After playing The Evil Within and experiencing that supernature roller coaster, I was eager to understand how developer Tango Gameworks would approach the open-world first-person action genre in Ghostwire: Tokyo. Throughout its opening chapters, I can say that I was surprised to still feel the tension of the horror genre in this design. Sure, you have the power to take on whatever threat this game throws at you, but there’s a risk-reward system in the gameloop that had me walking with caution.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is set in the streets of Tokyo after a strange mist falls over the region and pulls the spirits out of anyone alive. Following an accident, a spirit by the name of KK possesses the body of Akito, and their goals align to stop the threat of yokai. There are some symbiotic reasons for this, but you learn more about KK much later in the story. For now, Akito’s only concern is his sister.
The first-person nature of the adventure had me a little worried. After a few levels, I imagined that Akito’s skills would make encounters a cakewalk. While they speed things up, I couldn’t be more wrong in thinking this game would get any easier. There are so many nuances to the action that make encounters threatening. Whether it’s the quick and varied attacks of the enemies or managing ammo, you’ll often be near yokai, and it can be exceptionally thrilling.
All enemies have a core that must be destroyed. There’s a window of opportunity to take down an enemy after a few shots to their weak areas, but it requires time to destroy, and the enemies won’t stop attacking. It opens up more options than I assumed during each encounter; you can perfect block, pick off the weaker enemies, utilize the environment, sneak around, use elemental magic, or even a bow and arrow. This makes each encounter fun, given that you may run out of ammo during these encounters, but taking down enemies provides you with a few resources to keep the action moving.
The streets are generally safer as you have the option to run if you find yourself in a tough spot. However, side objectives lead you through smaller corridors and supernatural arenas that put your skills to the test. The yokai only becomes more complex the deeper into the city you go, and some demand some interesting tactics to even land hits.
Still, as I head further into the game, I don’t think it’s the combat that I need to worry about. Instead, I’m more off-put by the exploration aspect of this adventure. There’s a verticality about the city where you can get to the rooftops to find lost souls and some enemies, but exploring the rooftops feels so disjointed from the street level. I found it to provide a completely different experience that is neither challenging nor scary but instills fatigue on the player as they must get to these areas to recapture lost souls, and there are many to be found. I should add that the only reason this is important is that delivering these souls provides a lot of money and experience to deal with early threats.
If you were worried that Ghostwire: Tokyo traded action for horror, you’d be mistaken. There are plenty of horror elements here rolled out through some well-crafted supernatural environments and limited resources. It’s a level of challenge that is digestible for fans of these various genres, only heightened by eery sound design and nightmarish environments. As I head further into the game, I wonder how combat and this world will evolve. Whatever the case, my only goal now is to keep my cool during these tense encounters.
GhostWire: Tokyo is coming to PlayStation 5 and PC on March 25, 2021.
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