Gravity Rush 2
Well, this is all thoroughly inconvenient – unless, like Gravity Rush 2’ s Kat, you can bend the law of gravity to your will. This game’s world is something of a playground for those who thumb their nose at Newtonian physics: it’s spread across scores of floating islands placed high in the sky and sat hundreds of metres apart. But for everyone else? It’s a life lived high up in the clouds on tiny patches of land, connected only by slow, rickety airbuses, and with a conspicuous absence of safety measures.
Still, this is Kat’s world, and perhaps it wouldn’t be fair to fault Keiichiro Toyama and his team for showing little consideration for reality in a game that goes out of the way to subvert one of the real world’s defining principles. It’s a necessary evil in a game that lets you go anywhere by simply lining it up in your crosshairs and pressing a button. If we’re to unhook ourselves from mankind’s innate fear of falling, we’re going to have to unhook everything else from it, too.
And so Gravity Rush 2 is, by design, a bit of a mess. Kat, uncommonly for a videogame superhero, never seems entirely in control of her powers, cartwheeling and tumbling through the sky; missing platforms by a whisker; landing into a stagger. Still, she’s a capable sort, at least by game’s end – she starts with nothing at all in a drab opening that picks up immediately after the end of the original Gravity Rush. Eventually her abilities are expanded when two new powers appear around halfway through the story, and it’s only here that Gravity Rush 2 begins to show its true self.
Those discoveries are subtle, though somewhat predictable, variations on Kat’s core moveset, allowing her to switch between her three loadouts with swipes on the DualShock 4 touchpad. Lunar style gives her a chargeable, much higher jump, the flatter, faster rocket jump, and lets her start her aerial kick move – essential against flying enemies – with a teleport. Jupiter style offers the opposite, making her heavier and slower, able to smash through debris and walls, and obliterate large groups of enemies with a shockwave slam. While the missions that introduce these new movesets are designed around a specific set of powers, thereafter it’s sometimes a matter of finding the right tool for the job, often a simple question of preference, and mostly a matter of sticking to the default moveset because Jupiter is too slow, and Lunar too floaty and unwieldy.
Combined, they show that, rather than seek to add depth to Kat’s basic moveset, Toyama and co have instead opted for breadth. Each style offers a variation on the same fundamentals: a quick, ground-based combo; an auto-targeting flying kick; Stasis Field, which lets Kat pick up a handful of objects of scenery and throw them at nearby foes, the move powered up with a longer button press; and a special move – a twirling corkscrew attack, a volley of thrown objects, a black hole – that obliterates everything in your sights. Yet the rhythm and the tempo of combat is largely unaffected by which style you choose, unless you’re fighting an enemy that can only be destroyed by a single, class-specific technique. Apathy sets in quickly, the arrival of each new enemy prompting not an adrenaline surge, but a resigned eye roll. It’s a running theme. Mission design suggests a developer that, two games in, is still struggling to understand how best to make use of Kat’s unique toolset. Many story missions are broken up into a series of short challenges, like side-missions parcelled up and given an arbitrary narrative purpose. Elsewhere, eavesdropping, escort, fetch and, worst of all, insta-fail stealth missions simply have no place in a game that purports to offer you such freedom. As in the original, Gravity Rush 2 is at its best when you’re using those core powers to do ridiculous things, but that simply doesn’t happen often enough. A game that bends gravity itself has no business being this mundane.
Nor should it be quite so clunky. If you’re going to completely redefine the meanings of up and down in a game, then your camera needs to be up to the task. Gravity Rush 2’ s sadly isn’t: it corkscrews around, it gets stuck in the scenery, it completely loses track of its protagonist at the most inconvenient moments. You’ll die because you can’t see yourself, let alone your killer; you’ll fail a stealth mission by being spotted by an unseen guard. What should be a celebration of telling the rules of physics to sod off devolves quickly into a game of lining up objective markers in the middle of the screen and floating towards them, hoping nothing batters you from offscreen along the way.
Still, it has its moments. Time-trial challenges bring your traversal powers to the fore, while asynchronous multiplayer missions task you with finding a hidden treasure chest using a photo, taken by another player, as your guide. Once you find it, you can snap your own to leave for another adventurer; it’s a fine twist on convention, letting you use Kat’s ability to redefine perspective to craft a puzzle, rather than solve one. It’s something the main game could’ve used more of.
While hardly subtle in its depiction of its world’s caste system – the poor are packed into shantytowns in the murky depths, the super-rich on their own sprawling islands in the sky – Gravity Rush does have a thing or two to say about the role of a capitalist middle class; whether it should serve those above it, or support the less fortunate. Kat, at least, wants to make everyone happy, no matter their social status, their motives or lack of manners. That’s a noble goal, but an impossible one – and one the game that surrounds her, with its bland combat, its stodgy missions, and its wayward camera, fails to provide to the player.
Apathy sets in quickly, the arrival of each new enemy prompting not an adrenaline surge, but a resigned eye roll