Just over a year since it first released on PlayStation and PC, Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire: Tokyo finally arrives on Xbox Game Pass, bringing with it all manner of ghoulish goings-on down in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward. This is a highly atmospheric and unique open world adventure that’s jampacked full of Japanese folklore and tradition, a game we thoroughly enjoyed when we first played it back in 2022. However, there are some niggling performance issues and a few rough gameplay edges that hold this one back from its full potential as things stand right now.
Jumping into Ghostwire: Tokyo, players assume the role of Akito, a young Shibuya resident who’s on his way to visit his critically ill sister in hospital when a mysterious fog envelops the city, instantly spiriting away all of the locals and leaving piles of crumpled clothes on the ground where they once stood. What’s more, the streets are now full of ghoulish Visitors, malevolent entities who traverse the game’s map, sucking up human spirits and making Akito’s life a right old misery.
Luckily, Akito now finds himself possessed by a former cop/grumpy ghostbuster by the name of KK, a man who has much experience with the Visitors and their masked leader, Hannya, a demonic sort who wants nothing more than to combine the worlds of the living and the dead to his own nefarious ends. With KK in tow, Akito can wield various powers in order to take on the evil spirits that wander the eerily silent city streets as he looks to clear the evil fog enshrouding the region, rescue his sister and take down Hannya.
In terms of its narrative setup, Ghostwire: Tokyo gets off to a strong start with an immediately engaging set of circumstances that continue to compel you forward as the roughly 12-hour campaign plays out. Tango Gameworks has done its supernatural homework here too, providing us with a world that’s absolutely dripping in folklore to dig into via collectible items, text and voice logs and side missions that are often a highlight of the entire experience. Indeed, taking the time to read all of the bits and pieces you find scattered around the world map, you’ll actually find yourself learning plenty about Japanese traditions and beliefs pertaining to the occult, and all of this adds much to the atmosphere of the game’s world.
As you press forward on your central mission to take down Hannya, you’ll stumble upon the restless spirits of those who’ve been whisked away by the fog and engage in short quests that give you a little window into the humdrum lives, personal circumstances and daily grind of the residents of Shibuya. There are still plenty of busywork side activities here, make no mistake, but a fair number of the side stories do a wonderful job of drawing you closer to the lost souls you’re seeking to rescue and add lots of background and context to the area you spend your time exploring.
And what an area it is. We’ve seen many recreations of Shibuya in this medium, but we reckon this is the best one yet, an absolutely gorgeous rendition of the beating heart of Tokyo that nails the look and feel of its real-life counterpart – it’s a proper joy to wander around. Corner stores – which are now staffed by comedic spirit cats – look almost photorealistic, and the way that the neon lights reflect off the rain-soaked streets never fails to impress. This is a great-looking game, in short, it’s packed full of atmosphere and lore and its various ghouls and ghosts are a fantastically weird selection of Japanese horror stalwarts, incorporating headless schoolkids, Dark Water-esque children dressed in yellow raincoats, spooky slendermen and all manner of floating apparitions.
So far, so good then. Ghostwire: Tokyo nails its aesthetic vibe and its narrative is a generally satisfying one. However, there are issues related to gameplay here that hold the whole thing back somewhat. Akito is armed with various weave powers, which come in wind, water and fire flavours, a bow, a few stealthy takedown techniques and talismans that can be employed to temporarily debuff foes. It’s a fairly generous array of skills all things told, but there’s an overall clunkiness, a slightly sluggish and imprecise feel to firing off attacks, that can render confrontations more annoying than they should be. We reckon the feel of all of this is 100% by design by the way, it’s just got its own unique take on how action flows, and there are lots of options to tool about with in the menus in order to fine-tune your turning and aiming and so on, but you can’t escape the fact it doesn’t play as well as it could do if aiming and movement felt a bit more slick and precise.
“This really helped with making the experience a lot better”
There’s also serious repetition in how you deal with your enemies. The scraps you’ll get involved in early doors are much the same as those you’ll face later in the campaign, and in this respect it’s a good thing that the story is a relatively short one, as this goes some way towards negating a level of tediousness that eventually sets in as you take down your 1,000th rain walker. There are lots of new tricks and moves to unlock via an expansive skill tree with XP earned through combat, and by sucking up the souls of the lost in order to post them into the nearest phonebox (don’t ask), but the general ebb and flow of the core combat here remains the same for the duration and if you don’t gel with it early on, well, there’s nothing that’s gonna radically alter your view further down the trail.
On a more positive note, once you have pumped your XP into unlocking new skills – something we’d advise you to focus on first and foremost – you do at least have more options, the laborious task of collecting souls becomes faster and there’s a surprising amount of verticality to be found in the world as Akito latches onto flying Tengus to whip himself up onto the top of skyscrapers to explore further before gliding back to street level unharmed. This all feeds into exploration that’s very much in the bog-standard open world mould, unlocking more and more of the game’s world by cleansing Torii gates that then reveal all manner of collectibles and points of interest on your ever-expanding in-game map. It’s nothing you haven’t done a million times before now, but it is at least infused with a bit more interest here thanks to collectibles that often tell a little story or give you a few more snippets of info on folklore or the history of some aspect of Japanese superstition to learn about.
Of course, this Xbox version of the game also arrives with the brand-new Spider’s Thread Update in tow, giving you a new gauntlet mode to test your skills in. Here you’ll take Akito and KK through 30 floors’ worth of bad guys, something that’s gonna appeal to those who gel with the game’s core combat and send everyone else running for the Tama Hills. The update also brings a handful of new enemies, new combat abilities, extended cinematics in a few places, photo mode improvements, side missions and, most excitingly, a new area to investigate in the form of a spooky haunted school. It’s a fairly generous addition to the core game that tidies up a few narrative shortcomings by providing a little more context and gives returning players enough new stuff to dig into that its worth jumping into all over again.
All things told, we’re actually pretty big fans of Ghostwire: Tokyo, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our second spin through Akito’s tale. If you can get down with a few peculiarities with regards to how its combat controls, and make peace with the inherent repetition involved in its open world antics, there’s a thoroughly enjoyable and unique adventure to dig into here, and one that feels perfectly suited to Game Pass, giving you a chance to dip in and see if its your cup of tea or not. Given all of this, it’s a shame, then, that the game has landed on Xbox consoles with some performance issues, albeit ones that can be smoothed over somewhat thanks to a generous selection of graphics modes.
Ghostwire: Tokyo gives you six settings to toy with here and, in both the default quality and performance modes, we have had noticeable problems. The default quality mode – the only mode that features ray-tracing – suffers from a very off-putting judder effect when moving the camera around, something that’s exacerbated by removing the game’s motion blur, and in the end we just decided against attempting to play it in this mode at all until it gets patched. Default performance, on the other hand, feels much smoother when looking around but there are still plenty of framerate bumps to contend with, making for an experience that’s not as polished as it should be right now.
Moving onto a handful of HFR (high framerate) modes and we see some improvements, most noticeably with the quality setting. Switching to HFR unlocks the game’s framerate and in HFR Quality Mode (V-Sync), the camera judder is all but eliminated, making for a smoother experience, whilst the HFR Performance (V-Sync) feels zippier overall – although there are still notable FPS dips. It seems as though, for now, the HFR modes are the way to go here and, although the game warns that screen tearing can be an issue in these modes without VRR, turning it off on our monitor didn’t result in any noticeable tearing for us personally. A patch is certainly gonna be required to smooth things out, but as long as you can make do without ray-tracing for now, you should find a mode that makes things playable enough for you in the meantime.
These niggly performance issues aside though, what Tango Gameworks has served up here is another delightful horror adventure. Ghostwire: Tokyo is a game that continues the studio’s tradition of delivering spooky stories and supernatural experiences that look, sound and feel wonderfully unique and off-kilter in their style and tone. If you can make peace with the gameplay issues we’ve detailed above, you’ll find a very solid supernatural romp awaits you here.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is another unique and atmospheric adventure from Tango Gameworks that delivers a stunning world full of folklore and supernatural fun to explore. There’s a satisfying main campaign to dig into here, plenty of combat against weird and wonderful enemies and a fantastic recreation of Shibuya that’s a joy to wander around. However, some niggly performance issues in both the default quality and performance modes, alongside some finnicky controls here and there, hold this one back from reaching its full potential as things stand. If you can make peace with these issues there’s still a very strong game to dig into here and one that’s absolutely worth taking a chance on via Xbox Game Pass.