I didn’t review ‘Ghostwire: Tokyo’ on release, despite getting the platinum trophy for it. I know, I’m sorry! Originally limited to PlayStation 5 and PC, the game has now released on Xbox, which gives me time to right this wrong. A strange survival horror/action hybrid from the creator of Resident Evil and the team behind titles like Okami, this has to be a winner.
After a massive road accident, a spirit floats above the streets of Tokyo, in search of a body to possess. It lands in the body of the recently deceased Akito, who is brought back to life, bonded to the desperate spirit. To make matters worse, a fog quickly envelops the area and transforms everyone caught inside it into a spirit. A masked man appears and summons an army of demons and captures all of the spirits and whisks them away. Akito heads to the hospital to find his terminally ill sister.
That’s a lot to dump on you straight away, isn’t it? The opening does a solid job building intrigue and as Akito and the spirit (KK) get to know each other, small story threads untangle and everything starts off well. The main objective is to find and stop this masked man, he has wronged Akito and has a peculiar history with KK and while this may grab your interest for a while, it’s all the game has. It doesn’t take long for the story to meander and repeat itself over and over again. The problem is, other than the three characters mentioned, there’s only two other characters in Ghostwire: Tokyo and you don’t even meet them. It feels like you’re just listening to audio pickups as you trot about the world and it gets dull fast. There’s a few interesting moments and a handful of great moments, but the story was a let down overall.
First off, get the survival horror genre out of your head, it’s about as survival horror as Paw Patrol is. This is a first person action game, through and through. Replace the guns with magic and you’ve got it. Akito has a few elements of magic at his disposal and a couple of special attacks and a pretty robust parry system. He also has a bow and arrow and a boatload of talismans and temporary buffs. At first, the novelty is really cool. After a few hours that wears quite thin though, of course it’s never bad, we’ve played this type of combat so many times, it’s hard to keep it fun for long stretches of play. One facet of the combat that is entertaining is the core system. Doing enough damage to an enemy exposes their core, allowing you to rip it out and gain ammo for your magic and you can even chain these and tear out multiple cores at once, it’s quite satisfying. The lack of enemy variety, is less satisfying though.
Okay, combat is fine but not as remarkable as it thinks it is, let’s move onto the game world. Ghostwire: Tokyo’s rendition of Shibuya is a lot bigger than I was expecting and is designed perfectly. As the map is encased in a fog that causes death to the player, you have to cleanse areas to travel further, it’s simple but rewarding. Dotted around the map are a ton of collectibles and 240,000 (not a typo) spirits to collect! Don’t panic, you don’t collect them one at a time. Some of these are on rooftops and Akito can latch onto flying demons to get up high and glide to nab any goodies. This is great stuff and can keep you occupied for hours.
That’s not all though as there is a smattering of side quests and challenges for you to sink your teeth into. This all depends on how you feel about open world mumbo jumbo, like a Far Cry game for example. Depending on your current tolerance level, be aware, this is akin to an Ubisoft open world for better or worse. As I mentioned, the interpretation of Shibuya is stunning, the claustrophobic alleyways and bizarrely shaped houses are fantastic and the design of the monsters you encounter are great. The artists have done a stellar job and the soundtrack is perfectly solid, but not memorable. Voice work in both English and Japanese is absolutely fine, though nobody stood out in particular. Game performance was okay, a little stuttery, even at 1440p on an RTX 3080, but as far as 2023 releases on PC, it’s acceptable.
Here’s the problem, Ghostwire: Tokyo was teased as a survival horror game created by Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, The Evil Within) and it’s impossible to not be excited by that. Mikami and his team went another direction with this game, and I respect that. But it feels so generic, it really is just another skin on the same open world game we’ve played a million times. I understand it’s hard to innovate in a genre that is so over-saturated, but the core concept of having a survival horror game set in modern day Shibuya with demons of Japanese folklore, is far too enticing to pass on. My entire play-though was just me thinking about what could have been and the small snippets of horror leave a sour taste. On the other hand, the game doesn’t do anything wrong, it’s perfectly playable. I’m disappointed, a lot of people will like this and a lot won’t, it depends on how tired you are of the open world genre.
Ghostwire: Tokyo was reviewed via PC Game Pass subscription owned by the reviewer.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Developer: Tango Gameworks Release Date: 12th April 2023 Reviewed On: PC