Ghostwire Tokyo Preview: City of Surprises

Ghostwire Tokyo is ambitious, intriguing, and fantastically weird.

When Bethesda and Tango Gameworks first revealed Ghostwire Tokyo, I expected a slick action game about battling ghosts. After seeing roughly half an hour of brand-new Ghostwire Tokyo footage as part of a press preview event, I can safely say I was only half right. Ghostwire looks like so much more than just spooky Tokyo, and it’s one of my most-anticipated games of the year at this point.

Bethesda already introduced Ghostwire’s two heroes during a recent deep dive — Akito the human, and KK the spirit — but we got to learn a bit more about KK and how he’s able to help Akito. KK was a ghost hunter before being killed, and he’s determined to rid Tokyo of the baneful fog swallowing up the souls of its people. He also has a grudge against Hannya, the sinister masked villain attempting to herald some kind of new world.

What Hannya’s purpose is and how he’s connected to KK remain a tantalizing secret for the time, but whatever the relationship is, I’m more interested in KK himself. While he didn’t speak too much during the footage I saw, he has the potential to be more than just a sardonic senpai, as he dropped some surprisingly incisive comments about society and justice along the way.

I also didn’t expect Ghostwire to embrace its quirkiness as much as it seemingly does. The original trailer suggested it would lean into the horror aspect more, a la The Evil Within, Tango’s other notable projects. What I saw was closer to “Yakuza but spooky."

As you’re wandering the ghost-filled streets of Tokyo, Akito overhears bits of everyday conversation from spirits trapped in the fog. You release spirits by absorbing them into paper dolls and placing those dolls on a payphone. Spectral landlords continue to exploit their long-dead tenants, and when you walk into a nearby convenience store, you’re greeted not by a deadly monster or ethereal shopkeepers, but by a cat yokai eager for business.

Not all yokai are so friendly. Most are only too happy to tear Akito’s soul from his body, and that’s where KK comes in and grants Akito the power of Ethereal Weaving. This is where the “wire” part of the title comes into play, as Akito weaves (obviously) ghostly (of course) wires to entrap the yokai’s spiritual cores, pull them from their monstrous bodies, and absorb their power for his own.

Just, y'know, your average undead pedestrian with massive scissors. Nothing to worry about.

Ghostwire Tokyo’s combat system appears to be complex and multifaceted, though we only saw Akito using the power of wind to keep yokai at bay and expose their cores. Sometimes, direct confrontation isn’t the best route, though. Akito can use stealth to surprise yokai and immediately expose their cores for extraction to avoid combat and attracting too much attention to himself.

The overall goal is cleansing the fog by purifying corrupted Torii gates around the city. While the overall narrative structure and quests between these points remains a mystery, we did get a glimpse at some of the action outside combat – and it’s one of the most promising next-gen experiences I’ve seen. At one point, Akito explores an abandoned apartment building and must destroy four spiritual cores to shatter a barrier threatening to engulf that portion of the city.

The trouble is, the building keeps phasing in and out of reality. It turns upside down at one point. The walls ooze an evil-looking substance and constantly shift form, and while Akito walks down a hallway, it suddenly transports him hundreds of feet above the city suspended in midair, all in the span of a second. It is, for lack of a more eloquent phrase, freaking cool, and Bethesda promised it’s not the only area to experience such fluctuations.

The one thing I have some concerns about is how fresh all this will stay after a few hours, though side quests have the potential to keep things interesting. We only saw one during the preview, and it was surprisingly poignant.

Akito encounters the soul of an elderly lady mourning the loss of her apartment, not because she still needs to live there, but because her miserly landlord kidnapped her luck spirit. You, being half ghost hunter, agree to help her out and head inside the apartment to see what you can do and coax the spirit back with some rice cakes. 

The corner of the apartment shifts suddenly and turns foul. The landlord’s twisted spirit appears, repeating how he was owed the luck until you finally exorcise him and return the spirit to the elderly lady. She teases you before severing her last ties to the mortal realm and moves on to the next plane with her lucky spirit in tow – but not without some commentary from KK about scummy landlords.

It’s a touch of humanity and social consciousness I absolutely did not expect. Exploring a haunted Tokyo could easily get old fast, so I hope Ghostwire leans into this style of questing and worldbuilding even further.

We don’t have to wait much longer to find out if it will either. Ghostwire Tokyo launches March 25 for PlayStation 5 and PC, with early access for those who pre-order the digital deluxe version opening March 22.

Contributor

Josh Broadwell started gaming in the early '90s. But it wasn't until 2017 he started writing about them, after finishing two history degrees and deciding a career in academia just wasn't the best way forward. You'll usually find him playing RPGs, strategy games, or platformers, but he's up for almost anything that seems interesting.

Published Feb. 4th 2022

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