Review – Ghostwire: Tokyo
Much like Hideo Kojima’s 2019 release Death Stranding, ever since its announcement, Ghostwire: Tokyo has been shrouded in a heavy coat of mystery. People weren’t quite sure what to expect from it, other than a supernatural mystery with spooky elements. Tango Gameworks have already proven themselves to be a solid horror developer with the Evil Within franchise, but Ghostwire takes the studio in a slightly different direction: a supernatural action adventure game with horror elements sprinkled in for good measure. Ghostwire: Tokyo is finally here but was it worth the wait?
Ghostwire: Tokyo starts after an event called The Vanishing has consumed much of Tokyo’s district of Shibuya, taking all signs of life from the streets, leaving them empty, paved with nothing but clothes, shopping bags and other items. You play as Akito, who, after a motorcycle incident, has managed to survive The Vanishing by being possessed by a spirit known as KK. After awakening, Akito starts looking for his sister who has been kidnapped by a man in a Hannya mask who KK is also looking for.
Right from the getgo I was hooked onto Ghostwire: Tokyo‘s central story hook. It puts you right into the thick of it, literally as the mist comes rolling in, with you having no clue as to what is happening. People start vanishing and mysterious entities known as Visitors start appearing. Everything is heavily based on Japanese folklore, and getting to see and read about more Yokai is always a treat. It’s a compelling premise that really kept me going until the very end.
This is helped by surprisingly solid characters that I enjoyed knowing more about. Akito is a fairly standard protagonist, but with a tragic past regarding his sister. His relationship with KK starts strained, as you would expect,but becomes a somewhat highlight as they start becoming buddies. They are unlikely allies whose goals allign, and must save as many spirits as possible whilst hunting down Hannya. Whilst other characters you meet don’t really appear too much, they still have a small impact. Hannya as a villain, though, was a surprise; despite having cliché motives for his actions, he was a really enjoyable character. There’s some truly epic and awesome moments, all leading to a surprisingly strong ending.
As you start exploring the massive open world of Shibuya, you will come across floating spirits that are lost in the physical realm. You can save them by absorbing them into Katashiro paper and bringing them to modified payphones scattered throughout the world, in order to be brought back after the vanishing is over. You will also realise that you won’t have free reign over open world exploration, at least initially. The fog that took Tokyo’s citizens over is still around, and you will have to clear areas by cleansing corrupted Torii gates. The more you cleanse, the more of the world opens up, alongside side quests and shops, which are weirdly run by floating cats. It’s a bizarrely unique and utterly fantastic world that I was easily absorbed into.
You will be exploring city streets, surrounding forest areas, interiors and occasionally other more interesting locations. Moving around these places is a breeze, as you’re able to get up top on the rooftops by either climbing or launching yourself towards Tengus. Though movement can feel a bit stiff, especially coming from games like Dying Light 2, which perfected open world traversal in my opinion. It can be difficult to judge whether you can climb up a ledge or not. Regardless, exploring this world is still a blast. On topic of moving around, there aren’t any movement-based abilities other than gliding for a couple of seconds, and even that can feel extremely clunky at first.
For the most part, side activities just aren’t very exciting. They are often given to you by spirits that are still anchored to Shibuya, unable to be rescued unless you help them complete their tasks. These will often be the same two or three quests, however, lacking in variety. At times, it feels like the world is a bit padded out with content; it would have profited from some trimming. Torii gates are all the same and yet there are dozens of them, whilst side quests rarely take you anywhere interesting. Though there are some gems scattered throughout that make it all worthwhile, with upgrades that can make a big difference in combat. Thankfully, the main questline is solid throughout. Finally, the Torii gates along the main path are usually the ones that do introduce something new at least.
Ethereal Weaving is your main source of attacks, using KK’s spiritual attacks with gesture-based movement. These attacks boil down to the standard elements of wind, fire and water; they can be charged up by holding down RT. As you perform attacks, you will eventually expose the cores of Visitors, which you can rip out at a range, or up close and personal. Putting multiple enemies in an exposed state, however, will allow you to take them all down at once. The combat is all about positioning, trying to keep as many enemies in your field of vision. Akito can also block attacks in order to mitigate damagee.
In the early game, this can be rather repetitive, as enemies can be almost passive against you, letting you attack without putting up much of a fight. However, this soon changes as more and more enemies will attack you at once, as well as increasingly more challenging combatants. As expected, this also includes the occasional boss fight. As such, completing some side content is recommended in order to upgrade Akito’s and KK’s skills. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but the energetic and fast-paced combat is a treat once you start getting used to it.
Weaving isn’t your only means of attacking foes, however, as Akito has access to a powerful bow used primarily for stealth, as well as talismans to help out, allowing you to stun enemies and the ability to create bushes to hide in or distract enemies. The bow is particularly helpful in stealth situations, being able to pick off enemies at a distance; they can also deal a massive amount of damage to initiate combat against a tougher enemy. I just wish the AI was a little bit more reactive, as it rarely started searching for me after I had taken down a nearby enemy.
As mentioned, the combat is about positioning. It’s a shame there’s really no movement-based abilities like Dishonored‘s blink. Hell, even a DOOM-esque dash would have worked wonderfully in here. As for the difficulty, I would actually recommend craking this bad boy up directly to hard mode; you can tweak it whenever you want during gameplay. It makes resources, shops and exploration a little bit more important. As a whole, Ghostwire: Tokyo‘s combat is really fun, but not entirely deep.
The game does make attempts to mix things up with some interesting interior levels. These change the style up to a spookier, more atmospheric tone that works really well, without going too far into the horror genre. As the environment twists and warps, it will put you in some interesting scenarios that feel different to the open world. There’s also a couple of other interesting ideas that I won’t spoil in this review; all I’ll say is that they do a good job of adding a little bit more variety and pzazz to the core gameplay. At the end of my roughly twenty hour playthrough, my savefile showed around 40% of all spirits collected, so there’s plenty to see and do in Ghostwire: Tokyo.
From the very first moment you gain control of Akito in Ghostwire: Tokyo, you will realise just how distinctive and beautiful this game actually is. It’s a wonderfully designed recreation of Shibuya that is just oozing in style and atmosphere, surrounded by the fog that has taken every single one of its inhabitants (except for the animals, thankfully). There’s a sense of uneasiness when wondering the streets, seeing abandoned cars, clothing on the floor and just not a single person in sight. The only thing left roaming the streets are the Visitors which are wonderfully based of Yokai in Japanese Folklore. There’s some really creative designs and it was always exciting to see new ones pop up.
Then, when combat kicks in, there is an almost synthetic aesthetic to what is happening. As you perform attacks, chunks of enemies’ bodies drop off, as they emit an orange glow exposing their core. It’s a unique visual style that really sets Ghostwire aside from other games. The rain-soaked streets of Shibuya do a great job of reflecting these effects. If you have the hardware to run it, there’s also ray tracing for reflections and shadows. It’s not a perfect presentation, however, with some (rare) dull effects, occasionally rough character models, and the screen space reflections aren’t perfect. At the same time I would rather have those extra frames than ray tracing.
There are tons of neat little details you will pick up on by just playing, such as street lights reflecting the aggro of nearby enemies turning red when hostile, street paint lifting and rain reversing when there’s Shrine Dancers, and shadows pointing you towards Yokai infested areas. Finally, on PC, there is DLSS and FSR support with support for Ultrawide displays, though cutscenes will still render in 16:9. There is support for the Dualsense’s haptic functionalities, not only on PS5, but on PC as well.
Sound design is also a very strong point with some great voice acting and environmental. The game’s default language is in Japanese, and, as such, I would highly recommend sticking to it, unless you really do not like reading subtitles whilst playing. It can be really easy to miss when exploring the open world. It’s not that the English voice acting is bad per se; it’s just that the Japanese voice acting is leagues better, doing one hell of a great job of immersing you into the game’s world.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a delightfully intriguing and unique gaming experience that blends a wonderfully weird world with a great story and fast-paced combat. Despite some repetition in its open world activities, the pros more than outweight the cons. Tango Gameworks’ spooky adventure was worth the wait, and it is a game I can highly recommend.
Ghostwire: Tokyo‘s open world of Shibuya is an absolute marvel to look at.
Ghostwire: Tokyo‘s unique Doctor Strange-style gameplay is a lot of fun, but the game does end up being slightly repetitive.
The default Japanese voice acting does a great job of immersing you into the world of Ghostwire whilst a solid atmoshpheric sound design pushes that further.
Repetition aside, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a wild and weird game that is worth playing due to its unique combat system and fun story.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Ghostwire: Tokyo is available now on PC and Playstation 5.
Reviewed on PC with and RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM.
A copy of Ghostwire: Tokyo was provided by the publisher.