You can headshot Slendermen. Not only was this one of my big takeaways from seeing 30 minutes of fresh new GhostWire: Tokyo gameplay, but it’s also a perfect indication of exactly the kind of game this is. Tango Gameworks’ vibrant city of fizzing neons and reflective streets is packed with all kinds of terrifying horror monsters – here known as Visitors – but it’s still an open-world action-adventure game at its core. One where you can grab a bow and line up the perfect insta-kill noggin shot on an ominous faceless suit-wearing figure. Take that, creep(ypasta). We’ll probably be out of luck trying this disposal method for headless ghost school girls though…
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The long-teased, once-delayed game pops us behind the eyes of an understandably slightly alarmed young man called Akito. Instead of disappearing like 99 per cent of Tokyo, he finds himself what game director Kenji Kimura describes as ‘fused’ with the spirit of a ghost hunter called KK. This guy isn’t to be confused with the ultra-chill guitar playing dog from Animal Crossing, but does seem like a good person to have in your head when you’re suddenly surrounded by all manner of Japanese spirits. Together, the pair must explore the city, freeing the hundreds of thousands of souls who have been trapped there, and quest to take down nefarious masked mastermind Hannya who appears to have caused the madness.
For all of its surreality – and there’s plenty of that with trees of so-called corruption sprouting up out of the streets, spirits frozen in vibrant blue, and otherworldly creatures aplenty – the structure of GhostWire: Tokyo is a tried and tested open-world formula. A fog that Akito can’t enter blights the city, meaning that we have to clear the way to explore further. This is done via cleansing Torii Gates at shrines and, of course, these are manned by all kinds of spirits. Eradicate the Visitors from below these iconic orange gates, and you’ll clear the fog with a Far Cry camp-style top-down view and more locations of interest will pop up on your map. So far, so open world sandbox.
But this is merely a base for what looks like an intriguing exploration of Tokyo. First off, thanks to KK, Akito has the power of what’s known as Ethereal Weaving. This means his hands seemingly thrum with magic, allowing him to cast colourful energy at his foes. It’s a fascinating looking tool with the ability to fire individual green jets or charged projectiles. Damage a Visitor enough and you’ll be prompted to grab their Core with a press of L2. Akito will suddenly yank his victim’s glowing heart using two solid strings of light from his hands, dragging and yanking them over one another like a supernatural game of Cat’s Cradle before the Visitor explodes in a burst of light.
Even in the short preview, we see a variety of chain attacks and even sneaking stealth attacks on the various patrolling enemies and it will be interesting to see how this feels to play. Presumably with GhostWire: Tokyo as a console exclusive on PlayStation, this combat will be particularly suited to life on PS5 with the DualSense controller’s haptics to bring them to life.
Going back to that mention of headshots though, we also see Akito find a bow which he can also use on foes for some ranged attacks. One shot to the head does take down a Slenderman in one go but arrows seem scarce. Akito finds some at one of the bigger shrines but it’s clear that Ethereal Weaving will be the big focus. It’s not the only interesting power that Akito wields either. He’s got an Eagle Vision style Spectral Vision to show enemies and supernatural activity hiding in Tokyo, and a helpful grapple ability to hurtle him skyward. This is thanks to the many Yokai spirits who have invaded Tokyo as well as the more sinister visitors. Akito grapples to the top of a building thanks to a winged spirit known as a Tengu which is perched on the roof.
When it comes to saving the hundreds of souls trapped with Tokyo, Akito and KK have a serious job on their hands. Some spirits are floating helplessly in bright blue in the streets, while others are hidden inside containment cubes guarded by Visitors. In an early scene, Akito sees a Shiba Inu barking at something down a street – yes, presumably dogs seem to have been spared – only to find a group of Visitors guarding a giant glowing box. Take down these foes and you can free the spirits within the cube.
To save the souls of the city, Akito uses a Katashiro paper doll to host them and then takes them to a phone booth to upload them to freedom outside of the city. No, best not ask too many questions… GhostWire: Tokyo is a strange blend of technology and traditional folklore but collecting spirits is sure to become a compelling loop. Especially when, going by a glimpse of this preview build map screen (which is obviously subject to change), there are 240,050 spirits and 2500 containment cubes. Thankfully missions will save them in the 1000s and 500s rather than one at a time but completionists are going to be very busy. To keep the loop going, Akito can purchase more Katashiros from the helpful cat Yokai spirits who now staff the abandoned convenience stores of Tokyo. This is also where you can buy snacks to maintain your health.
The preview also includes a hint of the main quest missions to come but Tango Gameworks is clearly keeping this under wraps. We see Akito discovering a bow inside a building which is suddenly surrounded by a spiritual barrier. As the rooms around him warp and black living globules swarm the ceilings, he must destroy a number of barrier stones powering this supernatural security system. The entire apartment building becomes a first person platforming nightmare as floors disappear and rooms turn themselves upside down. Shadowy creatures scuttle on the other side of frosted glass doors. It’s a slick glimpse at the imaginatively surreal adventures that could lie ahead. Another side mission also shows some much appreciated wry humour as Akito and KK hunt for the spirit of a child who will apparently bring them luck if they return her to her guardian. “I’m not feeling any luckier,” quips KK once they have succeeded.
Looking like a nightmarish version of an Instagram post, GhostWire: Tokyo is a lush depiction of the city. Hopefully this clear open world formula is merely a backbone for some unique adventures. There are some lovely touches here as shrine doors slide open after Akito’s specific prayers and the abandoned world feels truly like it was once lived in. The empty streets buzz with energy and umbrellas wait at doors in apartment buildings as if waiting for unseen owners. Tokyo is very much the star here and Tango Gameworks knows it. Hopefully it’ll be the kind of supernatural holiday we’ve waited a long time for.