Ghost of Tsushima

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sucker Punch
Release Date: July 17, 2020


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PS4 Preview - 'Ghost of Tsushima'

by Redmond Carolipio on May 15, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Ghost of Tsushima is a sprawling, open-world samurai game set in feudal Japan where you play as a battered samurai, fighting back against overwhelming odds.

Pre-order Ghost of Tsushima

Not many things are cooler than samurai. It feels like almost anything that pop culture fans enjoy about Asian action can be tied to something in romanticized samurai lore: blood sprays, the Bushido ethic, elegant and brutal sword duels, fighting for causes, grand battles against grander enemies, ornate armored warriors with crazy masks, and people becoming legends from humble beginnings. Not even Tom Cruise could undo the pure badassery of samurai. There's a legion of people out there aching for the ideal game that serves as the embodiment of samurai action mythos, and if Sucker Punch has anything to say about it, Ghost of Tsushima is going to be it.

Protagonist Jin Sakai and the Ghost of Tsushima world he occupies have had eyeballs on them since the game's unveiling at E3 2018, where demo footage of it rained down upon people standing in line to play things at the Sony booth. On Thursday, Sony's State of Play showed off about 20 minutes of fresh gameplay details and footage to, at least momentarily, clear the fog of quarantine-addled boredom. It cut right through it.

We knew the game was going to be open-world, but Sucker Punch's Jason Connell elaborated on how the world (or rather, the Island of Tsushima during the 13th-century Mongol invasions) can be explored in a "thematic and immersive" way. We saw a standard big world map with locations and waypoints you can mark, including yet-to-be discovered spots. Jin, the hero, can expectedly call on his horse for a faster travel pace, and one can also fast-travel to places you've visited. Subtle, sans-serif text fades into a corner of the screen to let you know where you are, and text near the center of the screen against a red background lets you know when you hit Mongol-occupied territory.

Once the focus is taken away from the gorgeous scenery in Tsushima — no small feat — we were treated to some of the wrinkles in Ghost's navigation, which deals with animals and nature. If you want to be pointed in the right direction, the player can actually call upon a gust of wind, complete with leaf-toss, to help guide Jin. Connell also notes that players should be on the lookout for visual cues, such as certain trees and structures, along with birds and other animals that can lead Jin to points of interest, like shrines to honor (which appear to help with upgrading, a la Sleeping Dogs).

All this traveling eventually leads to combat, and Jin appears to have the complete toolset to collect Mongol bodies any way he sees fit. With Sucker Punch's Nate Fox narrating, we saw how Jin can challenge enemies to straight-up standoffs and use an array of combat stances, strikes, precise parry counters and some beautiful one-stroke kills to prevail. He also has a bow and arrow for range. What might make Jin even more fascinating is that he can also fight like a dishonorable "ghost" and ninja-style his way through a Mongol camp by piling up stealth kills, hurling knives, and using distractions like rocks and fireworks. He also has a fast grappling hook to swing short distances. Jin has the athleticism and agility of an Assassin, and this palette of strong and stealthy combat abilities makes him come across as a sort of Japanese Batman. It fits with Sucker Punch's method of giving the player the ability to pour a lot into an intricate and functional main character, like Cole from inFamous or Sly Cooper.

As players traverse Tsushima and engage in combat, they'll also be able to customize Jin's look and feel in some detailed ways. Different kinds of armor won't just be for aesthetics, as there are apparently mechanical advantages to the armor you put on Jin, depending on your play style. Players can also collect flowers to eventually change some of the colors for Jin's clothes. The growth of Jin's legend also gives players the chance to customize him even more. Speaking of which, the photo mode has a healthy set of color grading, depth-of-field and musical options for players to accentuate the beauty the game offers and share it with others.

The last two items we saw are strictly for cool points that'll hit home with samurai film buffs. The first is the option to switch to a Japanese voice track and subtitles. The second is the ability to play in-game over a film-grainy, black-and-white filter, which I'm going to call "Kurosawa mode" if it's not already called that.

It was only 20 minutes of gameplay, but thus far, Ghost of Tsushima looks poised to live up to the building promise of being one of the last great PS4 exclusives and a beautiful avenue of escape for gamers everywhere during an unprecedented time. We'll all get our chance when Ghost of Tsushima drops on July 17.

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