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Ghostwire Tokyo - Stunning Shibuya and not a lot else.


 

Developer: Tango Gameworks

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Reviewed on: PS5 - Digital code provided by publisher

Also available on: PC

Release Date: 25th March 2022

Rating: M

Price: $78 - Harvey Norman

 

Ghostwire Tokyo is the latest release from Tango Gameworks, the developers behind The Evil Within series. Unlike The evil within, Ghostwire Tokyo is the studio's first first-person and open-world title. Well open-world“ish”, I'll explain this a little better later in the review. Being their first attempt at an open world and given how stiff the movement was in The Evil Within, I was rather worried that Ghostwire Tokyo's concept might be a bit too ambitious for Tango Gameworks, a scepticism that was pretty much put to rest within the first 20 minutes of gameplay. Ghostwire Tokyo has been a really weird one to review, for reasons that will become apparent. It's going to seem like I hated it. It's going to sound like you should give this one a miss, but that's not necessarily the case. Please read to the very end!



Firstly, I want to preface this review with a PSA: Ghostwire Tokyo has the options of both Japanese audio or a range of other languages. I played the most part of the game with the Japanese version and the voice acting is spot on, however I got curious and switched to English and it's a whole different story. The english voices end up sounding very insincere and pretty corny. Sort of “Duke Nukem-esque” and very arcadey. So my biggest piece of advice is, definitely play this one with the Japanese audio and subtitles.


The world that Tango Games have created here is nothing short of amazing, Shibuya really is the star of the show here and something I wasn't quite expecting going in. It's gorgeous, it's intriguing, it's packed full of things to do and see, plenty of hidden and discoverable lore and Japanese history. There's just so much going on, that you almost forget that you're basically the only human left in Tokyo. There are no random NPCs wandering the streets like most open world games, yet it never really feels lonely like I expected it would. Having been to Tokyo myself, I must commend Tango Gameworks on truly capturing the essence and atmosphere of Tokyo without the use of these NPCs. The sights and sounds of Shibuya tell a thousand stories as you explore this truly excellently designed world. The only downside for me in terms of the world itself is that I wish more buildings and areas were explorable. There really aren't enough random buildings you're able to loot or explore at all.



Now, in the intro to this review I stated how Ghostwire is Open-World”ish” and that's because, while in the later stages of the game the world is in fact very much an open world, early on its filled with a mysterious fog that will kill you if you walk into it. This fog is there simply to keep you on the path that the game wants you to take. For example, in most open-world games you are able to travel wherever you want from the outset, exploring areas that are probably beyond your level, but it's always a thrill to be in an area knowing you're not necessarily supposed to be there. Well, Ghostwire Tokyo pretty much robs you of that experience by limiting you to as little as a single street at the start, so much so that I'd struggle to call the early hours of the game open-world at all. Granted, this “open-world” does open up once you progress and start clearing more Torii gates, but I am really not a fan of “open-world” games limiting your exploration in this way.


I feel like Ghostwire Tokyo is going to be a game that will divide people, some will love it, some will hate it and then there will be people like me that while they enjoyed it, will be relatively indifferent to it. I say this because while the world is amazing, in my opinion, it's the best thing about the game. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about Ghostwire Tokyo, but nothing that's going to make it a contender for GOTY either, and that's fine, not every game is a GOTY contender.



The story in Ghostwire Tokyo is a perfect example of this, it's good, and at times very interesting, but the majority of the time I had sort of forgotten why I was doing what I was doing and ultimately just ended up sort of wanting to skip some of the cutscenes as they become a little drawn out and repetitive. Essentially you control a man named Akito, who has just been involved in a car accident and in the last few moments of his life he is possessed by a ghost killing spirit named KK and all of his powers to go with it. The story revolves around an unnamed man running around in a Hannya mask decimating the population of Tokyo, leaving their spirits to be consumed by the ghosts that now plague the city. The reason for this becomes much clearer as the game goes on, but while it makes sense, it never really wowed me or caught me by surprise. One of the biggest issues with Ghostwire Tokyo for me and one that pretty much every open world game does and it annoys me every time. That is the fact that you're running around Tokyo literally trying to save peoples lives and save your sister, but you stop every few minutes to undertake some menial, insignificant side quest such as retrieving someone's cat, or helping a Tanuki find his friends. They are silly and become very tedious very quickly which led to me skipping a lot of them entirely.


Speaking of silly, there's a lot of silly things going on here, from floating cats as shopkeepers to phone booths with the ability to transport people's souls to a bloke named ED, and lots more. While I understand that a lot of it is possibly Japanese mythology that I simply don't understand, a simple explanation would go a long way so that I don't think I'm just being served green tea by a floating cat in a kimono.



The combat is another thing about Ghostwire Tokyo that gets a little boring pretty quickly, there's almost a little too much to know to have you ever really be in control. This combat is called Ethereal Weaving and it allows you to use the elements as a weapon. You have wind, which is similar to a handgun and the one you'll use the most; Fire, which is much more damaging but much lower on ammo and there's water which is more of a Shotgun and much better used at close range. But all in all, despite their differences, they all just sort of blend into one. I found myself using the wind until my ammo ran out then fire until that ran out then wind until that ran out, unless of course I'd already killed the enemy. Battles themselves lack any real nuance and each encounter, regardless of enemy type, becomes a case of “enemy coming at you in a straight line at varying speeds” there is no real AI involved nor any strategy needed to succeed. You do also pick up a bow and arrow very early on and this is useful because at certain points in the game you (Akito) get separated from KK and you need to rely on your worldly self to fight off enemies, however I relied way more on stealth here than combat. As well as weapons you find talismans throughout the game and while these can be very useful they are also somewhat confusing. Different talismans do different things, some stun, some provide cover to assist with stealth if needed. Trying to cycle through these at the moment and decipher which does what becomes much too complicated and I ended up not really using them at all after the first couple of hours. The lack of any sort of cover or dodge mechanics are a bummer and take the already repetitive combat and make it downright average and almost a little outdated.


The enemies themselves are great, while they are very 2 dimensional in terms of the combat, they are designed very well, looking like humans from all different shapes and sizes, to weird little creatures in yellow raincoats that if alerted will summon a wave of enemies there's a lot to like about them.



One feature I think is worth mentioning is the traversal elements by grappling to Tengu’s and gliding from rooftop to rooftop. But again, while this is a very promising feature, I feel that it has been somewhat poorly implemented, largely down to the design of the rooftops. A lot of the time, it's rather boring grappling to a rooftop, and then having very deliberate gaps in fences and railings to jump to higher levels and then gliding for 5 or so seconds only to fall. This could have been much more fluid and easy to use such as in games like Horizon Forbidden west and Dying Light 2 etc.


Now, despite everything I have said, I have still had a lot of fun playing Ghostwire Tokyo, which on paper I really shouldn't. It's a beautifully designed world that really does capture the magic of Tokyo despite the lack of hustle and bustle, but it's somewhat wasted on a poor story, poor combat, tedious side missions and silly additions that left me sometimes scratching my head. But despite all that, I actually had fun playing it, which is why I struggled more than I ever have to put into words how it made me feel, but I spent the first night playing this one telling myself for around 4 hours that this is the last mission, or I'll just deposit these souls and go to bed, I ended up going to bed at 4am and laying there thinking about Ghostwire Tokyo for the next 45 minutes before finally falling to sleep. I'm not sure what it is, but there's something very compelling about Ghostwire. Individually, each aspect is meh, or a downright fail, but when combined, it sort of works.



Overall, Ghostwire Tokyo is a very solid base to be built on, the premise is new and exciting but I just feel it misses the mark slightly. It’s not GOTY, it's not even top 10 at the time of release, but if you love Japanese Mythology, large open worlds, beautiful cityscapes, the odd jump scare along the way; and can forgive a rather repetitive combat system and predictable story, then this game is one I'd definitely recommend. If you're not… While I still think you'll have some fun with it, I don't see you falling in love. I personally am not big on Japanese mythology, although I do love urban open world settings so for me, I'm sort of on the fence about the whole thing. I had fun, but I don't see this being a game you'll be rushing to play again once complete.




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