I had zero hype when Bethesda announced Ghostwire: Tokyo a while back at its during its E3 showcase. I mean, the premise intrigued me (I love Japanese horror) and the developers had Shinji Mikami (creator of the Resident Evil and The Evil Within survival horror series) in their ranks so it was bound to be decent at least.
The lack of a proper gameplay trailer and the fact that it was months away meant I didn’t really keep a tab on it.
Fast forward to March 2022.
Ghostwire: Tokyo has been in my hands for a week now and I’ve been playing it non-stop for the review.
Does it have the chops to be worth your time?
What is Ghostwire: Tokyo?
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a single player first person action RPG developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Softworks. It’s currently exclusive to the Playstation 5 and PC, though with Microsoft’s owning Bethesda now, there might be an enhanced version coming for the Xbox consoles. Maybe.
Our copy of the game was awesome provided to us by the kind folks at Bethesda! Appreciate it a ton guys and gals! Thanks for getting it to us a week early!
NOTE: Before playing Ghostwire: Tokyo, I heavily recommend that you play the free Ghostwire: Tokyo Prelude Corrupted Case File visual novel on the PSN or Steam. It introduces you to KK and his gang, as well as the events that lead up to the game. It’s not essential, but it does give you a ton of backstory so that you’ll enjoy the game better.
In Ghostwire: Tokyo, you’re dropped into a desolate Shibuya. There’s nobody around (because a mysterious fog’s literally ripped their souls from their bodies) and the streets are filled with Visitors (what the game calls the ghosts), dogs and cats.
All this is due to a mysterious man in a Hannya mask, who seems hellbent on completing a mysterious ritual.
As Akito (whose body is co-inhabited by the spirit of a dead man called KK), you’re hot on the heels of the Hannya wearing villain. Your sister, Mari, has been kidnapped by him and it’s up to you to foil his plans.
Thanks to KK sharing his body, Akito has a host of magic powers. You initially start with the ability to cast wind bolts, though you’ll get fire and water abilities as you progress.
Akito also has the Yumitsukai, a holy bow with the power to kill Visitors. You also get the ability to use Talismans, which are limited use items that give you a wide array of benefits. Some freeze targets in place, some distract Visitors…and so forth.
There are also equipment (in the form of Prayer Beads) that confer passive bonuses to Akito. The beads are mainly there to complement your playstyle such as boosting specific attacks, boost your stats or make finding collectibles easier.
Despite the game having a horror premise, it’s not that scary 90% of the time so scaredy cats should have no issues playing.
There are only 2 instances of jump scares though some of the locations you explore (like the hospital, the basement of the Shibuya train station and the darkened parking garage) can be pretty creepy, as are some of the monsters.
If you’ve not realized it yet, populating the game are yurei (evil spirits) that are based on Japanese mythology and urban legends.
Depending on how much you love Japanese culture, you’ll find that awesome or incredibly stupid.
Personally? I LOVE it. Growing up with Japanese horror movies like One Missed Call, Ringu, Dark Water and Ju-On, the monster designs are perfect for me.
In fact, I’d have loved even more scarier monsters!
There are some definitely cool ones like the Shine Dancer and the Kuchisake (which is obviously based on the Kuchisake-onna) but some of the monster designs (such as the Slenderman-esque Walkers) are a bit meh.
Faceless humanoids? Yawn.
I’m actually surprised that urban legends like the Teke Teke, Hanako-san (though she is referenced) or the Hachishakusama are missing! They’d be a perfect fit for the game.
Ghostwire: Tokyo isn’t a survival horror title, so that means there’s lots of combat. You can easily see where Visitors (and other notable objects) are through Spectral Vision (the game’s version of radar). The DualSense controller will also emit static noises (think Silent Hill’s radio) to warn you that enemies are nearby.
Then you have two choices.
You can face the Visitors head on, or if you’re stealthy, attempt to come at them from behind to do an instant kill (called a Quick Purge).
Both are equally fun!
Combat is fast paced and plays out like a regular shooter with you blasting spells at Visitors. A neat touch is that the game shows the impact points of your blows, so you can see holes gradually forming in Visitors as you fire off your spells.
It’s really cool from a visual standpoint and really makes you seem like a badass ghost buster.
Once weakened enough, you can then rip out their cores, which kills a Visitor instantly, releases some ether shards and heals a portion of your health. You don’t need to rip out their cores but taking a Visitor down without core removal requires more attacks, so it’s not really beneficial.
You have a limited number of casts per spell (which can be increased by finding the hidden Jizo statues) so you’ll want to destroy cores as much as you can for the ether shards, which are used to replenish your spell casts.
Destroying cores is a risky move though, as you’re wide open to attacks as Akito works his magic. It’s up to you to balance combat and core destruction in the fights, which can lead to some really hectic moments of cat and mouse as you dodge enemies while casting the magic to destroy cores.
While combat is fun, the lack of any sort of evasive move (your only defensive move is a block) makes it rather stilted. A simple dodge or dive would’ve been much appreciated, especially when you’re up against some of the projectile spewing Visitors.
Blocking works too, but it’s better to not be in melee range (especially in the beginning) as blocks drain HP with each hit. That is unless you time the block perfectly. Then you get ether shards (to power your spells) and take no damage.
When you’re not fighting, you’re able to explore the entirety of Shibuya (and some of the surrounding areas too). Numerous landmarks are in the game (though renamed for legal reasons) and you can visit them as you progress in the game. You’ll initially only be able to access a small portion of the ward, as the rest’s shrouded in the deadly fog.
Cleansing Tori gates will lift the fog, but the gates only become available at certain parts of the story. Certain quests also have you exorcising ghosts manually by making seals.
You need to follow the onscreen motion with the Right Analog stick (kind of what Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow did on the DS).
Problem is the motion recognition’s really bad and sometimes doesn’t replicate your movements right…which is rather weird when you think about it. You can get the game to do it for you if you’re unable but I got better at it after awhile.
Once you get the spirit ability to talk to animals it gets much cooler!
That’s because now you can pet the various cats and dogs in the game!
Feed doggies food (which you buy from the Nekomata stores) and they’ll lead you to a cache of Meika or even better, to a Jizo statue. There’s even a special doggie (who wears a bandanna) that’ll lead you to a Magatama if you feed him a specific food.
You can’t feed cats in the game sadly, but you can read their thoughts, which is great because you can hear the hilariously selfish things they’re thinking…just like real cats!
There are even friendly cat sprits (Nekomata) that sell you stuff or give you treasure hunting missions that reward you with awesome goodies.
Of my favourite things to do in the game is just to wait around them. After a period of inactivity, they’ll start to purr and meow meow or even sing! So CUTE!
As you progress in the story missions, the map gradually opens up as you’re able purify Tori gates located around the city. You can’t purify them all right off the bat as some are tied to story events, so you’ll want to progress through a fair bit of the story before you start exploring.
The gameplay loop of finding spirits, purifying Torii games and doing story missions is pretty fun, and that’s compounded by some of the cool fights. Not all of them require your combat skills, one in particular, requires you to stealthily creep around a stage and remove a boss’ tails to beat her.
The optional content though…can get repetitive, I’m not going to lie.
While the side missions are numerous and entertaining, most of them devolve to going to specific place and killing everything there. Every one of them has their own unique story (and some are very creepy) so it’s still worth it to do them.
The way you get more Magatama doesn’t change too; it’s always through the same Yokai mini-games. More variety would’ve livened things up a lot more!
Thankfully, the game doesn’t take itself so seriously during the side missions. One of them even rewards you with a Vault suit from Fallout and I swear, the side mission with the haunted piano references Resident Evil because of it using Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
It’s the same song that Jill or Rebecca plays on the piano in the Spencer Mansion.
Hell, I bet that there are even more easter eggs that I missed!
Exploring is a must because it’s the quickest way to level up.
Scattered around the city are human spirits, which you’ll need to trap using a paper talisman called the Katashiro. You initially start with 10 (which you can reuse), but you can get more of them at the Cat shops throughout the game. Each Katashiro can hold a single group of spirits, so you’ll want to have at least 30 or so.
These trapped spirits can be released at telephone booths, which will reward you with Meika (the in-game currency) and XP to level up.
Gaining levels is key to your survival, as a level increases your max health and gives you 10 Skill points to use to learn or improve your capabilities.
The Skill tree is broken up into 3 sections; Abilities, Etherial Weaving and Equipment. Skills can use up to 40 skill points per skill to unlock, plus Magatama (another form of in-game currency), which are used to unlock progression to the high tier skills.
While some of the skills are of dubious use (I don’t really use Talismans, so having more of them isn’t a big deal for me), the majority of the game impact the game significantly. Being able to rip out cores faster or being able to rip out the cores of enemies on the ground make your life much easier.
There’s even one (which allows you to create a Tengu to zip to) that’d I would label as ESSENTIAL, as it allows you to quickly zip up buildings without using stairs or pre-placed Tengu.
Wait…what’s a Tengu? They’re mythological Japanese humanoid creatures with wings.
In the game, they’re basically grapple points you can hook on to and pull yourself to their location. Now you see how the ability to create your own grapple point is essential?
Shibuya is filled with tall buildings, so being able to access the roof of any building at any time is a godsend!
What’s not so fun is the frame rate.
Despite there being three modes (Performance, Quality and High Frame Rate), the modes are rather unstable. That’s unfortunate, because on the mode with highest visual fidelity, the game looks downright amazing. Ray tracing is enabled, so the shadows and lighting look spectacular, especially with the game’s environments.
Honestly, I hope PS5 games are enhanced or backwards compatible with the next generation Playstation console because I would LOVE to return to Ghostwire: Tokyo on a PS6 (or maybe a PS5 Pro) and run the game with Ray Tracing enabled and a stable framerate.
Even on Performance mode (which aims for a 60FPS experience) there are noticeable drops in the framerate. These mainly occur when it rains and if you’re on a high building and looking out at the view.
Load times are great though, with only 3 – 5 seconds loading when you quick travel. Transitions (like going into buildings) are similarly short, so you barely feel the loads. Restarting from your loads (through dying or through the main menu) are also in the same time frame, so you’re in the game in record time.
You don’t retain your progress if you die (the game reloads your last save) so take note of that.
The Bottom Line.
Ghostwire: Tokyo may not be in line with Tango Gameworks’ previous entries but it’s arguably one of its best games yet.
It’s a fresh take for a FPS. One that blends Japanese horror with traditional FPS gameplay to create a unique fusion. The game does have its flaws, but its good points make them more than bearable.
Here’s hoping for more Ghostwire in the future, though perhaps in a different city. Singapore, perhaps?
Great blending of horror and action, with a couple of flaws.
- Japanese horror monsters.
- Fun combat.
- Fast loading.
- Travelling around Shibuya.
- Ghostwire: Tokyo Prologue is a cool tie-in.
- Not scary enough.
- Needs combat techniques and variations.
- Needs more of everything: spells, enemies, missions.