Upgraded and Enhanced: Is Ghostrunner worth revisiting on Xbox Series X?
The upgraded version includes a 4K/120fps Performance Mode.
One More Level might be busy working away on a much-anticipated sequel, but that doesn't mean that it's finished blessing owners of the original Ghostrunner with new content. A free next-gen upgrade has arrived for the action platformer, and it includes an enhanced 4K/120fps Performance Mode, speedier loading times, and Haptic Feedback on PC and PS5. With this new and embellished version now available for download, I dived back into its cyberpunk-inspired world to see whether it was truly worthy of revisiting.
Thanks to the power of the console's internal SSD, loading times are now lightning fast when booting up the game and restarting after death. It took me roughly 30 seconds to reach the title screen from my Xbox dashboard (with skipping load-up sequences) and it was almost instantaneous to jump right into the action after taking a bullet to the face. This sense of speed and fluidity I certainly appreciated, as Ghostrunner is really a huge combat puzzle that is about trial and error. During each scenario, death is pretty much guaranteed, and you need to devise the best chain of actions in carving all of your opponents to pieces.
On Xbox Series, players have the option of toggling on a Performance Mode that amps up the frame rate to 120fps, but makes a few visual sacrifices. Ray-tracing is not present here, but you do get the advantage of having much smoother combat in a game where every fraction of a second counts. The resolution in this mode is pretty impressive, considering that it's usually compromised to 1080p in other games when prioritising performance. The only other title that springs to mind with a comparable performance mode is Ori and the Will of the Wisps, but obviously its visuals don't strive for realism just like Ghostrunner.
Without the Performance Mode enabled, the first-person action title runs at 4K/60fps and includes ray tracing. The lighting here has seen a drastic improvement with its neon-lit cyberpunk world looking more life-like than ever before. The surfaces that you parkour across just sparkle with the light beaming off them, and the bright red glow that you see as bullets whizz through the air towards you just appears more vibrant and colourful. Puddles of water glistening on the ground appear more reflective too and shadows have seen a noticeable improvement. Just like many of these next-gen versions, the difference isn't night and day, but it becomes undeniable when staring at the two versions running side-by-side.
Whilst I found the Xbox Series version to be a marketed step up overall, it still does have its small share of drawbacks. When playing for review, the game crashed twice on me, and as there isn't an auto-save system, I was forced to hack my way through several rooms of enemies to catch up. Then there's also the issue that the Xbox Series can't take advantage of Haptic Feedback. On the PC and PS5 versions, this is enabled to give an added sense of impact when slicing off somebody's head or pulling yourself up from certain doom with the grappling hook. Sure, it's not make or break, but it's an added sense of immersion that only those on Xbox Series (on next-gen consoles anyway) are lacking.
It might not be strictly related to the next-gen versions, but it's worth highlighting that a handful of new modes have been added to Ghostrunner since launch. My personal favourite of these is Wave Mode. Here you'll propel yourself across a cramped battle area and slay down everyone in your path, and each progressive wave becomes more challenging. Between waves, you can select between one of three upgrades that grant special active and passive abilities and these stack over time allowing you to become more powerful. In addition to Wave Mode, there's also a pretty self-explanatory Photo Mode and a time-attack-styled Kill Run Mode. Essentially, the package has become even more enticing since launch, and it's just the extra cherry on top along with the free next-gen enhancements.
If you've yet to play One More Level's cyberpunk slasher, then really, what are you doing with yourself? The action is bloody, fast-paced, and each encounter feels like a puzzle where you need to strategically plan the best route of attack. The 4K/120fps Performance Mode is an especially nice addition given how swift your actions need to be and the respawn times here feel almost instantaneous. Do bear in mind though, that if you're playing on Xbox Series, it is prone to crash, and you won't get to take advantage of Haptic Feedback for an added sense of immersion on PC and PS5.