Interesting Japanese horror lore smashed with an intriguing storyline and an almost hyperrealistic environment, this one has all the making of a great game and to some extent Ghostwire: Tokyo sells the action-adventure fantasy to gamers intrigued by Japan’s exuberant folklore. It only sells short during its minute-to-minute gameplay.
Ghostwire: Tokyo review
Google street view around Tokyo, with apparitions
Story and plot
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a first-person single-player game and almost all your character’s actions are driven by a single motive. Although in this case, there are two people inhabiting the same body. Our character, Akito, is saved from a life-threatening blast by a supernatural detective named KK. KK is also in spirit form and tries to take over Akito’s body for his own personal mission to stop the bad folks from stealing souls and also stop the onslaught of Visitors (evil spirits) but somehow ends up living rent-free inside Akito.
The plot also starts with everyone mysteriously disappearing from Tokyo and the city is now inhabited by soul-stealing Visitors. Even Akito’s sister was taken by a mysterious evil man. As you can tell, the rest of the story is quite predictable but there are twists and mysteries regarding KK, the spirit detectives and the occultist who kidnap Akito’s sister. Most importantly, the Visitors are inspired by Japanese folklore so that makes things a bit more interesting.
It’s the little things in the game that we loved. You can talk to stray cats and dogs and even give them food in exchange for coins. Coins can be used to purchase items from Yokai cats (in-game shopkeepers).
The lore and gameplay are not as ghastly as we’d like them to be, but it’s still intriguing because of the beautifully detailed world and the wildly imaginative spirits (Visitors) and Yokai from Japanese folklore.
KK is not just freeloading though. You get access to his supernatural abilities to vanquish the Visitors and wield elemental powers through hand signs. Anime fans may be familiar with some of these hand signs from Naruto and the ones in Ghostwire: Tokyo are closely related to the Kuji-kiri way of weaving hand signs.
Akito can use hand signs to attack enemies with elemental damage like wind, fire and water. Attack enough times to expose the Visitor’s cores and then you can tie the said core with a spiritual ‘wire’ and crush it to defeat them.
You also have to manage ammo (ether) for each elemental attack and it can be picked up from crushing enemy cores or from crushing objects that are wrapped in ether. Shooting elemental attacks from your hand is pretty interesting at first, but quickly starts to feel like rinse and repeat as the game progresses. There’s not much interesting variety in enemies and combat either. More often than not it’s a matter of spamming attacks till you break guard and crush the core.
There’s the option to wander around Tokyo and help vengeful spirits and Yokai. You also have to save and capture human spirits that need to be sent back to KK’s friends outside Tokyo so that they can be saved. This in return gives you XP points to level up and enhance your abilities.
Side missions are always around classic Japanese horror folklore like evil spirits haunting endless dark waters, hoarding omens, cursed dolls and such. Cats are always seen as divine and in this game, they are shop owners, unlike real cats that usually nap and demand food. Items like food restore health and the shopkeeper cats also sell you ammo for your bow and Ofuda (paper seals).
Graphics and PS5 Dualsense controller
The world of Ghostwire may be inhabited by the Visitors and Yokai from ancient Japanese folklore but it’s very much taking place in modern-day Tokyo, Japan. If you missed the chance to see the cherry blossoms in Japan then let Ghostwire: Tokyo be your one-way ticket to the city.
This game has an exceptionally detailed environment that is almost photorealistic with its detailed shops, items within those shops, buildings, signboards, malls, train stations and more. Maybe the characters could do with some more polish, but it made us feel like we were in Tokyo.
Honestly, you'll never bother with these objects but the world participates in making Ghostwire: Tokyo look and feel as realistic as possible and the graphics on the PS5 console support the cause. On the PC, the game looks even better on the Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card. We ran the game on 4K with settings and Ray Tracing amped up to the highest order.
Needless to say, Ghostwire: Tokyo brought our expensive rig to its knees. Churning a measly 20FPS on 4K but as soon as we switched to DLSS, the frame rate jumped from 20 to an average of 60fps (insert ‘mindblown’ gifs). The game reacts very well with DLSS enabled. Frame rate stability is a bit haphazard because Ghostwire: Tokyo is filled with GPU-crushing rain puddles and wet metal car surfaces reflecting bright neon lights on the streets and drab indoor furniture and building corridors with minimal GPU-punishing lights.
What we mean to say is that with DLSS enabled, the game can swing from anywhere between 50fps to a smooth 80fps, but getting more than double the frame rate on DLSS is impressive in itself. The PC version has better texture details and particle effects than the PS5’s resolution mode but that’s only if you’re sitting on a bucketload of cash to afford a desktop Nvidia RTX 3080.
On a gaming laptop like the Alienware x17, the performance is clearly good but expect a bit of thermal throttling. On the same graphical settings as our desktop test bench but with FullHD resolution we got around 50FPS without DLSS. Once DLSS has enabled the game ran at a cool 70FPS on the Alienware. It is possible to squeeze more frames by adjusting the graphics here and there. Even proper cooling and cooler ambient temperatures can reap instant frame boosts. It’s clearly not double like our 4K test but on a FullHD display with the Nvidia RTX 3070 inside the Alienware x17, the performance is stable and consistent. It occasionally dipped to 65FPS with DLSS during action-packed and graphic intensive scenes.
The PS5 DualSense controller is in a league of its own. Praises are not enough to tell you how excellent the game feels with the PS5 controller’s haptics. Each action and motion has a specific vibration that the developers have implemented. Shooting, walking, raindrops, shields, damage, cutscenes and everything in-between! The PS5 controller’s haptics has been used to their maximum potential here and we love it. Even if you’re playing on a PC with a PS5 controller, the vibration haptics is supported.
Much of the fun in Ghostwire: Tokyo is from how beautiful it looks. It’s absolutely stunning to behold but graphics can only do so much. The gameplay never finds interesting ways to keep you hooked after a few hours. Combat gets tedious and you can’t shake the feeling that this could’ve potentially been really fun if the combat was a bit different.
Another thing we noticed is how the game doesn’t take much inspiration from the recently rebooted Resident Evil games. You’re constantly in power and every enemy feels like an obstacle rather than a challenge. There is an instant where you lose all your powers and the game starts to feel tight and frightening like the RE games but it’s barely a few minutes of gameplay before you go about knocking the Visitors back to their realm.
Side missions and collecting spirits also become a chore. In a game that is driven by folklore and supernatural fiction, the missions could’ve been a bit more interesting and lore-driven. They often become a game of fetch, albeit, in a city, we all would love to visit someday.
That said we’d love to see a VR version of this game come in the near future. It will be more indulging to wave your arms about and shoot enemies than just simply sit and tap.
A beautiful-looking and suspenseful trip to modern-day Tokyo with gameplay charmed by Japan’s folklores.