The eagerly anticipated Ghostwire: Tokyo is finally out – we’re checking out the PlayStation 5 version of the game, which is one of the rare games that is skipping last-gen consoles. It’s also skipping Xbox for now, because despite Bethesda’s current link to Microsoft there was already an exclusivity deal in place.
One of the main reasons we were looking forward to Ghostwire: Tokyo is developer Tango Gameworks. Both of the The Evil Within games were gems in the horror genre, but don’t get the recognition that (for example) Resident Evil games get. They’re creepy, filled with tons of atmosphere and audiovisually impressive – so when Ghostwire: Tokyo was going next-gen only we couldn’t wait to see it in action.
What we saw was certainly surprising, as Ghostwire turns the survival horror formula upside down in a way. Rather than trying to overcome overwhelming odds in trying to stay alive, you’re actually quite powerful and more than ready to take on the spirits that have overtaken Tokyo by way of a mysterious fog that turned all living beings into spectral ones.
You essentially play the game as two characters who have merged into one, which sounds strange on paper but makes sense in the context of the game. Physically, you’re Akito, who crashed and died in a motorcycle accident as people were trying to flee the city when the aforementioned fog sets in. Akito’s body merges with the spirit of KK, who is a detective with supernatural powers that let him fight ghosts – convenient, right?
It’s a marriage of convenience, as both have their own agendas that quickly end up aligning. Akito is looking to save his sister from the clutches of antagonist Hannya, who also killed KK and forced him into an existence as a spectral being until he met Akito. Together, they venture into a semi-open world version of Tokyo that gradually opens up to you over the course of a ten to twelve hour adventure – which you can extend by engaging in side quests.
As you explore the game world, you’ll quickly run into trouble, which introduces you to your spectral superpowers. Your basic attack is a wind-like blast, but you also have some control over the elements that lets you unlock water and fire-based attacks – though their use is ammo-based so you can’t go wild with the uber-satisfying fire attacks when you gain access to them.
Ghostwire: Tokyo gets consistently better as the game progresses, both due to upgrades that gave you new and better abilities and because the enemies and plot get more interesting over time. Combat feels rather straightforward at first, but later on you’ll have a wide range of options available to you that are fun to experiment with and even tie into your battle strategies for some of the stronger foes.
The game and game world also become more and more interesting from a narrative perspective, to the point where it feels like a shame when the story wraps up. We have a lingering sense that that’s more to explore than what the narrative offers players right now, and that perhaps it’s being saved for future DLC releases – something that also happened with The Evil Within. We really enjoyed those DLC chapters, but unfortunately our wait for DLC for the sequel was in vain.
Compared to The Evil Within, Ghostwire: Tokyo feels a tad less varied in terms of its gameplay and story beats. There are a few impressively designed story sequences, but the more open game world stands in the way of the more cinematic approach that the previous Tango games had. Akito and KK get separated at times, but it feels more like a gameplay mechanic (forcing you to use stealth) than a narrative instrument that pulls the game in a different direction. Side missions are similar in that sense, but still feel worthwhile because of the rewards you receive that then tie into the main gameplay.
Part of what makes Ghostwire feel less cinematic is also its use of a first person perspective. Alongside its strong narrative and very interesting setting, it’s what makes the game feel rather unique and intriguing. So much so that we ended up wanting more at the end of it, even though the experience felt less ‘next gen’ than we were expecting. We’re wondering if this is only the first we’re seeing of this new world as well. Time will tell, but we certainly hope so.