Ghostwire: Tokyo Review

Three things I like about this game, and two I don't

Ghostwire Tokyo on PS5

By Paul Hunter

While it's been a couple of years since I've been able to visit Japan (damn you, pandemic!), the past two weeks I've done the next best thing: immerse myself in Tango Gameworks' Ghostwire: Tokyo. After a decade of producing survival horror games, Shinji Mikami’s Tokyo-based development studio is branching out with their first ever action-adventure thriller set in a beautifully corrupted version of Japan's bustling Shibuya district.

I've really dug deep into Tango's latest AAA offering and I'm just a few hours away from nabbing that glorious platinum trophy on PS5. With that in mind, let's head on into Ghostwire's supernatural Shibuya, here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: How Authentic Shibuya is

Ghostwire: Tokyo sets you in the role of Akito, a young man who wakes up in Japan's famed Shibuya Crossing and discovers a fog has consumed the city and made most of the population disappear. The situation looks grim, but fortunately Akito survived the fog's dark power thanks to a spirit named KK who inhabited his body. Together the two must explore Tokyo to discover the source of the disappearances and unravel a sinister plot set in motion by a mysterious figure in a Hannya mask.

The incredible recreation of Shibuya is the real star of the show, featuring all the sights and sounds you'd expect from Tokyo but with a sinister twist. Iconic locations like the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, the 109 high-rise fashion building and Tokyo Tower have been recreated with exquisite detail, but all are eerily shrouded in darkness and completely devoid of life.

Looking beyond the landmarks, the narrow rain soaked streets and neon-tinged working-class neighbourhoods perfectly embody and vibe of real Shibuya. And it's so cool that nestled among all the contemporary commercial buildings and flashy lights are historic Shinto shrines with eye-catching torii entrance gates. Having visited numerous shrines in Tokyo, I thought it was so cool that Ghostwire shrines include accurate depictions of the offering box (saisenbako), water purification pavilion (temizuya) and the ceremonial wall of wooden plates (emagake). Such amazing details!

Those interested in Japan's folklore and urban legends will also immensely enjoy what Ghostwire: Tokyo has to offer. Yokai, the spirits and supernatural entities often featured in Japanese folktales, play a big role in the game's side missions. Many of the substories involve catching Yokai ranging from the curious frog-like Kappa to the living wall Nurikabe to the erratic Karakasa-kozo jumping umbrella. If you've played Koei Tecmo's Nioh series, a lot of these Yokai will be quite familiar. Without going into detail, a few side missions also explore Japan's most infamous urban legends and are among the creepiest moments in the game.

Liked: Combat Special Effects

Another aspect of Ghostwire: Tokyo that I thoroughly enjoyed is just how awesome the combat special effects are. Akito's supernatural attacks are all performed using intricate handweaving and with the game being first-person, you get a front row seat.

Your three main powers are wind, water and fire, and each has their own unique hand gesture to unleash the elemental blasts. Wind is your most common attack and shoots straight at enemies, serving essentially as your main pistol. Water deals spread close-range damage much like a shotgun. And finally, fire can be charged up to hurl an explosive ball akin to tossing a hand grenade. It's easy to switch between your supernatural powers and you almost feel like Dr. Strange mixing-up attacks, each with their signature hand weaves.

Visually it's also awesome that your elemental attacks slowly expose enemies' cores, which you can rip out of their bodies using neon energy strings that spring from your palms. Early in the adventure Akito gets a mystical bow that fires explosive arrows that again look awesome in action. Stealth is another tactic you can use, and if you sneak up behind one of the game's many different mystic beings you can forcibly reach into their chests to tear out their core. Very satisfying.

Enhancing all this visual goodness is the best integration of the DualSense adaptive triggers and haptic feedback since 2021's Returnal. You can feel the rumble of enemy cores getting ripped from their body, plus each elemental power has its own distinct controller shake. You can charge up your supernatural attacks and doing so will aggressively shake the DualSense, giving you a tangible feeling of just how much power you're about to unleash. It's pretty damn cool to say the least.

Liked: Collecting Souls, Tanukis, Relics and Shrines

I'll admit: lately I've been feeling really fatigued with the exhausting 'collectible checklists' most open world games have given us in recent years. That's why I was so pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had searching for stuff in Ghostwire: Tokyo.

The biggest reasons why is such a blast to collect is how great the game's level design is. The Shibuya map is actually not that large, taking just a few minutes to run from end to end, but it's densely packed and built with tremendous verticality. You can grapple to Yokai birds called Tengus to reach the rooftops, and it's there where you'll find lost souls needed to level up and unlock new abilities. On the city streets, undergrounds and building rooftops you can also find over 100 relics that can be traded into to mystical cats in exchange for huge sums of money. No matter what you're collecting there tends to be a huge payout, which kept me motivated for more than 30 hours to 100% complete the collectible list.

Another fun collectible are the Tanukis, Japan's distinctive raccoon dogs, which are scattered throughout the city. The Tanukis are shape-shifters that take on everyday objects like street signs or phone booths, but can be identified with their waging tails. It's equal parts cute and fun to spot a traditional Japanese ornament outside a Shibuya shop only to notice the flapping tail—oh,you've caught another Tanuki! Since the creatures are hard to spot, it's helpful that you can pay a small sum of money at a shrine's donation box in exchange for revealing the closest Tanuki on your map.

If you hunt well enough you'll also find over 50 mini shrines that you can pray at to increase your elemental power SP (the points used to cast the spells). They only increment your SP by one, but find enough shrines and you can more than double your SP stack by the final mission. Fortunately as well, your spiritual buddy KK gives you a Spectral Vision power that enables you to scan the nearby area for shrines, along with the other types of collectibles. Scanning can also reveal nearby enemies, so it's an essential ability that you can use whenever you want some intel.

Didn't Like: Lack of Enemy Variety

My biggest disappointment with Ghostwire: Tokyo is the lack of enemy archetypes, which makes combat encounters feel far too same-y. The basic enemies consists of a spectral business man with an umbrella, headless school girls and boys, a machette-weilding business woman, flying ghosts and ghastly police officers. There are subtle variations of these supernatural beings, along with a handful of rare mini bosses (like a creepy woman with oversized scissors) but that's about it. You'll battle the same ten or so creatures over the game's 15-hour main adventure.

Compounding the issue is how similar the enemies attack. Some will rush at you to give you a nasty kick or punch, while others hurl projectiles at you. That's really about it, and it makes battles feel repetitive quite quickly. The game's saving grace though is how visually appealing your attacks are—while the enemy variety is bland at least it looks super cool to kill them. Hey, it's something.

Didn't Like: Control Input Lag

Another complaint I have is how imprecise the controls felt, at least until I spent time in the menus tweaking various control settings to improve the situation. There's a noticeable amount of input lag, which can be problematic when you need to pinpoint enemies to attack or when you're leaping between rooftops. With the game's combat already being so-so given the lack of enemy types, the input lag just makes things worse.

Thankfully if you go into the setting there are a dozen or so controller tweaks you can do, like speeding up your character's turning acceleration, that does lessen some of the input lag. I never got to the point where the controls felt tight but they were slightly more responsive after a bit of tinkering. You get the sense that controls were optimized for PC, so hopefully Tango addresses the PS5 controls in future updates.

The Verdict

It's been a blast playing Ghostwire: Tokyo largely because of how authentic and awesome-looking Tokyo is. It feels great being in this game world, much like what SEGA's achieved with their Yakuza series. The combat needs improvement, but the bright side is graphically battles look amazing. I really like the enemy character models—the look creepy as heck—but I wish they had more attack variety. Really, the best part about Ghostwire is exploring every nook and cranny of this dense Shibuya that's filled with secrets and surprises around every corner. PS5 fans that love games set in Japan absolutely need to check this game out.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Ghostwire Tokyo details

Platform: PS5, PC
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: First-person action-adventure
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

A key was provided by the publisher.