REVIEW: Ghostrunner Project Hel DLC leaves you wanting more (PC)

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Ghostrunner Project Hel Review 1

Ghostrunnerdeveloped by All In! Games and 505 Games, was one of my favorite games of 2020. Being presented as a fast-paced first-person action game, I dove in headfirst. It raised the bar very high for fast-paced games just because of its one-hit sword fighting kills, level detail, enemy variety, etc. The list for what All In! Games got right goes on and on. Specifically, though, them secretly making a puzzle game out of an action game felt great. It didn’t feel like a surprise after a year of regular free content updates that a DLC expansion would be on the way, particularly with a sequel coming in the future that won’t be arriving for some time. And we’re finally getting it with Project Hel.

Project Hel takes place shortly before Jack wakes up. You’re put in control of a cyborg unit, sister to bosses from the original game, Hel. Hel gets woken up by the Keymaster, the ultimate villain of Ghostrunner, with one task… eliminate the Climbers and any other resistance. The Keymaster demands complete obedience; any noncompliance will result in immediate termination and a new Hel unit will take over. And so begins Hel’s journey through Dharma Tower to eradicate all resistance.

Hel controls similarly to Jack but with a few changes to make this expansion more welcoming to new and returning players. Since she was never damaged (nor poorly repaired) is working at 100% efficiency, save for a couple of functions limited by the Keymaster. The key differences though are Hel’s dash is more of a long leap, she’s faster than Jack, and has several base functions that were unlocks for Jack. Also, the upgrade system has changed from tetrominoes to a diamond shape where surrounding certain spaces power-up abilities further.

Another big change is Hel’s rage function. If you kill enemies fast enough or touch a recharging pad, Hel gains a shield that protects her from an extra hit, gains an air slash, and (with the right nodes unlocked) can see enemies through walls. Hel is a monster and should be feared.

Hel’s changes from Jack feel welcoming and cathartic. Having a more powerful version of Jack really made getting back into Ghostrunner much, much easier. Especially when most other DLC continues to ramp up the difficulty from the base game. That doesn’t mean that Project Hel is a cakewalk though. It’s still just as difficult but in its own way. The challenges and new optional objectives require way more thought to get through for one thing.

For instance, in one of the middle levels, Hel is tasked with not killing any of the Keymaster’s army. Even though I haven’t played Ghostrunner in over a year, I stupidly took on the challenge. Pushing myself like that felt great though! It was in that special challenge where Project Hel showed how it ups the difficulty. Particularly in one room, I had to dodge every attack thrown at me, while finding a charging pad for the rage, then hit 3 targets in quick succession to move on. That is the challenge that feels like it’s been missing throughout all of Ghostrunner: optional, yet extremely rewarding when achieved.

Ghostrunner Project Hel Review 1

The bosses as well are cool, but not nearly as intensive as they were in the base game. There is no mega wall running tower to climb or intense sword fight. The two bosses feel very… plain. It’s unfortunate that a game having three intense fights come out with some that feel cheap in comparison. I don’t want to spoil much, but one boss fight is mostly jumping around to land aerial slashes while avoiding lightning. Both feel much less rewarding on the kill than their predecessors. Bosses in Ghostrunner always felt like a true test of skill. Pushing yourself past what you’ve learned in even higher pressure situations than all that you’ve conquered in past levels. These don’t hit that same way which is really disappointing.

However, I did encounter several issues during my playthrough. Some are very jarring because of how fast and precise the game is. With Hel’s leap, I was being teleported all over the place that was NEAR my target. It wasn’t that I didn’t land on my target because of acceleration, but I just teleported several feet to the left or right if I was aiming for a slope. Additionally, I wish there was more warning when the rage meter would run out. An audio queue or a more in-your-face visual tell to let you know, “hey, this extra hit is about to expire” would be great.

Finally, I wish there was just more of this. To give some context, I was able to beat the DLC in about 2 hours. With 7 new levels, two of which are bosses, I was hoping for more. Whether it be the level length, level density, or simply more levels. But the two hours went by so quickly because of how much stronger Hel is compared to Jack. Maybe that’s a testament to how much I enjoy this game, including most of the DLC. What was given was not enough to fill that void while we wait for Ghostrunner 2 to come out.

Ghostrunner Project Hel is a fun DLC that is simply more Ghostrunner. It scratches that itch while we wait for its sequel, but it just didn’t feel like enough. There are some aggravating issues and lackluster bosses, but the excuse to play more content may be enough to get some back into this game. Just, be ready for an experience that doesn’t quite live up to the original’s vision.

Ghostrunner Project Hel DLC is available on March 3, 2022, on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.


Ghostrunner Project Hel
8/10

TL;DR

Ghostrunner Project Hel is a fun DLC that is simply more Ghostrunner. It scratches that itch while we wait for its sequel, but it just didn’t feel like enough. There are some aggravating issues and lackluster bosses, but the excuse to play more content may be enough to get some back into this game. Just, be ready for an experience that doesn’t quite live up to the original’s vision.