Ghostwire: Tokyo Preview
Horror master Tango Gameworks crafts a teen-appropriate take on paranormal-fueled frights.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is the latest fright-filled entry from developer Tango Gameworks. But unlike the studio's previous titles, The Evil Within and its sequel, its new game adopts a subtle approach to scaring the pants off players.
Set in a modern version of the titular city, Ghostwire: Tokyo fuses supernatural scares, elemental abilities, and an open-world ripe for exploration. During our demo of its first few hours, we got to experience all these elements, as we busted ghosts and unraveled some of the mysteries weaving through the fog-blanketed Japanese capitol.
Our preview begins at the game's start, when a population-wiping event turns Tokyo into a literal ghost town. As protagonist Akito, we're possessed by a spirit named KK – a snarky, but helpful entity that seems to have a much better handle on the events unfolding around us. Despite the unexplained tragedy leaving the city abandoned, Ghostwire: Tokyo doesn't depict the event in a violent or gory fashion. Instead, the once-bustling city is suddenly littered with the empty clothing and left-behind belongings of the victims. It's creepy and effective, but not at all graphic or even especially frightening.
This same approach carries over to the game's enemy encounters. Unlike The Evil Within series, which pushed the boundaries of blood, gore, and body horror, Ghostwire: Tokyo leverages a more reserved approach to fueling our future nightmares. Enemies – dubbed “Visitors” – include faceless, umbrella-toting businessmen, headless, but playful schoolgirls, and other aggressive apparitions that are more disturbing than terrifying. These unsettling threats are also balanced by adorable dogs – that you can pet and feed – as well as eccentric, floating felines that run the local convenience stores.
The game's satisfying combat is similarly tame compared to the graphic encounters that regularly turned stomachs in The Evil Within. Players unleash an arsenal of slick attacks based on elements, such as water, fire, and wind. You can also wield a bow, but again – while the combat is supported by some fantastic visual effects and animations – it never results in any lopped limbs or piles of viscera.
When not putting angry poltergeists in their place, you'll tackle a variety of tasks scattered throughout the neon-soaked, rain-slicked city. Trapped souls can be freed by capturing them with a paper doll, then depositing them into a phone booth, while troubled spirits will send you on side quests. Based on our time in this absorbing world, the game's story – even when tackling optional activities – is nicely woven into both the action and exploration.
Progressing through the narrative also introduces opportunities to further expand the world map and progress Akito's powers. The latter will see you leveling-up and investing earned points into skill upgrades and unlocking entirely new ghost-busting abilities. Chasing down objectives – whether exorcising a possessed doll or helping a lost soul regain its human form – is made all the more rewarding when it ultimately results in Akita learning new ways to slay spooks.
While plenty of titles blend action and role-playing game aspects with sprawling worlds, Ghostwire: Tokyo does an especially good job of not only balancing its various elements, but presenting them in fresh ways. It's difficult to tell based on our brief demo, but it seems the story also possesses the potential to take us down some compelling paths. On top of unraveling the central mystery, there are promising plot threads involving Akito's missing sister, KK's troubled past, and a masked demon baddie who's apparently pulling the strings behind whatever has befallen Tokyo's populace.
It's notable Tango Gameworks has managed to craft a creepy, atmospheric, and, yes, sometimes scary experience that doesn't rely on the gore and graphic violence that partially defined its previous outings. Still, its paranormal themes and more unsettling encounters – like ripping the heart-like “cores” from ghostly foes' torsos – easily earn it its T (Teen) ESRB rating. Foul language, including limited use of “s--t" and “hell,” also may not be suitable for younger gamers.
That said, teen-plus horror fans craving some fresh frights should look forward to exploring Tokyo's eerily abandoned streets – while slaying specters and saving errant souls – when Ghostwire: Tokyo begins raising goosebumps on PlayStation 5 and PC March 25th.
Dislcosure: SuperParent received access to Ghostwire: Tokyo for coverage purposes. Our coverage remains objective.
Top image via Bethesda