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Ghost Of Tsushima Director’s Cut review – Legends of the samurai

Sony’s samurai adventure is remastered for the PS5, with a whole new island to explore and an expansion of Legends mode.

Of all Sony’s recent first party exclusives, if you were going to take a bet on which was most likely to underperform it would probably have been 2020’s Ghost Of Tsushima. Developer Sucker Punch were only previously known for Sly Racoon and Infamous – not exactly the PlayStation’s most vaunted franchises – and the setting of medieval Japan seemed a little too specific to earn mainstream success. In the end though it greatly exceeded Sony’s expectations and now a sequel is underway, as well as a movie adaptation and this Director’s Cut for both PlayStation 4 and 5.

There are various ways to explain Ghost Of Tsushima’s success, including the fact that samurai are intrinsically cool and yet have, bafflingly, rarely ever appeared in any big budget video games. There’s also the fact that the game’s graphics are astonishingly good, arguably the best on the PlayStation 4. Perhaps the single most important factor though is that Ghost Of Tsushima is basically an old school Assassin’s Creed game without the time travel nonsense.

If that is Ghost Of Tsushima’s secret sauce it’s also its Achilles heel, as despite the close attention to historical detail a lot of the gameplay is very familiar from both Assassin’s Creed and Ubisoft games in general. Whether you found that to be a flaw or one of the main appeals in the original this Director’s Cut will not change your mind, but it does add in a substantial amount of new content.

If you’re playing the Director’s Cut on PlayStation 5, as we were, then it also doubles as a remaster of the original game. Given how good that looked though the difference is mild and all the amazing sunsets and endless fields of pampas grass are actually just the same as they were in the original. They now run at a dynamic 4K resolution and ‘targeting’ 60fps but the difference is hard to notice. That also goes for the use of haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers of the DualSense, which is surprisingly mellow.

Proper lip syncing for the Japanese voiceovers is probably the most significant change, as that’s what we used throughout, but that’s pretty much it. In all other respects the story campaign game is exactly the same as what was released last year – which you can read more about in our original review – but with the very significant exception of a new story chapter set on Iki Island.

The nearby Iki Island has also been invaded by the Mongols but unlike the larger Tsushima Island the samurai have not been in control of Iki for some time and it’s a haven for bandits and smugglers. The island becomes accessible as soon as you start Act 2 of the main campaign, at which point you become alerted to the fact that villagers are being menaced by a new tribe of Mongols.

This tribe is led by a female shaman called the Eagle and are sending people mad with a concoction that is meant to open up their inner psyche. Jin is captured early on and forced to drink it, which facilitates a number of flashbacks and dream sequences centred around his father. It’s a fairly hackneyed set-up but it does mean the Iki storyline is much more personal than might have been expected and does add some much needed depth to Jin’s personality.

As you could probably guess, most of the islanders, especially the ones you deal with directly, turn out to be thieves with a heart of gold but their distrust of samurai does at last offer a less romanticised view of what were, once you take away all the paraphernalia, a militarised aristocracy that were just as corrupt and discriminatory as those in any other medieval country. Jin is still portrayed as a committed protector of the peasantry but at least with Iki Island the game beings to add some grey areas.

What you’d also expect from Iki Island is that it looks absolutely stunning, with a noticeably different colour palette than Tsushima, that is if anything even more beautiful. The mission design is largely the same though and the only significant new abilities revolve around charging groups of enemies with your horse – who seems to have taken on even more superheroic properties than Jin himself. Enemies can now swap weapons mid fight, which is interesting, and there’s a new class of shaman foe who will buff allies unless you take them down first, but otherwise everything works the same as before.

Iki Island is a welcome addition but if it were the only consideration for the Director’s Cut we wouldn’t have been minded to change our score from the original review. What has pushed the needle though is multiplayer mode Legends. Although a new 2v2 mode and a few other extras are due in early September the content is currently the same as was released post-launch and is available for free whether you buy the Director’s Cut or not (a standalone release of Legends is also planned for next month).

Legends wasn’t part of the game when it originally launched but it’s arguably even more enjoyable than the single-player, with the otherwise simplistic combat working very well in multiplayer and the more fantastical edge offering more variety in terms of enemies and abilities. The survival mode has proven especially good and there’s an extensive amount of gear and upgrades to get through, that absolutely justify the standalone release.

The most cost effective way to play everything is probably to pick up the PlayStation 4 version of the original cheap and pay for an upgrade to the Director’s Cut, the EA-esque complexities of which are explained here. The bottom line, though, is that it costs £16 to upgrade from the PlayStation 4 version to the PlayStation 4 Director’s Cut (£25 if you want to go up to the PlayStation 5 version) and we’d say the former, at least, is worth it for a minimum of eight hours’ worth of new content.

The Director’s Cut addresses many of the issues we had with the original, even if it doesn’t entirely resolve any of them. The open world gameplay is still very formulaic, but the story now has a little more bite and the supernatural elements in Legends are very welcome – even ignoring the quality of the multiplayer itself. Ghost Of Tsushima is still no classic but this is clearly the best version of it and leaves us much more optimistic for the series’ future than we were at the end of the original version.

Ghost Of Tsushima Director’s Cut review summary

In Short: The underlying game is still too reliant on the Ubisoft formula but the new content and Legends mode make Ghost Of Tsushima Director’s Cut a notably better experience than the original at launch.

Pros: Incredible graphics and period detail, despite few real improvements over the PlayStation 4 edition. Iki Island is great, with some interesting story revelations. Legends mode is excellent.

Cons: The single-player gameplay and structure remains both formulaic and repetitive. Romanticised view of the samurai still feels simplistic.

Score: 8/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed) and PlayStation 4
Price: £69.99
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Sucker Punch
Release Date: 20th August 2021
Age Rating: 18

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