When there’s something strange in the Shibuya neighborhood, who you gonna call? Nope, not those guys. I’m talking about Akito and his supernatural sidekick KK, the superpowered ghostbusting buddies that share the same body like Eddie Brock and a considerably less hostile version of Venom. I recently had hands-on with the first four hours of Ghostwire: Tokyo, in which I got to step into Akito’s shoes and explore a large chunk of its Tokyo-inspired open world, sniff out several spooky side missions, and indulge in numerous showdowns with its malevolent mobs of spectral assailants. It was an eerie and consistently engaging outing, and one that left me intrigued as to what other surprises lie waiting in its rain-slicked city streets.
If you can imagine a Yakuza game in which the pedestrians and perverts have been replaced by ghouls and ghosts then you’d have something close to Ghostwire: Tokyo’s highly detailed take on the Japanese capital. Most of the human population has mysteriously disappeared leaving behind their clothes and discarded shopping bags, but thankfully dogs remain and yes, you can both pat them and feed them to encourage them to lead you to secrets. Otherwise the only residents to be found are spirits that need to be absorbed using Akito’s paper doll, and the ‘Visitors’, faceless (and occasionally headless) paranormal predators that will pursue you relentlessly should you fail to take them out with a sneak attack first.
Thanks to his pal KK riding shotgun in his psyche, Akito has access to a growing number of elemental powers to put these poltergeist punks in their place. Pulling off Akito’s gesture-based attacks is a bit like performing sign language where every sign says, “Dodge this!” Yet although Akito’s fantastical finger guns may seem foreign to most first-person shooter fans, his attacks are not as far removed from your standard action game arsenal as they first appear. His rapid fire but weak powered wind gusts are your pistol, the wider spray of his water blades are your shotgun, the charged up fireball blasts are your grenade launcher, and his bow and arrow is your… Well actually that’s basically just a regular bow and arrow. Using a combination of Akito’s attacks you need to chip away at the outer shells of these haunted hordes, allowing you to finish them off quickly by ripping their prismic hearts out with a satisfying snap of elastic electricity. Ammo isn’t collected from fallen foes, but rather punched out of corrupted cars and vending machines found throughout the city.
Any spirits you absorb can be taken to special Egon Spengler-approved payphones and converted into cash and XP, the former for buying consumable health items from convenience stores and the latter used to unlock upgrades in Ghostwire: Tokyo’s skill tree. It’s a good thing too, because although Ghostwire: Tokyo’s combat certainly looks dazzling, it feels somewhat stiff at the outset. Thankfully over the course of the first two story chapters I had invested enough to speed up Akito’s moves and bring added flexibility to his attacks, and I started warming a bit more to Ghostwire: Tokyo’s finger-flung fireworks. But while this bustin’ makes me feel good – it’s yet to make me feel great.
I found exploring Tokyo, on the other hand, absolutely gripping from the get go. While Ghostwire: Tokyo begins with the majority of its open world map shrouded in deadly fog, activating torii gates gradually reveals its sprawling expanse, and I was pleasantly surprised by its verticality. Akito can grapple flying yokai spirits to launch himself up to rooftops, and employ a handy glide ability to soar around in search of secrets. But Ghostwire: Tokyo’s central mystery also leads you down into subterranean shopping arcades and subway tunnels deep below the streets, and with a number of treasure hunts to complete there certainly seems to be plenty of hidden sections in the city to scour.
While the main story of Ghostwire: Tokyo finds Akito and KK hot on the trail of a mysterious masked demon, each district of Tokyo is also home to a handful of side missions offered by spirits trapped in some sort of limbo, and these optional quests can draw you into some pretty surprising situations. One detour into the dingy hallways of a corrupted bathhouse suddenly teleported me to an off-kilter otherworld where I had to survive attacking waves of enemies appearing from all angles. While other side missions were more sedate but equally as enthralling, such as using KK’s spectral vision to uncover a hidden room in a haunted apartment, or sneaking up on an enchanted umbrella to relieve it of its mischievous yokai spirit.
Elsewhere there are full-on processions of creepy demons to encounter in the streets that drag you into intense skirmishes, adorable tanuki disguised as inanimate objects to discover, and spirits imprisoned in containment cubes that must be liberated from their Visitor captors before they expire. A glance at Ghostwire: Tokyo’s game map might make it seem like just another icon-strewn open world adventure, but its ominous atmosphere and unique paranormal encounters give it an allure unlike any other. I’m certainly curious to investigate the mysterious ritual teased at the end of my hands-on, not to mention finding out just how powerful the union between Akito and KK will become – as hinted at by the devastating shockwave blast unlocked at the end of the second story chapter.
You can expect IGN to have the full review of Ghostwire: Tokyo ahead of its release on March 25. In the meantime, be sure to check out our 18 minutes of gameplay video.
Tristan Ogilvie is a video producer based in IGN’s Sydney office. He wishes he was actually haunting Shibuya right now. Tweets on extremely rare occasions here.
Source: IGN Video Games All