Ghostwire: Tokyo is a deeply and intensely weird experience, which challenges players and demands their attention.
Any true description of Ghostwire: Tokyo will require some patience, because there’s a lot going on. Without spoiling the plot too much, a deadly mist has shrouded parts of Tokyo, claiming the souls of the people living there, and bringing with it a host of supernatural horrors, called Visitors, to feast on the souls of the dead. A spiritual detective has possessed the body of a nearly dead road accident victim, providing him with magical powers, and tasking him to free the city. Got all that? Good, because there’s much, much more!
We don’t mean to alarm you, but there may be a Slenderman or Slendermen inside this video game. The first time that you experience a new Visitor in Ghostwire: Tokyo, a wave of fresh dread washes over you. Not only are they incredibly creepy, but when they crash down upon you in force, you get the sense of being stuck inside an explosive nightmare. They’re frightening to behold, from the umbrella-toting salarymen turned Slendermen, to the headless school children and giant women with even more giant scissors, it’s all the best parts of other peoples’ nightmares collected in one place. How fun!
“Ghostwire: Tokyo may require you to reset your brain slightly, as this game plays out in so many unique ways.”
Ghostwire: Tokyo may require you to reset your brain slightly, as this game plays out in so many unique ways. There are deep storylines, side quests and interesting little titbits to chase up wherever you turn. And if you aren’t too distracted by the soul depository phone booths, or the fabulously floating yōkai convenience store owners (basically they’re flying talking cats who sell pet food and arrows), you can get lost in the incredibly fun and gorgeous combat with the truly terrifying Visitors.
The combat in Ghostwire: Tokyo has been described as “karate meets magic”, and while there is less punching and kicking, the martial arts influences are very much present. Every time you cast one of your different spells there’s such an explosive flurry of martial arts inspired hand gestures and dazzling lights that a Las Vegas magician would feel embarrassed. All of your abilities have unique animations and the casting of any one of them is a visual treat. Water spells, which slice through enemies, make satisfying splash noises, while fire spells crackle between your fingertips before unleashing powerful explosive effects. Each of the Visitors have different weaknesses and strengths, so you’ll be constantly changing between attack types to find the best combination to take down your opponents.
Outside of the action sequences, there’s a lot to do in the narrow streets of Shibuya City. While the open world setting is a nice touch, it can still feel a little claustrophobic, like the spiritual walls are closing in, even in moments when you are gliding across rooftops. Something about the uneasy tone that the game sets never allows you to feel truly comfortable or safe. Side missions aren’t just simple fetch quests, they’re their own unique experiences which provide some meaningful diversion from the story missions. You can spend 15-20 minutes in each mission, uncovering twisted new tales of the lives of everyday people caught up in otherworldly mayhem.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is also an incredibly pretty experience. From the shiny, rain-washed streets of Shibuya, to the fireworks-like displays of magical martial arts, everything presents beautifully onscreen. The lack of colour within the darkened streets is contrasted by the spectacular light show of the action sequences and brings the whole screen to life. Particularly awesome is the effect used when you tear the soul cores from the Visitors bodies with strings of golden light, like you’re playing a game of spectral Cat’s Cradle. It’s satisfying to watch over and over again.
There are also some light RPG elements to Ghostwire: Tokyo as you can upgrade your abilities to last longer, hit harder or expand your capacity. Finding and exploiting the side missions can really help in this experience by giving you earlier access to more powerful enchantments that make your story mission fights much easier. Rescuing souls equates to experience points, so you’re really rewarded for exploring the city, both on the ground and high on the rooftops.
Curiosity is almost always rewarded and, if you have the patience, discovery of the hidden treasures is a real treat. Ghostwire: Tokyo nestles softly between a bizarre state of being not quite supernatural horror, not quite magical RPG and not quite action game experience to find its niche alongside games like The Evil Within and Control. It’s a beautifully constructed, twisted dark fantasy of an anime nightmare come to life.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is available March 25 on PS5 and PC.