I used to play with a special carpet when I was young. It displayed a city from a top view, cars and different buildings such as a hospital or a school. I would often feel not like a god, but rather as someone who had the same control as the rest of the habitants, with the advantage of a bigger point of view. Tokyo 42 brings back a lot of memories of that time, managing to mix a few elements from games like Syndicate and the first two entries of Grand Theft Auto with a top-down view that can be rotated in 360. Add a pinch of a futuristic vision of Tokyo succumbed in drugs, flying cards and neon corridors, and you pretty much sum up what Mode 7 and SMAC Games were looking to achieve with the game’s theme and general design. But, there is much more beneath the surface.
We start as a regular citizen, waking up in our small flat while we are watching the news. We hear about an assassination that has just took place, and for our surprise, we are the one accused of the crime. Immediately, a friend calls and tell us to quickly disappear from the place. From that moment, we are told that the only way to clean our name and found the real culprit is to become one ourselves. Our mission in Tokyo 42 is to rank up by doing contracts, completing side quests and getting to know contacts in the assassins’ network in order to unveil the truth.
The premise might sound a bit absurd at first, but there is a lot of depth behind it, specially when it comes to the world in which Tokyo 42 takes place at. Aside from the technology advancements that you can see pretty much everywhere, there is an unique drug that has an interesting twist on it: the pill enables eternal life on any person, as long as they take their daily dosis. Instead of dying, people will only get stunned for a few seconds, until they just recover and move on with their lives. Also, the player can use a holographic projector to change they entire appearance, something that will be handy when infiltrating different facilities or by getting lost in a crowd with a new identity after dealing with our target.
Tokyo 42 presents an open world scenario with different areas, which some of them will get unlocked as we progress through the main story. By doing so, more missions will start to become available for us, including contracts that can be accepted in terminals. Most of the people we get to know will also ask for our help in different tasks, whether it is for an extra hand during an assassination, chasing cats, doing parkour stunts or taking part on a massive motorcycle race. It may not seem likely at first, but there is a lot to do in the city, and curious players are rewarded for their exploration with many collectibles: skin weapons, new robes and more.
While the map is really extensive, there are different ways in which we can move around the city without having to walk. There are access points that serves as location points, and we can fast travel between them in a matter of seconds (as long as we are not being chased by enemies) and the mentioned motorcycle can also be used once we unlock it early in the game.
Combat is a different aspect, and we begin to discover some of the flaws of the game when engaging it. While some of the contracts are as simple as to snipe a target, most of them will require us to infiltrate a facility with enemies in every corner. We can choose to approach at full assault, or rather by sneaking in and taking out enemies one by one without getting noticed. Or, at least, trying not to be detected in a clumsy manner. Visibility is the only factor in which an enemy can detect our presence; you can hit the ground right beside an enemy after jumping from a building or chase them with a katana in your hands and you will never get noticed.
It’s clear that the studio opted for simplicity in regards of stealth in Tokyo 42, but it doesn’t always work out as intended
For me, it took a lot of time to get used to it. I tried to approach carefully at first, trying to no make any noises and always being in crouch mode. But your actions have no impact, as long as you stay behind your target. It’s clear that the studio opted for simplicity in regards of stealth in Tokyo 42, but it doesn’t always work out as intended. The AI tends to be either fully aware of its surroundings, or rather staying as a dummy target waiting to get killed. The game even presents two secondary rewards for completing a mission undetected and by not letting anyone alive in the mission zone, but after doing a series of stealth runs, I got tired and started shooting my way through.
If we opt to do so, the game offers an extense weapon arsenal. These are obtained in flying shops around the city, and go from a pack of bananas to a ridiculous “fat shot pistol” that serves as a shotgun. There are machine guns, sniper rifles, heavy laser guns, miniguns and even a shield to deflect bullets. All weapons are divided in categories, and you’ll need to prepare yourself before entering a facility by purchasing ammo beforehand, as you can’t pick up neither ammo nor weapons from enemies.
Masking and using different outfits to gain entrance to certain facilities feels really rewarding, but we have to be cautious, as the energy bar only replenishes in certain places, and it drains quickly. There is also a cat we can use later on to prevent enemies to sneak up on us. The cats are better used for the nemesis system, in which sometimes a skilled enemy will appear and try to kill us, and we only have one chance to defeat them first. This is an aspect that could have been exploited much further, but it ended up being just another element to the playground.
Enemies come from all angles, including buildings or stairs that are below us, and it can take some time to nail the aiming in order to shoot where we want to
Everything that we do, and how we approach each situation, is heavily limited by both the camera position and aiming. I found the first to be very enjoyable at every moment; a change of perspective in the midst of battle often unveils a hidden path or a uncovered stair that can be used to run away from the chaos. Aiming, on the other hand, can be quite troublesome at times. Enemies come from all angles, including buildings or stairs that are below us, and it can take some time to nail the aiming in order to shoot where we want to. While there is a centered marker, we need to move carefully to shoot that is, for example, above a wall or a ceiling.
Situations can become really chaotic, and we have to rely on walls or objects in order to escape from gun sight. Luckily, we are able to jump really high and there is no fall damage, which make escaping a really entertaining moment.
The game’s art style was really unique in the trailers, but it just feels so great to actually live inside this world. Waterfalls, forests, a giant cathedral, giant neon letters, advertisements about the drug (including giant pills), and all kinds of architecture that gives identity to Tokyo 42’s vision of the upcoming future. Everything is wonderfully crafted, and one of the things I enjoyed the most during my time with the game was finding hidden spots with the binoculars. There is a list of people or situations that are only hinted by a subtle description, and we can search for them at our own pace. This includes a pair of lovers who are holding hands in a balcony, an unknown cult inside a statue’s head and some guy who is taking a bath inside an industry tube.
Tokyo 42 has a lot of attitude, joined by a great art design, a powerful soundtrack and many side tasks to do and collectibles to find. Sadly, some of its core mechanics tend to fail the player more often that I’d like to admit, and it can prove to be too stressful for some players.
This copy of Tokyo 42 was provided by Mode 7 for review purposes. Diego N. Argüello spent 8 hours fighting his way through the criminal ladder… and chasing cats.