Somehow, we’ve managed to make it to the end of 2022, so with that in mind, we’re celebrating some of the best games to have launched in the past 12 months. Today, we’re travelling to supernatural Shibuya with Ghostwire: Tokyo.
For a place I’ve (sadly) never stepped foot in, Tokyo has become more familiar to me than London. Various video games such as Jet Set Radio, Yakuza and Persona have taken me on snapshot tours of various districts over the past couple of decades, and instead of feeling bored when I recognize a particular landmark from one game in another, I feel a warmth for seeing it again.
Ghostwire Tokyo showed me another side. A literal haunted version of the city where the rain feels like it’s saturating the concrete streets with the laments and regrets of those unfortunate enough to be caught up in its twisted rapture.
The unofficial follow-up to Tango Gameworks’ underappreciated survival horror gem The Evil Within 2, Ghostwire Tokyo hit PS5 early this year to an almost identically muted reception as its predecessor, and as with The Evil Within 2, I think we’ll see appreciation for it grow with time. The story sees a mysterious event claim the souls of everyone in Tokyo. Everyone, that is, except for the local dog population and two individuals who happened to clash at just the right moment.
The unique perspective Ghostwire Tokyo has for its ghost story, apart from starting like a horror anime, is that you play as a reanimated corpse that also happens to house the spirit of a dead detective on the side. You have a bit more freedom than most in Tokyo, but that also makes you a target for the nastier things lurking in the gloomy streets.
So yes, there’s not always time for sightseeing when headless schoolgirls and flying blankets are out to kill you a second time, but the pace is such that there’s nearly always time to drink in that rain-soaked Tokyo atmosphere in all its uncomfortably quiet glory.
The obvious reference point would be a more volatile version of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. You get the sense of the lives that were left behind all over the city, even without a spiritual reminder. This Tokyo is not so much dead, rather it’s ‘vacant’. A Mary Celeste job on almost an entire city, but with added poltergeist to scrap and magical cats to barter with.
The action, which involves enchanted finger spells that turn your hands into energy-blasting guns, is never too far away. Yet the strength of Ghostwire Tokyo is in its quiet, exploratory moments. The moments you really get to experience Tokyo itself as it now appears. If it weren’t for the Yokai and assorted denizens of the darkside, it would be like walking through the city in the dead of night, when things are at their calmest. That’s hard to achieve in any big city these days, as life extends to 24 hours a day of stuff happening at all times. As such Ghostwire Tokyo is a fantasy in more ways than one.
These moments are at their finest when you discover some small thing on your travels. An intriguing shop front, a strange scene caused by the evil rapturing, but mostly it’s when you find a dog, give it a treat and a pat on the head. One of the most delightful collectibles in any game ever, and they even get you a nice treat to show their affection.
I’m not one for photo modes, and rarely have the time to explore game worlds properly nowadays, but I keep coming back to Ghostwire Tokyo to just walk around, taking pictures of nothing more than a city in an enforced slumber.
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