Ghostwire: Tokyo - The Hardwired Review
Ghost town is right,
(HARDWIRED) - It’s difficult to explain how I both loved much of this game and at the same time found it’s gameplay, story, and activities aggressively middling.
On one hand, Ghostwire’s neon drenched Tokyo is an impressively detailed rendition of the beautiful districts of the famous Japanese city, a typically bustling city packed full of people, now completely absent of human life. The feeling of isolation and desperation is potent in world design. Clothes, food, and belongings are strewn through the heavily rained on streets, unlike a traditional apocalypse, this world is still functioning. Neon signs still light up alleys, music still expounds from radios, dogs and cats now lost without owners wonder the roads.
All of this works perfectly with eerie design of the sound perforating from the chaotic beings roaming around seeking to steal away any remaining souls. Tango works has produced an environment that is beautiful as much as horrific holding a haunting feeling of loneliness up against you the whole time. And that’s about where the interesting side of the world ends.
It’s all style and no real substance, the side missions all have faceless spirits with all the voice acting variety of a 12 year old with a vocalizer. The dogs and cats can be pet and vaguely interacted with but it’s appeal becomes lessened over time. Shrines act as bad guy camps you need to clear out to remove more of the fog of war surrounding the game map.
It’s a fun enough twist on the tower clearing gameplay of similar open world games, but quickly overstays it’s welcome. I love the aesthetic of this game, especially some of the more nuanced details such as the kanji characters in the rain and fog, making for exceedingly unique environmental beauty, but man does Ghostwire’s core have a hard time expressing that style as any kind of interesting gameplay device. Not quite soulless but not quite a polished or even consistently fun middle ground game.
Ghostwire’s story sees your character Akito dead or near dead, in a non-descript car accident, I guess, leading to a powerful spirit detective named KK possessing young Akito’s body. A name that also receives no explanation. Due to this possession Akito and KK must venture out and align themselves in their missions to stop the Hanya mask wearing villain who caused this mayhem. Akito just wants to save his sister, who for reason’s never explained is the key to this evil master plan. So off we go on this ghostly boi adventure.
This narrative relies on the relationship of KK and Akito to drive it forward across it’s 10 or so hours. But unfortunately there just isnt enough there to do that. KK has some wit and the banter between the two can be fun, but the writing comes off as a mediocre anime plot. Which sucks because its concepts at face value should have made for an interesting narrative driven by human emotions of mortality and loneliness, but the game rarely if ever really touches on this. Akito barely seems affected by both the presence of spirits and the existence of an afterlife.
He takes about 30 seconds to get over this in the games opening minutes. He doesn’t really seem concerned with the millions of displaced souls, or the mountains of horrifying yokai that now haunt every corner of this brightly lit city. This makes his narrative and KK’s far less interesting on its own, likewise side characters step in just long enough to solve their specific plot point then disappear. No character progression, no development, no real world building. It all adds up to a disappointing ark that feels rushed and underwhelming.
The best parts of the story are where the world seems to be falling apart, and the layout of set pieces shift drastically rotating and changing with these fantastic visuals. I love this moments the most in my play through but there just wasn’t enough cool things like this in the story to make it build into anything climatic or engaging.
You’d think combat featuring cool sign weaving that then throws fire balls, wind blasts in a very card throwing kind of motion, and a razor disk worth of water would be a dead ringer for winning stylish showdowns. But beyond the basic effects of this incredibly jazzed up combat the elemental moves do little except damage.
No lingering element statuses, no cool combination that cause unique animations, and the movement is so stilted that aiming was a chore. I’m normally fairly accurate in FPS games but I for sure missed more shots in Ghostwire than I ever have before. Enemy variety starts off kind of strong, with grotesque and interesting designs, I hate to do this BUT this quickly wares thin and boss fights aren’t engaging enough to be worth the trek towards them. Meaning the combat grows stale after just a few hours. Which really made me irritated because every time it seems like the mechanics at hand are about to evolve they just don’t. Unfortunately the bow and varied talisman don’t do much to add to the mix.
Ghostwire Tokyo was one of my most anticipated games this year, I loved the aesthetic on display, the beautiful art direction and unique idea made me go crazy thinking over the possibilities. Sadly, Tango works just never rose to the occasion, resulting in a game that’s ultimately just okay. I wouldn’t recommend this game over some of the other releases this year, but it’s far from bad. Just not quite the slam dunk I’d hoped for.
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