Gravity Rush Review: And I'm Free...Free Falling

By Ryan Winslett in Reviews
Monday, June 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm
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I sprint along the side of a building, nimbly leaping over windows as I collect floating gems that will help me grow stronger, my scarf fluttering to the left to show me which direction true gravity is pulling.

At the push of a button I'm floating, spinning around to locate another crop of gems located on the underside of a bridge. I push the button again and gravity shifts, sending me careening towards my next destination. The bottom of the bridge becomes my new playground as I run around upside-down, gathering more glittering goodies.

In Gravity Rush, I have taken on the role of Kat, the "Gravity Queen." With the mysterious ability to spit in the face of Newton's most famous law, I can explore literally every surface of this massive world, collecting gems and destroying the disruptive Nevi creatures that occasionally invade throughout the storyline.

What I'm doing isn't exactly flying so much as bending physics to my will. My movements are none-too-graceful and I usually crash into buildings more often than land delicately upon them. Buzz Lightyear would call it "falling with style," and it's the most fun I've had on the PlayStation Vita to date.

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The town of Hekseville has seen better days. Dark, globulous creatures known as the Nevi keep invading and an ill-tempered, gravity shifting menace known as Raven occasionally stirs up trouble. Worse, this floating city is surrounded on all sides by gravity storms, monstrous events which have literally sucked entire districts into oblivion.

In Gravity Rush, you play as reluctant hero Kat, a young woman who wakes up in a back alley with no memories, yet in possession of the same amazing abilities as the aforementioned Raven. Kat gets drawn into the world of Hekseville by its troubled citizens, half of which seem to want Kat to protect their house, stop criminals or, you know, save the entire damn world.

Like any good hero arc, Kat has to ease herself into the role of savior, going along begrudgingly at first as she builds her abilities and confidence. It's a wild tale full of bizarre characters and locations, with twists and turns stripped from just about every anime trope imaginable.

That anime influence carries over into the art style, making Gravity Rush one of the prettiest things I've clapped peepers on in quite some time. The world of Hekseville is vast, detailed and extremely beautiful, making it an absolute delight to explore.

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Where Gravity Rush truly excels, though, is in locomotion; both in terms of getting around and in combat. Kat's ability to shift gravity offers an unparalleled sense of freedom, opening the world up in a way never before seen in video games. I'd liken the experience to InFamous or Prototype, but even those games can't compare to the completely unchained experience offered by Gravity Rush. You can run along the side of a sewer pipe one second, launch yourself into the sky the next, then come crashing back down to earth, all with the use of a simple and intuitive control system.

Kat's melee skills are limited to some pretty ferocious kicks but, as she grows stronger, she adds several nifty gravity-based special attacks to her arsenal. While flying, Kat can perform a dashing kick, too. It can be finicky at first and some creatures require you to learn a pattern to determine the best time to strike but, once you get the hang of it, you'll be whipping around the world like a pro, kicking 10 Nevi into oblivion without ever touching the ground.

The world of Hekseville eventually becomes populated with several challenge missions, creating a nice distraction from the story and sending players on a time/score chase to transport frightened citizens, battle hordes of baddies, or race around the city as quickly as possible.

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While the story itself is lengthy and fun (And like any good anime, quite nonsensical at times), completing missions is where Gravity Rush lags behind. There's plenty of fun to be had once the action picks up, but getting there frequently involves long periods of mediocre traversal, repetitive fetch-quests or uninspired stealth. But the less interesting slogs are almost always punctuated by an epic boss fight, creative puzzle sequence or the chance to explore some breathtaking locales. It's upsetting that some of the more "gamey" aspects of Gravity Rush are the weakest, but everything else is strong enough to overshadow any negatives.

When you finish the story proper, the world of Hekseville is yours to explore, with all of those challenges still hanging around for you to try over and over again. This is great, since Gravity Rush offers a world I am more than happy to just hang around in. I'd frequently get sidetracked while playing, an entire hour disappearing as I had fun gliding between buildings, exploring hard to reach sections or just finding a high spot, popping the camera into first-person view, canceling gravity and enjoying the view as Kat plummeted through the beautiful scenery.

Every new console needs a killer app; that first unique game that fully embraces the system's hardware and provides a quality experience you can't get anywhere else. Gravity Rush fills that role for the Vita, making it the best reason to own Sony's new handheld yet.

The Official Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

This review is based on a PlayStation Vita copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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