Released on March 25 for PS5 and PC, Ghostwire: Tokyo is a typical and haunting depiction of the Japanese capital, but it loses on missions and activities.
For some years now, triple-A video game has been synonymous with open world, and this is the reason why the trend that interprets gaming as a long journey and freedom is suffering a certain fatigue. There are those who manage to immerse themselves in this gill with a quid or more than one that distinguishes it from the crowd, see the recent case of Elden Ring, and who does not: Ghostwire: Tokyothe new action-adventure signed by Tango Gameworks, is positioned in the middle, betraying – with the desire to flatten itself to the most popular commercial dimension – a series of unique and peculiar premises.
A unique setting –
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a beautiful and unique setting, which clearly shows that there is more to it than fictional urban locations and those United States that video games have looked at with blinders for decades. The studio led by Shinji Mikami, master of horror and mastermind behind Resident Evil, took advantage of its third curriculum title to deliver a “typical” representation of Japan, as a nation and as a culture here you recreate as only a local reality could; with a lot of heart, spirit and competence.
The Tokyo staged by the development team of the Bethesda stable is full of alleys and atmospheres, lights and well-known places, juxtaposing the sacred of the tourist iconography of the Japanese capital to the profane intimacy known only by those who frequent it really: we go from religious objects and yokai symbol of this imaginary, to the almost morbid affection for dogs and cats, here very tender and with a concrete role in the gameplay.
Exploration in Ghostwire: Tokyo –
The whole fits in an open world on a human scale, in which in less than 15 hours it is possible not only to finish the story, but also to activate all the Torii portals that constitute proverbial “beacons” on the darkened areas of the map. The box in which you move (strictly on foot) is not necessarily small, but the good management of the spaces means that you almost never feel the need for a quick trip.
However, one quickly realizes that this beautiful setting is a frame and little more: there are few interiors and it takes a load to enter it, and overall it feels like this is a world in which you always want to do more – in a Yakuza, you see a karaoke, you enter and do the dedicated QTE, while here you hear the noises from the outside, they attract you and you notice that you cannot interact with them -, which has a lot of style but few repeated contents: not ad libitum, with a measure that leads to a game that you finish without feeling overwhelmed (one name above all, the latest Assassin’s Creed are almost the polar opposite), but repeated in any case.
Shooting in itself is a very pleasant exercise in virtual tourism, because it is the Tokyo depicted in the game that is very pleasant, but the exploration itself is often interrupted by enemies and sightings of spirits from which, at a certain point, it is understood that one can simply (or simply it is better to do it, for use and for fun) to run away. The protagonist Akito can also fly over the city and move from roof to roof: the glide animation is a bit stiff, so don’t expect Dishonored’s fluidity, but goodies like working elevators and having to find ways to climb a palazzo are successful technical gimmicks.
The fights –
The most immediate approach to explain Ghostwire: Tokyo’s gameplay would be the one with FPS but, luckily, Tango Gameworks it has not soiled such original premises with very banal weapons by fire. The combat system relies in fact on a series of spells cast through Akito’s hands, each one – whether they are water, fire or wind, which however refer to the archetypes of the types of weapons of shooters – with their own peculiarities. that is more or less well suited to a type of enemy.
The little physical melee attack and effective, however, somewhat breaks the fluidity of the action, which in fact advises to keep a safe distance from the opponents, and the movements and management of the view (especially by choosing 30fps, a solution which, you will see shortly, is absolutely inadvisable) are rather squared. The roster of enemies, however, is varied and distinctive, with spirits dressed as creepy clerks running around, students performing choreographed attacks, and their “tank” variants wearing umbrellas that deform in response to energy surges.
When we talk about a new title by Shinji Mikami (who here only acts as an executive producer) we immediately think of a horror, but Ghostwire: Tokyo certainly cannot be described as such. More than a horror, it is an action-adventure in the first person, which however maintains the trait of the dreamlike imagination with dark colors that fans look for in a Tango game.
The mental suggestions projected on the environments introduced with The Evil Within, for example, are all here: reversals and distortions of perspectives, hallucinations and artistic painting of the walls are part of the artistic, visual and ultimately playful package of the game. The attempt to open up to the mainstream public does not take place by completely abdicating the label’s DNA, but by certainly exploiting the “bizarre” aspect of a limited uncannywhich relies on moods and unnaturalities, rather than on the jump scare.
The problems of progression –
The exclusive PS5 console (also available on PC) features higher production values than in the recent past of Tango, therefore, but a more “commercial” structure. The real problem of how this is implemented concerns the progression in the story, which trivially relies on a coming and going of Torii portals to be exorcised and portions of maps to be discovered with the dropper up to the last stage.
The Japanese developer has almost totally gave up on mission design, reducing them to moving from point A to point B, cleaning up a wave of enemies, and starting over. The side quests attempt something only slightly different and are pleasant in the dimension in which they masterfully explore the rich Japanese folklore, but they are short and often inconclusive (like the main ones, for that matter).
There are few bosses and often they hurt, with rather dated dynamics such as a woody and predictable stealth or, when they dare more, all the limitations that can come from an animation package, as mentioned, rather rigid (jumping in time to dodge an attack to wave, between frame rate drops and inaccurate inputs, it can be a bit frustrating).
If nothing else, the ending is complete and the plot, however light it may be, comes up well when the common thread of acceptance is highlighted, which unites good and bad, humans who become demons. But what prevails is the feeling that the narrative and above all playful devices are too few to live up to breathtaking Tokyo.
It would seem that Ghostwire focuses so much on the beauty of this metropolis that it forgets to fill it with a game, and with a number of high-level mechanics that make sense, other than aesthetics and tourism, to the trip to Japan. The impression that there have been cuts or a resizing in the race becomes strong, moreover, in the second half of the game, when the chapters are very short and some features are only hinted at.
From a technical point of view, between puddles and light effects resulting from the dissolution of demons, the glance of Ghostwire: Tokyo is remarkable, and we can speak with knowledge of the facts of one of the first real demonstrations of strength of the next- gen. The most impressive aspect is how, playing between the various modes, it is possible switch between 30fps and 60fps with practically imperceptible differences, despite the renunciation of one of the most palpable ray tracing in the reflections on consoles, so it is evident that it is advisable to embrace the seconds.
Something that, for example, giants like Horizon Forbidden West did not succeed and that certainly is noteworthy, although it does not arrive without even quite important frame rate drops and even in less appropriate situations (as in the aforementioned boss fight). Not to forget the sounds that, between meows, barks, jingles that jump out of the proverbial convenience stores, characterize the setting at least like the neon lights and altars mixed between the skyscrapers.
Ghostwire: Tokyo, the verdict –
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a postcard from (real) Japan, delivered with an understanding and intention to embrace popular culture rarely seen in video games. The big sin it is the hackneyed progression borrowed from what is now a sub-genre, that is the open world, and a structural and mechanical poverty that cannot stand up to a brilliant setting only touched upon here.
The best part is that it won’t crush you with a very long campaign and hundreds of activities all the same, respecting your time and recognizing that you don’t have too many arrows in your bow. With a framed setting and an original combat system, it wouldn’t hurt to see a sequel capable of expressing its full potential.
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