Ghostwire: Tokyo is a first-person open-world horror action game from Tango Gameworks. After releasing the critically acclaimed Hi-Fi Rush, I was very excited to finally try this game out. The premise from the outset really grabbed me from its initial reveal back in 2019 and even more so its official gameplay reveal in 2020. Tokyo being filled with scary-looking ghosts, and an antagonist wearing a creepy mask is a surefire way to intrigue me. The story beats and gameplay land well, but the game tries to overstay its welcome with bloated and bland side quests.
A Ghastly Invasion and a Bland Story
Ghostwire: Tokyo opens with the main character Akito driving to see his sister who has been hospitalized. But along the way he gets into an accident and is saved by a mysterious spirit named KK. After the accident, spirits from the underworld invade Tokyo, capturing the spirits of every person in the city. From there it is up to Akito and KK to save the city and Akito’s sister while uncovering the reason behind this incident.
To say the story in Ghostwire: Tokyo is its weakest element is an understatement. The majority of its story moments and Akito’s motivation for saving his sister are used primarily to push me forward while exploring the beautifully realistic depiction of Tokyo. Every objective in each story chapter is only just one step closer to rescuing his sister. Nothing in the story ever felt impactful outside of that as a result.
Both Akito and KK never grow nor did I learn much about the characters beyond their motivations. KK is a very interesting and mysterious character, more so than Akito and I would have loved to learn more about him considering they dive into his backstory a lot throughout the story. I was disappointed to be more interested in the sidekick and not the protagonist. Instead, Akito just feels like a vessel to journey around the scary empty streets of Tokyo. Taking down haunting-looking enemies, capturing lost spirits, and taking down creepy and tedious bosses.
Symbolic First-Person Combat in Ghostwire: Tokyo
The gameplay of Ghostwire: Tokyo functions similarly to a first-person shooter. Where you have many tools at your disposal and have to manage combat encounters around your ammo. But what sets the game apart from other shooters is how stylized it is. Akito can use hand symbols to shoot out gusts of wind, fiery explosions, or even waves of water. You can use simple attacks by tapping the trigger or holding down the trigger for heavier strikes. You can also unlock and use alternate firing modes.
The wind attacks can turn into a short-range automatic fire like an SMG. While the fire attacks can turn into a fiery beam to set enemies on fire and the water attacks can channel a freezing aura around the player. There are so many ways to use each attack to match the ludicrous amounts of different enemies in the game. Like the heavy attacks for the water spells since they reach far and wide with devastating attack power.
Ghostwire: Tokyo has entire groups of enemies. Headless children, tall men with umbrellas, giant women with hedge trimmers and even flying ghosts. They all have unique attacks and when enemies are grouped up you have to figure out which ones to take care of first. The tall men are slow but can hit hard, the children are fast but deal light attacks. But these encounters never feel tedious or start to become dull since you can rip out the cores of enemies after dealing enough damage to them.
The combat is fun and each combat scenario feels unique, whether it is in scripted segments. Throughout the streets of Tokyo or finding yourself in a demon’s parade where you get sucked into a multiple wave combat arena. I just wish the bosses of Ghostwire: Tokyo were as enjoyable.
Three Strikes and You’re Out
Ghostwire: Tokyo has four bosses and each one is varied between boring, to moderately exciting. One of the early bosses is a giant cat-like boss that you have to stealth around and rip out multiple cores. It sounds simple, but it moves around very quickly but stops in certain areas to get the jump on it. It is a game of cat and mouse essentially. But how it becomes boring is when it keeps moving around and you have to find a way to stun it using the environment to get that last core.
The only boss that was exciting was a giant creepy spider that does large sweeping attacks but is stationary. The only tactic I had to keep track of was avoiding strikes and getting on top of boulders that fall from the ceiling to avoid fatal blows. The design for this boss is genuinely creepy and I felt disappointed when I killed it because I knew that was going to be the highlight of the game’s bosses.
However, for the rest of the bosses, I feel like it would have been better if they focused on using every element of the game’s combat as opposed to laser focusing on a singular aspect. They would have been much more enjoyable and left more of an impact on me, just like exploring Tokyo itself.
A Fantastically Designed Bloated Open World
Between taking down enemies, experiencing the story, and fighting the bosses, you will be spending a lot of time in Tokyo. However, the map in Ghostwire: Tokyo is needlessly filled with a lot of different activities. You can cleanse gates to clear up fog to explore more of the map. Do side quests to get money or cosmetics. As well as one consistent activity of saving spirits. There are many, many spirits littered throughout the map that you can absorb with a specific item. Doing so allows you to cash them in for money and experience points.
You can either find spirits randomly throughout the world. Do side activities like side quests to unlock bunches of them. You can also find groups of them sealed up in boxes. Players would have to defend these boxes from attacks or solve mini-puzzles to break their seals and collect them. The number of spirits littered throughout the map felt like better motivation to explore the game. As opposed to the countless other side activities to do. The fact that collecting these spirits can also level me up quickly also enticed me to find them.
The map is insanely detailed and very genuinely pretty to look at when just walking around. There are many buildings you can enter to look around and find collectibles and other various loot. The game would have felt better paced had the bloated side quests have been removed, with a focus on just combat, finding spirits, and cashing them between story moments. But the depiction of Tokyo mixed with all of the spooky elements like the fog and enemies roaming around was incredible.
Ghostwire: Tokyo Spiders Thread Update
The latest update to Ghostwire: Tokyo was the Spiders Thread. An all-new rogue-lite game mode that chops out all of the unnecessary bloat and focuses on just the core gameplay aspects. As well as refining the skill trees and level design. In the Spiders Thread update you have to descend through thirty levels to stop a new threat from emerging in Tokyo. As you go through it, you collect currency to unlock your skills again and collect new and interesting accessories with benefits and debuffs.
Each level has a unique quirk to it. Whether that is defending spirits, going through long platforming segments, taking down enemies and bosses from the game, or going through stealth segments. Each level feels refreshing and it is all in random order. The rogue-lite mode as a result is very enjoyable to play over and over again after finishing the main game. But I wish some rewards from the campaign affected this new mode and vice versa. To provide a sense of accomplishment if I wanted to go back and explore more of Tokyo.
I played Ghostwire: Tokyo on the Xbox Series X and had a few issues with the experience. I had some noticeable framerate drops in the game’s regular performance mode. But once I switched to the high framerate with Variable Refresh Rate and vsync support there were no more issues. However, players without these TV features may have problems with the game’s performance issues. Aside from that, there were never any graphical issues or glitches. Though I did have one crash when buying a random skill in my nearly 20 hours of playtime.
Closing Remarks on Ghostwire: Tokyo
Ghostwire: Tokyo as a whole though is a very unique experience with few issues working against it. The sidekick KK stood out to me. But I was not a fan of protagonist Akito as well as most of the main cast. Even Akito’s sister felt very underutilized in the story. The gameplay and enemy variety is great. But the game’s map gets in the way of a lot of it. While only one of the four bosses was truly enjoyable. The spider’s thread game mode is great but only highlights the negatives in the bloat. For every pro there is a con, making this game only recommendable for its stellar gameplay and enemy design.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is available now for $59.99 on Xbox Series X|S, Steam, and PlayStation 4|5. The game is also available now on Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus Extra.