Back when my PlayStation Vita was one of my primary outlets for playing games, the original Gravity Rush immediately grabbed my attention with its eye-catching art style and unique gameplay mechanic of being able to shift gravity to fly around a wide-open world. While that game delivered on those expectations, I couldn’t help but feel it was being held back by the hardware limitations of the Vita; that the world and characters deserved a much bigger and more ambitious adventure. That’s why when I heard about Gravity Rush 2’s announcement as a PS4 exclusive I lit up with excitement. Now, after spending nearly 30 hours with the game, I can definitively say that Gravity Rush 2 is every bit the success I hoped it would be.
Once again, we find ourselves in the shoes of Kat, but a lot has changed since we last saw the Gravity Queen of Hekseville. For those who have not played the first Gravity Rush, and even some who have, the story will be fairly confusing at first. Kat has lost her powers and is now trapped in a mining camp in a strange new land after being sucked into a gravity storm. There is a short overture video on YouTube that explains the events directly leading up to the game, but without it, I can imagine it would be hard to fully understand what's going on until about an hour or two in. That being said, once the story got going, I found myself gradually becoming more invested in the characters and figuring out where the plot would lead.
The game is split up into three main chapters and an epilogue that are each comprised of multiple episodes, and all the chapters feel like distinctive entities contributing to a grander whole that is the overarching narrative. Unfortunately, this feeling of separation between the chapters opened them up to more scrutiny as individual experiences. The first two chapters focus on the new city of Jirga Para Lhao and its many societal problems. Much like the first game, the emphasis of the narrative in these chapters is the wealth disparity between the city’s people and a group of corrupt leaders that wants to perpetuate it. I found this storyline to be relatively engaging, but the pace felt too slow and the payoff was lukewarm at best. By chapter three, however, the narrative takes a left turn and veers in a weirder, supernatural and a bit over the top direction. This made the story feel like a manga or comic book, which many of the design elements in the game already replicate, making the overall tone more consistent across the board. However, many of the questions in the narrative are left mostly unanswered until the epilogue, which proved to be the most compelling chapter of the game with its engaging story beats and memorable boss fights. It’s also worth noting that the final boss of chapter three is probably the first homage to Akira I’ve seen in a videogame, which is just awesome in itself.
The new location of Jirga Para Lhao is huge, well designed and feels like a living city. Instead of being laid out on a flat, linear surface, the city is a series of floating islands where the wealthy citizens are literally looking down on the poor. This made simply flying around and exploring each area a fun activity, as the core mechanic of shifting gravity to fall through the air is as brilliant as ever. Each area has a distinctive look and a unique soundtrack to go along with it, eliminating that sense of “sameness” that plagues some open-world games.
Gravity Rush 2 is a single-player experience first and foremost, but there are a few added social elements that, while not in any way crucial to the game, are still an amusing distraction nonetheless. My favorite of these is the treasure hunt feature, which has players search certain areas of the map for loot chests based on a photographic clue that another player who has already found the treasure has left behind.
Another aspect working in Gravity Rush 2’s favor is the visuals. It may not be the most technically impressive game of its kind, but the colorful cel-shaded art style and great character and architecture design made each frame feel more like a piece of art than some hyper-realistic depiction of reality, which the game never attempts to be in the first place. Gravity Rush 2 has so much style that it’s hard not to marvel at your surroundings wherever you go. It also performed surprisingly well with a steady frame rate that rarely ever dropped, even during some the more crowded sections or the enormous boss fights. Additionally, though the overall draw distance was quite impressive, there was some pop-in for smaller objects like trees, people, fountains etc. But if that's the price to pay for almost no loading screens, so be it.
Unfortunately, there are a few notable flaws, and some of Gravity Rush 2's biggest issues lie in the gameplay and mission design. On a basic level, the camera does an admirable job of trying to keep up with Kat, considering she is constantly flying through the air and shifting the perspective of the world around her, but it does become a noticeable problem when she gets into smaller spaces or is maneuvering around larger enemies. The combat can feel repetitive at times due to its simplistic nature, but the addition of two new gravity styles (one that makes Kat light and fast and another that makes her heavy and tank-like) as well as varied enemy types keep engagements from becoming overly familiar. The most frustrating issue I encountered was the implementation of stealth missions. Incorporating stealth elements into a non-stealth game is typically fine, however, there were a few instances in Gravity Rush 2 where I was forced to proceed stealthily and was stripped of using my powers, which was not only boring but occasionally made the game nearly unplayable. With no real stealth mechanics in place, it made a few missions seem unfair and even broken at times.
Another common problem I found in some of the mission designs was the overuse of specific objectives. Instead of moving from one task to the next rapidly, the game often had me perform variations of one type of activity over and over again. An example of this is a side quest where I had to advertise ice cream cones to as many people as I could in a given amount of time. While I thought this was great the first time I did it, by the third time I couldn’t wait for the quest to be over. The result of this was some side quests and story missions feeling like simple filler rather than worthwhile additions to the narrative.
Gravity Rush 2 is not a perfect game, but it undoubtedly expands upon its predecessor in nearly every conceivable way. There are some wonky camera moments along with a few narrative stumbles and problematic quest designs, but the flaws are quickly overshadowed by the triumphs, and just like its endearing protagonist, it lands firmly on its feet in the end.
I am a writer and journalist based in San Francisco. When I'm not getting lost in expansive open-world RPGs, immersive first-person shooters or any other type of game that grabs my interest, I usually spend my time taking photos and playing music. Two of my all-time favorite games are Persona 4 Golden and Metal Gear Solid 3.