Sony’s Ghost of Tsushima feature at E3 was a deeply immersive affair, providing a window into Sucker Punch’s take on 13th century feudal Japan. The star of the show was by far the 9 minute gameplay debut, an atmospheric masterclass that begins with our hero Jin Sakai, a weathered samurai warrior, emerging from a dense forest and wandering grasslands etched by the scars of conflict from the Mongol Invasion of Japan. A period of unrest and blood shed, the setting borrows generously from history while weaving in elements from the rich catalogue of films set during the samurai era; think Akira Kurosawa.
Reaching the top of a hill, we get the first glimpse of the Ghost of Tsushima open world; a vast, dynamic space with a varied topography and incredible looking weather effects. Scorched buildings, distant temples, rolling hills, and what appears to be mountains in the background are complemented by the torrential rain and strong gusts befalling the whole scene.
Jin Sakai summons his horse with a succinct whistle in a style similar to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Red Dead Redemption, and descends further into the undulating grasslands to the tones of an evocative soundtrack. This sequence alone is a thing of beauty (note the deer that runs alongside Sakai, the dispersing flock of birds, and the grass parting as Sakai’s horse advances), and I couldn’t help thinking of everything Ghost of Tsushima promises to be, delighted and swayed simultaneously.
Fleeing villagers warn Sakai of a nearby squad of enemies and we get our first look at the game’s combat mechanics. Sakai swiftly deals with them with a masterful show of precise katana movements and acrobatic dodges. The final assailant loses an arm in the process and we are witness to what I imagine are going to be an array of finishing moves.
The demo continues and we meet an ally, archer Masako, who agrees to help rescue a monk from the nearby temple. The tone shifts to one of concealment and stealth as Sakai reaches the rooftops not before liquidating two standing guards at the temple’s entrance without raising the alarm. Once on the roof of the temple, Sakai targets his next victims before dramatically plunging to the sacred altar below and swiftly strikes them down, including a cinematic thrust of katana through a paper door to eliminate one of them.
Masako turns on Sakai, and the two face-off. Sakai is the victor, yet has mercy on his treasonous friend. The fight is rich with slow-motion attacks, maple leaves blowing delightfully all around them due to the rising wind amidst the first golden rays of the rising sun.
Ghost of Tsushima’s gameplay debut is a glorious exposition of a hotly anticipated game. The hype surrounding the title is sure to intensify tenfold and with good reason. For more information about the components making up the trailer, including a thoughtful symbolism behind the recurring maple leaves, check out Sucker Punch producer Brian Fleming’s blurb on PlayStation.Blog.
As has become somewhat of a refrain at this year’s E3, there’s no mention of a release date. In the meantime, Ghost of Tsushima is already set to be a sure footed and indelible game from what we have seen at E3.