Ghostwire: Tokyo is the latest game from studio Tango Gameworks and publisher Bethesda. I do recommend reading my preview first before reading this review to help lay some groundwork for this review. That said, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a first-person open-world adventure game with supernatural horror elements. But how do you construct an open world where the player can reliably be in a specific spot to allow for the horror? Read on to find out.
Ghostwire: Tokyo has you playing as Akito, a man guilt-ridden by a recent tragedy that left his sister hospitalized. The game opens up with a fog that engulfs all of Tokyo which causes people to vanish as if they were raptured. As things are chaotic, Akito gets caught up in an accident that nearly kills him, which was the perfect opening for a supernatural detective named KK to possess his body. It turns out Akito didn’t die and suddenly the two souls are forced to share a body. The two butt heads on how to proceed because one wants to go to the hospital and check on his sister, while the other wants to resolve the paranormal activity. Over time the duo’s stories intertwine and find that they have shared goals. Ultimately, the two will need to use the power of friendship to save the day.
So what caused the fog? Well, it turns out an unnamed man wearing a Hannya mask brought about the fog. Hats off to the game for never revealing his name or face. Since he wears a Hannya Mask, the game refers to him as Hannya. Hannya gives a good villain speech near the halfway point where he speaks his motivations. What we really need to know is he needs a lot of souls… like a lot of them! So, he forces the souls out of the bodies of the citizens of Tokyo, all for his grand plan.
So that’s pretty much the setup. I just wanted to put a little commentary here because the story definitely felt like it didn’t matter at first. But slowly but surely, the characters grew fond of each other over time and I did too. The game’s story stuck the landing for me, and by the time the credits rolled, I was left with a cathartic feeling in my heart despite the ending not going the way I thought it would go. The game’s plot tackles a lot of themes without feeling like an after-school special, which I very much appreciate. Here we see the game touching on feelings of grief, forgiveness, learning to let go/move on, and learning to be happy, among many other things. The supernatural elements easily translate to dealing with death. In the game Spiritfarer, you have to transport spirits into the afterlife and here in this game, we help spirits finish their unfinished business so that they can have closure and not be anchored to Earth. This game is an excellent example of pathos in action because I was feeling what the characters felt at every step. I want to finish out by saying, despite death being at the center, this game does not focus on melancholy, but rather tends to take a more balanced bittersweet approach to the story.
The last thing I want to focus on is the game’s side stories. I’m impressed with how much variety they put into Ghostwire: Tokyo. Honestly, at least 30% of the side missions all deserve to be shouted out. I was impressed by the mission variety there was and not every side story involves combat. One side story would involve you finding toilet paper for a ghost stuck in a bathroom stall and has the strong need to wipe before moving on to the afterlife, and another can be as simple as playing hide and seek with a child ghost. A lot of the side missions do tend to tackle strong human emotions corrupting people, namely, the seven deadly sins. Greed, jealousy, pride, and wrath were the main ones on display and I think they were handled well. There were other side missions that broke from the norm and were one of a kind, for instance, there was a side mission that has you reuniting two hannya masks that embodied the spirits of a man and a woman that were lovers in their mortal lives and just want to be together. I also want to give a shout-out to a side mission involving a piano school where a ghost is trying to play the first movement of Moonlight Sonata. The song is so beautiful and in the context of the game, it portrays it as both beautiful and haunting at the same time. *Chef’s Kiss*
First off, the audio design of Ghostwire: Tokyo goes above and beyond what is to be expected. The game supports 3D audio which is always welcomed. The game also has sound queues, which in an open-world game, is so important. The game has so many hidden collectibles that the game tries to help you out and it plays a jingle when you are in the presence of one. I did not know I needed that in my life. In addition, if you miss the collectible, it will add a marker to your map to let you know its there. The game also has statues that upgrade your energy and they are constantly playing a jingle, when you are far away the jingle can be heard faintly and as you get closer, it gets louder. With an open-world game, it’s easy for things to be missed and it’s nice that the audio design was there to lend a hand.
The game does a good job of having unique cries for every enemy. A lot of times you can’t see the enemies especially when they are behind a building or around the corner or over a wall and it’s nice that the audio does the heavy lifting for you to tell you who is there and sometimes when I thought an enemy encounter was over, the game’s audio was there to correct me very quickly before I could make a mistake.
As far as the soundtrack, well… unfortunately, this isn’t something that I personally found memorable. I’m not going to add any of these songs to my playlist. However, the composition gets the job done, especially when credits roll. The songs are beautiful and fit the mood. Ultimately the soundtrack was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Ghostwire: Tokyo has two tones that it’s going for. An open-world adventure game, and a horror game and how do you compose music that fits both. I think the composer did their best and incorporated traditional Japanese musical motifs well. So with that said, all I can really say is that they understood the assignment.
The last thing I need to say about the audio is the one issue I had. During my 24 hours of total playtime, I had only one instance of the game’s audio bugging out. I had a lot of enemies on the screen and suddenly the audio sounded choppy and started to cut out. Luckily after clearing all the enemies the game seemed to have reset back to normal without any other performance hiccups. I’m glad I didn’t have to reset the game.
Performance of Ghostwire: Tokyo is top-notch. I never experienced any frame stutter, dropped frames, or screen tearing. The game has multiple graphics settings to choose from including a quality mode that focuses on higher resolution and a performance mode that focuses on stable frame rate with a lower resolution. For the review, I played the game exclusively in performance mode since I cannot capture 4K footage but I don’t feel as if I missed out. Unfortunately, on the topic of performance, the game did crash on me and brought me back to the PS5 menu. The game autosaves every 5 minutes and the autosave data was corrupted and got deleted off my console. Luckily I manually saved the game and lost essentially zero progress. This was during a pivotal story mission and I just happen to have this habit where I create a manual save just before entering a story mission. I saved, entered the checkpoint which triggered an in-game cinematic cutscene, after the cutscene was over and it tried to transition back to gameplay, BOOM, crash and error message. As I said, no progress was lost but had I not saved, I think I would have lost 5 hours of sidequests. So here is your PSA to save semi-often.
As far as the art style of Ghostwire: Tokyo, there is a healthy mix of photorealism and what I can describe as a cell-shaded art style, especially when dealing with semi-translucent ghosts. Tokyo was represented here with a great blend of a modern city and a preserved historical culture. I genuinely loved the variety on display here with flashing neon lights, low-key neighborhoods, and well-kept historical temples.
The only bad thing I have to say about the visuals was the recycled environments. There were a lot of copy/paste environments such as gas stations, public parks, and cemeteries among others. It was a little distracting because sometimes I would question if I had been there before but I would notice small changes such as a journal not being in the same spot. With an open-world this large, this is one thing that is easily forgivable, plus this is a city we are talking about, neighborhood parks and gas stations are a dime a dozen.
The gameplay in Ghostwire: Tokyo is a grab bag of many great games. There is a healthy mix of Mirror’s Edge with some first-person parkour going on. The game has a gliding mechanic where you can jump from rooftop to rooftop, there is also a supernatural hookshot element that lets you traverse tall buildings that pair perfectly with the gliding mechanic. There is a Luigi’s Mansion aspect to the gameplay where you are absorbing orbs out of enemies. Also, just like Luigi’s Mansion, you have your own Professor E. Gadd named Ed who talks to you over the phone and invents supernatural knick-knacks to aid in your quest. The game does the usual light RPG elements that we see in titles such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and the 2018 God of War, to name a few, where there is an upgrade tree. Leveling up grants you skill points to spend on upgrades.
As far as combat goes, the game gives you five things to use. There is a green wind power, a red fire power, a blue water power, a bow & arrow, and some talismans that have varying effects. All five of these things are also part of the upgrade tree and can be made more powerful. All five are mapped to the right trigger button and you can tap R1 to cycle between these or hold R1 to pull up a weapon wheel like Horizon: Zero Dawn that comes to mind. I do appreciate the wind power because it’s so easy to mindlessly spam, and I also appreciate the fire power because it’s so powerful and you are given the fewest ammo of it making each shot you take precious because missing a shot is the worst. As far as defense goes, well L1 is the block button, you can still take damage while holding the block button but there is a mechanic where if you press the block button just before the hit happens, then you do what is called a perfect parry and you take no damage and you stunned the enemy leaving them wide open for attack. Also, the triangle button is your restore health button, you restore your health by eating food. There is so much food to pick up in this game that you can just spam carelessly. Dying in this game is kind of hard to do. I think I died a total of four times and two of them could have been avoided had I spammed eating food more often because I was never going to run out.
As far as the moment-to-moment gameplay. It is what you make of it. You can mainline the game but you would be missing so much of the game. The game does let you tackle enemy encounters with stealth. You can sneak up on enemies that have their back turned on you and just one shot kill them. I managed to avoid full encounters by eliminating all the enemies and it felt good. Also, the square button is your friend. Every open-world game has what I call the Batman Arkham Asylum detective vision and this is no different. Pressing square allows you to enter a spectral vision mode where you can see everything you can interact with, in blue. As far as my completion of the game, well, I definitely wanted to take my time and check off every side quest but as the deadline approached for this review, I had to stop doing sidequests halfway through my playtime. So after 24 hours of my playtime, maybe this game can be tackled in the ballpark of 40 to 60 hours for that 100% completion. It’s hard to say as I’m just speculating with what I perceive to have missed out on.
Ghostwire: Tokyo does a very good job of helping you. There are many side quests to do such as purging the world of yokai, finding tanukis, doing side missions, finding collectibles, and giving them to this fat cat who is into collecting, and the list goes on. I never got bored with any of it. I enjoyed it because the game slowly adds to your to-do list without feeling like you are being inundated with tasks. In addition, the game has this mechanic where you can pray and it will tell you on the map where the collectibles/tanukis/upgrades are. That is a godsend to open-world design. I definitely spammed praying at these prayer boxes to find these things but I also did a health mix of finding these things naturally. Even if I didn’t want to spend 500 in-game currency, the PS5 has a card system built into the OS that the developers took advantage of. The hint system was definitely something that comes in clutch especially when YouTube walkthroughs don’t exist in the pre-release period. To sum up this section the words Quality of Life come to mind.
As far as level design goes, this game is having its P.T. cake and eating it too. The level design is done in such a way that you are being funneled where the developers want you to go so the scenario scripting is done well. Especially in the main story mission sections. For the story, you are taken out of the city and placed inside a building with a carefully curated path to take and that’s where the game is allowed to have its fun with you with all the horror elements. So for those that like single-player story experiences with invisible hallways where there is only one path to take, well you got a healthy dose of that here too.
The last thing I wanted to say is that I can’t emphasize how much variety there is in this game. There are many scenarios at play including unique boss fights. There was a boss fight where KK is separated from Akito and you have to fight the boss, not head-on, but with your wits and I appreciate that. A lot of the boss fights play similar to 3D Legend of Zelda boss fights, where you need to attack the shiny weak spots. There are some ghoulish monsters that look like they came from Elden Ring but at least I’m happy to report that these aren’t those extremely punishing boss fights that will kill you in two hits. But speaking of Elden Ring I want to give a shout out to the big sky beam the game has you working towards. Lastly, on the topic of 3D Zelda, there was a moment that reminded me of a scene from Majora’s Mask, when you see it, you’ll know.
All in all, Ghostwire: Tokyo is firing on all cylinders. The game is open-world perfected. We have the best of both worlds where there is the freedom to tackle the game at your pace but also carefully curated environments and scenarios. The game helps you with sound queues for hard-to-find collectibles and gives you locations of said hard-to-find collectibles if you ask for them. The game gives you a lot of things to do without overwhelming you and there are some repetitive things but the variety keeps things fresh. The game’s story is heartfelt and speaks to our humanity. The only thing I can say is that the soundtrack for me doesn’t slap. However, in the end, the soundtrack does find its own identity and serves the story and the mood the game was aiming for. Overall this is a complete package, I can’t recommend this game enough. This is an amazing game and I award this game a 9/10.
Ghostwire: Tokyo will release on March 25th on PS5 and Windows Store and will retail for $59.99. A review code was provided by the publishers for purposes of review. This game was reviewed on PS5.
You can find me on Twitter @chacalaca88 and my podcast is Ready Press Play where you can hear my thoughts on all things gaming. Also, you can find me on LV1 Gaming’s YouTube channel every Tuesday on Cogs in a Machine where we do deep dives on specific topics, so subscribe there as well.