‘Ghostwire: Tokyo’ Review: Spectre-tacular Sparkly Combat In A Nightmarish City
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Featured Image Credit: Bethesda
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a gobsmackingly gorgeous action-horror with enemies that you won’t forget any time soon, not only for their eclectic appearances but their formidable ferocity in combat too. It’s a moreish game, and I want to trawl through every inch of this odd facsimile of the capital city, though I hope that Tango Gameworks rolls out an accessibility settings update to allow even more fans to enjoy this glittery and ghostly game.
Check out the trailer below, serving scares and sparkles on a silver platter!
Akito is one of the victims of the supernatural event that has blanketed the city in choking fog, consuming those who are caught in it and allowing yokai to travel to the other side in search of souls to feast upon. Swirling the realms of the living and the dead like a teaspoon of sugar in a cold cup of coffee has disastrous results; who knew. But, it also offers one spirit an opportunity to return and enact his revenge on the person who did this to Tokyo. Named KK, he needs a corpse to possess and Akito — inert and limbs akimbo on the wet street — appears to be suitable enough. However, Akito gasps into consciousness and is suddenly sharing his brain and his (slightly damaged) bod with a murderous spirit who considers that he found this broken thing on the floor and it’s his now. Sorry not sorry.
An argument ensues but there’s no time for ifs and buts as the yokai advance on Akito. KK, with his otherworldly powers and affinity for the supernatural, provides Akito with the awesome power of ethereal weaving. Elemental attacks like wind, fire and water blast from Akito’s fingertips, chipping away at the forms of these enemies and exposing their core for the player to seize and banish to the other side. Together, Akito and KK work to rescue lost souls, restore Tokyo and save the former’s sister from becoming a conduit for a new world order. No pressure.
These battles are very entertaining because the ethereal weaving is so unabashedly colourful and sparkly, and attacks cut through the muted mist shrouding the city like fireworks. The Visitors — the technical term for those unwelcome yokai — are also formidable enemies if you haven’t counted how many there are on the field.
Healing is done through cramming Akito’s mouth with whatever snacks he’s got stuffed in his pockets and there are nether foods that grant gameplay bonuses like perfect block, defence, or stealth. Fortunately, once you have cleansed the corrupted torii gate that is inviting the Visitors into this area, this creates a safe space to stock up on snacks and snag the bonus inside the shrine to strengthen yourself against the nasties. You’ll accrue experience points through exploration and combat encounters which level the character up and unlocks skills in the three separate skill trees, however, there are hefty experience and coin rewards for those who like to wander off the beaten path.
Souls are suspended in the air across the city murmuring and muttering to themselves and tengu are flitting here and there giving you a lift to the tops of the skyscrapers. Saving these souls from being scarfed by yokai involves absorbing them in katashiro and the souls are then processed through one of the numerous payphones, giving the player a chunk of experience points and coins and progressing through levels very efficiently.
I played Ghostwire: Tokyo on Hard because I am hard, and I would recommend sticking to stealth as much as possible as a quick takedown saves you a lot of scanning for the nearest top up of ether and tweaking your strategy towards the enemies that are surrounding you to double up destroying cores at the same time. Oh, ether is the reserve that the ethereal weaving draws from and it’s collected through smashing green, red and blue flickering objects scattered across the city. And the city that Tango Gameworks has created is absolutely awesome.
Tokyo is so, so entrancing and there is so much detail in the smallest of things - like raindrops rolling off the plastic canvas of an abandoned umbrella. Like, I literally stood there and watched the raindrops for a good minute or two. It’s really an amazing example of the balance of colour and light to incite curiosity, avoid overwhelming the player, and ensure that every area has its own attractions. Skirmishing with yokai in the middle of a dark shopping centre spotlighted by screens of adverts or scurrying through the streets hoping they don’t see me, it’s this mix of supernatural elements with glitch horror genres that makes it so moreish to play. And, KK‘s spectral vision ability acts like a radar to highlight things in the world like enemies, collectibles and reserves of ether and you can upgrade this so it has a greater range, encouraging you to sack off the main storyline and see what this strange city has to offer.
Also I must shout out to the audio team at Tango Gameworks because the soundtrack and environmental sounds are so immersive in combination with the DualSense. KK‘s voice comes out of the controller’s speaker as well as your telly’s speakers and so adds like a peculiar layer to his voice, simulating his words reverberating inside Akito’s skull. When you approach Visitors, too, there is this unpleasant scratching noise that comes out of the speakers which is odd to start with but lets you know there are enemies about even if you’ve not seen them yet.
The haptics feel absolutely amazing when you’re fighting yokai, buzzing when you’re grabbing the cores of the Visitors to destroy them with a bang, and each of the elemental attacks feel different in the controller. The wind attacks have a very gentle rumble when you select them, whereas the water attacks feel much more like the rumble is flowing from end to end.
I know I’m describing something very specific here, but the pinnacle of Ghostwire: Tokyo’s use of audio and haptics was an unsettling moment when I was exploring an office building. It was very silent, very tense and the soundtrack was very ominous. Yet, I wasn’t too freaked out until the DualSense recreated the sensation in a heartbeat in my hands as I crouched through the creepy halls, unsure of what would be around the corner, and it was extremely off-putting. In a good way.
What I will say is that I’m not one hundred percent sure all of the extras that have been popped into the game are necessary. Don’t get me wrong - I enjoyed the side quests and I think they’re written well, but sometimes when I was collecting souls I could see that I’d barely made a percentage of difference to the total souls to collect in Tokyo - and also the ability to unlock different outfits for Akito - I don’t know if that’s necessarily needed or that it serves the overall vibes of the game. It’s a first-person game with a cutscene every so often. Why would I need new outfits. You know?
Moreover, there are settings for increasing the text size, letting the game automatically complete patterns drawn on the touchpad, and filters for colourblind players, but it's the lights and the contrasts that I think might prove problematic. Glitchy effects in Cyberpunk 2077 were toned down in a post-launch patch from CD Projekt Red so I would hope that Tango Gameworks has something similar waiting in the wings.
The title Ghostwire: Tokyo hints that Tango Gameworks might want to generate a series out of this artistically excellent action-horror experiment. Ghostwire: Wigan (hypothetically speaking) doesn’t have the same ring to it, though I would love to see Hacker T Dog go toe-to-toe with demons. Anyway, almost everything in this game feels so coherent and grounded to this capital city that the team evidently have a lot of love for and it's an experience that fans of its previous games - and those curious about the possibilities of the horror genre in games - should definitely dip into.
Pros: Inspiring use of haptics, amazing audio, environments look tip top on the PS5
Cons: Story isn’t that gripping, minimal accessibility settings, might have packed a little too much into the city
For fans of: The Evil Within, BioShock, Persona
7/10: Very Good
Ghostwire: Tokyo is releasing on March 25th for PlayStation 5 (version tested) and PC. PS5 code for review was supplied by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.