Back in 2012, when the PS Vita still had those newborn rosy cheeks and the maternal loving gaze of PlayStation’s top brass, real ‘killer-app’ level games were about as numerous as non-terrifying Gary Glitter fans are now in 2016. That all changed pretty much when Gravity Rush decided to make an appearance. With its revolutionary gravity based platforming gameplay, intriguing narrative and good natured, yet well-written characters, Gravity Rush gave people a real, honest-to-goodness reason to throw down some Lizzies and Benjamins on Sony’s muscular new handheld.
Fast forward nearly four years on and remaster virtuosos Bluepoint have now ported the game from its humble handheld domain to the much more capable PS4 hardware. Perhaps most striking though is the stark realisation that Gravity Rush is transcendent; appearing today every bit the seminal, innovative action adventure as it was those years ago on much less powerful hardware with the ‘Remastered’ tag acting as a cast-iron guarantee that this is best way to experience the game because, well, it quite arguably is.
Unless your eyes have been unceremoniously scooped out without you noticing, the first thing that is immediately apparent is just how retina-strokingly good Gravity Rush Remastered looks. Without straight away considering the technical merits of Bluepoint’s work, it becomes clear that the art style that so well defined the game in its original release has actually aged really, really well. From the Art Nouveau influenced cityscapes, where colour and western European styles meet in a stunning marriage of visual opulence to the tightly regimented, yet wonderfully realised militarism seen in the city of Hekseville’s more conservative quarters, it’s arguable that the art style of Gravity Rush defies the sort of risible pixel-counting that often diminishes other games who find themselves so desperately bereft of the calibre of flair seen here.
When we start looking at things on a technical level, it’s also obvious that the jaunt to PS4 has brought with it some tremendous improvements that complement and enhance the already formidable art style quite perfectly. Now in a form befitting the more formidable hardware, Gravity Rush Remastered absolutely thunders along at 1080p resolution and a buttery smooth sixty-frames per second with a veritable avalanche of higher quality textures thrown into the bargain. Concerns over the geometric simplicity of the game world as they were seen in the original are soon laid to rest, as Gravity Rush Remastered’s eye-popping technical and artistic ensemble make you forget that the game was even a four-year old Vita title to begin with. Simply, this feels like a game that was always destined to be on the big screen; its substantial visual ambition now fully realised on a format befitting its timeless majesty.
Beyond such spectacle affirming enhancements, Gravity Rush Remastered also boasts the trio of DLC packs which released for the game, a gallery with an exhaustive six-hundred pieces of art to look through and, perhaps most significantly, the ability to leverage tailor motion controls to function alongside traditional inputs (neatly emulating the gyroscope-powered control scheme of the PS Vita original) to allow folks to play it in whichever manner they find most easiest. In my own personal experience it was the tried and tested analogue inputs that remained the most effective, though your own mileage may vary and the motion controls are certainly up to the task.
Away from the hugely impressive, yet superficial upgrades that this remastered edition of Gravity Rush offers up, it is after all important to look beneath its almost effortlessly stylish veneer to remember why the game is so significant in the first place. In his review of the PS Vita original, then-PSU author Adam Dolge went on to speak at length about how Gravity Rush empowered the player, making them feel akin to a superhero and encompassing all of the trial and error and sense of power that is intrinsic with such a role.
This remains very much the case in Gravity Rush Remastered as players find themselves swept up in the endearingly off-kelter story of protagonist Kat and her newly found, gravity-defying powers as she attempts to not only decipher her own destiny, but also free the separated districts of Hekseville from the enigmatic Nevi menace. The story, told through a menagerie of gorgeously drawn comic book esque frames, has aged especially well in the transition to a higher-definition aperture, with each piece of art and bubble of dialog almost springing off the screen as you become unavoidably drawn into Gravity Rush’s immersive yarn of destiny, newfound powers and a discordant society.
Pointedly in the game itself, it’s difficult to emphasise just how fantastic these powers feel, even now. A single press of the button and your character becomes instantly unshackled from the forces of gravity for a time, providing a tangibly real feeling of weightlessness that few, if any, games have managed to achieve either before or since Gravity Rush’s original release on PS Vita. It’s the sort of spontaneously generated spectacle that you just can’t get anywhere else and as much as it ever has, it still feels unmatched.
Veering away from the realms of abject gimmickry, Kat’s gravity manipulating abilities are employed in a meaningful fashion that at once not only showcases the inherent flair of her powers but also provides satisfying outlets for the player to properly wield them. Traversing the city of Hekseville reveals itself to be constant thrill as you manipulate gravity and land on surfaces above, to the side and beneath you with the sort of satisfying heft that makes you respect the dream-like potential of Kat’s abilities.
Because you are free to roam Hekseville and engage in story missions, side-missions and skill-taxing challenges whenever you see fit, sometimes just drifting about the skies above the city as you allow gravity to gentle tug you in one direction feels blissfully rewarding in its own way. In a somewhat wonderfully indulgent fashion, it provides the sort of thrill that makes you feel much more like a tourist or some sort of supernatural voyeur as you soar around, tweaking Mother Nature’s oldest power however you see fit while the game’s jazz music serenades play in the background.
Being able to effortlessly glide through the air and skate across surfaces with ease is just one element of the Gravity Rush experience, the other is combat, and in its transition to PS4 this side of the equation has improved considerably. Able to engage in melee combat with the Nevi monsters that plague Hekseville, our review of the PS Vita original cited combat that was occasionally clumsy and imprecise. In its shiny new PS4 threads though, such concerns evaporate rather quickly. Airborne attacks, for instance, are much easier to land on your foes weak spots with the larger screen making their destination much clearer while a little dash of auto-aiming helps to forgive near-miss strikes that would have been frustration laden duds in Gravity Rush’s original handheld incarnation.
Elsewhere, when you get stuck into the main story and the various side-missions which crop up as you progress, stealth sections start to slowly appear and are intertwined throughout Gravity Rush’s mission infrastructure. Indeed, while stealth sections might seem out of place in a game such as this they actually have a positive effect; forcing the player to consider other approaches and surfaces in order to reach their goal and thusly prompting them to realise the potential of their gravity-defying prowess.
Another reason for piling time into the impressive array of side-missions and activities that Gravity Rush Remastered boasts is it allows you to develop and increment Kat’s various skills, allowing her to maintain her gravity powers longer or increasing her melee attack strength to name just a couple of things that can be improved. Beyond the boundaries of
such missions, floating crystals also provide a dual-incentive to be collected, allowing you to bolster your skills while gently leading you to every nook and cranny of Gravity Rush’s impeccably designed free-flight environments.
If the experience is blemished in any sort of way, albeit a minor one, then that would be when your mastery of gravity is used to bring objects into your own personal orbit so that they might be transported somewhere else. Much like the PS Vita version before it, the act of attracting items to your person often feels haphazard; sometimes working correctly and other times not. Usually this wouldn’t be an issue but on the missions where a timer is set against you, these precious seconds lost to such frustrations can often mean the difference between success and failure.
Given a shining new platform with which to engender a new and hopefully much larger throng of fandom, Gravity Rush Remastered not only provides a new benchmark for action adventure titles on PS4 but it also provides a bar, an intimidatingly high one, for its forthcoming sequel to surpass. If the effort here is indicative to what might lie ahead however, then we should expect Gravity Rush 2 to defy expectation in much the same way that its erstwhile heroine does to the titular forces that so well define her fantastically engaging odyssey.