Ghost of Tsushima
Spider-Man: Miles Morales was a strong contender for the best Playstation game of 2020, delivering another slice of outstanding web-slinging combined with a fun story. But Miles Morales was a known quantity – after the success of Marvel’s Spider-Man in 2018, it seemed a safe bet that a follow-up would be terrific. But Ghost of Tsushima was an unknown element. Yes, Sucker Punch have a rich and successful history, but Ghost of Tsushima was a brand-new IP that didn’t actually have much hype and marketing prior to hitting store shelves, and wound up launching right next to the biggest Playstation title of the year, The Last of Us Part 2. That’s a daunting thought for any developer. And yet Sucker Punch didn’t need to be worried because of Ghost of Tsushima ended up being the perfect antidote to The Last of Us 2’s relentless assault of dark themes and violence. The Last of Us Part 2 is beautiful from a technical perspective, but Ghost of Tsushima is beautiful in the truest sense. I constantly abused the photo-mode, taking dozens and dozens of pictures of Tsushima’s awe-inspiring landscapes.
If Ghost of Tsushima truly is the last big PS4 exclusive then Sucker Punch have made sure the console is going out honourably. I have no doubt that Ghost of Tsushima will be in the Game of the Year conversation, and might also be included in people’s lists of the best games of all time. In a lot of ways, it’s the Assassin’s Creed game we’ve been wanting. Despite the seemingly natural fit, Ubisoft never did take their stabby-stabby games to Japan, and so it’s like Sucker Punch heaved a great sigh and said, “fine, we’ll do it ourselves, then.” And do it themselves they did, creating one of the finest open-world games of the generation.
The open-world is arguably the most over-used piece of gaming design from the last generation, especially by Ubisoft, so it was refreshing how Sucker Punch did theirs. It’s not absolutely littered in icons, and the use of wind, birds and foxes to guide you through the world is absolutely fantastic. It brings a sense of exploration into the game that’s often missing in open-world games. And the four distinctive biomes in Tsushima are a joy to ride around in and explore. It seems like no matter where you look there’s a gorgeous vista. It’s like being in a Samurai film.
As for the gameplay, it’ sort of like the Japanese Assassin’s Creed we’ve all been hoping for, but done better than Ubisoft has thus far managed. The stealth and combat are slick and satisfying, and the one-on-one duels are fantastic moments. All of this has only been boosted by a PS5 patch that enables silky-smooth 60FPS. Sure, I don’t think Ghost of Tsushima actually innovates very much – we’ve seen most of what it does in other games – but it does everything so well and with such confidence that it doesn’t matter.
The story is well worth experiencing, too. The tale of Jin Sakai isn’t quite up their with the best writing in all of gaming, but it’s still a damn good romp that does an excellent job of keeping you hooked.
And then Sucker Punch made an already amazing game even better with Legends, a completely free multiplayer mode. Personally, I’ve not tried it yet, but from what I hear it’s a great addition to the game.
The clash of brutal combat and the peacefulness still amazes me. One minute you’re sneaking through a camp and slitting throats, or engaging in one of the visually amazing one-on-one duels, and the next minute you’re peacefully walking through a valley of flowers as the wind rustles the trees or soaking in a hot spring or composing a haiku. It’s a wonderful contrast that Ghost of Tsushima pulls off with aplomb.
I think it’s fair to say that Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t shake the boat much – most of what it does has been done in loads of other games, too. Instead, Ghost builds a really good boat instead of shaking it. It’s content to take the its core mechanics and polish them to within an inch of their life before presenting them to the player. It’s a game that simply feels amazing to play, set in a world that’s a pleasure to explore, wrapped in a story that deals with honour and the idea of sacrificing your own honour and morality to save those you love. Sure, although I didn’t like The Last of Us Part 2 very much perhaps it deserves this spot for its ballsy choices, and Miles Morales was an excellent half-sequel and Demon’s Souls was a highly anticipated remake, but none of them were as joyful and as satisfying and as engrossing as Ghost of Tsushima.