STAFF REVIEW of Ghostwire: Tokyo (Xbox Series X)

Friday, May 19, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Ghostwire: Tokyo Box art Originally released as a one year exclusive for PlayStation, Ghostwire: Tokyo is finally here for Xbox players, and better yet, available with Xbox GamePass as well. Given that it wasn’t even available on my console of choice until recent, I actually wasn’t even following it all that much beforehand, even after its release, so I went in ‘blind’ not really knowing what to expect or how the original reception was. I’m kind of glad I did this, as I went in with no expectations nor any idea what it was even about.

An open world game with a heavy narrative focus, complete with supernatural powers, Ghostwire: Tokyo kind of took me by surprise with it being a shooter, though not in the way you might initially expect. Completely engrossed with Japanese folklore, it quickly impresses with its gorgeous visuals that make for an isolating and creepy backdrop for your adventure. With some horror elements apparent and throughout, there might not be many jump scares, but there’s a general overall creepy and uneasiness that is always around, as you never feel completely safe. Also included in this release is the latest Spider’s Thread Update, adding new content to the game such as new custscenes, areas, missions, enemies, improvements, skills and modes, so maybe the wait has been worth it? Let’s find out.

Ghostwire: Tokyo starts out immediately with the action, showing main protagonist, Akito, getting into a serious accident on his motorbike. You’re then shown a spirit flying above, looking for a body to possess. Great timing, as the spirit takes over Akito’s body, essentially reviving him. Everyone in Tokyo has vanished though, seemingly only you surviving due to the possession, and anyone that touches the mysterious fog that’s rolling in seems to disappear. The city is now infested with paranormal visitors who don’t seem friendly, so it’s up to the duo of Akito and KK (the spirit) to not only survive, but investigate the man in the Hannya mask that seems to be behind it all.

While KK wants to go stop Hannya immediately, Akito was on his way to go check on his sister in the hospital who is in a coma, refusing to help KK until he knows she’s alright. Of course he obliges but this is where the internal struggle between the two start, being forced to help one another, yet both are somewhat in control, much like how Venom controls Eddie Brock in a way. Being possessed by a spirit has its perks though, you know, aside from not being dead, as you’ll be using your newly founded supernatural powers to fight back against the deadly forces that seem to be emanating from the fog.

Designed as an open world game, there are initially restrictions of where you can go with the deadly fog acting as your barriers, eventually you’ll be able to uncover more of the map, allowing for more freedom and a seemingly never ending list of side quests and activities to do. Being mirrored to the real life Shibuya City just west of Tokyo, you'll come across a number of famous landmarks if you know the area. While the main story should take around 8-12 hours, there’s about triple that or more if you decide to try and complete all the side quests and activities. While I was attempting to do everything in an area before moving on, it eventually become too much and overwhelming, deciding to simply focus mainly on the story from there on.

While KK is initially viewed as a parasite in Akito’s body, the two eventually form a unique relationship, helping one another, and the bond between them was an interesting story given they must fully trust one another in their own way. Sometimes this was funny one liners, other times serious tones, but it was always entertaining when they interacted or had a conversation with one another.

It seems as though a lot of time and care was taken into making Shibuya a living and breathing world, which is ironic since everyone is dead and you’re fighting spirits. The streets may be barren of life, but there’s so much hand crafted detail that every street and alley feels unique. You quickly learn the ability to use Spectral Vision, a detective-like blast that will highlight objects and enemies nearby. Visually, the city is absolutely stunning and impressive, and even if you don’t focus on one quest or activity you can easily find yourself lost within the city landscapes, as I found quite a few vistas I needed to take screenshots of.

Being able to only stick to some main streets and alleys in the beginning, you’ll need to cleanse massive Tori Gates, and doing so will force back the fog in a large area, allowing you to further explore Shubiya. These act essentially as the viewpoints in Assassin’s Creed, but fits narratively as well. As you explore you’ll also find spirits floating around which are souls that have yet to been captured, so it’s up to you to collect and set them free. Essentially a massive collect-athon, these are your best and quickest way to level up, and there’s no shortage. Some souls only appear after clearing an event, activity or battle though. With how many there are to collect, it can quickly feel quite overwhelming if you're a completionist.

You aren’t limited to walking at street level either, as you can find Tengus, kind of like a spirit griffon hovering in place, allowing you to zipline up onto the rooftops, naturally where more secrets and collectables are hidden. There’s also plenty of food items you’ll come across, though it took me a while to not simply save them all for when low on health. This is because eating food of course refills your health bar, but it also can extend your maximum health every time you eat, so sometimes if you’re hoarding a bunch of food it may be beneficial to munch on some of them to improve and extend your overall health.

Being a first person shooter, you won’t be defeating ghost and spirits with traditional guns, instead using the supernatural powers KK has endowed into you to blast from your hands. You begin with a wind blast attack, eventually unlocking more elements like fire and water. You can also charge your shots to be more powerful depending on the situation you find yourself in. Wind is generally good for almost any encounter, being a quick based attack. Fire is more powerful and explosive, and water is like your ‘shotgun’. Each uses its own ‘ammo’ that needs to be refilled by defeating enemies or breaking floating spirit objects littered throughout the world. While it’s not often you’ll find yourself out of ‘ammo’, there’s always some way to resupply nearby. There are a handful of boss fights during Akito’s journey, and while they are big and memorable, none were really all that challenging.

Combat starts out interesting and fun, though after a few hours does start to feel repetitive. You have a block you can use to negate damage and parry back attacks, so eventually combat gets into the same rhythm of attacking a few times, block, attack, extract soul, repeat, all while backpedaling or circle strafing. Once an enemy has no health left you can extract its soul, killing it from that point on. If you don’t destroy its soul it can regenerate and come back to attack you, so you’ll need to attack specific targets purposely, allowing enough time for the extraction before getting attacked by another.

You’ll eventually unlock a variety of Talismans, essentially your grenades. These are situational and used based on if you want to go a combat or stealth route. While some battles need to be faced head on, sometimes stealth is an option, and sneaking behind an enemy will allow for an instant ‘backstab’ soul extraction kill on most enemies. Without too many spoilers, there's one section early on where you aren't able to use your powers for narrative reasons, forcing you to use your bow or stealth. I found this portion to be awful and really missed having KK's powers.

As you gain experience, save souls and level up, you’ll be able to spend skill points into the three different trees. You can improve certain elemental attacks in a variety of ways, your bow weaponry, Talismans, and a bunch of other skills depending on how you want to play. Do a healthy amount of sidequests and activities and you won’t have much issue filling out the skill trees, so you can become quite powerful quickly if you decide to grind early on.

Visually, Ghostwire: Tokyo is absolutely stunning. There’s so much detail and full of (undead) life that it’s hard to not just take moments here and there to take it all in. Frame rates are fluid, animations are great and it always puts a smile on my face when I come across a cat merchant or stray dog. Voice acting from the main cast is done very well and hearing the shrieks and moans of spirits nearby can be quite creepy when you’re not sure where they are waiting for you.

While there’s an intriguing story that unfolds at a decent pace, it’s easy to get sidetracked with the overwhelming amount of optional things to do. While the story is about the right length, I eventually gave up trying to do everything as combat become a bit repetitive a few hours in. That said, Ghostwire: Tokyo was still a great playthrough and I’m glad it’s arrived for Xbox players to now enjoy as well.

**Ghostwire: Tokyo was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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