Gravity Rush 2 Hands-On Preview [E3 2016]

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After lots of hope, requests and anticipation, Kat and company are about to return in Gravity Rush 2 for Sony’s PlayStation 4 console. And, having gone hands-on with the game’s somewhat short E3 2016 demo, I can assure you that the wait was worthwhile.

Positioned at the back end of Sony’s booth, Gravity Rush 2 was unfortunately an overlooked title at this year’s expo. Sure, it got some traffic, but it wasn’t well advertised and the lines to play it weren’t very long. I’m glad I got the chance to check it out though, as what I got to play was very, very impressive; perhaps even more-so because I played through the original game when it launched on PlayStation Vita.

Following the somewhat recent release of its predecessor’s remaster, Gravity Rush 2 picks up right where the first game left off. It’s at that point where we continue Kat’s storyline, as she leaves her board aboard a flying houseboat of sorts, destined for a new adventure in a sprawling, and completely foreign, aerial city. It’s there where this demo picked up, with Kat first docking then exploring the lay of the land through various side quests and a two-part story mission.

Gravity Rush 2 plays quite similarly to its predecessor, and that’s a good thing. The controls take a bit of time to get used to at first, but once you have them down they’re quite intuitive. Since I’d played the first game, it didn’t take me too long to adapt to playing this one using a DualShock 4, and soon after picking up the controller I was using gravity to my advantage like a pro. Other journalists also seemed to be getting the hang of it; even newcomers who hadn’t played before.

All of the story content still appears to be handled through comic book-styled panels and text bubbles, but it works for what type of game this is and didn’t need to be changed. The writing remains cheesy, too, not to mention humorous. It’s typical Gravity Rush, and that’s fine by me.

One of the first things that I did when I stepped off of the air boat was purchase a kabob as part of a tutorial quest. Immediately afterwards, an annoying bird swooped in and stole my dinner, before taking it to the top of a store or theatre’s neon sign. What it didn’t know is that Kat is a gravity-abusing master, and that I could fly after it to get what was mine back. At least, that was the plan, because after following the creature from rooftop to rooftop, I caught up to it just in time to see it devour my meat stick. Needless to say, Kat wasn’t very happy, since it seemed to be all that she could’ve afforded at that time.

Of course, an easy tutorial was also present, and it involved using Kat’s gravity powers to fly from point to point, while trying to collect as many crystals as possible along the way. Really simple stuff, which didn’t take long to power through but would be helpful for a newcomer.

As things progressed, I started to encounter some enemies — which were of the same, black and slimy kind that we faced in the first game — proving that not all is well in the new city. In fact, as one story quest showed, the creatures somehow stored away in boxes and waited for the right time to appear. Thankfully, Kat was there to save the day, using combat mechanics that are very similar to what I’d become used to from the first game.

That included basic melee attacks, as well as targeted air kicks that were meant to hit the enemies’ facial weakspots. Kat is also able to pull off a special move now, and can use it to attack and kill multiple enemies in consecutive fashion. Once built up and unlocked, it can be unleashed and is super helpful in dispatching groups of hideous foes. Hell, it even took a large portion of the giant boss’ health bar away. He had multiple weakspots and pressing the special button once sent Kat into motion, in an attempt to hammer into each one of his exposed and highlighted weakspots in rapid succession.

Every aspect of Gravity Rush 2‘s combat system felt tight, and I got the impression that a lot of work was put into refining and improving it following the original Gravity Rush and Gravity Rush Remastered. The sequel is also absolutely stunning, showing off visually impressive hand-drawn/seemingly Cel-shaded visuals as well as improved upon effects. What most impressed me, though, was how alive the city felt with multiple citizens milling around in its streets and squares. Using a gravity power around those folks caused them to get sucked into its vortex and spin out of control, and boxes worked the same way. I could suck up a group of those, then throw them at enemies.

If I wasn’t already excited about Gravity Rush 2, I definitely am now. It’s shaping up to be a stunning, visceral and, most-importantly, very polished sequel.