I recently completed Gravity Rush on my PlayStation Vita, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game. In fact, I enjoyed my time with the game so much, I purchased the Gravity Rush: Remastered on my PlayStation 4 (Which features improved graphical fidelity and shorter load times), where I’ve once again completed the game. Gravity Rush isn’t a fantastic game worthy of a nine or ten, but nonetheless, it had got its hooks into me. The game has a fairly unique and fun set of gameplay mechanics, an endearing, albeit not overly memorable heroine, and an intriguing world, with a story steeped in mystery. Consequently, the upcoming sequel; Gravity Rush 2, has been slowly climbing up my list of most anticipated games. One of the reasons why I’m so excited isn’t just because I want more of the same (Although I would certainly welcome more of the same), but because Gravity Rush gets quite a few things wrong. As such, if the sequel can correct its predecessor’s mistakes, I believe Gravity Rush 2 could become one of PlayStation 4’s most memorable, and enticing titles, to date.
Extensive & Diverse Combat
Let me start by saying that Gravity Rush’s combat is not bad in any sense of the word, rather quite the contrary. That said, Gravity Rush’s combat can prove to be annoying, with certain types of flying enemies (Nevi) seemingly possessing the ability to dodge Kat’s attacks at the last possible second. The result? You are sent hurtling past said foe – occasionally to disorientating degrees when Kat swerves in an attempt to maintain her lock on – forced to re-orientate, and line up a second attack. Now while that might not sound anything more than a minor annoyance, beg God it doesn’t happen a second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth time, or you’ll be wanting to put your controller down and walk away. That said, my other complaint against Gravity Rush’s combat is far more damning, and needs immediate attention; it’s excessively repetitive nature.
Gravity Rush provides players with, what at first, appears to be a decent number of combat options. Players have access to a kick, a sliding kick, a gravity kick, stasis field (Basically picking up objects and throwing them), and then three special attacks; Spiralling Claw, Gravity Typhoon, and Micro Black Hole. In terms of the special attacks, they are unique, fun to use, and deal the type of spectacle and impressive damage that you want to see from them. That being said, I rarely found myself in a situation where Gravity Typhoon wasn’t the most effective attack to use, and thus I rarely used the other two – although this could be a problem unique to myself. In terms of the others attacks, I never used sliding kick, and quite frankly can’t think of a situation where any player would benefit from using it. The standard kick occasionally proves useful, though normally only when you’ve run out of enough energy to use your gravity kick.
Stasis field, on the other hand, is useful in a few situations; either when facing certain enemies that have protective shells, or if you grow tired of failed lock-on’s sending you flying past the flying Nevi. Unfortunately, there’s a three-fold problem with Statis Field. The first problem is the lack of times you encounter the aforementioned enemies, and the second problem arises when you encounter said enemies, but there are no throwable objects to hand. The third problem is that if an enemy lands an attack on you, they interrupt either the Stasis field’s charge duration or causes you to drop the items you are carrying. Admittedly when you are in a situation where you can meet all of stasis field’s requirements, unleashing it yields some truly spectacular results – but sadly these are few and far between.
Couple the fact that stasis fields is frequently rendered inept, to the lengthy recharge timer imposed on super abilities (Not a criticism in and of itself – cool-downs on special abilities is a perfectly sound system), and you will be left to defeat 90% of your opponents with gravity kick, after gravity kick, after gravity kick! If not for the fact that you are defying gravity, attacking from all sorts of gleefully impossible orientations of up, down, left, and right, and that the kick itself is badass, the combat would have worn on me much, much quicker. Even so, fantastic physics, and giddy animations, can’t save Gravity Rush’s combat from becoming more repetitive than a merry-go-round. Finally, there’s also a dodge mechanic in the game – and that I almost forgot to mention it speaks to how often its use is required.
Thus, more diverse combat will be a requirement if Gravity Rush 2 is to propel itself above the original. Thankfully, there’s evidence to suggest that the developers are aware of this issue. In trailers for Gravity Rush 2 new playstyles have been revealed that revolve around altering the way gravity affects Kat. These two playstyles; Luna, and Jupiter, have the effect of making Kat faster and slower, with her attack power decreasing and increasing respectively. Without actually playing the game, speculation on how drastic an effect these playstyles will have on the overall ebb and flow of combat is difficult. But if you want me to take a guess, I’d hazard that alone, these new playstyles won’t offer enough variation on the combat. Personally, I hope additional mechanics are introduced, but once again, without playing the game, it’s hard to ascertain what effects the aforementioned additions will have, and they may indeed offer the variation I’m looking for.
Broader Cast of Enemies
Gravity Rush had a sufficient enough variation of enemies. Coming in a number of differing shapes and sizes, some are (As expected) weak, while others are strong. They attack in numerous way, from large sweeps of their arms to barrages of projectiles, to extending dangerous spikes towards those who draw near etc. Some are aggressive, some possess protective shells, and some are immune to certain attacks. That said, especially in the last third of the game, these enemies become too familiar and repetitiveness beings to take its toll (In no short measure amplified by the repetitive combat). In this department, Studio Japan has already showcased some improvements, revealing that human soldiers and mechs are amongst some of the new enemies players will encounter.
“…I have no doubt that more diverse enemies, that demand greater levels of strategy, will be provided in Gravity Rush 2.”
My second complaint against the game’s catalogue of enemies is the lack of strategy required to defeat them. For the most part, you’ll defeat every enemy with the gravity kick, by targeting the red orbs that mark their weak spots. That said, this complaint is so intrinsically linked to my complaints about the lack of combat diversity, that I find discerning if the latter is directly responsible for the former impossible. Thus, if the developers provide players with a more diverse arsenal, they potentially eliminate this concern. All in all, I’m confident that the much needed broader spectrum of enemies, that demand greater levels of strategy, will be provided in Gravity Rush 2 – fingers crossed my confidence is not misplaced.
A Complete Narrative
SPOILER WARNING FOR THE FOLLOWING SECTION!
Once again, I must begin by saying that Gravity Rush’s story is by no means bad in any sense of the word. Kat begins her adventure by waking up in a strange land, with no memory of who she is. Beside her is Dusty, a strange looking cat who turns out to be a gravity guardian, and who gives Kat her powers to shift and manipulate gravity. The initial mystery of discovering who you are, who Dusty is, and where you are, propel the first chapters of the story. These mysteries, while still intriguingly unanswered, are subverted by new mysteries concerning Gade (The world’s creator), and Raven, another gravity shifter intent on stopping you. Kat is warned that Raven is not her enemy (Despite Raven’s several attempts to kill Kat) but desires to help people in the same way as Kat. Discovering that Raven is indeed attempting to save a group of lost children, stuck in a nightmarish world far below Hekseville, is both narratively interesting and rewarding. In turn, this offers a new mystery as to why the mayor of Hekseville set Raven against Kat, or why he wanted Raven to ensure Hekseville’s four districts remain separate.
“Unfortunately, this strand of the narrative is never revisited, a fate shared en masse.”
Yet the above mysteries are only the tip of the ice berg, with Gravity Rush’s narrative containing more threads than a medieval tapestry. Thankfully, almost all of these threads are worth exploring. For example, in one mission, you encounter a Nevi attempting to comfort and protect a heart-broken young girl. Naturally you send this Nevi to an early grave, but Kat nevertheless ponders if there is more to the Nevi than it at first appears. Unfortunately, this strand of the narrative is never revisited, a fate shared en masse.
Most incriminatingly, one such unexplored thread lies in the final chapters of the game. The ending, which revolves around Kat returning to Hekseville to find it under martial law, with the mayor planning to use a new, and devastating machine to wipe out the Nevi. The machine malfunctions, with Kat and Raven teaming up to destroy it. Sadly, the final scenes of the game unveil nothing concerning the intentions behind any of the mayor’s actions, how Raven and the children she was trying to save miraculously appear during the game’s final moments, or other burning questions. In fact, the ending comes so prematurely, that you feel like you’ve only finished the first act.
Thankfully, there’s a silver lining here, in that Gravity Rush 2 should feel like a natural continuation (as opposed to a cash grab inspired, ham-fisted approach at a sequel), providing the answers to those burning questions. But to put it bluntly, if Gravity Rush 2 does not offer a more remarkable and complete narrative, my belief that the game can be extremely memorable is sorely misplaced.
Interactions with Dusty
Dusty is your handy gravity guardian, the source of your power, and faithful companion. The relationship between Kat and Dusty is both humorous and endearing, with their interactions normally revolving around one seeking the other’s approval, all to no avail. One may make comparisons with an old married couple, who despite sharing deep affectionate love, can never agree with one another, albeit with a side helping of teenage attitude. Unfortunately, as enjoyable as it was to watch their relationship develop, scripted moments in cutscenes provide the player with their only chance to interact with Dusty. I hope Gravity Rush 2 allows us to engage more with Dusty, even if it’s as simple as letting us pet him! Other possibilities including feeding Dusty, playing games with him, or seeing him run off to chase birds, climb walls, or whatever else it is that gravity cats feel inclined to do. Regardless of what form they take, ultimately I just want interactions with Dusty to not only be limited to cutscenes but see him become a character in a more active sense.
DLC That’s Actually Good!
SPOILER WARNING FOR THE FOLLOWING SECTION!
Okay, so we can’t really judge a game on its DLC – they are two separate entities albeit joined at the hip. That being said, when you return to a game that you overall thoroughly enjoyed, being greeted with lackluster DLC can sour what was previously a satisfying experience. Quite frankly, Gravity Rush’s DLC, especially its first DLC, Maid, was objectively awful. Admittedly, at $4 per pack customers didn’t have to fork over a considerable sum of cash, but quite frankly a saucepan without a handle would be a better investment.
The first DLC pack; Maid, begins with Kat seeking to gain employment as the maid of a wealthy madam, Melda. Obvious misogynistic overtones aside, the first mission boils down to ten minutes of a series of ever more mind-numbing fetch quests, backed by the snooze fest that is the narrative. Swiftly you move onto the second mission, which at least has the appeal of a murder mystery premise. You arrive at Melda’s house to see the police departing, with suspicions soaring that she killed her husband. This mission sees the player tailing Melda at the required safe distance. Yes, it’s everyone’s favourite type of mission, where getting too close results in you being spotted and reset, fall too far behind and the results are effectively the same. This is followed by a tedious game of hide and seek, at which point you actually get to fight something – that something being an uninspiring mix of the game’s weakest enemies. Going at a snail’s pace and you’ll have burnt through these missions in 30 minutes. And what about that initial narrative promise I mentioned? Well for starters practically everyone blames Melda for the murder, making the opposing reality painstakingly obvious. As for when Melda is reunited with her husband, suffice it say that the ending of a fairy tale, written for Valentine’s day, drizzled in chocolate, and shot by a dozen Cupid-tipped arrows, would provide a less sickening foray, of gushing emotion!
“By which point, my eyes had rolled over in their sockets more times than a wheel of cheesing bouncing down a mountain side.”
Now while Maid, is by far the worst, Spy, and Military, are only improvements in the most minimal of senses. For instance, in Spy, the first mission’s narrative sees Kat going undercover to help arrest members of a street gang. Within the space of fifteen minutes, she has infiltrated the gang, become their leader, and caused them to have such a change of heart over their evil ways, that they disband and become honest, hardworking citizens (By which point, my eyes had rolled over in their sockets more times than a wheel of cheese bouncing down a mountain side). And as for Military, while it’s narrative holds up, and actually gives more content to Gravity Rush’s core narrative, it still stumbles in fairly fatal ways. Most notably, it starts off with the equivalent of a re-worked tutorial mission, an unbelievably poor choice, especially considering the fact that the mission doesn’t become available until you are progressing through the game’s final act. The result was such a bore fest, I almost wanted Melda to come back with the maid outfit, and give me some more fetch quests. My fingers are crossed for more substantive, and qualitative DLC for Gravity Rush 2. The alternative (More of the same), would be an insult to both the game and its players.
Even without addressing all of the above issues, Gravity Rush 2 still possess the potential to be a great game. That said, successfully implementing solutions to the flaws I’ve raised would set Gravity Rush 2 on an amazing path towards become one of PlayStation 4’s most memorable games. High expectations? Yes. Does Gravity Rush have the potential to achieve said expectations? To me, undeniably so. Can it happen? We’ll find out 2nd December!