandescent, the poorer region is encased in a shroud of fog, homes are dilapidated and people kind of just traipse about.
Everything starts to get a bit muddled when we move over to combat and traversal. First and foremost, fights can be a real spectacle. In addition to the Nevi who come in all forms and sizes, there are also soldiers that need to be taken down too. As per the title, gravity shifting is the games primary power. You’ll use this to fly around and it lends itself creatively to combat. You’ll pick up a couple of variations. Lunar style makes you lighter and able to jump farther, while Jupiter style weighs you down but gives you an incredible dose of strength.
The game throws a healthy amount of combat sequences at you as well as boss fights, both mini and of the “I’m going to mess up your day variety”. Switching styles on the fly with the touch pad is a nice addition. Gravity kicking and activating a stasis field are going to be your go-to’s. There isnt a hell of a lot of things more fun in GR2 than being surrounded by a group of soldiers and absolutely wailing on them with kick combos, gravity kicks and picking them up and hurling them at their comrades. Pile it on enough and you can build up a special move that instigates a vortex or draws in debris from all around you and launches it at your target. GR2 offers up a kick-ass variety of options to come out on top and it’s all held down by one glaring, unforgivable, downright rage worthy implementation (or lack their of).
That god damn camera.
There is a mission in GR2 called ‘Black Eagle’. In it, you’re tasked with getting to the core of a giant Nevi. The path is a series of narrow hallways. This is also where you pick up the Jupiter Style. I have not played a mission in a video game, that has served me more frustration than this one did and I chose this mission in particular to exemplify just how bad GR2‘s camera is.
Gravity shifting is hard enough as it is. Aiming and landing and hitting the right spots is a task in its self but it can be tamed with enough playtime. But that camera isn’t here to help you. At its best, it’s a minor inconvenience. At its worst (and that’s a lot) it is an experiment in torture. Hitting constantly moving enemies is more arduous than it has to be, getting stuck in the architecture and not knowing how to get out is painful and as soon as you enter a space that isn’t the size of a football oval, you’re bound to pull your hair out. It made an other wise fun game, completely infuriating and I can’t get past how it made it into the final product.
GR2 is at its best when it gives you a wide open space in order to flex your shifting powers. Occasionally battles become a two on two affair and the final fight pits you and raven against two other duo’s in a triple threat. It’s these all too rare moments of brilliance that make GR2 one of the best superhero games in years.
The camera could be why I opted not to get lost in GR2’s vast array of side missions. They mostly consist of delivering something or another and with little to no reward, I didn’t see the sense in putting up with the broken system. Mission structure is fairly dichotomic in it’s execution even with story missions. You either get a long, sprawling boss battle with a tonne of enemies and a sense of urgency or you’re forced into a boring fetch quest. Too many objectives are given the challenge treatment where you need to defeat a wave of enemies to advance. Or you have to fly around for far too long looking for something or destroying a bunch of things no one cares about. Note: They nearly always come in threes.
You can take up some mining missions which are a neat diversion. These are a great place to collect gems to dump into your upgrade tree or talismans to give you a buff to certain areas.
One positive point however is the game’s score. No matter how much GR2 caused my blood to boil, it never faltered in the music department. Predominantly backed by cacophony of Big Band style instruments, GR2 seems almost Mario-esque at times. A couple of boss battles even feature opera which makes for a cool juxtaposition to the chaos that happening on screen. GR2’s score may be the most perfect part of the game, employing whimsical, epic and adventurous tones to compliment its unique environments and battles.
Gravity Rush 2 is a fantastic game buried underneath a virtual tonne of mismanaged implementations and a poor design. The camera is almost a game breaker, making some very fun fights way more frustrating than they need to be. Some missions are truly epic only to be washed away by an obtuse fetch quest or rudimentary challenge. Still, once you break out from under that crumbling debris, there lies a terrific superhero game with a heap of content, beautiful presentation and likeable characters. It’s up to you whether you choose to take the very good, with the very bad.
Review Score: 6.5/10
Highlights: Beautiful Presentation; Feels Like a Superhero Game; Brilliant Music;
Lowlights: Woeful Camera; Incoherent Story; Too Many Uninspired Missions
Developer: SIE Japan Studio, Project Siren
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: Playstation 4