When Ghost of Tsushima launched last year, I like many of you played it. It was such a magnificent palette cleanser after the garbage heap that was The Last of Part 2. But, unlike some of you, I forced myself to stop playing knowing I’d want to enjoy this brilliant game on PS5. Now, more than one year later, I’m doing exactly that.
Those who know me will tell you I (generally) love Sony’s first party games. Over the years, and particularly during the PS4 generation, Sony delivered hit after hit while Microsoft simply failed to do so.
This is why while I will always consider myself a PC gamer, I always kept a Sony console around to experience these gems. And last summer, on the eve of next generation, Sucker Punch released what I consider to be the swan song for the PS4, Ghost of Tsushima. It was an utterly brilliant experience injecting a tragic romance to the open world genre. And man, it delivered in spades.
I love open world games. I’ve spoken about this previously and my love of exploring for sake of exploration. And here was a world we just don’t see in games. I can’t recall playing a game which explored feudal Japan in such an intimate way. It didn’t hurt Ghost of Tsushima looked beautiful and contained some pretty awesome storytelling.
However, despite my enjoyment, I forced myself to stop playing the game after rescuing my uncle from Castle Kaneda. In a vacuum, this decision may seem a tad absurd. But I knew the PS5 was around the corner, and I just knew it would have backwards compatibility. This meant the full potential of Ghost of Tsushima could be unleashed on far superior hardware. As much as I was loving the game, the subpar 30fps framerate and combat control scheme really left me wanting.
But, like many of you, I simply could not get my hands on a PS5 upon launch. And so I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, just a few weeks ago, I grabbed one. By this time, the Director’s Cut for Ghost of Tsushima released, effectively enabling the game as a full native PS5 app, and not one running in backwards compatibility.
The changes were…significant. Revisiting Tsushima at a higher resolution and 60fps was a complete transformation. On top of that, a recent patch (also pushed on PS4) allowed the selection of different control schemes. This meant I could finally fight and control my camera simultaneously.
One of my biggest complaints about the game last year (apart from the terrible 30fps framerate) was the combat. While others praised the combat, I found it to be a chore. The actual mechanics of the combat were incredibly well-crafted, no doubt. The parry, stances, and more provided real depth and layer.
However, the manner with which you interfaced with that combat was a huge point of frustration for me. In a game which requires so much precision during combat, you want such precision and dependability through your controls. Unfortunately, this was not the case in the vanilla game.
Combat attacks were bound to face buttons. This meant you could not move the camera and fight as you would invariably be surrounded by many enemies. Now, this is fine as long as you have something to mitigate this problem like a lock-on mechanic. However, Ghost of Tsushima didn’t have one. And so, I struggled and complained.
Fortunately, the recent patch allows you to select different control schemes. I happily selected the layout which bound combat to my shoulder and trigger, freeing my thumb to control the camera. On top of that, Sucker Punch implemented a lock-on mechanic which you can enable via toggle. This, in addition to the 60fps gameplay, has had a profound effect on my enjoyment of the combat. I’m able to enjoy it for the dance Sucker Punch always intended it to be. So that’s the combat controls fixed then. Excellent.
But perhaps equally transformative as the framerate and controls was the implementation of haptics on the DualSense. Unfortunately, trying to explain haptics is about as difficult as trying to explain HDR. It’s one of those things which can only be understood once experienced.
The implementation of haptics through the DualSense is nothing short of extraordinary. The word I keep coming back to is “precision.” Virtually every single action is translated beautifully and precisely through the DualSense’s haptics. For example, looting supplies feels distinct from looting bamboo. When Jin walks through a creek, you feel the water rushing along.
This extends to the use of the adaptive triggers on the DualSense. Drawing a bow creates a real tangible tension in the right trigger. You are fighting the trigger as much as you are fighting the tension of a drawn bow. If you hold it too long, Jin releases the arrow. You feel the trigger give way simultaneously, immediately releasing the held tension. It is a truly extraordinary experience which, once again, must be experienced first-hand to be fully understood and appreciated.
Load times on the PS5 Director’s Cut are virtually nonexistent. The longest load time I encountered involved a fast travel from Castle Kaneda to a village along the southern coast. This load took roughly 2.5 seconds. The load times on PS4 were already fast for a spinning drive. But the SSD and custom controller in the PS5 elevate the experience, drastically cutting down on friction introduced by loading on a console. This has the effect of keeping you in the experience with the intent of sustaining the immersion.
After 40 hours with the Director’s Cut, I am so beyond excited to play Ghost of Tushima all over again. While the year-long wait was agonizing, I can’t deny it made the payoff all the sweeter. Ghost of Tsushima is a true masterpiece through and through. It was unquestionably the swan song for the PS4.
But it is equally one hell of a start for the PS5.