GhostWire: Tokyo Visitor

GhostWire: Tokyo Review – Rescuing spirits in haunted Tokyo

Not for you if:

  • You're looking for a fully fleshed out story
  • You enjoy melee combat
  • You want a game that rewards progress and constantly evolves the gameplay loop
7

I’m an absolute sucker for Bethesda games. Be it Arkane’s immersive sims like Prey and Deathloop, Doom, Wolfenstein, or even Bethesda’s own classics, I always seem to have an amazing time when playing through these games. There’s something about the narrative, the world-building, the feeling of awe Bethesda games give you that you can’t quite find anywhere else. I even enjoyed Fallout 76 when it first got into Game Pass, regardless of its state back then. I’m not a hard man to please when it comes to video games. Likewise, I always try to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty. When GhostWire: Tokyo was first announced, I was overjoyed with how different it looked compared to everything I’ve played up to this day. I told you, I was very excited about this game.

Now, a week or so later, after having played through it, I can quite honestly say Tango Gameworks delivered on the promises of a game that goes off the beaten path. But it also leaves a lot to be desired in many aspects. GhostWire: Tokyo has a lot of rough edges. It’s hardly a product that feels complete, and it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m not trying to take away from the game’s accomplishments; GhostWire: Tokyo is a fun experience, with some glimpses of total brilliance.

With Tango’s exceptional art and music direction, and some of the most interesting combat mechanics we’ve seen recently, this game could have been something amazing. Sadly, all this gets repetitive a little too quick for a single-player action-horror game. Fresh ideas are to be found everywhere in Tango’s Shibuya. What it’s actually missing is variety and quite a few brilliant moments to make it feel truly special.

Akito approaching the Tokyo Tower in GhostWire: Tokyo

TL;DR

With a thrilling setting, the basis for a captivating story, and an intriguing gameplay loop, you’d expect GhostWire: Tokyo to be a real charmer. Yet these individual traits rarely produce any truly spectacular moments, and it ends up feeling but a shell of the game it could’ve been.

All images in this article were taken in-game, either directly from gameplay or through the Photo Mode.

If you’re looking to get a digital copy of GhostWire: Tokyo (PC), you can get it for 5% off from BGeek partner, DLGamer.com. Physical copies of the PS5 version are also on sale at Smartoys.be, another BGeek partner.

Visuals

If you’ve played any of the Evil Within games, you already know that Tango Gameworks has a knack for putting together creepy worlds. This is still true, with GhostWire: Tokyo’s Shibuya being one of the most exciting settings in gaming. Tokyo is one of the best locations for any game to be set in, and we’ve seen some titles do wonders with it, most notably Persona 5. Tango Gameworks offers a different take on the Japanese megacity, and quite honestly, it’s probably the best one yet.

The empty Shibuya; a weeb’s wet (literally) dream

Of course, not all of Tokyo has been recreated for GhostWire. What we have is an open-world model of the Shibuya district – one of Tokyo’s busiest areas. Shibuya is home to some of the city’s most iconic places, like the world’s busiest crossing. Neon signs, lots of shrines, and a plethora of cute corner shops. If you’re at all familiar with urban Japanese culture, you’ll feel right at home in GhostWire: Tokyo’s Shibuya. The open world is one of this game’s finest aspects. It’s very immersive, and it’s a deeply haunting depiction of Tokyo; exactly what you’d expect from this kind of game. It’s always raining, which helps set the mood, and offers some nice, reflective surfaces.

While it’s hardly a 1:1 recreation of the area, GhostWire does a great job of getting you to believe it is. The empty streets make it easy for Tango to harness the PS5’s power into a world that’s full of reflections, light beams, and the occasional ‘visitors’. The world looks genuinely impressive, even when playing on Performance, which is the recommended graphical setting for this game. Shibuya is fairly large, but it’s no problem for the PS5. After Horizon Forbidden West, GhostWire: Tokyo feels like a piece of cake for this not-so-little beast of a console. That’s probably due to the lack of NPC models in the overworld. You will only run into enemies, spirits, and pets. The only loading screens you’ll encounter are when entering a building.

Your experience with the Performance aspect may vary. I didn’t run into any crashes or particular frame drops, but I was always playing on the Performance V-Sync setting. There are plenty of graphical options to choose from, with even V-Sync options available. I wouldn’t recommend any of the Quality modes, because dropping frames when playing in first-person can make you dizzy. You can customize the motion blur, chromatic aberration, and various other effects. Always nice to see so many options on a console.

GhostWire: Tokyo’s art direction is nothing short of spectacular

The feel of this game is truly on point. Enemies are creepy, and Tokyo is filled with all kinds of different things to see. There are colourful shrines to visit and cleanse, cat vendors to talk to, and statues to pray in front of. The combat is something you have to see for yourselves, honestly, with beams of energy flying all over the place as you fight off waves of enemies. It’s like your childhood dream of getting superpowers comes to life, but with an anime flair.

The set pieces can be truly captivating at times. They feel cinematic, straight out of an action-horror film, yet they’re completely interactive. Problem is, there’s not nearly enough of them. The few ones that are scattered throughout the game, make for some very memorable moments. They’re probably when GhostWire is at its best.

I really liked the enemy designs, they look more threatening than terrifying, and this is something I can appreciate. Compared to the Evil Within series, the horror aspect is significantly toned down here. This is probably not intended, but I do feel it fits the scope of the game. There’s a Slenderman-like, tall type of enemy with an umbrella, headless schoolgirls, martial-arts-trained schoolboys, tanks, and healers. While all these enemies are interesting to fight against, the lack of variety soon becomes apparent. There are only 6 types of enemies throughout the whole game. The lack of boss fights doesn’t do a lot to fill the void either.

You can also play dress-up in GhostWire: Tokyo

There’s plenty of customization in this game. You can dress up Akito (the protagonist) any way you want to. You can get all kinds of different clothing items from cat vendors, sometimes for a hefty dollar. Anything from glasses, hats, and masks to sneakers is customizable. And you can change the colours in order to mix and match. Most cut-scenes are rendered in-engine, so your outfits will be visible for most of the game. Whenever the game uses a pre-rendered, though, it changes your clothing to whatever’s depicted in the cinematic. Weird bug.

Character customization screen in GhostWire: Tokyo
Ever wanted to cosplay as a ninja?

GhostWire: Tokyo – Story

The story starts off in a very interesting way. Everyone in Tokyo disappears, with Akito (our protagonist) being the only one left behind, as he gets possessed by a mysterious being named KK. If you played the GhostWire: Tokyo Prelude, you should already be somewhat familiar with this character. Immediately after Akito gets possessed, the two start fighting over who gets to control Akito’s body. They’re interrupted by an army of ‘visitors’, faceless (or headless in some cases) monsters that have invaded the city and are now hunting for souls in large packs. Akito discovers that KK comes with some handy elemental powers that they can use to repel the visitors.

After they fight off the initial wave of visitors, a rather menacing figure wearing a Hannya mask appears on one of Shibuya’s giant billboards. Soon enough, the masked figure declares he intends to commence a ritual to connect the underworld with our realm. Akito and KK quickly realize that they have to work together in order to save the world. They head for the local hospital, where Akito’s sister had been admitted, to check if she had vanished along with everyone else. Much to their surprise, they find not only Akito’s sister there, but the mysterious masked figure as well.

After a brief confrontation, where it becomes apparent that KK and the masked figure knew each other before this, the villain kidnaps Akito’s sister as he vanishes into thin air. So now, Akito has to not only rescue Tokyo, but also rescue his sister from the hands of a masked maniac. That, plus getting used to sharing his body with a wraith.

The story suffers from a lack of characters and poor pacing

The story starts off very strong, but it ends up falling apart by the end. It’s got an exciting premise, but it ultimately fails to deliver a huge pay-off for all these little set-ups that accumulate throughout its runtime. The story of GhostWire: Tokyo is divided into eight chapters, and took me about 13 hours to complete, with minimal side-questing. The summary you read above is just what happens in the first chapter. If only the rest of the chapters were that meaty, the outcome would have been a lot different. In most of the chapters, you get some very welcome freedom to roam around and indulge in the side-content. As soon as you end up focusing on the main quest lines, you’ll end up burning through the story at an alarming pace.

The story isn’t exactly bad. As far as I’m concerned, it is a short and sweet rescue/save the world mission. It’s an anime trope that always works. What’s problematic in GhostWire: Tokyo is that you don’t really care what happens. You’re not attached to any of the characters, because you don’t get to spend enough time with them. If you played the Prelude, you should know some background information about characters that get rarely mentioned in the game, yet they somehow have a major effect on certain points of the story. You don’t get to interact with most of these characters, since they have vanished along with everyone else in Tokyo. It’s hard to get attached to a story where you don’t really know anyone that’s affected by the issue at hand. You’re just an observer, it’s very hard to be invested.

The Akito and KK show

The main characters have some nice interactions between them, and quite honestly I liked the energy they conveyed. These are easy to like characters, with some strong emotional backgrounds. Sadly, you don’t get to enjoy these backgrounds as much as I would’ve liked. Limited screen time when playing through the main quest line is the issue here. If you’re interested in expanding the Akito/KK dynamic, you should really invest some time in the side-quests, as you’ll get some charming quips and well-deserved character progression.

GhostWire: Tokyo is largely a narrative-driven experience. And yet, it suffers from storytelling oversights that highlight a troubled development period. It’s a fun story, but it doesn’t live up to its full potential.

The protagonists of GhostWire: Tokyo
I wasn’t joking when I said this game has some seriously impressive moments.

GhostWire: Tokyo – Gameplay

The gameplay is one of GhostWire: Tokyo’s biggest selling points. It’s flashy, it’s fast-paced, and it makes you feel powerful. It feels right. Not only that, but it’s a combination of many ideas that, quite honestly, work perfectly together. The only problem is, it never evolves into anything new throughout the whole game. All the mechanics you’re introduced to in the first hours of the game, stick through the end. They never manifest into anything bigger. But let’s not rush things, let’s tackle everything one-by-one:

My only problem with GhostWire: Tokyo is that there’s not enough of it. You see, this game has no trouble getting your attention, it has trouble keeping it.

BGeek

The combat in GhostWire: Tokyo is like a shounen battle

If you’re familiar with classic battle anime tropes, you’ll see right where Tango Gameworks is coming from with this combat system. After he’s possessed by KK, Akito can harness the power of the elements and fire concentrated energy blasts from his fingers. The aiming works like any first-person shooter. The elements at your disposal are wind, water, and fire, from weakest to strongest. These elements are very well-balanced, and each one serves a different purpose in combat. Charging them up will help you unleash more powerful attacks. You’ll find yourself losing all of them, as you can run out of ammo on at least one element each fight, and I loved that.

You can also use an elemental shield to block incoming hits and reduce the damage you take. If you execute a ‘perfect parry’, you even get some HP back. You also have your trusty bow with you, which you can use to snipe enemies from a distance and deal large amounts of damage. There are multiple points in the story where KK and Akito get separated. Of course, you lose access to KK’s powers and have to fight your way back to him by only using the bow. While that’s an interesting mechanic to spice things up and, if anything, encourage stealth, it felt uninspired. This is where the lack of a melee weapon, like a katana, becomes a bit too obvious an oversight.

When you manage to deal enough damage to visitors, their ‘cores’ will get exposed. This opens them up to an execution-type move, where you can pull their cores out of their bodies and rid them of their troubles. You also have the option to sneak behind them and sneak attack to either kill them or deal a large amount of damage (on stronger enemies). After a certain point, you gain access to talismans, special seals that you can use on enemies to strip them of some of their powers. They act like traps you can use when in a pinch, and they saved my butt quite a few times.

But it could have been much more complex

However, that’s about it for the elemental combat. It works just fine, and it’s fun, but I feel like they could have taken it a step further. There are no combos to execute and no interaction between the elements, like Genshin Impact so brilliantly does. You can spend the skill points you acquire through levelling up in making your elemental powers deal more damage, or have shorter cooldowns, but you never get to unlock any new abilities. Fighting almost the exact same battles in a 15-20 hour game is something that gets old real fast. The lack of boss fights doesn’t really help. Even the few bosses that you get to take down, behave just like every other enemy.

Exploration is encouraged, but not rewarded

In GhostWire: Tokyo you have a large, and very good-looking open world to explore. No way, around it, Shibuya looks phenomenal on the PS5. The reason you’re given to comb through the map is to find Tori gates to cleanse, in order to weaken the enemy’s hold on Tokyo. You see, these Tori gates act like links between the overworld and the underworld. Most of the time, visitors will be guarding them, and you’ll have to fight them off before cleansing the gates. The shrines you’ll open up when getting rid of all the evil offer some nice power-ups and collectibles.

Your main means of traversing Shibuya will be on foot. It’s not a large enough map to require multiple ways of travelling, but additional options would be nice to have. Near the end of the game, you get access to a motorbike, but you only get to use it in a cut-scene. It feels like such a waste for Tango to have you repair the motorbike, only to never let you use it. Fast travel to shrines you have already cleansed is available, but unless you’re lost, there’s no point in using it.

Since Tokyo offers lots of verticality, everything is climbable. You can quickly pull yourself up to the rooftops by latching a magical whip onto some menacing creatures that just stand there and make horrible sounds. Opening up the map will lead you to discover different types of cat vendors, since that’s pretty much the only thing you’ll be discovering. They’re all very cute and have a wide selection of items you’ll probably never use. Instead of the dog food, because not only you can pet the doggos, you can also feed them in this game. You can also pet the cats and read their thoughts, but for some weird reason, you can’t feed them. I would have loved to build my own army of cats and take over Tokyo for myself for them.

RPG elements and customization

GhostWire: Tokyo has quite a few RPG elements like customization and progression up its sleeve. You can buy clothing items and music discs from the cat vendors in exchange for a hefty sum of Meika (the in-game currency). Certain items are locked behind cat-contracts that are simple fetch quests, but help add some spice to the experience.

What’s fascinating is how the levelling up process is structured. You can earn XP through traditional means, like completing story missions or side-quests. But you’ll earn most of your XP by collecting spirit souls from the vanished people of Tokyo into little pieces of paper called Katashiro. You can only carry a certain amount of Katashiro on you, and thus acquire only a limited number of souls. In order to transform the souls you collect into XP, you have to deposit the souls into special phone booths scattered all over Shibuya, which will liberate the trapped souls and reward you for your trouble. This is such a charming process, it adds so much character to this game. One of my favourite design choices, for sure.

GhostWire: Tokyo – Verdict

My only problem with GhostWire: Tokyo is that there’s not enough of it. I had a blast playing through this game, but no matter how much fun I had, GhostWire: Tokyo has some baffling faults on display that I cannot ignore. It feels like certain parts of the experience are missing. The story is not fleshed out enough, and the gameplay loop, while very satisfying, feels like it could have been much more engaging with a little more development time. Tango Gameworks came up with the recipe for an exceptional game, and the core of that is present in this product. They just needed to take it one step further, in every direction. You see, GhostWire: Tokyo has no trouble getting your attention, it has trouble keeping it.

GhostWire: Tokyo constantly cultivates the feeling that something amazing is just around the corner. But that ‘pay-off’ you’re working towards never arrives. The conclusion to the story comes too quickly, is a bit of a letdown, and left a sour taste in my mouth. It doesn’t feel like you did nearly enough to have earned that ending, that quickly. It’s worth playing through the game, not necessarily for the main story, but for the setting and the amazing side stories that are like out of an anime.

The visual aspect is on par with some best-looking titles we’ve seen in this generation, despite the occasional low-resolution texture or pop-in. The vibes are just right, and the amazing audio design only enhances the experience. I suggest you play through this game with the Japanese voice acting. It’s the default language for a reason. The horror aspect, while significantly toned down, feels just right for an action-horror game.

Rest here, traveler. You have read enough about GhostWire: Tokyo for today.

We would like to thank AVE Tech and Bethesda NL for providing us with a review copy.

George Makridis

Posts published: 107

Editor in Chief. Studying Communication & Media. Listening to Hip-Hop. Watching advanced humor sitcoms and dumb superhero flicks. Has way too many games in his library and not that much time to actually play them.