A young Japanese man is possessed by the spirit of a dead detective, and together they investigate supernatural occurrences throughout the city. It sounds like the setup to a short-lived Adult Swim animation, yet it’s the very real premise of the latest PS5 console gaming exclusive Ghostwire: Tokyo. Albeit simplified for the sake of a snappy intro.
Tokyo’s Shibuya district is blanketed with a thick fog, causing the inhabitants to disappear, leaving behind clothing, vehicles, and all other worldly possessions. You play Akito, a young man rescued at the last minute by a rogue spirit named KK. Together, you share a body and wield an array of supernatural abilities to pursue the masked madman behind the otherworldly threat.
Ghostwire: Tokyo presents a richly detailed cityscape that draws you in, with a unique and engaging combat system. The tone is creepy, with ghastly enemy encounters that twist Japanese stereotypes. The world presented is as inviting as it is nightmarish. It’s just unfortunate that the repetitious nature of the gameplay wears thin after a few hours.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is an open-world first-person shooter of sorts. There are no firearms per se, but an arsenal of elemental forces fired from your fingertips in the same vein as a gun loaded with bullets. It’s called Ethereal Weaving, and your abilities are used to damage and stun enemies exposing a core, which you can then rip from their torsos with the accompanying whip-like ability. There’s also a bow and arrows along with takedowns from behind if you prefer a stealth playstyle.
While I appreciate the fresh approach to combat, there’s not much strategy or skill required to defeat the enemies. You barely even have to aim. Just keep firing until cores are exposed and then whip them out. Block attacks if the enemies get too close. Rinse and repeat.
Thankfully, there’s enough variety in the enemy types that combat felt fresh for longer than I expected. Known as “visitors”, the enemies resemble faceless businessmen, headless schoolgirls, traffic cops and possessed mascots, to name a few. They roam the streets and skies, and each type possesses a unique attack, with some firing energy from a distance while others rush and get close for physical attacks.
Most visitors resemble a familiar staple of Japanese culture but are twisted in some form or another. In this scenario, they’re Yokai, spirits from Japanese folklore that tie back with the game’s story.
Much of the story remains a mystery for at least the first few hours of gameplay. There’s an abducted sister, Hannya mask-wearing villains, relationship-building and a history of spirit hunting to unravel. The story is decent, elevated through the banter and growing camaraderie between Akito and KK. However, it’s Shibuya itself that’s the real drawcard.
The city is expansive, brought to life in intricate detail and imperfections that leave the game’s world feeling like a rendered snapshot of the real Shibuya.
You will be exploring the endless streets, alleyways and rooftops, temples, shopping centres, construction sites and subway systems through the story and side missions, most of which are off-limits until you’ve cleared the fog by activating Torii gates throughout the map.
Having the open world compartmentalised could be frustrating if it wasn’t for each district being realised through the tiniest of details. And at the same time, it’s the developers’ ambitions of making each strip and rooftop worth the visit that ultimately shifts the gameplay from marvel to mundane.
How do you feel about collectables? Because Ghostwire: Tokyo has thousands. There’s the standard fare of things to find: outfits, landmarks, relics, etc. All of which are optional. But there’s another collectable—spirits—which can be traded for XP and used to unlock new abilities and upgrade existing ones.
And while collecting all 240,000+ is reserved for those chasing 100 per cent completion, you’ll be persuaded to collect as many as possible to score the best upgrades for traversing the open-world and defeating the increasingly difficult enemies.
Spirits feel less like collectables and more an essential part of the gameplay that results in the experience being far more repetitive than it could or should be.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is available on PC and PlayStation 5. I played on the PS5, where the game looks and feels great. The glistening wet pavement and neon-lit cityscape really pop. The haptic feedback offered by the DualSense controller lets you feel the cores being ripped from the city’s wandering visitors. The soundtrack is equally great, offering a mix of tense electro and ethereal beats that sound like remixes of more traditional Japanese music.
It takes around 20 hours to complete the campaign. Double that if you’re chasing 100 per cent completion. And while there’s a heavy reliance on grinding collectables, I still recommend the trip to paranormal Shibuya. It’s a spooky and unsettling open-world complemented by unique combat that should feel accessible to anyone who spends time with the popular shooters.
And I’m only now realising that I’d failed to mention that shopkeepers are floating cats, and there are dozens of dogs to pat. So you can look forward to that too! Ghostwire: Tokyo is available now on PC and PS5.
The writer received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher