A little over a year after its initial PlayStation and PC release, Ghostwire: Tokyo is coming to Xbox. This title from Tango Gameworks is a mix of horror and action, set in a near-future Tokyo which has been taken over by evil spirits known as Visitors. Ghostwire is a mix of spooky sites, terrifying sounds, and fast-paced combat, all from a first-person perspective that is available day one on Game Pass. It’s time to weave some wind, pound some ground, and determine if the not quite horror, not quite action approach is a winning combo.
You play as a lone survivor named Akito, trying to save his sister and the local population, who have all vanished. An angry old grump of a spirit named KK offers you a number of psychic powers to save as many people as possible. Unlike the studio’s previous efforts, The Evil Within, Ghostwire: Tokyo is an all-out action game. That isn’t to say that the game is lacking in creepiness or scares of course. The Visitor enemy spirits are a macabre group pulled from the area’s mythos. The story isn’t the deepest, but it is effective in pushing things forward at a steady pace. I played the majority of my time with default Japanese voiceovers. The English dub is passable enough, but the area and story are so steeped in Japanese culture that it felt right in the dev’s native language.
Ghostwire: Tokyo will take most between 10 and 15 hours to finish, depending on how much side content you want to complete. This is a map game, with plenty of icons to follow as you slowly liberate Japan of its murderous fog blanket. To access more areas you’ll need to cleanse shrines, which means dispatching the enemies around them and then holding your wrists at unbelievably uncomfortable angles while you hold the triggers. Side missions tend to be quick combat encounters to appease a local spirit, though a few here and there have full areas and story arcs that make them worth checking out. This all feeds into the upgrade and purchase systems.
Akito and KK have a sync level, which is the main experience-gaining mechanic. As you complete tasks and defeat enemies you’ll earn skill points that unlock a variety of base abilities, more powerful attacks, and inventory upgrades. There are three main weaving types:
- Wind: Starts out as a series of fast-moving attacks that you can charge into a powerful barrage of orbs. Upgrades add more damage and different attack variants with all of them being denoted by their green color. Like all attacks, you’ll need Ether to power your Wind attacks, and your pool for these is the biggest out of all three.
- Water: This is your close-range Shotgun style attack. The base ability shoots out a short-ranged burst of powerful water. When charged up you get a huge arc of mid-range damage that is my favorite attack in the game. You start out with a max ether count of 10 for this one, under half of what you get for Wind.
- Fire: The last and most powerful weaving attack type is the toughest to hit with. Fire’s base attack is a straight burst with a slight drop. Charged up, you get a huge attack with massive direct and splash damage. When upgraded it becomes extremely deadly, this is balanced by how few fire attacks you can do at a time.
Akito will gain a bow early on which deals massive damage to Visitors when fully drawn. There is some heavy drop and ammo is in short supply most of the time, so make sure you aim true if you’re able to master the finicky controls.
Controller and Mouse Woes
The game’s controls always feel off to me, on both controller and mouse. Options such as deadzone settings, aim acceleration and more are here. Still, after a long time tweaking the game always felt a little off to me. To help with this on controller you can use the left trigger as an aim assist. Whenever you’re near an enemy or particular target you want to hit a push of the left trigger will snap you to it as well as move with enemies as long as you hold. It is serviceable in the end on both console and PC but it never feels great due to performance issues. We’ll get to those in the next section.
Right trigger is your main attack, which you’ll choose with right bumper. Outside of spells and arrows, you have talismans that offer up things like extra cover, the ability to stun enemies, and more. While you can smash objects in the environment to refill your ether, you’ll mostly refill your arrows and talismans at the in-game stores. To buy them you’ll need Meika, which is earned through side quests and found around the game’s levels. Another item you’ll need a lot of are paper cutouts that allow you to capture the various spirits that are stuck floating in the city. Capturing these human spirits and depositing them in a unique way nets you massive amounts of experience.
The early combat takes a bit too long to get dynamic, and the first few hours of your playthrough will become increasingly repetitive until you earn enough skill points to unlock the cooler abilities. My advice would be to focus on unlocking new abilities first before you focus on spell upgrades or inventory unlocks. One of the game’s coolest abilities is the Tengu pull, where the flying demons will yank you up by your spirit tether, adding a ton of verticality to the title. Don’t worry about fall damage, as there isn’t any, and you can hold A while in the air to glide for a short period of time.
You will be fighting the same mobs in similar-looking areas a lot, and if the game was any longer it would have become far too much for me to want to finish. Even though my first playthrough only took 11 hours I was starting to feel combat fatigue halfway in. The unlocks did enough to keep me invested, but the main loop of doing enough damage to a spirit to expose it’s core, then holding the left trigger to either grab it up close or yank it from afar never changed.
Gorgeous Sites & Terrible Performance
Ghostwire: Tokyo has some incredible-looking environments and particle effects. Character models and animations are not of the same high level, with dead-looking eyes and stiff animations everywhere. It is all hurt by how terribly the game performs on all but a few settings. There are a lot of graphical settings as well, and they are:
- Quality – 30 fps target with ray-tracing enabled
- Performance – Targets 60 fps with no raytracing and lower fidelity than Quality
- High Framerate (HFR) Quality – Lower fidelity than performance and unlocked on the framerate target
- HFR Performance – Even lower fidelity than HFR Quality with an aim on higher relative framerate
- HFR Quality (V-Sync on) For non-Variable-Rate Refresh screens, this is the lower fidelity setting to use if you want mostly 60fps gameplay.
- HFR Performance (V-Sync On) The lowest visual quality with the best performance overall for non-VRR enabled displays.
It’s a lot, and the only consistent one is HFR Performance (V-Sync On). This game has a lot of particle effects, and even on my decent PC rig, it has a lot of framerate drops in certain areas and combat situations. It can be maddening on PC with the shader compilation stutter as well. The Windows Store port is better than most outside of the performance issues which plagued me on Steam back at launch as well. Outside of the open world repetition is the game’s biggest flaw. No matter where I’ve played the game, Series X, PS5, or PC I always get framerate drops.
It is a shame as the city in this game is stunning to look at. I hate photo modes in games, as they give a false sense of what the actual gameplay looks like, so every image in this article is straight from gameplay. I think it looks fantastic overall. Every game from Tango looks so damned different from the last. Going from The Evil Within to this and then to Hi-Fi Rush has shown how much talent the studio’s artists have.
Soundwise the music sets the mood well, and there is a lot of it. The sound effects, especially from the Visitors are an eerie cacophony. Giggling schoolgirls, angry businessmen, dog barks, cat meows, and more fill the air at all times. Alongside a few new areas and abilities that I won’t spoil the game features a new run-based mode as well. Dubbed Spider’s Thread you will slowly work your way through thirty levels of increasingly difficult encounters. The mode unlocks once you’ve completed Act 2 and it was a lot of fun.
You lose all of your main campaign upgrades and unlocks. Slowly but surely, you’ll unlock everything again in a different-looking UI full of all the same moves. Unlocks persist through runs, but any money earned or consumables purchased will not. If you’re returning to the game after beating the campaign on PS5 or PC last year expect a lot of the same combat but a whole new (very similar) progression system to go through. It’s fun, and worth seeing through to its conclusion but it is almost entirely made of reused assets and abilities. Our reviewer Harm0nica has played through most of the game as well. The section that follows is his take on the title.
Tokyo is like nowhere else on Earth. The juxtaposition of the ancient and the ultra-modern sitting together side by side has to be experienced to be believed. Wandering off a neon-lit main street into the courtyard of a Temple is akin to walking into another world, with the sound of passing traffic seeming to drop away to leave you in a bubble of peace and calmness. The developers of the game have captured this feeling superbly. OK, maybe that is not true when hordes of Visitors are assaulting you from all sides but once they have been defeated and the coast is clear, the Tokyo portrayed here does a great service to the city.
Rain and darkness change the atmosphere tremendously in real life, making you feel even smaller in a place of giant buildings where verticality has to be constantly considered. For example, restaurants are generally found in basements or on the first floor making it virtually impossible to see inside before choosing where to eat as we generally do in the West. This way of living has been included in the gameplay through a few interesting mechanics that allow players to travel upwards for exploration purposes rather than tying everything down to street-level activity. This may sound minor but it is very much in the spirit of Tokyo and impresses me greatly.
Maybe the game takes a while to get going and unlike the picture-perfect environmental design of the city, the facial graphics are not the best, but it is well worth playing past the few hours needed to level up your skills. Once combat gets easier due to ability unlocks, everything becomes really interesting. The story is far from standard fare and I was soon obsessed with cleansing shrines and clearing sections of killer fog from the streets.
Being a map game there is an expected level of grinding to endure, but the varied paranormal side missions and many animal encounters (cat shopkeepers are hilarious) mix things up enough to prevent gameplay from becoming stale. As a fan of the Hellraiser films (or at least the first three) I found things such as the puzzle boxes, chains and various demons, reminded me of the world of the Cenobites. A coincidence perhaps but an interesting one nonetheless.
We have waited a long time to play Ghostwire: Tokyo on Xbox, but now it is here we should celebrate as it is a great game. Availability from day one on Game Pass makes this an extremely cheap way to experience the iconic Shibuya crossing for yourself. As a long-term Tokyo enthusiast, I suggest you do so.
Wrapping Things Up
Ghostwire: Tokyo is finally on Xbox, and of course, it’s on Game Pass. It features fast and fluid combat, that takes a little too long to get going. The gorgeous recreation of Japan is hampered by severe performance issues in all but the ugliest graphical mode, but the story is interesting enough to push on through. It might not reach the highs of the studio’s title Hi-Fi Rush, but few games do and Ghostwire: Tokyo is a damned fun game in its own right.
Xbox Series X
- Looks Great
- Fun Combat In The End
- Interesting Story
- Great Music
- Performance Issues & Stiff Animations
- Repetitive Early On