Gravity Rush 2
Sony PlayStation 4
The Digital Fix has a fine history with the Gravity Rush series, from a solid 8/10 score in a review of the original to the simply exceptional feature we published detailing the the secret alphabet of Gravity Rush. So here we are in 2017, the year that we get a chance to dive back into the world of Kat, a ‘shifter’, who is able to generate her very own gravity field and manipulate what is up and what is down.
If you are new to the series and fancy diving straight into the sequel, do yourself a favour and find a narrative recap on Youtube otherwise you’ll be as disorientated as a drunk on a rollercoaster. That’s not to say that you’ll ever be 100% on what is actually going on in Gravity Rush 2 as it expands the universe of the first game, allowing for more opportunity to stare at the screen as the story unfolds and simply ask, “what?” Bizarrely though that is a large part of the fun of Gravity Rush 2, it’s ambitious in developing its characters and its world and is done with such a great sense of care and heart that it leaves you buying into this world and its inhabitants. Everything is told with an expert lightness of touch, with beautiful comic-styled conversations filled with quirkiness and humour, but balanced with moments of sadness.
Gravity Rush 2 picks up right up after the events of the first game, and we meet Kat and Syd right off the bat but they are currently working for a mining company with Kat devoid of her powers. The first portion of the game, focusing on Kat without her powers, largely consists of Kat wondering around a village and talking to people. It’s an odd introduction to the game as it merely plods along, conversation to conversation, with the only real drive being that you know things will eventually kick off, which it does. The overall arc of the game is played out in three acts, each surprisingly distinctive, with Kat’s main initial push being that of discovering and combat some socioeconomic issues, focusing on the relationship between the rich and the poor. Along the way expect to meet many a familiar face from the first game and a fair amount of betrayals thrown in to keep things interesting.
The first thing you will notice, and it would be impossible not to, is just how amazingly beautiful Gravity Rush 2 is. The anime, cel-shaded style is jaw-dropping and when you get moving at pace it is an absolute joy to behold. While the original looked great on the Vita, this from-the-ground up PS4 build for the sequel is exceptional. When you step into the city districts for the first time you will be blown away, with beautiful blue skies punctured by neon buildings and floating islands and flocks of flying vehicles always catching your eye. Its visuals really invites you to explore this world, every visual treat leading you to another. It will be a tough job for any game this year to match Gravity Rush 2’s visuals, a truly rare perfect mix of art design and execution.
Gravity Rush 2’s story is built around the gameplay mechanic of ‘shifting’ gravity, and as gameplay mechanics go it’s an absolute winner. In simple terms you activate your gravity-controlling power (a quick press of R1), point in any direction and then that direction becomes ‘down’. Kat will fall towards that direction, sticking to the sides of buildings et al in a world where you have a new sense of what is ‘up’ - and with a quick press of L1 you can reset your gravity. It is an incredibly satisfying feeling to be standing flat of the ground and to suddenly be falling towards the horizon. You will spend countless hours just simply bounding around the game world, testing the boundaries of the maps and eking out awkwardly placed collectibles.
The developers have built upon this idea of gravity manipulation with two new playstyles for Kat - Lunar and Jupiter. Playing with the Lunar style will see Kat lighter on her feet with the ability to jump higher, reach farther, and making aerial combat more effective. But personally the winner for us is the Jupiter style; it slows Kat down and makes her feel heavy but the payoff for this style is that you can transfer that weight into much heavier attacks, and there is nothing quite as satisfying as having Kat absolutely bludgeon a crowd of Nevi into submission, with the strange monsters returning from the first game.
For all the immediate wonder that you will feel, Gravity Rush 2 frequently grates purely because it doesn’t seem to have the awareness to quit while it is ahead with its subquests’ internal repetition. For example, you may find yourself having to help deliver newspapers around the city, utilising your range of skills to do it at pace - that seems like standard subquest fare. What inevitably happens with nearly every other quest is that it will make you do the same thing over and over again. You’ll complete one section of the quest only to have another round to complete, and then another and another, which is no bad thing as long as there is considerable variation… but it rarely feels like there is. On balance, for every overwrought subquest there is one that is fantastic, and if the game had sacrificed the number of quests for the quality of quests Gravity Rush 2 would be a much more tightly crafted game. It is estimated that there are around three times as many missions to be had in Gravity Rush 2 than its predecessor but unfortunately it is a case of quantity over quality.
A major component of Gravity Rush 2 is its combat, and given the game’s gravity-defying antics you would be right in thinking that surely the combat will be something memorable, and it is, but not always entirely for the right reasons. At the most base level Gravity Rush 2 has a simple punch-kick-jump brawler setup but the second you throw in the ability to change gravity it drastically changes the battlefield. Kat can create her own stasis field, lifting up rocks that serve as projectiles, she can perform speedy aerial kicks or devastating combos that will chain attack multiple enemies. Combat feels largely like an open playground, with the ability to fall in any direction providing some flavour to proceedings but there is one big problem we need to talk about… the camera.
It’s hard to criticise a camera that has to make sense of the world of Gravity Rush 2, given its unenviable task of making the player feel orientated at any given second. But that difficulty to criticise goes out of the window when you are facing off against a big bad with numerous minions in tow and you just don’t know where attacks or coming from because the camera resets itself into a completely inefficient position - and this will happen frequently. Similarly, in confined spaces the camera struggles, perhaps feeling the need to show you the floor rather than what is dead in front of you. Suddenly grand notions of balletic battles fall away to reveal a frustrating experience that doesn’t consistently live up to its promise. That being said, when it does click and when those niggles don’t emerge combat can be a thrilling experience; dodging, throwing rocks and enemy soldiers as weapons, changing gravity so you fall away from a flurried attack, at times it all combines to be something wonderful.
Another real problem with Gravity Rush 2 is its insistence on insta-fail stealth missions, a move that is truly baffling. In a gravity-defying, third-person action game the decision to put you into missions where you need to exercise stealth is very limiting and confusing. For a stealth game to work there are a few basic things you should have and perhaps the most important is to understand what the enemy can see, typically in the form of a cone of vision on the minimap. There is no such mechanic here unfortunately, you will simply have to guess at times if your chosen path will keep you hidden. You might have to evade foot patrols, but then you’ll fail and it’ll become clear that there are also flying patrol vehicles for your consideration. It really can be joypad breakingly frustrating at times and is one of the biggest problems to be had with Gravity Rush 2.
It might seem that we’ve been a bit rough on Gravity Rush 2 but these criticisms are mostly niggling frustrations that try to take the shine off an absolute diamond of a game. Clocking in at around 30-40 hours there is a lot to see and do, and while you may get frustrated by the game camera’s refusal to be where you want it 100% of the time, or it’s copy/paste subquests, it is rare that you’ll ever be bored. Gravity Rush 2 has a wonderfully ambitious vision and one of the best realised game worlds out there, with characters that are genuinely likeable. If you loved the original you will easily find a place in your heart for this sequel, but if you had problems with the original it is unlikely Gravity Rush 2 will do much to win you over. What is on show is vision and heart, but is that worth falling for? Depends on which way is up.