Ghostwire: Tokyo Is More Open World Than You Might Think

Ghostwire Tokyo
Ghostwire Tokyo

I didn’t know exactly what I was expecting from Ghostwire: Tokyo, a game that I’d been looking forward to since its unveiling also unveiled a new internet obsession who’s recently opened her own studio, but it definitely wasn’t what I’ve been playing for the past few days. Despite the fact that I’ve watched all of the gameplay previews and trailers, I didn’t anticipate just how “open world-y” it would be, for lack of a better term.

Embracing open world design isn’t the worst thing a studio can do, of course. FromSoftware have just delivered arguably their quintessential game with the brilliant Elden Ring, with many studios now likely to do a pretty poor impression of the Lands Between. Meanwhile, Ghostwire’s developers Tango Gameworks also introduced a tension-filled sandbox of sorts in The Evil Within 2 with the twisted town of Union, which gave the sequel its own unique flavour.

Trouble is: I’m not entirely sure what Ghostwire’s flavour is just yet, two chapters in.

Make no mistake, Ghostwire is a good game, with hefty, chunky combat that progressively becomes more involving and hectic, while the main characters are all likeable and have a great back and forth. That’s without mentioning Shibuya, Tokyo itself, which is so drenched in atmosphere that you could have some kind of spooky shower in it. It also looks beautiful, with some of the most eye-catching rain and neon effects seen on the PS5 yet. The disquieting Shibuya is an area that you really want to explore (and not just because of the cats and dogs everywhere), yet Ghostwire’s narrative makes that impossible unless you make your way through the game’s main story.

Progress is quite literally gated off unless you cleanse the torii gates dotted around, with some of them unreachable unless you complete specific quests. This wouldn’t be an issue if it was one or two gates, but there’s so many of them that you have to cleanse for sometimes such little gain in new explorable areas that it becomes frustrating, if not offputting. Dripfeeding a map packed with content isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when other open worlds give you a fork and tell you to go kill God while pointing at the distant horizon, it feels restricting and just not as inviting to corridor your exploration in such a way.

There’s also quite a lot more content here than many might have predicted, your map lighting up like an old switchboard with icons aplenty. Whether you have to lure a kappa with a cucumber or venture into a hoarder’s house to free a spirit imprisoned there, you’re seldom far away from something to do in Shibuya. You’re also likely never too far from the Visitors, the unearthly spirits who have pretty much consumed the city, each offering their own difficulties to overcome with you able to pull out their cores for bonuses. Ghostwire doesn’t make these enemies perhaps as scary as they could be, but that’s possibly down to the fact that you can shoot magic spells out of your fingers and don’t have four bullets and a rock.

If there’s anything that truly feels like Ghostwire’s own thing, it’s the combat, which is quite unlike anything out there. Akito, the main character, feels so underpowered to begin with that it’d be wise to turn off the DualSense’s adaptive triggers as you’re going to have to be pounding the triggers pretty hard, pretty often. It’s not too long, though, before you’re able to swap between various powers (including a rather devastating fireball) fairly seamlessly and quickly, which is when Ghostwire starts to come together from an action perspective and you start looking forward to fights rather than seeing them as somewhat clunky and basic. It definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes, at least to begin with, but there’s a nice power curve here that rewards those who can stick with it.

I’m looking forward to sticking with Ghostwire some more and really diving into its systems, as early worries have faded away the more I’ve played. Ghostwire takes a minute to come together and there are still a few quibbles that take away from the bigger picture, but it’s a good time once it gets going. I just wonder if “good” is good enough in a genre that’s been so congested with quality of late. Only time will tell.

A PS5 key was provided by PR for this preview.

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