As the release date of Ghostwire: Tokyo approaches, we’ve now been able to get hands-on time with the final version. While we’re only allowed to talk about the first two chapters (which cover much the same ground as our hands-off preview from last month) being able to play for ourselves has allowed for us to take a different approach in the same general area. And honestly, it’s looking quite promising at this point.

Chapter 1 functions as a brief introduction to the world of Ghostwire: Tokyo, taking place just as the ghostly invasion of Tokyo begins in earnest. Our hero, Akito, has just been involved in a traffic accident, which makes him ripe for possessing by the wandering spirit of a former cop and spirit guru known as KK who’s frantically attempting to find a new host before he fizzles out of existence. However, Akito’s not overly keen on giving up his autonomy to the first guy who forcibly enters his body, so an uneasy alliance is soon forged.

Saving Tokyo can wait, though. Akito was heading over to visit his sister in hospital when he was presumably squashed under a truck, and damned if he isn’t going to do that before getting involved in ghostly tomfoolery. In the mother of all coincidences, though, it turns out that the person responsible for unleashing spectral chaos on Tokyo is also at the hospital showing a strange interest in Akito’s sister. Of course, Akito’s not up for letting this weirdo in a Hannya mask linger near his unconscious sister, and attacks him on sight.

Given that he wouldn’t be much of a bad guy if he got wrecked in the first encounter, Hannya man and his stylish shinobi entourage promptly stomp all over Akito and leave him for dead. However, it turns out that being possessed by the spirit formerly known as KK makes him pretty resilient, and he pledges his body to KK’s cause so long as the failed rescue attempt can continue. His imouto’s in danger, damn it, and onii-chan’s not gonna stand for their spectral bullshit any longer than he absolutely has to!

The basic structure of Chapter 2 is much the same as in the hands-off demonstration we previewed last month.  Shortly after leaving the hospital with his spiritual stowaway in tow, Akito heads off to gear up at KK’s safehouse. Picking up a bow and surviving an assassination attempt by one of the main bad guys, it’s not long before he’s off purifying shrines and saving disembodied spirits on the streets of Shibuya.

Initially it seemed that progress might be annoyingly constrictive, given  that stepping into nearby doorways would often be enough to have KK screaming out a panicked warning about wandering into the fog, but after a very short time spent progressing the story I was pleased to see that the world opens up substantially, with a lot of side missions and hidden items tucked away for curious players to find.

I think the most impressive thing about this rendition of Tokyo is the sense of verticality. Akito isn’t stuck at ground level during his quest since he can parkour his way up ledges fairly well, and falls from seemingly any height aren’t fatal. Players can also use flying Tengu as grappling points and some of the buildings in the area are massive. I made my way up one over the course of about ten to fifteen minutes or so, killing enemies and purifying a rooftop shrine as I went, and found a huge amount of resources for my troubles.

What kind of resources? Tons of food I snaffled from benches and storefronts, Jizo statues that provide Akito with additional channelling energy that’s analogous to more ammunition, and a bunch of spirits to channel into the local phone boxes for additional money and experience points.

I’m unsure how most players will view the combat, which in these early stages is a little simplistic.

Akito’s most basic attacks are rapid blasts of wind bullets that can also be charged up to be fire off several at once. I later found fire and water abilities that allow larger area-of-effect attacks, with long range fire bullets exploding at the point of impact and water casting that excelled in short-range encounters due to its wider sweeping attacks.  While the animations are pretty cool, it takes a lot of hits to crack open an enemy’s outer shell so that their cores can be ripped out.

Chapter 2 also features a boss fight against an ogre-like opponent that made me feel as though I hadn’t gotten to grips with the combat by the time I got there. I learned how useful perfect guarding could be in pretty quick order, but despite having three different ethereal techniques in my arsenal, a bow, and access to stun talismans, I essentially circle-strafed constantly and flicked wind attacks at him for a while until he keeled over. Still, it’s early days and there’s a lot of scope for improvement since I’m still getting my feet wet in regards to combat options.

So, that’s how Ghostwire stands as of the end of Chapter 2. There are (of course) a few surprises I’m leaving out, but it looks like it’ll provide a good time. I dig the world Tango Gameworks have created here, and I’m totally down for any game that allows players to pet, feed and have conversations with cats and dogs that they can understand. Additionally, the juxtaposition of traditional and modern Japan in Ghostwire: Tokyo is dazzling.

And hey, saving humanity from being sucked into the spirit realm seems like it’s going to offer an absorbing and rewarding experience too. We’ll cover that in our full review, coming soon.

Darren Forman
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