First impressions are everything as the saying goes and video games are no different. If anything they are probably even more important because the first moments of a game are what hooks players to want to see the game through. Enter Ghostwire: Tokyo from developers Tango Gameworks and publisher Bethesda. This open-world game is looking to make a splash. For this preview, I will be talking about my experience with the first two chapters of the game which amounted to about 7 hours of playtime so far.
So What Is Ghostwire: Tokyo?
Here is my elevator pitch – An open-world game with supernatural/horror elements and a sprinkling of Japanese culture. Ghostwire Tokyo has you playing as a man fighting a supernatural threat that suddenly strikes Tokyo. This game comes from executive producer Shinji Mikami who was the director of survival horror games Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, and The Evil Within. The horror elements definitely show but they are not the star of the show. Instead, this game focuses on more of the action-adventure side of things and I’m happy for that because I am not into horror games. After the first 30 to 45 minutes of playing the game, I realized I wasn’t playing The Evil Within and I started to have fun and mow down enemies as if I were playing a Ubisoft open-world game.
As far as the sprinkling of Japanese culture, well I may have undersold it because this game is unapologetically Japanese. Tango Gameworks is a studio founded by a Japanese man and is based out of Japan. The game also defaults to Japanese language audio with English subtitles. According to the press release given to us, Tango Gameworks wanted to prioritize Japanese voice actors for the game and recommends playing the game with Japanese audio as the authentic experience. So I did just that and I really loved it but I also watch my anime with subtitles so I am biased. Some people don’t want to read subtitles and want their media dubbed, I make no personal judgments on people’s preferences. I also think the Japanese culture and setting of this game isn’t window dressing either. This game is set in Tokyo and there are lots of nice touches that I appreciate, for instance, in order to restore your health, all you need to do is eat but the food you eat is Japanese cuisine. I love that in the game’s menu you can read all about the food and I feel like I should take notes for my eventual trip to Japan – Hello Three-Color Dango! Final shout-out – the spirits aren’t just Yokai they got their fancy Japanese names such as karakasa kozō and ittan-momen and let me tell you the google image searches 100% match their designs in-game. I will say between Ghosts of Tsushima, and the upcoming Trek to Yomi Japanese-centered games are making noise in western markets.
Great, We Know The Style But How Does The Game Play?
This one is all over the place. I am coming away with many different vibes, the main one I want to reference is Deathloop. It’s in the first person and has special abilities just like that game. I would say if you were to remove all shooting mechanics from Deathloop and keep only the superpower stuff, then this game would be the closest approximation. Much like open-world games, there is a giant open-world map with so many icons of things to check off. It does seem daunting in hindsight but the game does a very good job of drip-feeding just the right amount of side missions and collectibles as to not inundate you with tasks. One of the problems I had with Deathloop is that it felt like it took a long time to get started but for this game, the tutorial is quick and painless and after about 40 mins you finish chapter 1 (the tutorial) and then you are set free into the open world and slowly you learn more about the game’s mechanics such as the skill tree and gaining access to more abilities.
As far as combat goes you start things off with wind energy blasts and over the course of chapter 2 you are given access to fire powers, water powers, and a bow and arrow because ghosts get damaged by arrows for reasons. Now all I need is this game to give me earth and heart powers and then I’ll be able to summon Captain Planet. All joking aside this game is definitely fun. Taking out enemies is so satisfying in the Luigi’s Mansion kind of way. Let me explain, so in Luigi’s Mansion you have this vacuum cleaner that sucks up ghosts and there is a mechanic where if you damage these ghost enemies enough then their core is exposed and you can use your power to yank the cores out of their bodies that effectively kills them. With the DualSense’s haptic feedback the pulling of the core feels SOOO satisfying and in quieter moments you can feel your own footsteps and best of all when it is raining, you can feel raindrops on the controller. I love those small touches that really immerse you in the game. But back to fighting enemies, the game does a really good job of starting you off with just two kinds of enemies and then slowly start introducing more variety. There was one enemy that got introduced over three hours in that gave me flashbacks to playing P.T. I thought it was a boss fight the way they introduced them and it was the only instance in my playthrough where I died. But still, shout out to the enemy designs, I have seen my fair share of Japanese horror films and the ghost designs and animations are perfect. Even though it’s not Japanese, (or at least I don’t think), I do appreciate the Slenderman looking-enemy. He is in a dark suit – no face, and he walks like the way I imagine Slenderman would walk.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is definitely the most welcoming horror game I’ve ever played, that’s because it’s not really a horror game. I was scared in the first minutes of the game because the game had me walking through this freaky hospital with jump scares, but after the game got going I had nothing to be afraid of. Of course, that is definitely to my detriment because I had some jump scares hit me unexpectedly because of how blasé I started to feel about the environment. Luckily those moments are really few and far between. This game really does a good job of making you feel powerful and as time went on I treated this game more and more like an adventure game. But then the game likes to smack you down to reality. The game turned into a horror game real quick when the game temporarily takes your powers away for story reasons and now you find yourself surrounded by ghosts and all you have is the bow and arrow to protect yourself with, the same bow I hardly ever used and made a joke about. So yeah this game definitely is a roller coaster ride.
As far as how you become more powerful, well it’s very easy. All you do is save the population of Tokyo – over 200K people by recovering their spirits and transporting them to be restored later. As you do this you level up and are given more skill points to spend on upgrades. You can also do side missions that award you spirits among other cool stuff. I do appreciate that the side missions are unique are their own small storylines that are also lessons but in a non-preachy way. Some of the themes covered in these side stories cover topics such as greed, vengeance, and jealousy among others… ok basically the seven deadly sins. Most of these side missions have you righting some wrongs and they tend to be more hopeful, they are beautiful at times because of some irony in some of these cases, such as a story involving a pair of siblings. Overall, side missions can feel like busywork in open-world games but this game does a good job of making it feel as integral to the experience and rewards you very well for partaking in it. Shout out to one of the side missions that gives you a vault boy outfit for your character.
One last thing, I want to give a shout-out to this Tanuki searching side quest. It is weird/random but all these years of playing as Tanuki Mario has made me aware of what Tanukis are, and again this game is unapologetically Japanese. This game has these Japanese raccoon dogs called Tanuki scattered around the map hiding inside or behind objects. It’s up to you to find all of them. They all have their tales sticking out so you have to keep an eye out while you are traversing the open world.
Ok So What’s The Story Of Ghostwire: Tokyo?
The story of Ghostwire: Tokyo is something I don’t feel comfortable talking about in this impressions piece. You’ll have to wait for the full review of the game. The notes given to us by the marketing team say specifically that we are not allowed to show anything from chapter 1 to avoid spoilers. So if I can’t show it, then I probably shouldn’t talk about it either. Most of the game’s story setup is all done in chapter 1. So with that said I will give you the most barebones explainer. An apocalyptic supernatural event befalls Tokyo where almost the entire city of Tokyo was raptured. You play as Akito who avoids being raptured because a supernatural entity possesses you and protects you from being raptured. This possession is how you gain the aforementioned powers. With that, you are off to save the day. A lot of details are clearly not given but that’s hopefully enough for you guys to work with.
Anything Else I Should Know About?
Ghostwire: Tokyo has multiple graphics settings. I played the game in performance mode which targets frame rate. I had to for the review because my game capture card cannot capture 4K footage. So if I’m forced to play on a 1080p monitor then I might as well go straight to performance mode. That being said this game still looks good. There was this part where I was on a high building and I had to stop what I was doing just to pan the camera around and take in beautiful Tokyo. Another thing I love is the modern conveniences that come with the current-gen and that is the fast SSD drives because fast traveling takes about 5 seconds to do, these loading screens go by insanely quickly.
As far as the audio of Ghostwire: Tokyo, there is a music player within the menu where you can listen to whatever song in this game’s soundtrack. It’s essentially simulating your character listening to songs on his headphones while he walks around. I haven’t collected a lot of songs yet and so I haven’t played around with that feature yet. Also, I had some weird audio glitches come up once where I had a lot of enemies on screen and it felt like the game was freaking out a bit because it couldn’t handle everything all at once. After killing all the enemies the audio returned back to normal and I haven’t had it happen again so far.
One last thing, this game has audio logs, but unlike BioShock, you can’t listen to the audio log while playing the game, instead you have to go to the game’s menu and manually play it and stay on the menu screen to listen to the full thing. That seems like the worst game design decision I’ve seen from this game and I guess if that’s the worst thing, then this game has a lot going for it. That said, I just want to remind everyone that BioShock came out in 2007.
So What’s The Score Going To Be?
I can’t tell you, I’ve only played seven hours of this game and only played two chapters of this game. I don’t know how many chapters there are in this game but when I zoomed out in the menu this map looks insanely large. All I know is that I’m digging this game so far and this game puts its best foot forward.
Ghostwire: Tokyo will release on March 25th on PS5 and Windows Store. Keep it locked to LV1 Gaming for the final review. You can also go to LV1 Gaming’s YouTube channel to find a video impression that serves as a companion to this article.
You can find me on Twitter @chacalaca88 and my podcast is Ready Press Play where you can hear my thoughts on all things gaming, and now, You can find me every Tuesday on LV1 Gaming’s show Cogs in a Machine where we do deep dives into topics in gaming.