Ghostwire: Tokyo review: Look, Ma, No Heads!

Bethesda /

Title: Ghostwire: Tokyo
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed on), PC
Release Date: March 25, 2022

Remember seeing the very first announcement for Ghostwire: Tokyo at E3 2019? What we saw looked haunting and beautiful. It wasn’t much information but it whetted our appetites for what was to come. After E3, things were pretty quiet on the Ghostwire front. In all honesty, the release kind of snuck up on us. Granted, it’s been a pretty intense start to the year. Nevertheless, the release has come upon us and we are EXCITED and you should be too. Let me tell you why. But FIRST…

Ghostwire: Tokyo follows Akito, a run of the mill young Japanese guy that gets caught in a weird situation. One day, a strange fog rolls into Shibuya and anyone it touches disappears, leaving only their clothes behind where they once stood. In one of the many subsequent auto accidents that follow the disappearance of pretty much everyone, Akito lies fatally injured when in swoops KK, a spirit desperately in need of a body.

As Akito and KK cohabitate in the same body, KK imbues Akito with his paranormal powers of fire, wind, water and kicking ass. The spirits of thousands of Tokyo citizens have been captured by a group of people led by a man in a Hannya mask. With the humans gone, the door is opened for the streets to be inhabited by Visitors, spirits of Japanese lore and superstition. Akito must traverse the dark and haunted streets of Shibuya to find out what is happening and to find his sister who was taken by Hannya Mask. With KK as his guide and companion, Akito will have the help of various spirits, yokai and four-legged fur babies to accomplish his tasks.

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I kept myself blind going into Ghostwire: Tokyo to everything besides the premise and I’m glad that I did. Firstly, this game is gorgeous with a capital G. The streets of Shibuya are wet from rain and that stormy weather cycle continues as you play. The glowing neon signs from businesses and the large lit ads reflect off the pools of water on the ground and it’s just magical.

One of the best parts of the game is just walking around the streets, listening to the songs playing from abandoned businesses, looking for collectibles and money and petting every cat and dog that I come across. It took every ounce of adult self control that I had to keep myself from buying all the bags of dog food in Tokyo and just spending hours feeding the animals. The animations of the characters reminded me a lot of the characters in the later Yakuza games and how they move. Sometimes they move just a little bit stiff in the face but for the most part, the animations are smooth as butter.

Ghostwire: Tokyo release date announced alongside impressive preview
Bethesda /

I didn’t encounter any glitches or bugs, big or small which is extremely refreshing especially with the track records of most games released in the past couple of years. The only thing that really took me out of the experience was the loading screens. The story occurs in chapters but those loading screens are not the ones I am talking about. Any time you go from gameplay to cutscene or any time you go in or out of a building, the screen will go to a black loading screen and, maybe I am being nitpicky, but it hinders the immersion. Out of everything, that is really my only complaint with Ghostwire: Tokyo.

The default audio settings will be spoken Japanese and English subtitles for the North American release. While I usually prefer movies and games in the language for which they were created, I actually preferred the voice acting, especially for KK, in the English voices. Sure, the voices won’t match the animation but that doesn’t really matter in the long run. The ambient noise of the city was delightful. You have the rain, the random sounds from businesses as you travel, the mews of cats and the barks of dogs and the sounds of demons roaming the streets. One of my FAVORITE moments of the entire game was when I got to this square in the city. I was preparing to fight some headless school girls when all of a sudden, they disappeared. Everything went silent and all the lights in the square went out. A fog rolled in from down the street and a blue light cast displaying the shadows of a demon parade. It was so beautiful and unexpected that I just hid behind a car and watched. I don’t know what triggered the event or if it was random but I can only hope that each and every player gets to experience it.

The fight mechanics of Ghostwire: Tokyo remind me a lot of Doom Eternal. There’s a lot of intense and fast-paced fighting utilizing elemental weaving and blocking and with every hit, there are bright lights and bright colors. There is the option of a “quick purge” for stealth fighting and to take a demon out completely, you have to expose and remove their core. The close combat core removal is the biggest mechanic that reminds me of Doom Eternal with its carnival of lights and colors in the animation. The fighting is fast and fun. It steadily upgrades and changes with each Torii gate cleansed, each level-up and each Jizo statue prayed at. There are two skill trees: one for your basic survival and combat and the other for the weaves in particular. It took me until Chapter 3 for me to realize there WAS a second skill tree, so don’t make my mistake.

Ghostwire: Tokyo release date announced alongside impressive preview
Bethesda /

I will be honest, the story for Ghostwire: Tokyo plays second fiddle to the game itself. If you are like me, then you have an interest in Asian superstition. Watching J-horror, K-horror, Chinese horror or any others will give you a glimpse into that country’s legends and superstitions but this game lets you be a PART of it. There is a tab in your menu that will allow you to learn about each demon spirit you come across. The demon’s appearance will be reflective of that demon’s cause and personality. I am not one of those people  that pours over the documents you collect and you won’t normally find me on the data tab of any game until this one. The only thing better than reading about the Visitors is looking at them. They are some of the creepiest creatures that I have seen in a video game since a Silent Hill installment and all of them modeled after traditional Japanese oni, yokai, tengu and more.

Is Ghostwire: Tokyo scary? Yes and no. There are moments in the first Chapter that made me nearly drop my controller, and I’m specifically thinking about the mind-bending questline in the hospital. I am talking full body jumps. After that, there aren’t too many jump scares but there is an eeriness that settles in and never leaves. You have your main missions chasing after Hannya Mask but then you have side quests, which sometimes were more fun than the main story. For the side adventures, you will encounter spirits stuck in the living realm, unable to move on for a multitude of reasons and it will be your job to help them move one. Sometimes it’s protecting something they love, sometimes it’s finding the cause of a curse and sometimes you have to seek something out. Not one seemed like a go and fetch mission and some were genuinely creepy and disturbing. Call me a completionist, but I made sure to finish every one. You also have to find little tanuki unconvincingly disguised as other things around the map.

I got the chance to play this game on a PS5 and that is what I recommend playing it on the most. To be fair your only other option is the PC, but PS5 is the way to go simply because of the Dualshock controllers. You hear people talking about haptic feedback and how that can improve the immersion quality but I have never felt a game changed quality based on controller vibration or trigger pressure…until now. This is THE BEST use of the Dualshock controllers I’ve ever experienced. There is an ability you have which is collecting the spirits of the citizens of Tokyo. They have been removed from their body but they can be collected and returned to the physical realm eventually with your help. The trigger on the controller is the most interactive I have ever felt with the Dualshock. The combat mechanics use the Dualshock to its full capacity as well as the audio. When KK talks to Akito, his voice comes through the controller as if he were in your head. That aspect was a total win for me.

If Ghostwire: Tokyo doesn’t seem like your type of game, I implore you to try it. The game is bright and beautiful, just soaking in Japanese lore and legends. From the audio mixing to the unsettling and colorful visuals, the environmental graphics to the character models and paranormal fighting mechanics, Ghostwire: Tokyo is going to be one of the games to beat this year and that surprises me just as much as it surprises you. While I don’t see a lot of replayability in it per se, I see dozens upon dozens of hours poured into a single playthrough, exploring every crack and crevice of Shibuya and enjoying every minute of it.

Ghostwire: Tokyo (PS5) Score: 10/10

Ghostwire: Tokyo is a beautiful and eerie jaunt through the streets of Japan, coming face to face with lore and legend while fighting for your own quest and purpose. With seamless gameplay and fighting mechanics, 40 hours of exploration will seem like no time has gone by and it will leave you wanting more time running the glistening streets of Shibuya.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.