Ghostwire Tokyo Preview "Thrilling Horror and Whimsical Humanity"
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a game that caught the attention of the gaming world when it was revealed back at E3 2019. Both for its intriguing, spooky trailer and that fun little dance then-director Ikumi Nakamura did on stage. This brand-new story from Tango Gameworks, the studio that has brought us the Evil Within series, was something new and different from the company. What’s more, this is a wholly new kind of game from legendary Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami. Ghostwire Tokyo has its fair share of scares, but this is the first game from the company not focused on survival horror.
Close Encounter Of The Spooky Kind
The story of Ghostwire Tokyo follows a young man called Akito. On his way to visit his sister in the hospital, Akito is injured in a car accident at Shibuya Crossing. His timing couldn’t have been better/worse, because while Akito lies unconscious in the street, a mystical mist rolls across Tokyo, and everyone in Shibuya vanishes. Akito awakens to a vacant city, but he himself is a little more crowded than before.
While Akito lay dying in the street, a spirit called K.K. entered his body. What comes next is an uneasy alliance between Akito, the owner of the body, and K.K., the spirit who has a much better understanding of what is going on around them. What’s more, K.K. gives Akito magical powers to defend himself with.
To call this a first-person shooter would be reductive, to say the least. Ghostwire is a first-person action game. Combat is less about accuracy and more about timing, movement, and clever use of your abilities. The first-person perspective lends itself well to watching your enemies and learning their attacks. It is as important to attack as it is to watch, block and evade.
You can attack with spells and magical weapons, and also block with a magic barrier. Using spells and watching Akito pull off all these complex hand signs, combined with the haptic features of the PS5 controller is extremely satisfying. The shield can block attacks or parry when timed perfectly, and each magical attack can be charged for different and more powerful variations.
This combat system has more in common with Elden Ring than Call of Duty, despite the perspective difference. There is a degree of stealth to the game too, that is often useful for slipping past unseen or for taking down a powerful enemy before alerting others.
The enemies of Ghostwire Tokyo are maybe the closest the game comes to pure horror. These “Visitors” are ghostly facsimiles of the people of Tokyo. They appear like Salarymen with their umbrellas, sans faces, or schoolchildren with no heads at all. They can be very intimidating at first, particularly when they come at you in numbers.
Thankfully, this is an action game, not a horror game. Before long, you will be defeating Visitors by the dozen. They are always challenging, and enemies get more and more powerful, but there is nothing to be scared of here.
Exploring An Empty Tokyo
The name of the city appears in the title of the game for a reason. Ghostwire Tokyo is steeped in both Japan’s history and Tokyo’s present. Now, I’m a white guy from Ireland, I may literally be the furthest person from Tokyo in the entire world.
It is not my place in the slightest to say how accurately this game renders Tokyo, beyond knowing that that was the developer’s intent. I can at least say that the city feels very real, with details both large and small that convey a realistic interpretation of our world. I would compare it to the Yakuza series, GWT presents a similar level of detail in its presentation of modern-day Tokyo.
This game goes further by incorporating aspects of Japanese mythology. On top of the many ghostly Visitors you will face, you will encounter various spirits and mythological creatures. A wise-cracking Tanuki will ask you to track down the members of his crew, hiding around the city, and you will meet the spirit of a boy who was tricked by a Kappa, and you must trick the Kappa to free the child.
A Wild Ride Of Smiles And Scares
You might expect Ghostwire Tokyo to be an action-packed, horror-themed thriller, because I sure did, and while it does those things well, I was pleasantly surprised by the levity and humanity of the game. Akito and K.K. have lots of incidental dialogue that really fleshes them out as characters, not just a player avatar. There is a deep, paranormal mystery to the game but also you get to psychically chat with dogs and cats. You can visit convenience stores, listen to silly music and buy noodle cups from magical cat spirits.
The combat is engaging, the world is a joy to explore, and the characters and plot draw you in. This all adds up to a game that strikes a balance between thrilling horror and whimsical humanity. If that balance can keep level for the remaining chapters of the game, then Ghostwire Tokyo is shaping up to be a pretty incredible feather in Bethesda and Tango Softworks’ hat.