Ghost of Tsushima PlayStation 4 Pro Review

Ghost of Tsushima is a masterful tale of a samurai warrior going against a lifetime of beliefs for the greater good of his people.

By Grayshadow, Posted 21 Jul 2020

Sucker Punch brought us the colorful charming world of Sly Cooper and the dark superhero adventures of inFamous. Ghost of Tsushima is a radical shift for this studio in atmosphere and gameplay while using what the studio has learned from their past projects to deliver one of the best games this generation. A beautiful samurai adventure teeming with optional adventures as you drive the Mongols from 13th century Japan. Yes, it has minor faults that often break up the action during critical moments and the platforming doesn’t carry the same precision as past Sucker Punch titles but these are tiny holes in this outstanding adventure. Ghost of Tsushima takes the player on an epic samurai odyssey that everyone should play.

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Ghost of Tsushima stars Jin Sakai of Clan Sakai. A noble samurai warrior trained from a young age by his uncle Lord Shimura. The Mongols have invaded Tsushima led by Khotun Khan, an incredibly intelligent and well-trained warrior. Khan makes his presence known immediately, as he burns a messenger alive. After a massive failed battle the Khan takes up residence in Tsushima, slowly killing the populist while also converting the natives to his cause.

Khotun is a fantastic villain in both how he’s presented and his tactics. While we rarely see the Mongol leader in person, outside from cutscenes, his actions are shown throughout. Either through raping the land of Tsushima, killing the civilians, or recruiting the natives to his own army in exchange for food and security. Khotun doesn’t only say he understands the Japanese he showcases it, displaying his mastery over the language and the fighting style and code of the samurai. At the same time it’s made very clear in the beginning that Khotun isn’t all bark, he easily takes on Jin without issue and is shown to be an exceptional warrior.

Jin is more complicated than Khan and equally extraordinary. Khotun is focused and determined on a single goal whereas Jin battles himself, going against his code of honor to save his people. The first time we control Jin he’s loyal to the samurai code his uncle taught him but that code starts to wither in Jin as he is exposed to the Mongol’s brutality. This shift from becoming a samurai warrior to the Ghost isn’t instant. It takes hours of gameplay as Jin slowly starts to adopt new tactics to strike fear into his enemies to save innocent lives that by the end Jin is something entirely new and set into motion things he never intended.

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The supporting cast goes through similar changes. Sucker Punch did an incredible job with the optional content here. There are main side missions that connect Jin to his allies as he recruits people to his cause. Each of these tackles an individual problem but the focus remains on that person, not Jin. He’s there to provide support and aid them but by the end they come out as someone new. Whether it’s a fellow samurai hunting down a former ally or a grandmother trying to avenge her family’s death, each of these side missions offered ample opportunity for the player to grow and connect to these people.

This is complemented by the voice-acting and character models. The cutscenes are so well-choreographed that it almost looked life-like. Sweat dripping down faces, slight twitches in the face when in deep emotional states, eye movement, it’s almost scary that this is a video game and not a live-action movie. 

The narrative moves are an excellent pace as you see Jin and his allies slowly change before your eyes. Profound moments are given ample time to ferment without having to reduce to shocking the player for the sake of being shocked. Difficult moments are often the result of character established actions, unlike another Sony exclusive.

The world itself is a character. The world of Tsushima is beautiful in so many ways that I was constantly in awe of the visuals. Lush fields of flowers, petals dancing in the wind by giant trees, the wind swaying through the air, everything in this game is downright gorgeous. I never cared for photo mode till I played this game and dear god, every scene feels like it could be a fantastic picture. The world is peppered with a generous array of distinct locations and areas to explore that encourage you to go off the beaten path and just head into the unknown.

Bringing everything together is the amazing musical score. The music in this game complements every single thing you do from escaping enemies to cinematic fights. The quality of the score is matched by the beauty of this amazing world.

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The game is separated into 3 acts, with each part of the island separated by said acts. The space provided is ample and you’ll need to dedicate time to exploring it. The map is covered in a fog and only by exploring can, you uncover this. It can be frustrating as this process takes a while, especially since discovering optional objectives is linked to this. You can save peasants who’ll provide information about quests to undertake but exploring the entire map by foot is taxing. What is truly shocking is the load times, they’re fast. With a world this big it’s almost unbelievable how the game can lead you into a section of the map within seconds and there are plenty of fast travel locations.

You'll spend a lot of time on horseback and fortunately, your animal ally is amazing. Chosen from the beginning from a personal selection made by the player this animal companion quickly becomes your best friend. Traveling the world, taking on Mongols and bandits, and even leap down terrain with amazing accuracy. I was amazed as in other titles you would often have to abandon your horse to make these jumps, and you still do for most of these steep cliffs, but if handled well your horse can make it down a small cliff. This seems trivial but after playing so many open-world games this was the best-controlled horse system I've ever experienced.

The island is teeming with optional content and Sucker Punch really went above and beyond with the exploration. There are repetitive missions such as creating haikus, locating fox dens, platforming challenges in the way of shrines, and finding cosmetics. Like in all open-world games there are camps that need to be raided, which allows you to exercise your samurai honor with direct combat or give into the dishonorable but effective Ghost. Surprisingly Sucker Punch didn’t just recycle side missions with boring dialogue like so many open-world games. You’re still killing targets and collecting key items but each story is unique in why you’re doing it. In one instant you could be avenging a killed family member and another protecting a doctor. It’s refreshing to see actual care go into these missions instead of having a series of fetch and kill quests with the most basic reason to do it.

Sucker Punch wanted to keep the interface clean by providing an interesting take on navigation. By sliding your hand across the touchpad you can summon a gust of wind that points you in the right direction. The wind constantly blows so you’re never lost and can take in the beauty of this world without small icons everywhere. As you explore you’re always provided with ways to increase Jin’s progression with added bonuses and new things to wear.

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Jin has plenty of things to wear, ranging from cosmetic items to armors that offer different advantages. You can switch armor types at will, even when in combat and you’ll need to do so. Some armors are perfect for stealth, shooting arrows, or melee combat. You’re given ample options of how to alter the look with a variety of dyes that can be purchased by collecting flowers. Gameplay affecting bonuses will need other materials such as the game’s currency being supplies and other material you can gather from the environment. It’s the perfect balance of grind and reward where you’ll never have enough to upgrade everything so you’ll have to pick which armor is more valuable to you. Weapons are more straightforward as you’re given 1 set of swords and bows that can be upgraded in a single line but have their own range of cosmetic options. Sucker Punch went above and beyond to give you ample ways to design Jin.

Jin does have standard upgrades himself. It’s your basic skill tree for both samurai and ghost tactics, with skill points provided after earning enough experience by completing tasks. Stances, which allow Jin to break defenses of specific enemies, are granted for killing and observing Mongol leaders. It’s simple and it works, you constantly feel like you’re getting stronger whether through the gear you’re earning or the new abilities. If you want to add more power to a specific type of attack or defense there are charms that can be linked to Jin.

Jin is a great warrior but the enemies he’ll face are just as skilled and some will use insidious tactics. Jin starts off with his sword before gaining access to the rest of his arsenal, each with their own advantages. Jin’s family sword is what you’ll be using for most of the adventure. Melee combat involves taking advantage of your opponent's openings either through dodging or parrying. Enemy types offer unique defenses that Jin must shatter using stances earned by killing Mongol leaders. You’ll have to constantly shift between stances and maintain your defensives as Jin will often be outnumbered. The game doesn’t use a lock-on system, which can be frustrating, but once you get used to using the directional hitting system it becomes second nature. However, there will be times where Jin is focused on a specific enemy leading to vexing moments where you try to target another more important person. The key is always to control the field and use your stances to stagger the enemy. The camera will occasionally get stuck or placed in a position where you cannot see but these were rare occasions.

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The combat is fun and fluid, with exceptional feedback with each strike. Jin will execute enemies in a blur of bloody glory. Sometimes enemies will remain barely alive where Jin must end their suffering. Taking risks is rewarded with “Resolve” which serves as Jin’s special meter. With it, Jin can recover health or perform a powerful ability such as an unblockable multi-hit strike.

Jin can choose to use the tactics of the dishonorable Ghost. Unlike the samurai, the Ghost takes to the shadows and kills enemies without them knowing. Here the game plays like a simple stealth title. It’s nothing too complicated, stand in the tall grass, kill the enemy, and move on. The enemy AI for stealth isn’t that great and I found lots of opportunities where I could break line-of-sight and easily resume getting 1-hit kills. Regardless if you take on fights as the Ghost of as a samurai you can use all of Jin’s tools, which include explosives, daggers, and more.

For long-range fights, you’re given 2 types of bows, a short one and long one. The short one is great for unarmored targets while the longbow can take longer to draw. It's an instant kill regardless if the person is wearing a helmet and if you’re really good you can shoot enemies in the exposed region of the helmet with the short bow. In fact, the armor worn by Mongols plays a huge role as it can block incoming arrows and deflect speciality ammo such as fire arrows. Overall the shooting works well.

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Where Ghost of Tsushima really shines in its combat system is the boss fights. These epic encounters are 1 on 1 fights straight out of a samurai movie. With the player really focusing on dodging and parrying the opponent who each exercises unique move sets. Some mimic attacking patterns from similar adversaries but how they fight Jin is different, such as some using more quick stabs or another focusing on unblockable attacks. The only major issue I had with these fights is there are specific dialogue options that must play and in doing so prevents the player from inputting commands, breaking the flow of combat. It can be especially vexing when you’re about to strike only to see your input didn’t register and the enemy attacking right after.

Combat gets a lot easier as you progress. The more tools you unlock and upgrade Jin gets makes combat encounters so easy that the game’s only way to combat this is to throw more enemies at you. The Ghost’s tools are particularly powerful as I was able to clear entire groups of powerful enemies with ease by the end of the game, making other forms of combat more of an afterthought.

Platforming is acceptable but it’s a downgrade from Sucker Punch’s other projects. Given this title is more realistic than the animated adventures of Sly Cooper or the superhero world of inFamous this is expected. Jin moves well enough but often you’ll end up in situations where he doesn’t grab a ledge or it’s not made clear what you can grab onto. It’s nothing serious and the platforming works but it's definitely not as precise as other Sucker Punch titles.

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If you want to Platinum this title you’re going to have to put in work especially for the collectables. While you don’t need every item there are over 100 collectables ranging from documents to banners that do offer rewards but it’s too much. Instead of offering a system similar to inFamous where these items are highlighted the controller rumbles to alert you that a key item is nearby and you’ll likely spend more time than necessary trying to find it. It’s too much stuff to collect and cut each one by half would’ve been ideal.

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Ghost of Tsushima is exceptional, a quality 40-hour adventure full of unforgettable moments, outstanding boss fights, and a story that left me satisfied yet yearning for more. Sucker Punch has delivered a true masterpiece in terms of narrative and gameplay, providing a samurai experience I’ve been craving for decades. Ghost of Tsushima is a masterful tale of a samurai warrior going against a lifetime of beliefs for the greater good of his people.
 

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PS4
Publisher(s): Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer(s): Sucker Punch Studios
Genres: Action, Open World
Themes: Historical
Release Date: 2020-07-16

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