GhostWire: Tokyo Preview – Stuck In The Past

GhostWire: Tokyo is a new AAA game from developers Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Software inc. set in modern-day Tokyo Shibuya. This is the third game by TGW and the second one without Shinja Mikami at the helm. For this preview purpose, we were allowed to play and give our thoughts on the first two chapters of GhostWire: Tokyo on the PS5 version of the game. Whether those two are enough to get you hooked or not? Read on below.

In GhostWire: Tokyo you play a 22 years old guy named Akito who died in an accident on his way to meet his sister. Being brought back to life by a body possessing ghost (later revealed to be KK) this game plays in first-person perspective. All of the denizens of Shibuya have mysteriously disappeared with their souls left wandering. Strange creatures known as visitors have appeared who are dragging the innocent souls down to hell

GhostWire Tokyo relies heavily on fog and dim lights to create a horror atmosphere with creatures roaming the deserted streets. The game reveals the main antagonist to be a masked man who is also an enemy of KK and killed him

With a pedigree in horror classics, I was under the impression GhostWire: Tokyo will be a horror experience. But this is far from the truth. Being a horror genre junkie it was both a disappointment and intriguing for me. I have always wanted TGW to do something different other than a macho man with a gun with an over-the-shoulder camera (don’t get me wrong because I absolutely love The Evil Within series).

Unfortunately, the excitement wore off really quick to find the game has one of the most generic gameplay with elements that have been outdated for the last decade. The game also relies heavily on Japanese folklore knowledge but this problem is not exaggerated unlike other games (Nioh comes to mind) because of constant banter between Akito and KK (amazing Japanese VA by the way). KK is also not irritating and is mostly silent unless something really needs to be explained

The gameplay is extremely straightforward where you have to shoot enemies with spirit energy known as ethereal weaving with strange hand motions from the character. After damaging enemies to a certain point, you reveal their cores which can be destroyed by holding the L2 button. This ‘execution” is time-sensitive as enemies regenerate over time. Unfortunately, the enemies never really posed any threat and I was able to take on up to 10 enemies at once on the highest possible difficulty.

You find bow as your secondary weapon from KK’s apartment in one of the most bizarre sequences (it would have been great if not for limited FOV and closed corridors. It made me claustrophobic). The bow is not a great weapon to be used as arrows are very difficult to find and does very little damage as compared to ethereal weaving where you can collect spirit energy from killing enemies or destroying possessed objects (hope it will be fixed with a day one patch)

The game also has stealth with an instant takedown but it loses its charm really soon because of poor enemy AI. Blasting the enemies with supernatural powers is way cooler especially since spirit energy has different elemental natures. You start with the wind element and eventually unlock fire as you progress. They can be swapped with the touchpad or holding the R1 button at any time.

Apart from this basic shooting and stealth mechanic, there is an interesting vertical aspect to exploration and combat. Players can traverse buildings by latching onto tengu giving them more freedom to explore.

Despite these interesting mechanics, there is absolutely nothing new or innovative in the gameplay of GhostWire: Tokyo. If you were fed up with the cookie-cutter formula of open-world games, GWT isn’t going to make you feel any better. You need to visit Tori gates to purify them to clear the area of the fog and progress (towers anyone?). They also serve as fast travel points. What’s jarring is that the first two chapters of the game are extremely linear, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but then you throw these open-world design choices in the mix making for a weird experience.

On top of that, this linearity of the gameplay loop and limited variety leads to the feeling that you are doing the same things over and over again just in a different setting. The craziest part in all of this gameplay is when you have to collect the souls of citizens and send them to safety via payphone (yea you read it right).

GhostWire: Tokyo offers various upgrades for your character and weapons which can be purchased with skill points and magtama (can only be obtained by doing side missions). Some upgrades are locked by magtama so doing side missions is a must (basically fetch quests or battle arenas).

The PlayStation 5 version of GhostWire: Tokyo offers various graphics and frame rate options which can be toggled anytime during the game. I mostly played with the 60fps option but at the expense of visual quality. There were some distracting frame drops connected with camera movement. The copy I got for preview is for the final build of the game so I don’t see things changing a lot (but various fixes have been promised in day one patch)

GhostWire: Tokyo is corny, full of childish banter between the characters and overly used tropes. The game could benefit more with some of the innovations that have been made in the last decade. However, we only tried two chapters of the game and we are curious to see how the combat will evolve in the game and are there any surprises to keep the users engaged as story of the game doesn’t seem like to be that strong.

GhostWire: Tokyo is scheduled to be released on March 25 for PC and PlayStation 5. Since the game is a timed exclusive, Xbox platforms will have to wait until 2023.

Contributor at SegmentNext.