Hey kids, I reviewed Gravity Rush 2 this past week!
Sequels tend to be a frustrating thing, more often than not. Its pretty common for sequels to not actually feel like they’ve built on the foundations laid by the original: they can often seem less like an upgrade and more just a lateral move to one side, or worse, a downgrade. Luckily for us, Gravity Rush 2 is far from a lateral move, and most definitely not a downgrade.
The most notable way that Gravity Rush 2 exceeds its predecessor is in the more literal sense of its upgrades: the original Gravity Rush was limited somewhat by being a Vita exclusive, and that’s not something the subsequent console ports could get around. Gravity Rush 2, by contrast, is built for the ground up for the PS4, and the technical and visual upgrades as a result are tremendous. Gravity Rush 2’s world is a delight: grand, majestic, and sweeping, a colossal multi-tiered metropolis in the sky that’s just ripe for Kat to zip around in at will. I really can’t stress enough how impressive Gravity Rush 2’s world is, and in my time with the game thus far, the most joy I’ve had is just flying around, zipping from one airborne island to the next, plunging down from one tier to the next in an incredible free-fall. Gravity Rush’s signature cel-shaded art style has never looked better, and it couples with some truly sumptuous sound design to make for a game world that is immediately and incredibly immersive.
The actual gravity-shifting mechanics have a fantastic feel to them: actions carry with them a nice feeling of weight and handling to them that makes gravity-shifting that much more satisfying. Given the current deluge of open-world games that’s currently flooding the market, its always a plus when you can actually make travelling from one place to the next as much fun as doing whatever is you’re travelling to do in the first place. Later on, you can even acquire different kinds of shifting styles, which change up the shifting mechanics and combat, and add some extra layers of nuance. Of course, gravity shifting in Gravity Rush 2 isn’t always a pleasant breeze: much like its predecessor, the shifting mechanics struggle with any task that requires precision or finesse, as Gravity Rush 2’s combat often requires, to say nothing of missions and situations that require precision platforming. I spent entirely too much time missing the same target 5 times in a row in combat because the auto-target wouldn’t lock on and stay locked, and the shifting mechanics are pretty easy to overshoot if you’re not careful, and even if you are careful. I mean, I understand that shifting gravity is meant to have that reckless feeling of only just being in control, but the thrill of that particular sensation wears off very quickly when you actually keep losing control.
Of course, as much fun as gravity-shifting is, warts and all, its only the tip of the iceberg for as far as what’s in Gravity Rush 2. Gravity Rush 2 has really gone above and beyond to populate itself with a raft of content that flies by its predecessor. As well as the challenge missions of the first game, Gravity Rush 2 adds a whole bunch of online challenges as well. The online stuff includes uploading photos taken in Photo Mode for review, challenging other players to compete against each other in challenge missions, to even going on treasure hunts using player-uploaded photos as clues. Beyond just the main hub of the game, Kat can also travel to a number of different Rift Planes, which offer their own often weird and exciting surprises. The influx of all the new content is a welcome addition to the game, even if they’re not exactly showstoppers in their own right. The Photo Mode is something I’ve somehow gotten way more enjoyment out of than I thought I would, and its fun to experiment with how gravity-shifting can let you get really interesting photos.
The side missions from the first game, then DLC extras, are now abundant in Gravity Rush 2, though they can admittedly be something of a mixed bag: while the set-ups for them and actual storylines of them can be fun (including one nifty Invasion of the Body Snatchers homage), they also tend to try for stuff that doesn’t quite work with the games’ core mechanics, particularly the “stealth” missions. I say “stealth” because you can basically tear through them with barely any actual stealth at all, which kind of raises the question of why they were even included at all. They also tend to get a little repetitive as well, often recycling similar objectives or just falling into the trap of going from point A to point B.
And speaking of “point A to point B”, that brings me to the game’s story, which I’ve kind of been sidestepping about mentioning up to now. Not because it’s particularly poor by any means, but just that there’s not really much to talk about that makes it particularly compelling. The actual story and plot itself is all well and good, tropey though it may be, but Gravity Rush 2 rarely throws anything supremely interesting out and often falls into predictability. And the story missions themselves are textbook examples of the usual pitfalls of story missions in sandbox games: overly restricting of freedom of movement and fairly linear, they seem to be a direct contradiction to the free-wheeling exhilaration of gravity-shifting around wide, open areas that’s where the game hits its absolute stride.
Gravity Rush 2 as a whole is actually a bit like Kat herself: Prone to bone-headed mistakes and frustrating amounts of tunnel vision, but so brimming with earnest enthusiasm and passion that you can’t stay mad at her…or the game; the game and Kat. Whatever, that got away from me a little bit: point being, Gravity Rush 2 is still a delight in spite of its flaws; a visual and visceral feat of gravity-defying fun that’s well worth your time and money, even if it doesn’t always stick the landing.