Ghost of Tsushima PC review: sharper than ever

Ghost of Tsushima is a work of art on max settings on PC
Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut
Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut / Sony Interactive Entertainment

Ghost of Tsushima’s PC port landed just right for me. Just like how Skyrim filled a hole left behind at the end of a season of Game of Thrones, featuring a similar snowswept fantasy land get lost in, Tsushima launched on PC just after the brilliant Shogun finished airing on FX. It’s the perfect companion media, allowing me to enter Japanese history as a lone samurai and recite haiku beside babbling brooks, listening to creaking bamboo while looking out over a golden forest enveloped in thick mist, glowing in orange sunset.

Sucker Punch’s sweeping epic is still one of the most beautiful games ever made, with strong, stylized art direction that straddles realism and impressionist – its depiction of Japan in fall, wisps of wind licking around you and thousands of leaves detaching from their treetop homes. Tsushima Island is completely open, and the sun rises and sets. Still, every frame is painstakingly color-graded to capture whatever mood the developers want you to feel in that moment. It might have launched on PS4 originally, but Ghost of Tsushima is a work of art on max settings on PC.

Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut PC screenshot
Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut / Sony Interactive Entertainment

When I originally reviewed the game, I adored the world as much as I do now, but I felt let down by the limited things you can do within it. That still holds for this PC release. The world feels natural and beautiful, but the way you explore it is cold and mechanical, despite some genuinely innovative systems, such as the wind direction and wild animals guiding you to important places. The issue is that you’re still just clearing icons on a map. Your in-game sat-nav might be diegetic, but you’re still bringing up a menu and setting a waypoint.

It also doesn’t help that there’s little interesting to find. It has plenty of beautiful vistas, but there are only a handful of repeating activities to do, and each of them gives a set reward. You don’t feel like you’re exploring a place because of this side activity design – you feel like you’re doing reps. 

Main missions and side quests fare much better – and the Iki Island expansion, included in the PC version, is a slight improvement – but the majority of those are just an excuse to kick off another fight or stealth section, and the writing doesn’t do enough to keep you involved. This is where comparisons to Shogun start to work against Ghost of Tsushima, which is obsessed with the concept of honor, but doesn’t delve deep into the extremism of those tenets the samurai lived by. Even though its main character, Jin, straddles the line between assassin and samurai, it never goes below the surface in exploring the politics around those beliefs.

Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut PC screenshot
Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut / Sony Interactive Entertainment

With braver writing and better mission design, Ghost of Tsushima could be an all-timer. Its quick and violent combat perfectly sells the fantasy of the katana, right up to the blood flick you can perform at the end of a fight. Jin moves with grace and flourish, and every swing of his blade is potentially deadly. Sucker Punch makes great use of minor slowdowns to accentuate perfect dodges and parries, and there’s a slow-mo and distortion when you switch stances to deal with different enemies that add a stylish flair to each encounter. The animation work is also exceptional, selling the weight of each movement, from a big sword swing to a quick sidestep as you dodge an incoming arrow. 

Stealth works just as well, using a mix of foliage, gadgets, shortcuts, and elevation to allow you to creep up on enemies and thin out their ranks. The only major drawback here is how limited some of the playspaces are. Despite being an open-world game, some missions are extremely precise about the bounds of the playable space – if you think you found a secret, long way into a compound, no you didn’t. You’re leaving the mission area, turn back. Fade to black, start again. 

Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut PC screenshot
Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut / Sony Interactive Entertainment

Replaying on PC was my first shot at jumping into Legends mode, the multiplayer component that came out after launch on console. I was surprised how well it all transfers over to co-op, and delighted by how the developers have twisted the game into a mythological setting to allow for magical enemies and force players to cooperate. On harder difficulties, you really have to work together, timing your assassinations to bring big guys down like Brutus and his friends going ham on Julius Caesar. Between it and the Iki Island expansion, it makes Ghost of Tsushima a far better game. 

I enjoyed my time with Ghost of Tsushima on PC and I’m excited to see where Sucker Punch takes the series next. If it goes to mainland Japan, increases the political intrigue (shows us that hidden heart), works on creating unique side activities, and improves on quest design, it could be one of the best games ever made. For now, though, Ghost of Tsushima is a beautiful but flawed distraction, sharper than it’s ever been. 

Score: 8/10

Version tested: PC

Kirk McKeand


Kirk McKeand is the Content Director for GLHF.  A games media writer and editor from Lincoln, UK, he won a Games Media Award in 2014 in the Rising Star category. He has also been nominated for two Features Writer awards. He was also recognized in MCV's 30 Under 30 list in 2014. His favorite games are The Witcher 3, The Last of Us Part 2, Dishonored 2, Deus Ex, Bloodborne, Suikoden 2, and Final Fantasy 7.  You can buy Kirk McKeand's book, The History of the Stealth Game, in most bookstores in the US and UK.  With a foreword written by Arkane's Harvey Smith, The History of the Stealth Game dives deep into the shadows of game development, uncovering the surprising stories behind some of the industry's most formative video games.  He has written for IGN, Playboy, Vice, Eurogamer, Edge, Official PlayStation Magazine, Games Master, Official Xbox Magazine, USA Today's ForTheWin, Digital Spy, The Telegraph, International Business Times, and more.  Kirk was previously the Editor-in-Chief at TheGamer and Deputy Editor at VG247. These days he works as the Content Director for GLHF, a content agency specializing in video games coverage, serving media partners across the globe.  You can check out Kirk McKeand's MuckRack profile for more.  Email: