We are almost a week away from Tango Gameworks and Bethesda Softworks’ latest release, Ghostwire: Tokyo. While we’ve had a good bit of looks at the game during several of Sony’s PlayStation conferences, nothing beats actually getting hands-on with it. And that’s for one good reason, Ghostwire: Tokyo is very different from The Evil Within, Tango Softworks’ previous series. That is to be expected though, moving from third-person survival horror to a first-person shooter-like action-adventure. So, how did Tango Gameworks fare with the transition? Here are some of the things that excited me the most during my preview with Ghostwire: Tokyo.
In the preview, I was allowed to play the game’s first two chapters which set up the game, its stakes, and how this alternate Tokyo works with a really interesting story. But to be clear right from the start, I won’t be talking too much about how the game kicks off. Instead, this preview will focus on chapter two, where the game really opens up.
Here’s a quick summary up to this point of how Akito, the main character, got to where he is. Akito wakes up after a terrible car accident possessed by the spirit of a mysterious gruff investigator, KK. Akito uses his new lease on life to make sure his sister, Mari, is okay. However, Akito quickly learns that Mari is in danger as just about every human around him disappears, thick fog blankets a large area of Tokyo, and aggressive spirits named Visitors start attacking trapped souls.
Ethereal Weaving and Combat
What shocked me the most was how flowing the combat was in Ghostwire: Tokyo. One of the benefits Akito has with being possessed by KK is being able to use elemental attacks or ethereal weaving. Using special hand signs and channeling spiritual energy, Akito can fight back against the Visitors. The three main elements you can use are explosive fire, wide arching water, and precise wind attacks. And these attacks change depending on how you charge these abilities. for example, a charged fire attack acts like a grenade, dealing massive damage to grouped up enemies or destroying items Visitors are using as protection. What brings it all together though are the visuals of each attack. All you can see are Akito’s hands, and I think this is where the first-person perspective works best. Without seeing Akito actually using hand gestures to control the elements, combat wouldn’t feel as involved as it does.
Another great thing about the combat is actually taking out the Visitors. They could just die once they take enough damage, but there’s another way. Ripping their cores from their chests. Each Visitor has a core, and dealing enough damage exposes it. What a fun finisher, ripping an essence out of something. Whether it be at a distance or doing it with Akito’s bare hands, this is satisfying just about every time. Plus, it encourages aggressiveness. You can’t just slowly trim down each of the Visitors if you want to survive. Ripping a core out heals Akito as well as quickly gives you some more spiritual points to keep using elemental abilities. Plus, it just looks cool. Imagine those ropes that you’ve seen Dr. Strange use to restrain someone, but used in several different ways to rip these objects out of chests.
However, this is where my biggest gripe is with Ghostwire: Tokyo. While the combat is fun and feels intense. There is still a good bit that feels… missing. Akito’s movements feel really sluggish. I tried to change sensitivity settings in the menus but nothing felt right. What really felt the worst was just how speeds change for no apparent reason. Akito will be moving a certain speed when moving forward, but slows down to turn?
This game’s movement needs refinement. Plus, there’s no dodge. With a game where there are several enemies running at you at once, I expected a quick way to get out of the way. But there isn’t. There’s a shield that reduces damage taken or blocks damage when timed properly, but no way to jump out of the way? Akito can hover, why can’t he dash? This feels like an odd design choice. But, if you want to make the most out of playing Ghostwire: Tokyo, turn off motion blur. Turning it off will vastly improve your experience.
We’ve had several open-world games released recently, each having its spin on the genre. What I enjoyed most here though is how simple everything is. There are your normal tropes of removing the fog on the map (literally), side quests everywhere, and collectibles hidden in just about every nook and cranny. But it’s all rewarding. Clearing the fog is simple. At most, you need to fight some Visitors who are interfering with a Torii gate before you can cleanse it. There are no climbing towers, no playing mini-games, no puzzles. Just get to the Torii gate and clear that fog.
What I loved most about this version of Tokyo was how rewarding doing just about anything was. There are many ways to make Akito more powerful, and just taking 5-10 minutes away from mainlining the game will reward you. All the side quests I’ve done so far have been really fun. For one of them, I had to go into a hospital I’ve been in once before to rescue a child trapped inside. The hospital though changed for this side quest, making it scarier, with harder Visitors throughout. Another I had to visit a laundromat, but inside I was transported to a spirit world and had to fight waves of Visitors to cleanse it of its haunting. Fun, simple, and different!
But that’s not all to find in Tokyo. There are Jizo statues that increase your SP count for specific elements when you pray at them, there are trapped spirits everywhere that you need to contain and release which rewards you with money and experience, there are different collectibles like Yokai that give you special ability points, and the list goes on and on. It sounds daunting but it’s honestly not, because it’s all making your Akito and KK combo stronger. Also, Tokyo is just fun to explore. There’s detail everywhere where you can tell that the dev team put in a lot of TLC into crafting their version of Tokyo.
Akito and KK
There’s something that draws me in when it comes to an unlikely duo forced to get along. Akito and KK are no different. Not only is their relationship critical for Akito to use his supernatural powers, but their banter is fun! Akito has no idea what’s going on but isn’t stupid. KK, while annoyed by his current situation is still patient with Akito. They make a fun duo that I’m looking forward to learning more about. In my limited time, I found myself caring for both of them. And when they were torn apart, and this game turned survival horror-lite, I wasn’t annoyed by the twist, but felt for Akito being almost abandoned in this hellish world. I hope this relationship continues to grow and doesn’t stay stagnant at the “master and naive pupil” level.
Ghostwire: Tokyo has promise. The version of Tokyo we get to explore is really well-realized, and the combat is a lot of fun! Plus, Akito and KK are good companions to be spending my time with so far in this world. But there’s a refinement that feels missing. My complaints never felt like dealbreakers though nor took me out of my experience. I’m looking forward to playing more and stopping this supernatural threat. I just hope that the upcoming day one patch improves the general feel of one of the most critical parts of any game, the movement.