The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The Gravity Rush series’ defining idea has a lot of potential. As Kat, a gravity shifter with a mysterious past, you can lift off the ground and fly (fall, technically) across massive floating cities. Though you take on several main and side missions (as in other open-world games), my favorite part of Gravity Rush 2 is falling around and collecting gems that let me upgrade my powers, since it lets me explore the lovingly detailed spaces at my leisure. It's a bittersweet joy, because while Gravity Rush 2 gives you lots of different ways to fall and fight your way through various activities, the mission design hinders the potential of its core concept as often as it embraces it.
The original Gravity Rush had a spectacular freedom of movement, and the sequel builds on that foundation by rounding out a few rough edges and offering larger, more diverse spaces. Estranged from her makeshift home, Kat contends with an entirely new set of people and floating cities, and both make the world of Gravity Rush feel lively (though you need to have played the first game to understand the later parts of the story). The short dialogue sequences do a great job of characterizing Lisa (who takes Kat in) and her band of miners. Similarly, the Jirga Para Lhao marketplace’s people, stores, and flying cars make it feel lived in. Visually, these environments are a joy to zip around, and a few missions take you to more abstract, surreal, and colorful locales that seem pulled from the covers of math textbooks.
The freedom of traversal also adapts well to combat, where Kat can use airborne kicks, slide around at high speed, and use a stasis field to lob objects (and people) at her targets. Using the stasis ability as a weapon is more viable than it was in the first game, thanks to a much-needed and generous auto-aiming cursor. Not having to worry about taking precise aim makes combat less of a hassle, but I still wish I could properly lock the camera onto enemies, since the cursor still requires you to center the camera on them, and fast enemies consistently move out of view.
Gravity Rush 2 adds the ability to swap “styles” about halfway through the main story. The Lunar style makes you lighter and allows you to better fight nimble enemies, while the Jupiter style gives your kicks an oomph that breaks through armor and makes clearing out crowds easier. An encounter may start off with a swarm of flying enemies best taken out in Lunar style, then switch to a group of smaller, grounded foes that make a single charged-up, Jupiter-style kick ideal. These powers make combat more varied but feel underutilized, since they’re introduced about halfway into the game.
The big challenge for the Gravity Rush series has been fitting structured objectives into all the falling and wondrous locales. Gravity Rush 2 gives you plenty to do, but many of the story and side missions make the experience feel dated. Escort, eavesdropping, and stealth missions abound, and they often have you sauntering around on-foot instead of flying high, which feels like a waste of your abilities. You also have a number of missions where you need to find a small object or person within a large area by using a photo as reference, as well as missions where you have to talk to people to have them point you in the right direction, which feel arbitrary and frustrating.
These missions are far too frequent and feel like padding. The justifications offered for repeating certain objectives often point out how ludicrous these situations are, which makes them feel even more frustrating. One mission had me using my gravity stasis ability to pick up a dog that had run away from its owner, but never explained why it was only affected by the stasis field at a particular distance – something the story’s plot itself points out. You can read these as attempts at humor, but rather than inspiring laughs, they usually only highlight how tedious these objectives can be.
Some of the other side content fares better, offering good reasons to trek back and forth across each city. Along with challenge missions that make better use of your powers in timed trials, you can explore the depths of otherworldly ore deposits and fight mini-bosses to get rare talismans, which you can equip to offer new bonuses like faster sliding or filling up the meter that governs your gravity powers whenever you hit an enemy. Most of the missions I undertook had me fighting the same enemy, but having to figure out how to use different environments to my advantage made these outings rewarding enough to do at a few times.
You can also engage with some online features, like taking on mission challenges from other players or using photographs other players take to find treasures, then leaving your own photo for someone else to use. The photo challenges are among my favorite parts of the game, since they make good use of the large areas and give the game more personality. They don’t offer too many gems and offline players won’t lose out on key moments or progress, but seeing how other players found a particular chest is a fun bonus for those playing online.
But even with all the new abilities and mission types, too much of Gravity Rush 2 is dedicated to tasks that don't make the best use of your ability to control gravity. Falling around the various locales is a lot of fun, but that doesn’t assuage the nagging feeling that with better missions and less frustrating side content, this series could go from a fleeting joy to something truly great.
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