Grav­ity Rush 2

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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

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