Ubisoft Mode

HIGH It’s staggeringly beautiful.

LOW I never want to hear the word “honor” ever again.

WTF The absolute stockpile of headbands I’ve accumulated.


There was probably no scenario in which a game as generic as Ghost of Tsushima lit my world on fire, but the developer’s constant claims that it’s an homage to Akira Kurosawa – conservatively, one of the three greatest filmmakers of all time – probably didn’t do it any favors.

Much fuss has been made about Tsushima’s “Kurosawa Mode,” which is an optional filter that reduces the sound quality, covers the screen in hideous artifacts, and makes everything black-and-white (rendering missions in which we’re supposed to be identifying flowers of a certain color impossible). It’s silly, and its inclusion underlines Sucker Punch’s focus on only the most surface-level qualities of Kurosawa’s work, as if they were stylistic choices and not simply restrictions of film technology at the time.

I mean, call me crazy, but I’d think that the best way to pay homage to one of the greatest storytellers of the twentieth century is to, I don’t know, tell a good story? Where did people get the idea that Kurosawa’s films are dry and funereal?

Ghost of Tsushima is a third-person open-world adventure set against the backdrop of a true-life Mongol invasion in the late thirteenth century, albeit in an alternate timeline where humor hadn’t been invented yet. Our protagonist, Jin Sakai, is one of the only samurai who isn’t killed in the initial battle, and spends the remainder of the campaign rallying forces, mounting a rescue effort for his uncle, and generally being sad and wistful about everything.

Tsushima’s big dramatic conflict is that the samurai believe only thieves and cowards hide in shadows, stabbing their foes in the back. However, Jin soon realizes that he’s in a modern triple-A game, and that stealth elements – preferably featuring patches of tall grass as hiding places – are therefore mandatory.

The Mongols are so one-dimensionally evil that it’s never in question that they must be defeated, but the manner in which Jin fights them – adopting the “Ghost” moniker because he’s largely invisible to his enemies – invites scorn from his uncle, who believes that no matter how little honor the Mongols have, Jin must never stoop to their level. He believes this because, evidently, he’s a moron who wants to lose the war.

We see too little of the relationship between Jin and his uncle for it to be tragic when a wedge is driven between them, and we feel no guilt ourselves because he’s scolding us for the exact same tactics we use in so many other games, i.e. quietly picking off enemies one-by-one until direct confrontation is unavoidable. If we’re gonna spend so much time being mopey about how wicked the Mongols are, let’s not feel conflicted about tipping the scales in our favor.

Still, I might have felt invested in these characters if they showed an ounce of humanity, but Tsushima’s cast consists almost entirely of blank slates delivering functional dialogue in dry monotones. The only moment of levity in the entire campaign is when two characters kill time by sharing a bottle of sake and it inexplicably cuts to the end of the scene as the two laugh about whatever they were just talking about. This situation perfectly illustrates that Tsushima doesn’t put in the work. It just shows two characters laughing, assumes that’s enough to establish that they’re friends with real emotions, and moves on to the morbid business at hand.

Said business involves the same sort of checklist busywork we see in pretty much every modern open-world game. Reclaim a village from the Mongols to map out the surrounding area. Pray to a fox den to get an equippable charm. Write a haiku to get a headband. My favorite Kurosawa film is the one where Toshiro Mifune kills seven leaders to unlock Wind Stance. Expect to spend a lot of time gathering crafting materials, one of which is called “supplies” – not any specific supplies, mind you, just general all-purpose bags of stuff.

Anyone who’s played games in the modern era likely knows whether or not they’re in the mood for a title like this. I still find something relaxing about wandering a massive landscape and ticking boxes while no serious concentration is being asked of me. However, Tsushima lacks a unique hook. Games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Insomniac’s Spider-Man had generic open-world structures but were so mechanically brilliant that I was actively looking for excuses to engage with their systems. All that Tsushima offers are rudimentary versions of things I’ve seen in countless other games.

The combat is fine, I guess? It has some Arkham DNA in the way that Jin can quickly dispatch large groups of enemies, and how colored cues clue the player in to whether they should be dodging or countering. The unlockable skills do a solid job of morphing the flow of combat and increasingly turning Jin into a superhuman badass. However, the strange omission of a targeting system means the camera requires far more babysitting than it should, and it’s an annoyance that rears its face any time Jin is up against a wall.

The stealth, meanwhile, is the usual deal – hide in tall grass, spot enemies using X-ray vision, throw distractions that said enemies will investigate, and so forth. We’ve done this many, many times before.

Absent a unique hook, the main appeal of exploring this world is to actually see it, and that’s a bigger draw than it sounds like. Tsushima is quite possibly the most beautiful game I’ve ever played, and the fact that this is Sucker Punch’s first release in six years fills me with hope that they didn’t grind their teams into paste to get it looking like this.

Tsushima is colorful to the point of being almost otherworldly, and it’s got the best foliage in gaming history – a fact that Sucker Punch is eager to show off, since the wind will actually blow in the direction of the player’s objective. That’s probably a lot of work for something a simple waypoint could have accomplished, but I appreciated having an excuse to actually look at the world itself, rather than a mini-map in the corner of the screen.

While it may be jaw-dropping, I’d have more respect for the world if Tsushima had the courage to truly set players loose in it. Instead, we’re constantly being funneled. Players are encouraged to clear out enemy strongholds, but if they stumble too close to one of the towns or fortresses that Sucker Punch is saving for a big setpiece later on, they’ll be stun-locked and effectively insta-killed by what I can only describe as “machinegun fire from space.”

Meanwhile, certain optional missions in Tsushima have us tracking down mythical pieces of equipment. On more than one occasion, I’d follow the trail of clues only to discover that the item’s supposedly well-hidden resting place was an area I’d already discovered just by exploring, but the prize in question wouldn’t materialize out of thin air until I’d completed the preceding steps. Sucker Punch will alter the laws of space and physics to keep me in my lane.

The story missions themselves are almost uniformly dire. They generally consist of the same combat and stealth that we can find in near-infinite supply elsewhere, except that they often rob us of the agency to choose between one or the other — and being forced to stay hidden sucks. I can’t believe that we’re still being subjected to stealth sequences in which it’s an instant game-over when we’re spotted. A late-game stretch that put me through three such missions in quick succession is where I very nearly quit.

There are also… wait… this can’t be right… tailing missions? Seriously? In 2020? I remember being fed up with those in Assassin’s Creed IV, a whole generation ago.

As appropriate as it would be to knock Tsushima for being the same sort of boilerplate open-worlder that Ubisoft tosses out every few months, the truth is that I still got some entertainment out of roaming the pretty landscape and engaging in repetitive tasks at my own pace. That said, every time Tsushima subjected me to its dreadful story and the tedious critical path missions, my patience wore thin.

Ghost of Tsushima is positioned as PlayStation 4’s last hurrah, and while it’s an underwhelming note to end on, perhaps a game that pushes technological boundaries while taking zero creative risks is a fitting bookend for this generation.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It is currently available on PlayStation 4. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the PlayStation 4. Approximately 40 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Mature and contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence and Partial Nudity. The violence is extremely grisly. Blood sprays every which way as characters are slashed, impaled and beheaded, and the landscape is littered with burned and mutilated corpses. There’s also a bit of mild profanity here and there, sake is occasionally consumed, and Jin is seen naked from behind whenever he bathes in a hot spring.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles are available for all dialogue. The only notable instance in which sound plays an important role is when dealing with archers who shout when they’re about to fire, and players can turn on an optional visual cue to accompany these attacks. Otherwise, I played long stretches without sound and never had any trouble. I’d say this is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The Y-axis can be inverted.
See also: FREE PS4 Controller Charging Dock Station

Mike Suskie

Mike Suskie

Mike's first exposure to video games was when his parents bought him a Game Boy and a copy of Kirby's Dream Land. Completing it gave him the boost of confidence that launched a lifelong enthusiasm for the medium. Later in his life, he went back and discovered that Kirby's Dream Land is actually a laughably easy game that can be finished in about 20 minutes, but no matter.

He was born and raised in Amish country and has yet to escape, despite a brief stint in Philadelphia, where he attended Temple University. He took a one-credit course there called "Career Opportunities for English Majors," which painted a bleak picture for prospective writers. Mike remains steadfast in his ongoing role as a video game critic, however, and has recently written for GamesRadar. Most of his work can be found on HonestGamers, where he has contributed over 200 reviews to date.

When not playing games or writing about them, Mike is a rabid indie music fan and ardent concertgoer. He doesn't read as much as he probably should, but his current favorite author is Alastair Reynolds.
Mike Suskie

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WeshtyLad
WeshtyLad
16 days ago

You lost all credibility the moment you used “Dreadful story”. What was dreadful about it? I thought it was a great story with well developed character arcs, and a powerful ending. Don’t know what game you were playing here pal, but it ain’t the one that gamers that played it all seemed to love. You are overly harsh on many elements of the game imo. It plays well. The combat is great and satisfying. The parkour puzzles are fun. But I guess controversial game scores are just “in” right now, aren’t they? By the way, if you kept failing the… Read more »

CoolDude
CoolDude
12 hours ago
Reply to  WeshtyLad

Imagine if Ghost of Tsushima had one memorable character

Mike Harris
18 days ago

When you give a game a low score to be edgy 😂 I’ll never take this site seriously, and never will be back. Don’t even bother responding to this 🤣✌🏻 *closes browser While laughing hilariously at the hipster mentality*

your mom
your mom
12 days ago
Reply to  Mike Suskie

bruh really your doing that card

Ray
Ray
19 days ago

A score of 5 out if 10 should mean a broken game or unfinished, which this game is not. Going forward i would only use your reviews to do the opposite. It’s true everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not everyone should be a paid reviewer….

Brad Gallaway
Admin
19 days ago
Reply to  Ray

Just to briefly correct you here, a 5 at GameCritics means a game is perfectly average. 5/10 is exactly in the middle of the scale. We don’t subscribe to the idea that anything less than an 8 or a 9 is abysmal. Other sites may inflate their scores and neglect to use the numbers at the low end of the scale, but we use all ten numbers.

Ray
Ray
17 days ago
Reply to  Mike Suskie

So lower than 5 would probably mean even More broken and unplayable and keeps getting worse from there.

Ray
Ray
17 days ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

With a Logical grading system a 5 out of 10 is equal to 50%, so a D- to an F. Not really what I’d call “perfectly average.”But hey you do you.

Last edited 17 days ago by Ray
Brad Gallaway
Admin
17 days ago
Reply to  Ray

This isn’t the American education system (thank god) so letter grades don’t apply.

And TBFH, it’s clearly logical to use 5/10 (as the exact middle of the scale) to represent ‘average’. Those who take issue with it are just used to the industry-wide overinflation of game ratings and/or their personal experience in school.

But hey, you do you.

Ray
Ray
17 days ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

TBFH we could ping pong the crap out of this discussion forever. My personal opinion is the scoring criteria is out to lunch and I’m not buying what your selling. All the best.

WeshtyLad
WeshtyLad
16 days ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

And that’s fine except that for the overwhelming majority of the gaming population. A 5/10 scoring is immediately classed as something not worth our time, and there’s no way that you can’t be aware of that. I am becoming deeply distrustful of game reviewers these days. Most of you don’t seem to be writing reviews for gamers at all. Having just finished the game and all its side content last night, I have to say that this game apart from a few minor flaws was absolutely outstanding. To say that it is “perfectly average” is downright laughable and a further… Read more »

Brad Gallaway
Admin
16 days ago
Reply to  WeshtyLad

And that’s fine except that for the overwhelming majority of the gaming population. A 5/10 scoring is immediately classed as something not worth our time, and there’s no way that you can’t be aware of that. And the reason we need to perpetuate the flawed tradition of inflated scoring is what, exactly? We gotta jump off that same bridge because everyone else did? We’ve been scoring reviews this way for twenty years, we’re not about to start engaging in 8-and-above nonsense now. I am becoming deeply distrustful of game reviewers these days. Most of you don’t seem to be writing… Read more »

WeshtyLad
WeshtyLad
16 days ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

You may see it as inflated scoring, but you know very well that the overwhelming majority of the gaming community equates a 5/10 to a poor quality game. This is not your fault. It’s just the way things are. If you’re going to use a scoring system to review the game, then the reviewer needs to not only consider his/her own opinion and experience, but also needs to consider how this game might also be perceived and experienced by the wider player base. Nobody is asking you to start dishing out high scores for the sake of it. In fact,… Read more »

Brad Gallaway
Admin
16 days ago
Reply to  WeshtyLad

Your argument again comes down to “everyone else is doing it this way, so you must also do the same.”

Sorry, but a hard disagree here. If you want to see change in the world, effect it yourself.

Going along with something you don’t agree with doesn’t help anyone, yourself least of all. Sorry!

WeshtyLad
WeshtyLad
16 days ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

No, it doesn’t, Brad. I’ve suggested two clearly different alternatives, so either you’ve misunderstood me, you haven’t read what I’ve said, you’re cherry picking points, or a combination of all of the above, and then to try and say that despite all of the points I’ve raised and still try to make a poor attempt boil it all down to “Everyone else does it this way, so you must too” when I have clearly not said anything even remotely suggesting that, just shows how condescending and dismissive some gaming journalists have become. “I don’t want to engage, so go away”.… Read more »

Brad Gallaway
Admin
16 days ago
Reply to  WeshtyLad

If you’re going to use a scoring system to review the game, then the reviewer needs to not only consider his/her own opinion and experience, but also needs to consider how this game might also be perceived and experienced by the wider player base. = Everyone else is scoring this way. if you use a score, you must do it this way. If you don’t believe in inflated scores then don’t use scores at all. = Everyone else is scoring this way. if you don’t want to follow them, then don’t use scores at all. There’s also a third alternative… Read more »

WeshtyLad
WeshtyLad
15 days ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

So everyone else is doing review scores but everyone else is also not using review scores at the same time? OK.

You can run the site how you see fit. It is your site and nobody can tell you what to do with it, least of all me.

But no, based on this review, I would not deem you trustworthy on accurately informing the player, so will not be using the site.

badgercommander
badgercommander
14 days ago
Reply to  WeshtyLad

“So everyone else is doing review scores but everyone else is also not using review scores at the same time? OK.” I’ve read this sentence so many times and have no idea what it means. “If you’re going to use a scoring system to review the game, then the reviewer needs to not only consider his/her own opinion and experience, but also needs to consider how this game might also be perceived and experienced by the wider player base.” In my reviews I often try and think about the wider audience’s perceptions of a game and make sure that is… Read more »

bdols
bdols
14 days ago
Reply to  Brad Gallaway

thank u thank u thank u. I enjoyed the game a lot but I agree with everything in this review and love this comment. Fuck rating every aaa game an 8 or 9. GoT was fun as hell but it most deffinitely took 0 risks. Everything it did was done before

Last edited 14 days ago by bdols
Jony
Jony
1 month ago

I feel like you are going to get a lot of hate for this review and while the score is probably a bit low, most of your points seem well thought out and you made good arguments. I can’t help but think that the sheer amount of positivity for this game stems from a protest to the recently released TLoU Part 2, similar to how the TV show Chernobyl received overwhelmingly positive reviews, as a response to the 8th Season of Game of thrones, released prior. The one thing that gamers are easily impressed by is a generic and predictable… Read more »

WeshtyLad
WeshtyLad
16 days ago
Reply to  Jony

Here we go. Another “holier than thou”. Gamers just aren’t nuanced enough to understand or appreciate stories that aren’t predictable. Rubbish! Here’s the thing. Since when did predictable story telling start being a bad thing? There is an alarming rate of “subverting expectations” in both filming and literature and gaming at the moment and some of it recently has been abysmal in it’s execution. Some people may see the story of Ghost as predictable but that doesn’t matter when the story is well written, characters are well developed and the players feel emotion within that story. That’s the point! This… Read more »

Jomama
Jomama
1 month ago

Love this game, totally disagree but we are all entitled. Well, some more so than others!

Morth
Morth
1 month ago

Giving 50/100 on Metacritic to a game that is clearly GOTY… Man journos these days…. “Dreadful Story” he says… Let me guess, probably this reviewer gave TLOU2 a 100 and probably claimed the story was excellent. Thats why journo reviews mean nothing these days and the only one that matters is what the actual players think. Highest user rating for a PS4 game while the reviewers gives a 50….

hdefined
hdefined
1 month ago
Reply to  Morth

Weird, it’s almost like different people have different opinions or something.

Notkick
Notkick
1 month ago

I wouldn’t expect less from the same reviewer of that hollow knight abysmal review lmao

Al T
Al T
1 month ago

Technically brilliant review. well written, well constructed, irreverent and brief but informative and easy to read.

Joelle
Joelle
1 month ago

I gave this a 6/10 on metacritic and saw this review had a similar mediocre score. You pretty much summed it up. I came in expecting some storytelling inspired by Kurosawa and old samurai films, but really all it has in common with those works is the setting. Bummer.

Johnny Donegan
Johnny Donegan
1 month ago

5/10 is a bit harsh but I agree with a lot of your points. Its beautiful and there are some nice mechanics (guiding wind) but nothing really original and the gameplay didnt have me obsessed with finishing it or coming back for another fix. One thing that really bugged me and surprised me about its popularity in Japan was the fact that the facial motion captures were only done for English speaking characters. I would have preferred to play Japanese audio with subtitles but just looked too weird. Nioh 2 is still the best PS4 samurai/ninja release this year by… Read more »

Jens
Jens
1 month ago

That’s a really nice conclusion.

FmT
FmT
1 month ago

If this game got a 5/10, I wonder how TLOU2 would get from the same tester… 1/10 probably as this is vastly superior and kind same style of game

i am button
i am button
1 month ago

Thank you. Its refreshing to see this game get called out for what it is. Its especially nice considering the disproportionate amount of praise lavished on this good, but uncreative and generic title. Has something happened to the journalistic integrity of of these major outlets? Even some of the most respected game reviewers in Japan gave it nearly perfect or perfect scores. I dont get it. Is Sony paying for it? I call shenanigans.

Last edited 1 month ago by i am button
hdefined
hdefined
1 month ago
Reply to  i am button

I haven’t played it, and I entirely believe that Mike’s criticisms are genuine and probably valid.

That said, I’m still excited as hell to play it, because I love these types of games. If those reviewers you mention share my tastes, it’s possible they gave the game good reviews because they also love these types of games.

Some random dude
Some random dude
1 month ago
Reply to  i am button

There are plenty of 90+ Metacritic games that imo are quite overrated. It’s called having a different opinion, not being paid off. It’s kind of ridiculous to suggest to be honest.

R A
R A
1 month ago
Reply to  i am button

It has given us something that almost no game has given us this generation. A good story, likeable, deep characters, and it hasn’t gone off on a rant about how everyone who doesn’t play this the right way is some kind of -ist or-phobe. That said, it’s not being called out for what it is, it’s being criticized overly harsh for browny points with people like you who hate everything because they gotta show how anti-mainstream they are.

hdefined
hdefined
1 month ago
Reply to  R A

it’s being criticized overly harsh for browny points with people like you who hate everything because they gotta show how anti-mainstream they are”

What does this even mean?

Ramsey A
Ramsey A
1 month ago
Reply to  R A

THANK YOU. This review reeked of “I only drink craft beer and listen to indie bluegrass music which makes me unique.” There were some flaws he pointed out that I agreed with but nothing so major that it warranted the condescending tone he used throughout this whole article. He might as well write for Infowars.

badgercommander
badgercommander
1 month ago
Reply to  Ramsey A

RA and Ramsey A are definitely two, unique, and completely separate people.

Ramsey A
Ramsey A
1 month ago

It was a dilemma, having to decide between using my real name and not doing so because of R A having my initials.

hdefined
hdefined
1 month ago
Reply to  Ramsey A

You know this is a review website, right? He’s allowed to feel any way about a game and express that in his writing.

Ramsey A
Ramsey A
1 month ago
Reply to  hdefined

I do know that, and I respect his opinion; like I said, I agree with a lot of what he said. I just think he was being kind of an a hole about it

hdefined
hdefined
1 month ago
Reply to  Ramsey A

Well that’s just a tone fallacy. There’s nothing wrong about expressing a negative tone when reviewing a game you didn’t enjoy.