Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment | Developer: Bluepoint | Genre: Action/Adventure | Platforms: PS4 | ERSB: Teen | Release Date: February 2 | Controls: DualShock 4
The artistically stunning Gravity Rush was one of the ill-fated PlayStation Vita’s relatively few bright spots. With a sequel on the way, it’s really no wonder that Sony, by way of Bluepoint, has chosen to remaster the game for the PlayStation 4’s much larger audience. Before you roll your eyes at yet another remaster/re-release for the latest home console generation, let me say that this is by far one of the best remasters I’ve played on either the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, and I’ve played a lot of them.
At its heart, Gravity Rush is a third-person action adventure game. The story begins with a mysterious amnesiac girl in a strange outfit accompanied by a mysterious black cat that gives her the power to control gravity. The strange girl is quickly put to work saving the world and soon after given the name Kat. The location in need of Kat’s help is known as Hekseville, a large floating city divided into four distinct districts. Not only is the city torn apart by mysterious gravity storms, but it’s also under attack from strange monsters, known as the Nevi.
Ironically, Gravity Rush’s transition from the handheld Vita to the PlayStation 4 is an upgrade in and of itself. Despite a fairly straightforward control scheme and combat mechanics, the heavy utilization of the Vita’s accelerometer made everything just a bit more difficult than it really needed to be. Though motion controls are still utilized with the PS4, they are significantly reduced in the remaster. Precision is still a difficult ideal to achieve, but the more intuitive button mapping, and more ergonomic control, makes controlling Kat significantly easier.
The nature of Gravity Rush insures there’s still some amount of squirming involved as you try to get a better view of where to send Kat plummeting or targeting enemies. The controller tilting in conjunction with manipulating the analog sticks is probably the only way to achieve real precision in combat. Of course using the collected gems to upgrade Kat’s powers significantly affects the game’s difficulty too. Though you might be tempted to spend the early parts of the game gathering upgrades, the standard missions do a good job of making sure you have enough currency to spend, to be effective.
Directed by the creators of the original Silent Hill and Siren games, Gravity Rush is a physics-bending journey through a hand-painted world that’s reminiscent of comics and animated films from the nineteen-sixties. The art style is really a perfect marriage of post-modern sci-fi and retro aesthetics. It’s still obviously Japanese, but the presentation borrows heavily from Western influences in much the same way as Level-5’s Professor Layton series or even their PlayStation 3 RPG, Ni no Kuni.
While most of the art assets look great in the new 1080p resolution, there are a handful of textures that missed the upgrade boat. They don’t look terrible, they just don’t match the fidelity of the rest of the game. There is also no new voicework added to the remastered Gravity Rush, though the music and sounds that are there are all appropriate and well done. Most of the narrative is delivered in lightly-animated comic book-style panels. It’s not that the lack of voicework makes the game feel low-tech, it just adds to an overwhelming sensation of isolation. Of course, that could be intentional considering Kat’s situation.
As I mentioned earlier, Hekseville is divided into four distinct districts that Kat can eventually access. The first available area in Gravity Rush is a mostly-residential neighborhood while the others are an entertainment district, business center, and industrial area. Gravity Rush Remastered does also include the game’s DLC. For a handheld game, it’s actually a fairly lengthy game. The main story is divided up into 21 chapters, and there are also quite a few challenge missions. Saving your progress does require returning to Kat’s home, though. In spite of the Vita’s universal pause ability, this seems like an odd design choice and one that discourages short play sessions. That’s somewhat less of an issue with the PlayStation 4, but it’s still a significant consideration when sitting down to play the game.
Not enough can be said about how Gravity Rush’s art and story do such a great job of consistently setting the scene. All of that doesn’t exactly result in a completely satisfying narrative, but it’s definitely interesting enough to warrant a sequel. Despite whatever overall ambiguity there is in the story, Kat is a sympathetic character whose personality should at least be tolerable for most players. Even if she is an unlikely hero, her self-awareness makes her all the more likable. Additionally, most of the other characters are also fairly well executed, despite lacking full voiceovers.
If there was a single game worth owning a PlayStation Vita for, Gravity Rush is arguably it. Luckily, that’s no longer an issue. Gravity Rush is not a perfect game, but it really is that significant and now that it’s been remastered for the PlayStation 4, there’s not much of a reason not to play it. Again, it’s not a flawless gem but despite its mechanical imperfections, it’s still a thing of beauty. Though there’s no firm date yet for its sequel, Gravity Rush 2 is due out some time in 2016.
This review copy of Gravity Rush Remastered was played on PlayStation 4 and was provided by the developer.