When an anime becomes popular, a game adaptation should be in the cards as well. One such example is 2014’s Tokyo Ghoul. A shounen (i.e. “boys”) anime with a horror twist. Naturally, adapting the gruesome action into a video game should be smooth transition. Unfortunately, Tokyo Ghoul: re Call to Exist doesn’t only fall short of expectations, it sinks far below them.
The main two modes in the game are “Recollection” and “Subsistence”. Recollection is where the meat of the single player campaign is. The story follows young Ken Kaneki who almost met his untimely demise by ghouls, human-like creatures who feast on flesh. Ken is saved when he gets an organ transplant from a ghoul. This transforms him in a human-ghoul hybrid with destructive powers. Despite that, he seeks to maintain peace between the two warring factions.
Cinematics are basically still-shots accompanied by voice over. While the main scenes are fully voiced, it’s odd that in-game cutscenes aren’t. Characters would only grunt or spout out a few words at best. Considering the lackluster presentations, newcomers would likely feel lost instantly. The game does at least do a serviceable job including an encyclopedia detailing some of the terminology. Only problem is that it comes off intimidating considering how many entries it has.
The game itself is a 3D-action beat-em-up title. Characters can use regular punches in addition to a few special attacks. There are three classes: Ghouls, Investigators, and Quinxes. Each of them have their own unique skills. Ghouls, like Ken, can summon demonic apparitions (known as Kagune) to slash at enemies. If players attack or receive enough damage, they can activate an ultimate attack that deals massive damage.
This is all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, regardless of the class, action feels redundant. Mashing buttons while going from room to room and dispatching goons becomes tiring fast. There are more powerful enemies with increased health, but even they fall down easily. End-level bosses do provide serviceable challenge, considering some can block attacks. However, this doesn’t change the strategy, as a constant barrage of attacks is still satisfactory to win.
Combat has a bevy of other issues. Since blocking is a special ability only certain characters can use, the main method of avoiding attack is by dashing. Sure, it looks cool to evade enemies by dashing like a madman, but enemies still seem to lock on regardless of position.
Speaking of lock on, locking onto a specific enemy really messes up the already finicky camera. Tight quarters force enemies to pounce, causing the viewing angle to twist constantly. It’s even worse when the lock-on cursor drops without warning. This is especially bad when hordes of enemies swarm you, which makes targeting the stronger enemy more chaotic.
The absolute worst actions are the ranged attacks. Not only do projectiles lack any impact, but most of the time they aren’t effective. The targeting cursor has to be on the enemy in order for the shot to hit. If it’s ever so slightly off, it’ll miss the target. It’s rather ridiculous when an energy shot that is only inches away from an enemy doesn’t even scathe it. When one of the main mechanics of the combat don’t work properly, it dampens the rest of the experience.
Investigators, on the other hand, provide a more enjoyable experience. While they don’t have the benefit of regenerating health, they can use projectile weapons like grenades. In addition, using guns in range mode feels far more precise and impactful than the mediocre energy beam the ghouls use. Quinxes are a hybrid of both classes, so they use projectile weapons in addition to having their own demonic Kagune. Their inclusion feels rather redundant since there isn’t anything special separating them from the other two classes.
At least since this is a game based on an anime, it should look stylish right? Unfortunately this is not the case. Tokyo Ghoul: re Call to Exist’s environments are bleak, dour and monochromatic. Patrolling through gray corridors or dark cities can get mundane instantly. In addition, enemies tend to get stuck on fences or other objects once they are defeated. Even characters models look simplistic without much detail. The saving grace is that the game at least runs at a mostly smooth 60 frames per second.
If the main story proves too much of a bore, “Subsistence” mode offers some variety. In this multiplayer mode, players can customize their own character. Not only can they change its appearance, but also their special moves. Players can then use their custom characters in either co-op or versus mode.
The only problem is that the co-op missions are essentially redone versions of the main campaign. Enemies and their locations are different, but the same gray environments remain the same. Considering there isn’t much strategy to combat as is, having four characters flailing around loses its luster quickly. Honestly, subsistence mode has potential, but with the game’s lofty foundation, it falls flat. That, and considering that the online community isn’t exactly huge, finding games to play is rather difficult.
I genuinely feel bad for Tokyo Ghoul fans. There is a lot of potential within the franchise to provide a violent and stylish action game. The Subsistence mode especially has glimmers of potential lurking. Unfortunately, the clunky combat, shoddy presentation and bland visuals make it a chore to play. To skip playing Tokyo Ghoul:re Call to Exist might be the better call.