Ghost of Tsushima review: a stunning slice of samurai action
5 things to know about this PS4 exclusive.
It's been two long years since Suckerpunch took to the stage at E3 2018 to show off gameplay from Ghost of Tsushima, a game set in feudal Japan that uses the movies of Akira Kurosawa as a jumping off point. And it's been five years since it was first revealed to be in development.
In that time a hell of a lot has changed in the world of games. The Nintendo Switch has emerged as a bright, shining example of how to make gaming feel fresh again - and we now know pretty much all there is to know about the PS5 and the Xbox Series X.
Having the next-gen of gaming now in touching distance hasn't perturbed those who want Ghost of Tsushima, though, with the game already gone gold thanks to pre-orders on a Ghost of Tsushima release date was slightly delayed.
But is the hype justified? Here are 5 things to know about Ghost of Tsushima...
1. It's both brutal and fun from the get-go
Within minutes of Ghost of Tsushima starting, you are thrown into a massive battle. It's a great way to understand the ferocity of a game that does well to balance huge fight scenes with more introspective moments.
While it takes a little longer for you to understand, and learn, the moves needed to fight in battle you at least get a flavour of what to expect.
The fear factor is there, with squibs being fired at you from everywhere and Samurai sword battles and horse-based fighting.
It's also here that we find out the beginning of the plot. You play Jin Sakai, a samurai who is a survivor of a clan that's been all-but wiped out by a Mongol army, headed up by the absolutely brutal Khotun Khan.
Through flashbacks we get an understanding of the relationship Jin had with his uncle who trained him and these double up as training aspects of the game.
2. The sound of the game is stunning
There will be parts of Ghost of Tsushima where you will just want to stop and take everything in - and that's from an aural perspective, too. The audio options at the beginning mean you can tell the game what kind of home setup you have - and this is key, as you won't want to miss out on the wailing winds, the crashing of waves, the sound of swords clattering and other audio delights.
The soundtrack, too, is pitch perfect - slow and somber when it needs to be and all drums clashing when the fight scenes, of which there are plenty, begin.
Though there is quite a bit of bloodshed throughout, this isn't a game that's as horrific to play as, say, The Last of Us 2 - you'll be too busy practising your combos when fighting to worry to much about the spray of blood. Yes, it's graphic but it doesn't revel in it... too much.
3. There are some fantastic nods to samurai movies
It made us a jump for joy when we found the Kurosawa Mode option in Ghost of Tsushima. Choose this and it adds a crackly black-and-white skin to the game, with camera angles more cinematic to give you a feeling that you are playing one of the Japanese director's movies.
This is just one of the many nods to the many Samurai movies that have shaped our understanding of feudal Japan. There's also some great gaming options that make everything feel that more authentic as well. For a start, you can play the game in Japanese with English subtitles and we really would recommend this mode, even though the English voice acting throughout is superb and the dubbing does look off in places.
4. The action is epic, the game is massive
The prologue for Ghost of Tsushima does well to drop you straight into the action and gives you a decent idea of the sort of things to expect along the way.
The pacing is fantastic for the first few hours at least. You will enjoy slowly gaining new special movies, bulking up on armour and weapons - from humble beginnings where you are on a stealth mission just to find a blade, the journey you go on that progresses Jin from newbie fighter to ultimate warrior is joyous.
While there's a ton of things to keep you going, it does get repetitive at times - that's not to say that the plethora of tasks available (which are there to continually remind you on the left of the screen, until they are completed and are swiped away) aren't rewarding - they nearly always are, but sometimes you feel like you have done a mission before.
We would have liked some of the side quests to be less about killing people, given that's what most of the main game is about. But the inclusion of playing different characters in some of these quests really does help expand upon the game and what we know about the central character, Jin.
Aside from this, the subtle touches to make you feel like you are naturally progressing are just wonderful. Having the wind literally guide you (a swipe of the touchpad delicately tells you where to go) and things like birds chirping acting as signposts to different stories is great. And having a stealth game where the main character isn't happy about using these tactics because of the samurai honour is actually refreshing, offering up a strange but welcomed struggle throughout.
5. You'll spend hours with your jaw on the floor
Ghost of Tsushima is one of the best-looking PS4 games we have played. Whether it's craggy, mountain terrain, training among the cherry blossom or wallowing through bamboo forests, it's a beautiful game, rich with detail.
Sometimes it's all a bit too much - there is a cinematic feel throughout that can sometimes detract from the gameplay, so while your jaw is on the floor because of the visuals, your character is on their back because you've missed an arrow hurtling towards you, or a samurai sword to the face.
When things look this good, though, we don't mind being blinded by a bit of beauty.
To capture some of this beauty, Ghost of Tsushima has one of the best photo modes around. No matter where you are, you can dip into it, change things like the weather and add in compelling visuals to the scene to get the best picture you can. You can ever change the emotions on Jin's face for the photo you are taking. It's very impressive.
Ghost of Tsushima: Final Verdict
Ghost of Tsushima is a massive game that's fantastic to look at, offers up a rich tapestry of hack-and-slash gameplay, stealth missions and open-world wanderings. You can lose yourself in it for hours with the myriad side missions and that's no bad thing, although you may feel like you are wandering into familiar territory now and again.
It's beautiful to look at and feels culturally sensitive throughout - there was initial chat that real-life figures from history would be peppered in the game, but the decision to go fictional with the storyline, while keeping it as grounded as possible, is a welcomed one.
Ghost of Tsushima is a game that will feel familiar in gameplay but when it comes to looks, there's nothing quite like it.