While I thought that Ghostrunner shipped a little light on content, it did receive more updates over time. A hardcore mode with completely remixed enemy placement, as well as a wave survival mode, did a lot to extend the game’s appeal on top of the base campaign. With Project_Hel, the game has received an even larger chunk of additional gameplay that’s well worth trying. It adds seven whole new levels. Two of which are boss battles, while the remaining are entirely new stages full of enemies to slice your way through. The DLC doesn’t make for a markedly different experience, but it’s enough that people should enjoy what it has to offer.
The premise here is that you play as Hel, one of the bosses from the main campaign. You follow orders from Mara as she dishes them out. Well, mostly. Hel isn’t really too fond of following orders. One level has Mara explicitly telling her to minimize casualties. And yet, this results in Hel going out of her way to kill everything to the point that the on-screen objective even changes to reflect this. As a character, she’s undeniably cruel and — despite being an android — she appears to enjoy hurting things and will go out of her way to do so.
However, there’s even less of a narrative focus here than in the main campaign. There’s some chatter in the background again, but that’s about it. I’m not entirely sure what Hel was doing or why. As I didn’t care about the plot before, I certainly found myself uninterested again and often tuned out. Project_Hel took me a few hours to finish, although part of that was how rusty I was after not having played the base game since it launched nearly 1.5 years ago.
Back into the swing
Speaking of which, if you’re like me, I don’t recommend starting Project_Hel without a refresher course. The difficulty in the first level is similar to that of the base game’s later levels, and doesn’t hesitate to throw tougher challenges at you early on. That isn’t to say it’s not doable if you’re super rusty, because it absolutely is. The DLC does begin with a bit of tutorializing to catch people up, so it’ll reacquaint you with any of the basics you have forgotten. But that first level will also drag your skills kicking and screaming if you’re not quite up on things.
As the focus of Project_Hel is that you’re playing as a new character, there’s obviously more to this DLC. It’s not just a few new levels played with a character that’s different in name only. Hel isn’t hugely disparate from Jack, but she’s got major distinctions. Firstly, Hel lacks almost all of Jack’s abilities, save for surge, but the way she powers it up is a bit different. Instead of having an energy bar that fills up with kills, Hel has a constantly decaying rage meter. You recharge it by fighting and by standing in ‘rage pools’ dotting the maps.
For the most part, though, there are only two abilities tied to this new feature. Using surge, which lets Hel (and Jack before her) fire off an energy slash, will deplete the bar. But once you have 50% rage, you gain a deflector shield that lets you take an extra hit. It’s not the most useful thing in the world, but it does come in handy, especially considering how many enemies Project_Hel likes to throw your way.
The absolute biggest difference between Hel and Jack, however, is that Hel has a completely different shift ability. When Jack’s was used, it would allow him to slow down time and shift to the side or create a bit of space before a forward dash.
Waiting to pounce
Hel, on the other hand, covers a good amount of ground with her shift. It moves her in an arc before smashing her into the ground. You can use this to make tricky jumps, land behind enemies, or even throw yourself at them and cut at the end of the arc. In practice, this makes Hel considerably more dangerous than Jack. As you fight your way through the DLC, there are a lot of encounters where rooms are just filled with enemies.
But these sections are manageable due to Hel’s maneuverable and useful shift power. You’ll find yourself in a room, throw yourself in an arc to cut an enemy in half, then jump in the air, hold shift, find your next target, cut them in half, and then continue. It’s an extremely visceral way to chain together kills, and it’s quite possibly the most badass thing in all of Ghostrunner. As much as I don’t usually like trial-and-error sections, these can be immensely fun. The shift adds another layer to what the game’s combat can offer. It’s kind of surprising just how much of a difference this one ability makes.
On top of that, Hel has her own upgrades, which also need to be arranged in a grid based on their shape. They vary in what they accomplish. There are some that make changes to the deflector shield, or the shape of Hel’s surge attack. Then there are ones similar to what Jack had, such as showing collectibles on the radar or adding dash charges. One unique addition is that adding certain abilities will grant Hel three more skills, including one that makes her invulnerable after her deflector shield is used.
You tell me you’ve got a plan
The thing is, I’m not sure how to arrange power-ups in order to make these available, and I didn’t see any sort of explanation. Regardless, I beat Project_Hel just fine without making use of these. The levels here are of the same quality as the base game’s, although I’d say there’s considerably less frustration here, but that just could be because I’m already sufficiently used to the main game.
The two boss battles are somewhat challenging, but not particularly special or memorable. The final fight is honestly more enjoyable than the base game’s final boss battle, though, as it ends with Hel getting to use infinite surge for a bit.
Project_Hel won’t win over anyone who wasn’t already a fan of Ghostrunner..However, the DLC is a really good addition to the game that only makes the overall package better. It’s still got its pros and cons and, yes. You have to be okay with getting shot in the back by enemies that you couldn’t have known were there without memorization. But this is a trial-and-error sort of game to begin with, so I guess that’s no surprise. If you’re in the market for more Ghostrunner, then this does a nice job of scratching that itch while also offering a fun character who plays differently enough to change things up.