Xbox Game Pass Just Added 2022's Most Underrated Thriller
One of the most essential pieces of any horror game is its atmosphere, and a fittingly creepy vibe can help elevate even a mediocre experience. Tango Gameworks, the developer behind The Evil Within and Hi-Fi Rush, has proven time and again that it's a master of atmosphere, and never has that been more true than with 2022’s most underrated horror game, Ghostwire: Tokyo.
It’s an unforgettable virtual trip through a painstakingly detailed supernatural version of Tokyo, but it’s not just the horror element that stands out, as Ghostwire’s combat and surprisingly poignant story turn it into something truly special.
With the game now free on Xbox Game Pass, there’s no excuse to not jump in.
Ghostwire casts you as a young denizen of Tokyo named Akito, whose life is thrust into madness after he’s fatally injured in a traffic accident. Akito’s body is taken over by a mysterious spirit that simply goes as KK, and as the two entities fuse the rest of Tokyo is sent into a spiral of supernatural possession, as everyone else in the city vanishes. As you explore the abandoned streets of the city you slowly start to understand more about the supernatural world, and how KK is inexplicably linked to the events playing out.
The narrative of Ghostwire absolutely takes a bit to get going, but some big developments near the end tie everything together, with some interesting themes about life, resurrection, and belief. The real star of the show, however, is the city of Tokyo itself, which has been created with a startling level of realism.
Ghostwire really is the epitome of the idea of “virtual tourism,” as Tango Gameworks has recreated actual areas and neighborhoods of the city. These areas feel fittingly lived-in, and it’s downright eerie how the game really makes it feel like everyone just up and vanished in the middle of their day. Half-eaten meals adorn every cafe and household, construction sites sit unfinished, and piles of clothes can be seen every which way.
While you can obviously just follow the main story, Ghostwire tucks away tons of little stories and details about the people living in Tokyo. If you choose to explore you can find plenty of little stories about cursed hospitals, spiritual realms, and even just the daily struggles of friends.
Apart from KK your only company on the lonely streets are horrific demons and spirits that attack you upon sight. Each of Ghostwire’s enemy types is based on some kind of urban myth or ghost story, from the Slenderman-esque businessmen that attack you with umbrellas to the headless schoolkids that unnervingly jump around like squirrels.
While these enemies bring a lot of variety, Ghostwire’s first-person magic combat gives you plenty of options to deal with them. It’s a bit hard to describe, but think of a first-person shooter mixed with the elemental bending of the Avatar series.
Akito has three different categories of “Weaving” magic, each of which is tied to an element. Your green air magic is a fast, pistol-like attack that can be used in succession, water magic is like an area-of-effect shotgun blast, and fire magic is basically a grenade that can be charged up for deadly effect. As you progress through the game, you’ll also unlock additional moves for your repertoire, including a bow and arrow, melee attacks, and talismans that have a variety of effects from creating decoys to stunning groups of enemies.
There’s a nice flow to combat that makes it feel somewhere between a shooter and a character action game. Combat and those little side stories are the heart of Ghostwire, as the rest of the side content is pretty bog-standard open-world stuff. There are tons of collectibles to gather and extra equipment to find, so if you can’t get enough of the paranormal city, you have plenty of activities to occupy your time.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a singularly unique game that has an unmatched sense of atmosphere and place. It’s one of those unique experiences that rewards you the more time you put into it, culminating in an ending that’s as harrowing as it is cathartic.