Waking up in the middle of one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world, you’d think that Akito’s biggest problem would be angry taxi drivers honking their horns at him to get out of the way. It’s not. Sure, there might be some taxis about, but there are no people to be seen in this part of Tokyo. What the hell is going on in Ghostwire: Tokyo?
The latest game from Evil Within developer Tango Gameworks, Ghostwire: Tokyo immediately takes a different tone to the studio’s first two projects. For one thing, it makes a jump from horror gaming toward more of an action-adventure tone, but it also shifts from third-person action to first person. It’s a really interesting choice, but so is the setting and the supernatural tragedy that has consumed this part of Tokyo.
The Shibuya ward of Tokyo has been cut off from the rest of the world, shrouded in a fog that has spirited away pretty much every single person that it’s touched, with otherworldly horrors known as the Visitors now roaming the streets. Akito is perhaps the only human left in town, but he’s not alone. No, he now plays host to KK, the spirit of a veteran ghost hunter and detective who needs Akito to foil the dastardly plan of the game’s main baddie, Hannya. This leads to quite a few cutscenes where the game switches to third person and Akito talks to his smoking hand.
There’s an open-world slice of Tokyo to explore here, and plenty to see and do, but one of the first tasks will be to start clearing the fog. This actively damages Akito’s health if you stay in it, but is always centred around a corrupted Torii gate. All you have to do is find the gate and cleanse it to open up the area and let you explore more freely.
Cleanse Torii gates and battle ghosts with umbrellas. Is it even raining?
That’s easier said than done when the fog is home to the Visitors that have invaded the living realm. Some of these could make for pretty good nemeses to Doctor Who. Umbrella-holding suited figures with their heads shrouded in white that march toward you, and the headless bodies of Japanese school children with their smart naval style are basic enemies that you’ll battle against with occasionally much weirder and more dangerous Visitors through into the mix, more overtly drawing upon Japanese mysticism and folklore.
You won’t be wielding a sonic screwdriver at them, but instead employing Ethereal Weaving, hand gestures inspired by Japanese Kuji-Kiri. These let you tap into three elements – wind, water, and fire – firing rapid bursts of ether like a handgun, bursts of shotgun-like damage with water, and explosive damage from fire. Different enemies will want a different approach to weaken them and reveal their cores, which you can then rip out from a distance with glowing string. All of these abilities can be upgraded and powered up.
Don’t let the creepy enemies get too close.
It’s more complicated than that though, as you work to build up synergy with KK, have to counter incoming attacks with good timing, and can whip out a bow and arrow for a different style of ranged attack.
That bow also comes in handy for exploring, letting you grapple up to the rooftops wherever the Tengu bird Yokai are hanging out. Meanwhile, with no humans left to run shops, the cat Yokai Nekomata has moved in to hang out, floating above the counter and happily selling you its wares.
Beyond battling spectres, there’s a richness to the open world that I’m keen to explore. One of the things that you’ll be tasked with while playing is retrieving the spirits of all the people who have been vanished, absorbing them into Katashiro paper dolls and then bringing them to phone booths kitted out with some kind of spirit transference device. There are 240,300 spirits to find, so this is sure to keep you occupied for a good long time!
Some spirits don’t want to go, though, bound to the Earth and unable to move on until their business is finished. One old woman refuses to move on because her Yokai, Zashiki-Warashi, is being held hostage by her evil landlord. You have to venture into her former home, find where the landlord’s spirit is hiding and rescue her Yokai so that the old woman can pass on. That’s just one example, and I really hope that there are more tender and touching stories being told through these side missions, which would make for a nice relief from the horror-infused action elsewhere.
Ghostwire’s tall lady has giant garden shears. Beat that, Capcom!
Given their previous games, it’s no surprise to see Tango Gameworks leaning on some of the tricks of the horror genre trade within Ghostwire: Tokyo. Parts of the world can shift and transform as you explore them, doing so in dramatic fashion. As Akito and KK are trapped in a block of flats, for example, they’ll need to find and smash the barrier stone in time before the building is crushed with them inside. Searching through the different apartments, blobs of interfering gloop run across the walls, transforming the environments in the blink of an eye. It could be pictures of eyes gathering on the wall, graffiti spreading across it, a corridor almost disappearing so that it looks like you’re walking through the sky above Tokyo, and the classic of jumbling up a room so that furniture is on a “wall” instead of the “floor”. There can be a toilet on the wall, and you can interact with it to close the lid. Perfect.
Having spent such a long time shrouded in mystery, I’m now really looking forward to diving into Ghostwire: Tokyo in March for PS5 and PC to explore everything it has to offer. The first person elemental combat looks intriguing and impactful, the Visitors have a mix of quirky and horrific designs from Japanese folklore, and I’m keen to see how Tango Gameworks has woven all of this into a slice of Tokyo.