Note: The version played for this review was the digital, Asian version. As such, the functions of the “X” and “O” buttons were flipped, making “O” the action button while “X” was the cancel button.
In June of 2012, I was just an 18 year old kid with college money in hand, walking into my local GameStop to purchase a used PS Vita along with a very special game. That special game was the ONLY game I wanted for my PS Vita (at the time). That special game is my favorite PS Vita game to this day. That special game was one of the first games I ever reviewed professionally. That special game was Gravity Rush. So, X years later with Gravity Rush Remastered hitting the PS4, I told myself I needed to review this game again, because why not? So, I took the plunge, purchased a Hong Kong PSN card and bought the game from the Hong Kong PlayStation Store just so I could play it two months before it came to the US. Yes, I love this game.
So, how does Kat’s first outing fair on the PlayStation 4? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
Gravity Rush follows the story of a girl named Kat and her mysterious feline friend, Dusty as the pair take on evil creatures called Nevi that have invaded Hekseville. An amnesiac, Kat spends most of the game juggling saving the city while trying to solve a much bigger, more personal mystery: who she is. The story in this regard is crafted very well as it drops hints here and there, aiding the player in putting together a few good assumptions. However, by the time the credits roll, nothing is necessarily concrete. This ambiguity leaves plenty of room for the sequel to answer some questions and, in the meantime, for a community to develop with theories for the game’s many unanswered questions.
Gravity Rush Remastered’s story is told through a mixture of cutscenes and speech bubbles during dialogue situations, and comic panels any other time. What’s especially interesting about the comic panels is how the game allows you to interact with them. By pressing the DualShock 4’s triggers, you can zoom out the camera, allowing you to take a peek at panels to come or just get a nice view of the entire picture. Like the PS Vita version, players can also rotate the DualShock 4 in a number of directions to create a 3D effect as the camera moves around the panels.
What I love about Gravity Rush is how it really gives you a feel for Kat’s struggle as an amnesiac without hammering it over your head. Her lack of identity plays a big part into her finding a place in this strange world. There are citizens of Hekseville who don’t trust her initially. They believe that she’s the cause of the Nevi that have begun to infest and attack the city, taking their loved ones and homes. Kat’s insecurities and her feelings about the events around her are briefly brought to light during the closing narration to each “episode” of Gravity Rush. These short moments provide a nice wrap up to the preceding events and make it clear that things are taking a toll on our heroine.
Gravity Rush’s main draw, and part of how it sets itself apart from other superhero games, is Kat’s set of powers. Dusty grants Kat the ability to control gravity at will. By pressing R1, Kat will begin “shifting” gravity. Aiming is tied to the right analog stick and tapping R1 again will make that direction the new focus of gravity, allowing Kat to stand on the sides of buildings and other structures, fly, and fight. The mechanic works well most of the time, but I found myself getting confused when there were a lot of enemies to focus on.
Tapping the square button while gravity shifting initiates Kat’s Gravity Kick. The Gravity Kick homes in on a Nevi, sending Kat and her foot crashing down on their weak point. However, this ability isn’t always on target. Oftentimes, I missed landing my kick because a flying enemy would move slightly just before my attack connected. As you advance in the game, flying types become more common, making this issue a greater problem. However, on the plus side, it does force you to switch up tactics and utilize some of Kat’s other abilities.
Kat has a large bag of tricks up her sleeve that extend beyond her simple Gravity Kick. Completing Rift Plains (Gravity Rush’s version of dungeons) will give Kat a new ability. Although some of her skills cannot be used one after another, you can juggle Kat’s attacks with a well-timed throw of a random object for those moments when kicks just aren’t enough.
Outside of the main quest, you can use any gems you have to fix up the town. Doing so unlocks new challenges which can be completed to get even more Precious Gems to upgrade your abilities. Alternatively, there are some side quests to do and rare Nevi to hunt. So, depending on how you tackle the game, you might have a lot of clean-up to do after the conclusion.
In addition to fixing the town, you can also use gems to upgrade your skills. It’s not often that I feel like upgrading my skills is too important in video games, however, Gravity Rush is an exception. Kat starts out the game able to take out enemies, but it’s not easy. Her Gravity Gauge depletes quickly, her Gravity Rush doesn’t do much damage, and she can’t hold many items using her Stasis Field. To say upgrading each of these abilities helps would be an understatement. The Kat I started out with felt like a novice. Like a day, one, wrestling-outfit Spiderman. The Kat I took into the final battle had experience under her belt, she had power in her kicks, and could shift gravity for long periods of time.
Unfortunately, as great as the upgrades are and as powerful as Kat becomes in the late game, that power creates a lack of synergy between cutscenes and gameplay. Kat has control over her abilities in the cinematics, but I never really felt like that was reflected well in-game. While she starts out flying haphazardly, it would make sense that she gets control of this further into the game and she does…in the cutscenes. Meanwhile, by the end of the game, Kat has a few new abilities, and if you’ve been upgrading her skills, she’s obviously stronger (nicely reflected by the flame effect that appears around her foot during Gravity Kicks) but Kat still flies around like a kid on training wheels.
Like so many remastered games before it, Gravity Rush Remastered pulls together all the content from the game’s original run. What this means is that you’re getting the base game and the added DLC challenges, side missions, and Kat’s associated costumes in one package. This alone makes the game a more complete experience than what I played back in 2012. The first DLC, Special Forces, includes elements that play into the final levels of the game, meaning if you didn’t play those side missions before finishing the game, you missed out on some character development. The side missions added in the other DLC packs aren’t exactly integral to the main story, but they do make the appearance of certain characters more rewarding.
Aside from the DLC content, there’s a bit of extra stuff in here too. Gravity Rush Remastered adds some concept art and a movie viewer to the overall package. The former allows you to look at sketches of all the characters (including early designs) as well as compare heights, while the latter lets you revisit key cinematics from the story. While appreciated, the movie viewer isn’t perfect. It has some rather puzzling omissions, which made me question just what the game considers to be a cutscene.
Having played the original Gravity Rush, I did most of the challenges as I unlocked them, and hunted the rare Nevi closer to the game’s conclusion. However, even during my first playthrough I tried going through every bit of the game as I progressed through the story. The way you unlock parts of the map makes doing the challenges feel natural and not out of your way. Completing the challenges will net you more gems which can be used to upgrade Kat’s abilities, thereby helping her in the story quests and help you complete challenges quicker.
The first thing I noticed when playing Gravity Rush (changed controls being very obvious) was how clear everything was. You’re probably saying “Well, duh? It’s a remaster.” In which case, we’re not talking about the same kind of clear. You see, due to the hardware limitations of the PlayStation Vita, the original Gravity Rush had this effect that played to the console’s strengths. Project Siren utilized a hazy effect that helped mask the limited draw distance and visuals of the game. It was a pretty beautiful and artistic effect if we’re being honest here (when are we not?) so seeing the game without that kinda took me by surprise. I thought they would keep that effect because, to me, that’s part of Gravity Rush’s identity. I missed the way the old game looked, but as I got deeper into Gravity Rush Remastered, I learned to look past it and enjoy the new visuals. As Johnny Nash would say: I can see clearly now, the fog is gone.
Hekseville is broken into three districts with each having a very distinct feel to them. This is something that inFAMOUS 2 did well, making each area feel unique and giving you a reason to want to be there and explore. While Gravity Rush doesn’t necessarily nail the exploring part unless you’re grinding for gems to upgrade your equipment, it does give you a reason to want to be in each district. The rather bland starting district of Auldnoir is easily outclassed by the up-beat, jazz-inspired Pleajeune with its nightlife atmosphere, while both are different than what you’ll find in the third area. Doing this helps keep the experience fresh enough that you feel like you’re in three different towns rather than one town with three different areas. That small detail can go a long way when you’re playing a 20-hour game.
While the individual locations might be distinct from each other, the samey color palettes within those areas make navigating to specific locations difficult. At first, I couldn’t quite figure out why, but as I was zooming around town trying to collect items for a quest, it dawned on me: the colors. Each area utilizes different colors and effects to feel different from each other, however, in doing so, it seems as though the developers forgot to make those areas colorful as well. So for instance, the starting area is all one color, which makes everything look the same and navigation difficult.
The UI is surprisingly clean. In today’s landscape of cluttered HUD’s telling the player of their latest achievement or constantly ushering them toward a new destination, it’s nice to have a HUD that strips everything down to the bare necessities. The only things populating your screen are your gravity meter, health, and a waypoint if you choose to place one. It’s really is to just play this game and appreciate the environment.
Back to the cleanliness of the UI, unfortunately, the pause screen leaves a lot to be desired. On this screen, you’re greeted by four tabs, a map, a quick select option that lets you quickly take your cursor to a few pre-defined points on the map, and cat telling you what your cursor is resting on. IN short: it’s bloated. I found myself navigating to the other tabs more often than not, because they let me keep track of what quests I had done and what I had to do as well as keep my upgrades in check in a well-organized manner. The jump from the PS Vita’s very straightforward touchscreen ruined the nice pause screen,, to my dismay.
A New Way to Play
Trading out the Vita for a DualShock 4 brings a few new things to the table. First off, turning the comic-style cutscenes with the Dualshock 4’s gyroscope is far easier than doing the same with the Vita. With the Vita, you either had to move your body, or contort the device in different ways to see different angles of the comic. Achieving the same on the DualShock 4 is as simple as turning the controller while looking at the screen. The fact that you’re not tethered to a screen means you can turn the controller however you want while still focusing on what’s going on in the game.
Surprisingly enough, Gravity Rush Remastered also uses the DualShock 4’s touchpad and speaker. A quick swipe of the touchpad allows you to dodge. Seeing as how this required me to lift their hand off the face buttons, I found myself doing this once and only once since pressing R2 instead. The game can also send certain sounds to the controller’s speaker, something else I rarely used.
Gravity Rush Remastered does have one very useful addition though. You can now Gravity Slide by holding down the DualShock 4’s triggers. While I had no problem using the Vita’s touch screen for Gravity Sliding, I was shocked by how much easier and more enjoyable it was with the DualShock 4. Much like moving the comic, you use the gyroscope to control which way Kat moves when she slides, and just like before it’s a change I wouldn’t take back.
What can I say about Gravity Rush? It’s great? It has one of the best female protagonists and she’s a superhero to boot? The cast of characters are memorable and highly enjoyable? How about all of the above? Gravity Rush was one of the many games I hoped and prayed to get remastered for the PS4 and finally being able to play this game on the big screen is everything I hoped it would be. Like their work with the Uncharted 1, Bluepoint Games did a masterful job of porting this game to the PS4. However, the lack of a more varied color palette within individual areas and synergy between Kat’s in-game and cutscene self keep it from being perfect.
Snappy load times, 1080p at 60fps, and refined controls, make Gravity Rush Remastered leaps and bounds better than the PS Vita version. If you’re looking for a good superhero game or even a good game in general, you owe it to yourself to pick this up.
+ Game doesn’t overstay its welcome
+ Upgrades that have a purpose
+ Loveable protagonist
+ Improved motion controls
+ Crisp, 1080P visuals at a great 60fps
+ Snappy load times
– Flying enemies dodge too easily
– Lack of synergy between Kat in-game and in cutscenes
– Locations are difficult to navigate