“Ghostwire: Tokyo” Review

 

On paper, the first-person, open world, action / adventure game Ghostwire: Tokyo (PlayStation 5, PC) seems like it’s similar to a lot of other shooters, including Cyberpunk 2077, Borderlands 3, and the Far Cry series. But within minutes of taking to this game’s ghost-filled streets, it became clear that this was not as typical as it might’ve seemed…except in how it was just as effortlessly fun.

In Ghostwire: Tokyo,

someone has weakened the barrier between the spiritual world and the mortal plane, leaving behind disembodied spirits as well as angry spectral entities who look like headless Japanese schoolgirls, gardeners with big hats and even bigger hedge clippers, and Slenderman if he always carried an umbrella. And while you’re dead as well, you’re somehow still in your body, a body you now share with a spirit named KK who’s willing to share his spirit powers so long as you use them to figure out who turned Tokyo into a ghost town.

In other words, it’s like if DC hired Hideo Kojima to make a John Constantine game.

On the surface, Ghostwire: Tokyo has all the tenets of an open world role-playing game: missions that forward the story, side quests, random combat encounters, collectibles, a leveling up system that allows you to add and improve your skills and abilities, food that replenishes your heath, etc., etc., etc.

The kicker being…

that these aspects don’t always work like they do in the games I mentioned earlier.

Take combat. In some sense, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a first-person shooter. Except you’re not shooting a gun, you’re shooting elemental projectiles made of wind, fire, and water. You can even, like a soldier in a sci-fi game using an energy weapon, hold the trigger to charge your attack, with fully charged ones being both extra strong and inclined to hone in on your target.

Gunfights in Ghostwire: Tokyo are also different in how many enemies prefer melee attacks, with some not running at you so much as steadily stalking you. And the ones that do shoot back don’t always do so quickly; some deploy slow moving red orbs that are easy to ignore…until you realize they’re following you, and putting themselves between you and the enemy that you’re trying to take out.

Ghostwire Tokyo

Further distinguishing this from some similar shooters,

you can perform a finishing move on injured enemies. And while this gives you a bonus you don’t get otherwise, it also takes a moment, a moment in which you’re left open to attack. This is also true when you sneak up behind a spirit and perform a stealth kill, as well as when you’re eating something to replenish your health.

Having to weigh your options mid-combat certainly makes Ghostwire: Tokyo feel different than most shooters. Though not strategic like a game with turn-based battles, or frantic as, say, Call Of Duty: Vanguard, they’re still challenging or exciting, since you often face multiple enemies, and usually in such narrow passageways as hallways and back alleys.

Good thing you also have a shield. Granted, it doesn’t work like it does in most shooters, automatically repelling incoming attacks; instead, it’s manually operated. But doing so at just the right time can land a counter attack, kind of like when you use a sword or shield to block and parry in a fantasy game.

Combat isn’t the only aspect of Ghostwire: Tokyo that puts a unique spin on some common game mechanics. The city is rife with environmental hazards, including deadly fog and painful crystalized puddles, which force you to seek out less obvious or more complicated ways to get around. But unlike a lot of games, where the blockage might be a collapsed structure you can’t do anything about, these dangerous areas can be cleansed of their corruption, though not always easily.

Ghostwire Tokyo

Ghostwire: Tokyo further distinguishes itself…

by how much of your time is spent saving the city’s former residents by helping their souls pass on. In many cases, this just requires a little magic. But when doing one of the game’s many side quests, things get more involved. People’s spirits are often bound to a place, and they need your help to move on. Hence why you have to do things like find an old woman’s kidnapped granddaughter. None of which requires you to be as much of a detective as Batman in his Arkham games, but they’re usually more complicated than the fetch quests you go on in other adventure games.

In fact, Ghostwire: Tokyo does things so differently, and with such an emphasis on the spiritual world — complete with freaky imagery and jump scares — that it often feels more like a survival horror game than a shooter or RPG. Which isn’t to say this is Resident Evil Village if the “Village” was Tokyo; this has none of the genre’s usual resource management. While your ammo is limited, it’s easily replenished by killing enemies or smashing objects that have been possessed.

Rather, Ghostwire: Tokyo is more akin to a survival horror shooter by being unapologetically scary, weird, and disturbing, which makes it unnerving. The city is barren and empty, but with things jumping out at you at random moments, especially when you go indoors. As a result, you’re constantly on edge.

In fact, the game Ghostwire: Tokyo recalls most is F.E.A.R., a positively freaky first-person shooter from 2005. Well, if you gave that game’s hero some magic finger guns.

As engaging as Ghostwire: Tokyo may be, though,

it’s not without its problems. Though even here, the game is often unique. Your mini map, for instance, oddly has a dotted path that shows where you’ve just walked, not the path to the spot you just marked on the map.

You also have a bow and arrow at your disposal which, while effective, is also easily forgotten about. You don’t switch to your bow by tapping the same button that swaps between your water, fire, and air attacks, so it’s easy to forget you have it until you run out of other ammo and bring up the weapon wheel to see if you missed something.

Ghostwire: Tokyo also gives you a grappling hook not unlike the one Aloy has in Horizon Forbidden West. Except yours is a lot less useful; usually, you can just take the stairs.

There are also some annoying inconsistencies, like how you can go up stairs unless they’re thin. Does being possessed by a spirit add 10 pounds? Does this spirit make me look fat? Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.

Ghostwire Tokyo

Similarly,

Ghostwire: Tokyo has you using the left trigger instead of the usual “X” or another face button when doing such common actions as opening a door or picking up an item. Granted, like other games with button layouts inconsistent with others of its kind, you will eventually get used to Ghostwire: Tokyo‘s controls.

Hardcore shooter fans will also have issues with Ghostwire: Tokyo‘s combat. And not just for the aforementioned ways this doesn’t play like a typical shooter. They’ll also reflexively hit the square button to reload, which is unnecessary since your finger guns don’t need to reload. Thankfully, that button just brings up your Spectral Vision, which is used to identify objectives and objects of interest, and not something that might get you noticed by the spirit you’re trying to sneak up behind.

This special vision ability also, sadly, brings up an issue that isn’t unique to Ghostwire: Tokyo: it doesn’t mark things permanently, or stay active for nearly as long as it should. Granted, it doesn’t stop working as quickly as similar scanning mechanics do in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Rage 2, or Batman’s Arkham games, but it still fades quicker than you’d hope.

Ghostwire Tokyo

Even with these common and uncommon issues, though,

Ghostwire: Tokyo quickly becomes one of those effortlessly engaging games. This is due, in large part, to yet another way this game differs from its brethren. While Tokyo is big, this isn’t as big as other open world games. But it does have just as much to do, which makes it easy to think, “I’ll just do one more thing, it’s close by” over and over until the next thing you know it’s 2:00AM, and where the hell are my pants? That you spend that time doing things out of the ordinary just makes this engaging game that much more fun.

SCORE: 8.5/10

 

 

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