Platforms PC (reviewed), XBO
Developer SMAC Games
Publisher Mode 7 Games
Release Date May 31, 2017

Review code provided

Tokyo 42 is an open world isometric shooter set in a cyberpunk city that casts players as someone who has been framed for a murder they didn’t commit. To clear your name you’ll need to dive into the world of contract assassinations and corporate intrigue. There are also cats. Lots of cats. Some of them are even quite useful.

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Tokyo 42 is a bit of a gaming mash-up. It borrows gameplay elements from Syndicate (the old one), Hitman and Grand Theft Auto (the old ones), with a little Blade Runner thrown into the pot for good measure, putting them together in a neon-infused take on future Tokyo where death is kind of irrelevant. This is a world where most people take medication that can essentially bring them back to life. Which is why it’s such a big deal that you’ve managed to allegedly murder someone.

Honestly, the story isn’t meant to be taken too seriously (you become an assassin to prove that you didn’t kill someone). Missions will have you taking out nudist colony leaders and minigolf moguls as much as biker punks or shadowy corporate thugs. Missions are divided into three categories – the main missions that forward the plot, side missions that exist to expand your arsenal and let you interact with the side characters and the terminal missions, which are minor deviations that allow you to complete quick tasks for cash.

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Tokyo 42 is about keeping things as simple as possible (most of the time). You can certainly attempt to assassinate your targets in as loud and brutal a fashion as possible, assaulting positions all guns blazing. Stealth, when it’s available, is the best option and the most satisfying way to play the game. Crouching behind walls and other cover, evading guard patrols and swivelling the camera around to find hidden paths to objectives is Tokyo 42 at its best.

The stealth mechanics are kept incredibly simple. You simply need to stay out of sight of patrolling guards when in restricted areas. They won’t react to the dead bodies of their friends, which requires a large suspension of disbelief, but this means that picking your moments to strike and create gaps is penalty free. Should you get spotted you can make use of the disguise mechanic, which allows you to change your appearance at the cost of some energy and avoid a potential murdering.

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Combat is a little trickier. For stealthy approaches you only have one real option – the katana. Sneak about, slice bad guys up from behind. For any other situations Tokyo 42 gives you access to a reasonable arsenal of purchasable weapons. Your every destructive whim is catered for – there’s the trusty pistol, fast firing assault rifle, pinpoint sniper rifle, crowd controlling bazooka and even some grenades. Each weapon has its inherent strengths and weaknesses that make them ideal in some situations but useless in others.

Aiming a weapon in Tokyo 42 can feel really fiddly, especially in the chaotic arena of fast-paced combat. When you’re being fired upon you need to be just as aware of bullets heading your way as where you’re shooting, which can split your focus so much you stop aiming. The game also has an issue with heights. Because you’re tackling everything from an isometric standpoint you’ll generally be aiming where you point your mouse cursor.

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This means that if there are enemies below or above you then you’ll need to be quite precise in your aiming. Because of the way aiming works and how it’s presented on the screen it can be difficult to work out where your bullets are going to end up, especially if you’re moving to avoid getting shot to pieces yourself. You also have to worry about bullet speed, as different weapons fire bullets at differing velocities.

Meaning that you have to lead your targets from a camera position that doesn’t lend itself to that task particularly well. The camera also struggles with indoor environments. When you’re outside and there’s nothing between you and your protagonist everything is great. When you head indoors things get trickier. Only the roof disappears to give you a view inside, which would be great if Tokyo 42 was a top-down shooter, but it’s isometric and the walls don’t disappear.

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It can make even seeing where your character is a challenge that the game doesn’t need. A good example of the shifts from exhilarating to frustrating is a mission that saw me heading to take out a pair of targets hidden in a small building on a rooftop. Getting to the roof saw me jumping on moving hover cars. Navigating the rooftop had me sneaking around in an awesome section of stealth gameplay. Then I had to enter this tiny building with no way to see inside, meaning I had to charge inside swinging my sword like a madman, relying on blind faith that I’d get my targets.

The game will also release AI controlled hitmen into your game at random to murder you. Every now and again you’ll be alerted that a Nemesis is after you, who could be anyone in the game world and has the sole purpose of killing you. It’s a great idea in theory, fitting in with the established lore of the game, but the Nemesis had a habit of messing me up at the worst possible moment – ruining stealthy approaches with loud gunshots, sneaking up on me when I was desperately fighting a dozen armed goons and more. Understandable, but frustrating.

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Luckily save points are fairly liberally placed throughout the world. This takes some of the sting out of getting caught out by the fiddly aiming mechanics or a grenade thrown by an unseen nemesis. It also aids with experimentation – allowing you to vary your approach to missions or try risky jumps to see if you can find alternative routes through levels. The platforming in Tokyo 42 is pretty great – you can’t take fall damage (and therefore make epic escapes off the top of skyscrapers) and a handy line extends down from your character and shows where you’re about to land.

It’s also a hell of an open world. The neon colour palette, clean lines and electric soundtrack combine to create a very stylish city for you to explore. Tokyo 42’s Tokyo is also filled to bursting with hidden areas, secrets to uncover and more hidden paths than you can shake a stick at. Or a cat. This futuristic Tokyo is the game’s biggest strength. It’s a joy to exist in, a joy to explore and a joy to learn about the weird, quirky groups and people that make up its populace.

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Tokyo 42 also comes with a multiplayer deathmatch mode. Players start out with very little ammo and disguised as an NPC. The idea is to blend in with the crowd while trying to figure out who the other players are. Once players are revealed all hell breaks loose – bullets, rockets, grenades and katanas fly. It’s an entertaining mode that starts out slow and methodical before devolving into a quick burst of all-out carnage and is quite a fun way to experience Tokyo 42’s gameplay in a different way.

Summary

Tokyo 42 is a solid game held back from greatness by a couple of quirks in its design. When you’re simply exploring the world, looking for secrets or engaging in stealth in open areas, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Finding alternate paths through hotels or across massive skyscrapers allows you to approach the game in different ways. Simple stealth mechanics and generous save points make for fast-paced gameplay that allows for experimentation without huge losses of progress.

It’s hard to ignore some of the game’s faults, however. When you’re stuck trying to get through indoor levels it can feel like a drag. The isometric camera can’t cope, especially as exterior walls don’t disappear to let you see what you’re actually doing. Gunplay can be fiddly too, especially when you’re engaging enemies at different heights. Tokyo 42 is still a good game and well worth your time, but with a few tweaks it could have been so much more.

7v2


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