Tango Gameworks has proved that the studio is more than capable of crafting an open-world action game with Ghostwire: Tokyo. Above everything it brings to the table, the game is an ice approach to the traditional sandbox recipe by merging a stunning city with an intense combat system that relies on super-cool powers and abilities. During some parts of Ghostwire: Tokyo I felt like an assassin as I crept around corners stabbing visitors in the back and at other times I felt like a badass superhero as I soared across the rooftops and performed insane over-the-top elemental attacks that devastated my foes.
In a way, Ghostwire: Tokyo is unlike anything I have ever played before. Sure, its sandbox open-world approach isn’t anything original but the way Tango Gameworks has built this game makes it exciting even during the dullest of chapters. Tokyo has been attacked by a strange fog and 99% of the population has vanished. All they have left behind are their clothes and personal items. It is the rapture? Well kind of.
Watch the Ghostwire: Tokyo review below
Game creator Shinji Mikamo has envisioned his own end of the world in Ghostwire: Tokyo whereas Tokyo is now a wasteland where ghosts called Visitors roam the streets, spirits with unfinished business need help and there are a lot of cats. No really, the cats are everywhere and they are pretty happy about everyone up and vanishing.
A man with a scary-looking Hannya mask named, well Hannya is believed to be behind all the people vanishing in Tokyo and now Akito, who is a general run-of-the-mill civilian gets possessed by a badass spirit called KK. Thanks to this possession, Akito can now wield ungodly powers and do all sorts of cool things. Without KK, Akito is pretty much useless. The game makes it quite clear during certain portions of gameplay.
Ghostwire: Tokyo revolves around a special power called Ether. This Ether makes it possible for Akito to perform his attacks. Ether is also linked to the “other side” granting him the ability to see spirits, save them, protect them and more.
I won’t spoil the story in Ghostwire: Tokyo but the game’s heavy emphasis on the supernatural, Japanese Yokai and the city itself is layered in depth and the way the whole thing is uncovered is pretty great. There’s also a huge emotional aspect behind everything happening in Ghostwire: Tokyo. The side quests range from heartbreaking stories about death to deep and meaningful lessons about the way humans treat each other and themselves. Of course, this is all delivered with a dark and uncomfortable spiritual theme that makes Ghostwire: Tokyo’s stories feel so incredibly sad at times.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Ghostwire: Tokyo’s stories feel so incredibly sad at times[/perfectpullquote]The game is also as Japanese as it comes. The city is sprawling with secrets to find that all tie back to Japanese folklore. Be it yokai to find hidden around the world, collectables to discover around every corner or even the various stores that sell Japanese food that buffs Akito’s attacks and refills his health. I spent the majority of my time with Ghostwire: Tokyo exploring, as open-world games go and Tokyo is gorgeous. Every street is filled with bikes, litter, cars and intricate little details that help bring the world to life.
The world makes the experience feel authentic while also acting as an escape to Tokyo. Even though the weather is horrible and it is mostly raining all the time, the city comes alive thanks to its puddles of water that reflect the bright neon signs around the city. Even the most boring of locations, like Shibaura Station is highly detailed in signage, shops and more.
The city of Tokyo also feels eerie. Everyone has vanished and Akito and KK are the only two people walking the streets. While exploring, I really felt alone with only the sounds of my footsteps walking through the wet streets and the sounds of Yokai in the distance to keep my company. Sure, KK is always around but in terms of other people, Akito is a lone soldier and the game’s ambience hits this on the head.
Speaking of KK and Akito, the two are a fantastic pair in Ghostwire: Tokyo. While they start off a bit rough, their relationship starts to grow and the experience is carried out thanks to their non-stop banter. In a way, you play Ghostwire: Tokyo as two characters in one person and they both successfully bring their own unique personality to the game wherever possible.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Combat goes from being awesome to being flipping amazing[/perfectpullquote]While the game takes a while to set itself up, once I was going, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a sandbox open-world game through and through. Akito is limited to exploring areas cleared of the deadly fog. This means I had to cleanse shrines across the city to clear the fog and discover more of the map. Once cleansed, the map showed off new stores to purchase items from, side quests to take on and of course, I could actually walk through that part of the city now without dying instantly.
The shrines act as glorified watchtowers in a sense but they also help the game progress at a steady pace. For example, during some parts of the game, there were no shrines to cleanse but map I had yet to discover. This limited me to a certain portion of the city without even knowing it. In later chapters, more map was unlocked by more shrines I could find and these areas held tougher enemies and more things to do.
I get why Tango Gameworks approached the game this way. Ghostwire: Tokyo is meant to be a narrative-driven game and by holding my hand through where I went, it helped push the story and I enjoyed it more. The fact I could not go and discover the entire map at the start of the game also fed into the game’s incredible sense of discovery. The more I played, the more story I enjoyed and the more I realised just how massive the map was.
Combat in Ghostwire: Tokyo is a huge portion of the experience too. Akito, thanks to KK’s Ether ability allows him to cast magic attacks. Well, they are not technically magic but they kind of are too. These attacks range from fire, air water and Akito can expand these later on with limited Talismans that hold even more abilities like shock and even vines that spawn to hid behind.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The world does start to blend into itself after a while[/perfectpullquote]These ether attacks are limited to the number of ether Akito has. This can be expanded by finding shrines throughout the city. However, each element also has its own cool attack style that is tailored for a specific combat approach. Water, for example, can be charged to send out a large shockwave blade that hits enemies in front of me. This was limited in range but powerful. Air, acts as the primary attack and I mostly always had Ether to cast it. This attack revolved around single-fire blad shots with far range. It could also be charged for a flurry of powerful shots.
There’s also the fire that shoots arrow-like balls at enemies. It can be charged for a massive ball of fire that exploded in a radius of damage. All abilities can also be upgraded using skill points earned through exploration, saving souls and depositing them into a telephone (I know, random but it makes sense later in the game) and purchasing skill points. Skills get stronger, are faster to charge and combat goes from being awesome to being flipping amazing after a while.
Of course, enemies, also called Visitors, get tougher after a while and start to spawn in larger masses. Akito can time a perfect parry to shoot ether back at Visitors while also combining a bow and arrow shot with all the ether abilities to decimate these ghosts. The game really shines during the late-game combat encounters with a mass of enemies, Akito’s powerful attacks and KK cheering him on.
At the same time, combat isn’t easy. I had to be careful what was attacking me, where I was parrying, what I was attacking back with and how my ether charges were holding up. Some encounters had me without any ammo meaning I had to run around the world punching objects to refill it. Akito also gets bracelets that buff certain attack styles meaning you could build him into a specific attack preference if you wanted to.
Enemies are also intimidating, as Japanese yokai usually are. They fly around above, attack on the ground and each has been designed to attack and defend in a certain way. I had to constantly adapt to my opponents and even the environment around me.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Ghostwire: Tokyo’s approach to its open-world and exploration just felt dated[/perfectpullquote]My biggest issue with Ghostwire: Tokyo is probably its sandbox design. While Tokyo is gorgeous, outside of the main and submissions, the world does start to blend into itself after a while. The game relies heavily on exploration especially exploring for spirits to save, shrines to cleanse and Jizo Statues to check off the list. However, after a dozen or so hours, this becomes a bit mindless. Much of the most important findings aren’t easily discovered meaning I had to really look hard to find it all. Sure, I could feed a dog who would often take me to a collectable but this wasn’t guaranteed either.
It does get easier to explore thanks to Akito’s ability to glide through the air. I could then grapple to a Tengu at the top of a building and soar from rooftop to rooftop but even that become a chore after a while. I think the big issue here is the 240 thousand souls that need to be saved. Meaning I had to find each and every bundle floating in the air and absorb them. Some of them had a seal on which I had to mimic a gesture to release it first. It is fun the first hundred times but after a while, it was a snoozefest.
Exploration is also vital to powering Akito and KK up so I felt compelled to do it all no matter how tedious it got. Completionists will love the world but after playing excellent open-world games like Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring, Ghostwire: Tokyo’s approach to its open-world and exploration just felt dated. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t make this a bad game but you’ll enjoy the missions a lot more than the exploration at times.
In the end, I had a blast in Ghostwire: Tokyo. Mainly thanks to its excellent combat system and unique spin on a ghost horror story. Sure, it isn’t scary at all but its dark and twisted theme made it an unforgettable game. While the exploration can get in the way of the game’s best moments at times, the payoff was well worth it in the end. If Ghostwire: Tokyo isn’t on your radar yet, it should be.
This Ghostwire: Tokyo review was based on a PS5 code sent to us by Bethesda Game Studios. The game launches on 25 March for PS5 and PC. You can pick up the game starting at R1,070 in SA here.
Ghostwire: Tokyo Review
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Value - 8/10
Tango Gameworks crafted an exceptional horror action game in Ghostwire: Tokyo with some incredible combat and thrillingly dark story even if the world is less than impressive at times.
KK and Akito
Combat is fantastic
Exploration gets boring after a while
Sandbox approach isn’t exciting