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 Thomas Wilde on June 26, 2018 @ 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.

Chris Zimmerman, co-head/co-founder/combat designer on Ghost of Tsushima, was very clear during his demo that, as far as he's concerned, this isn't a game. It's an attempt to make a time machine. I'd originally thought of Ghost as the Akira Kurosawa movie that he didn't live to be able to make, lush and green and hideously violent all at once, but it's meant to be more than a film homage. The developers are trying to take a snapshot of a particular moment in Japanese history and let you rummage around within it.

Ghost of Tsushima is an open-world samurai game set during the first Mongol invasion of Japan, in the 13th century. You play as Jin Sakai, a wandering swordsman, and one of the last survivors; at this point in the war, as Zimmerman was careful to point out, all of Jin's teachers, heroes, and peers are dead. He's one of the last samurai standing, and his entire way of life is being torn down around his ears. To survive, Jin has to rely on allies who he would've seen as beneath him, and he has to learn new ways to approach every situation. He's just been shown that his previous way of doing things, what he's been taught all his life, simply isn't going to work anymore, and Ghost is meant to be the story of how he adapts.

The gameplay trailer shown during Sony's pre-E3 2018 briefing was the same one that was shown behind closed doors at Sony's booth during the show. The latter presentation was slower and more thorough, however, detailing the world that Sucker Punch is attempting to construct and the characters within it. The specific slice of gameplay being shown — where Jin attempts to rescue a local monk from the Mongols and then from his vengeful ally, Masako — was a mid-game side-quest that has little to do with the game's primary plot. The E3 demo also notably had no HUD attached, which is not planned to be the case with the final version of the game, although seeing how it looks without display elements may yet have an influence on the final product.

Ghost takes a lot from Sucker Punch's past games, such as the Infamous series, in its verticality and approach to problems. Jin is a swordsman by trade, built for frontal assault and capable of quick, messy kills, with a focus on using timing and counterstrikes to dispatch enemies. He's reportedly particularly good at fighting small groups of enemies at once. However, since Jin is being forced to work outside his comfort zone, you can also use stealth kills and assassination techniques to your advantage. There's a really messy sequence in the E3 build where the player can label up to four targets from above, then drop into the room and murder them all in seconds, including the genre requirement of running a man through from the other side of an inexplicably intact paper wall.

All that having been said, Ghost is nowhere near complete and does not have a set release date yet. What it does have, in spades, is visual splendor. If the final version of the game is half as picturesque as the E3 demo, it's easily going to be one of the most graphically appealing releases of its year. The duel between Jin and Masako that ended both versions of the demo, with both of them against a backdrop of falling autumn leaves before Mongol arrows lit the whole field on fire, is easily one of the must-see moments of this year's E3.

Granted, it's a carefully chosen, curated sample of the final game and isn't part of the main storyline. Right now, most of what we know about Ghost of Tsushima is, at the end of the day, proof of concept: a violent, colorful, open-world samurai drama from one of the more reliable third-party developers in Sony's stable. Both Sucker Punch and Sony have a good track record with this sort of thing, so there's room for some enthusiasm, but right now, all we really know about Ghost is that one day, it'll exist.

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