Shinji Mikami is the godfather of modern horror video games. From creating the highly successful Resident Evil series to moving on and launching his own franchise with The Evil Within, Mikami is a name to follow if you like scares in your games.
His studio Tango Gameworks (who randomly also brought us the wonderful Hi-Fi RUSH earlier this year) have yet to miss since their founding in 2010.
Ghostwire: Tokyo launched originally on PlayStation in 2022, looking like it was there to stay as an exclusive, or at least timed exclusive. Then Microsoft swooped in and purchased Bethesda, and being the parent company of Tango Gameworks, this meant most, if not all Bethesda titles would find their way over to the box of X. Thankfully Ghostwire: Tokyo was one of the titles promised to come over to the Xbox after a year of exclusivity on Sony’s system.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is crazy, like real crazy. To describe it, I would have to take the Yakuza series, the 2016 reboot of DOOM and chuck in some Bioshock, then I would throw them in a pot and splash in drops of horror and a dollop of action adventure. This might sound like an awful concoction, but it works. Shinichirō Hara being a combat designer for the aforementioned DOOM 2016 makes sense as the combat here is very similar.
Instead of traditional survival horror, Ghostwire: Tokyo mixes the horror with action shooting and first person platforming to create one of the most unique experiences you will ever play. The story involves a man named Akito who ends up in an accident on his motorcycle, only to be possessed by a ghost going by the name of KK, while all of the humans in the city have disappeared, being replaced by a mist that will kill you and evil spirits. I told you, crazy.
Now, I won’t dive into any more story details to avoid spoilers. I will say that the story itself, told over five chapters is really engrossing and worth sticking around to watch unfold. In-game collectibles expand the lore with details on what exactly has happened, albeit in mysterious snippets.
Collectibles in Ghostwire: Tokyo are plentiful, overwhelmingly so. There are, on each street, several houses, stores and alleyways to explore (not even mentioning parks and temple like areas) that are filled to the brim with pick ups sure to sing to the completionists and collectathon fans out there. Verticality also comes into play as you gain the ability (not describing it purposefully for spoiler reasons) to scale buildings in order to explore the rooftops across the city.
Traversal is a mixed bag as the system to scale the buildings feels a tad clunky and can lead to many under-your-breath swear words being spoken as you fall for the umpteenth time. Combat has a chunky feeling and is definitely reminiscent of DOOM 2016. Mostly fighting enemies is simple enough, but occasionally the studio’s survival horror roots kick in and the game leaves you dry of ammo.
Enemies are really creepy, when you can find them. See, Ghostwire: Tokyo has a problem with population in more ways than one. The city feels emptier than the story intended, enemy encounters are spread apart and NPC characters outside of the side quest giving ghosts are all but non-existent. The city has a neat aesthetic, the neon rain drenched streets are almost a character of its own, so it is just a pity they are so empty.
There are several hand signs in the game that allow casting of different elemental spells shot from your finger gun. See, when KK possessed/saved you from certain death, you were bestowed with spectral powers. Weapons also come into play, such as the bow found in KK’s apartment early on, but the finger gun elemental powers are the most fun to play with.
Increasing your chances of survival is the skill tree; a standard trope in many games in this day and age. The skill tree allows you to unlock abilities such as gaining health from cores or giving bonuses for perfect blocks. It opens up as you level up and has plenty of branching options to customise the way you like to play.
Graphically, Ghostwire: Tokyo looks good, but I would suggest swapping quality to performance as the trade off in graphics is not harsh and the enhanced frame rate is very much worth the switch. Also in graphical options turning down camera wobble as well as turning off the film grain suited my taste a lot more than the preset. Of course this is all personal opinion on film grain; I cannot stand the filter in any game I have experienced it in and the neon lit streets here truly deserve more of a shine.
Main missions are the meat of Ghostwire: Tokyo and involve you chasing after a masked man named Hannya, who has caused this whole mess. KK, the spirit possessing Akito, has a personal vendetta with him, and the story behind this unravels as you progress. Also on offer are the side quests and I had a lot of fun with these during my time in the game.
Plentiful and all across Tokyo, the side quests could have you chasing a haunted doll down side streets and up on rooftops to help out a ghost met earlier or exploring a house that “swallows all”. Each one comes with a reward that will help you in some way and are more often than not very memorable. A great job has been done to make the side quests feel meaty while not outstaying their welcome.
Talking cats run shops, while raccoons are lost all over the city, bringing feelings of the crazy Yakuza series by SEGA. The weird blend of almost hilarious insanity and horror in the main story really works for Ghostwire: Tokyo, a mix of styles that a lot of games would misfire using. Here the team at Tango Gameworks have laid the foundations for a potentially blockbuster franchise going forward.
Ghostwire: Tokyo can be a mixed bag. Occasionally brilliant, it follows that up with lacklustre sections and clunky mechanics. A decent game to check out especially as the latest update is included for Xbox players, this is one engrossing story with a semi open world to explore till your heart’s content.