This review contains no spoilers for Ghostwire Tokyo
As humans, we are reminded as we grow old how fleeting life can be, and how we should capture beauty where we can. What we don’t realise is that if we aren’t careful a guy in a demon mask will turn us into sacrificial ghosts. Okay maybe that’s not everyone, however, that does apply to the protagonist of the anticipated action horror game Ghostwire Tokyo.
Looking back at E3 in 2019, we see a cute and charismatic Ikumi Nakamura announcing a game that is now known to be “Spooookyyy”. After a trailer was dropped that intrigued the world with the promise of spirit hunting through Tokyo, Tango Gameworks had gamers by the prayer beads. But in 2022, does the concept we were shown 3 years ago match the game that we can now buy and play?
Ghostwire Tokyo is a first-person action, horror title that throws you into one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. We play through the eyes of Akito, a young man who within a few minutes of the game is fighting for possession of his own body after he is invaded by a spirit. This takes place moments after he is hit by a car and presumed dead.
Although not the evening he had planned, he quickly learns that the spirit that inhabits him is a grumpy detective named KK. As shocking as this event is, KK quickly warns Akito that he must hide from some spirits (known as travellers). He then allows Akito to use his elemental powers so he can make his way through the city. Although rocky at first, the two learn to work together for the sake of saving those they care about, well enough they start sharing a wardrobe (not as weird as it sounds).
Beginning the game at Shibuya crossing, the beauty of Ghostwire Tokyo instantly grabs you, as well as some slender man travellers. Making use of Unreal Engine 4, Ghostwire’s photorealism pulls you into the realistic city used in many games beforehand but paints the city lights with a serious sense of dread.
Although combat is thrown at you in spades, the emptiness felt in this city usually full of life leaves a haunting note in the air. This tone is held throughout most of the game, allowing only temporary moments of rest from the lonely atmosphere. To some this may seem like a bad thing, however, the ongoing isolation is what adds fear factor presented when that silence is broken. And what comes to break that silence is the previously mentioned travellers. These aggressive spirits come in various forms with a plethora of attacks and some serious personal space issues that will leave you running for dear life.
I would be as crazy as this game’s inclusion of cat shop owners if I didn’t at least mention the use of sound within this game. The soundtrack is amazing, in that there is a full soundtrack that you can listen to, however, this is mostly in combat or boss encounters. When wandering the city alone, unless you set a song on Akito’s phone, it’s just the sound of a dead city. This factor alone created a dreadful atmosphere that can only be compared to walking home at night with a dead phone. Every distant noise echoing through the city, shop music or audio announcements left on repeat. The game's use of audio was incredibly thought out, producing a hollow sound that echoes the horrific events within the city.
Finally, we need to talk about the skill tree and levelling system which has a pretty unique format for experience. Aside from the standard combat encounters and mission-based exp rewards, players also have the added option of collecting lingering spirits of the deceased citizens. Collecting and sending these to one of KK’s friends through various payphones rewards Akito with exp and skill points. The skill tree branches available allow you to make KK’s elemental powers more powerful or quicker, allow you to increase special items held, and improve weapons.
Overall Ghostwire Tokyo is a funhouse with simple but entertaining combat, solid and gripping story, complete with a fantastic coat of paint in a tried and tested engine. Tango Gameworks has crafted a brilliant experience here with plenty to do, tightened mechanics and enough spirits to make you leave the Tv on at night just so it’s not dark. If you haven’t already, go and pick up this incredible spooky adventure now on PC and new Gen consoles.
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