REVIEW: Tokyo 42

Set in a futuristic world with hover-cars, Tokyo 42 is a 3D open world tactical stealth/shooter game, with some parkour thrown in, where you take on assassination missions following a storyline of corporate conspiracy in the criminal underworld.

Steam: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action, Adventure
Developer: SMAC Games
Publisher: Mode 7
Release Date: 31 May, 2017

I’ve been following this game since its first appearance on Greenlight. It’s published by Mode 7, the devs of my all time favourite game Frozen Synapse. I used to watch Paul’s many Tokyo 42 videos, including his ‘Cop Drop Daily’ where he would try to beat his best level, and I could hardly contain myself, everything about it looked awesome. When the game was finally released and I got my hands on it I was so excited a little bit of wee came out.


You run around the city picking up missions from computer terminals. Pixel-graphics characters give you a brief rundown of the situation – eg. gang boss holed up in a stronghold, take out the goons and assassinate him – and off you go. There’s a teleport network visible from an overview map of the entire city, so you can look around and ping yourself to a particular spot so you never have to run too far if you don’t want to.

On completion of a mission you go and pick up your monetary reward. The payments mount up quickly and you can use your funds to purchase all kinds of goodies from the shops around the city: weapons (of course), cloaks, cats(!)

There are two types of mission: main missions which progress the storyline and are tough assignments involving bosses, and for each of these there are several side missions which allow you to collect extra cash for upgrades and suchlike. Each mission has 3 grades: Ninja (basic, just complete any way you can); Ronin (complete by acing some aspects) and Roninja (perfect execution). Plenty of replay value here, and bear in mind that you’ve probably already attempted a mission several times even to Ninja it.

On Guard! A fundamental premise of the game is that the missions take place in red ‘restricted’ areas controlled by the baddies. The baddies patrol the area and have vision arcs. If you’re spotted by any of them, the whole gang becomes alert and they come chasing after you en masse with bullets flying, whereupon you have to try to escape, shoot your way out of it or (mostly) die! Even if you snipe one of them from outside the restricted area, the report of the gun can give away your position and they’ll all come bursting out of the building after you!

There is a button you can use to change your appearance when you’re being chased. Hide around a corner, change your disguise and then nonchalantly stroll out into the midst of the mayhem whistling a happy tune. You only have 2 uses before your charge wears off and you’ll need to top up your battery at a recharge point. I have to admit I rarely use this. My philosophy is to try not to get spotted in the first place, or else deliberately attract aggro to a choke point (see below).

I recently watched John Wick 2 with Keanu Reeves. I highly recommend it. This game is exactly like that.

Cop Drops

This is like a mini game. If you kill too many civilians a police hover wagon will descend and drop 2 police. This is Level 1. If you kill them both, a few seconds later Level 2 will arrive with 4 cops, then 6… Rinse and repeat with increasing numbers of cops, until you die or manage to escape (this is where your disguise can come in useful). There’s an achievement for reaching the maximum level. I don’t know what that level is, but knowing this game I expect it’s pretty high!

You can do Cop Drops whenever you like, just for fun or challenge, but for me they are usually triggered when I’m desperately trying to kill my ‘Nemesis’. You see, at the end of some missions you’re notified that your Nemesis is after you. This can turn out to be any of the civilian population wandering around, and frequently you get murdered immediately by a Nemesis who suddenly appears within 2 millimetres of you and slices you. This tends to make you paranoid and I’ve taken to shooting any civilian who comes near me in case it’s my Nemesis, and hence the triggered Cop Drops. I have managed to bag a few Nemeses(?) though, my ratio is probably around 50/50.


Every weapon has two firing modes: normal mode simply points the weapon in a direction and allows you to strafe the targets; if you press the right-stick it changes to target mode allowing you to precisely position a shot and then run around firing at the same spot (or moving it around if your dexterity allows). You can only strafe targets on the same vertical level as you, so if your enemy is at the bottom of some steps your strafing will go over his head. Position shots shoot directly at your crosshair including elevation, so this is what you use for sniping from rooftops etc. This can also be effective in aggro situations if you’re a whizz on the kb/mouse controls, which I certainly am not.

You have various weapons at your disposal and you can buy more as you progress. There are 4 main types:

  • Pistols, machine guns or shotguns if you choose to go in all-guns-blazing, which is rarely the best option.
  • Sniper rifles for picking them off one by one from a distant vantage point – the basic one is rather loud though, and tends to alert them whereupon they come chasing after you, so I’ve taken to sniping with a pistol. The bullets are quieter but slower so you have to ‘lead’ the targets more, this is a lot of fun and I’m getting quite good at it. There is a suppressor available for the sniper rifle which I’ll buy soon though.
  • Katana (sword). This is for sneaking up behind targets and slicing them silently without alerting anyone.
  • Rocket launchers and grenades (which can be thrown with left-trigger at the same time as firing your main weapon with the right). The punks can see grenades coming and they flee, so they don’t do much killing, but are useful for scattering pockets of goons hiding behind cover. Rocket launchers are better for actually blowing things up, such as tough LogicMini robots.

Quite often you have to use combinations of these methods to accomplish your mission. One clever strategy I’ve been employing is to use choke points. I kill one target which alerts all the goons, then I position myself for example at the end of an alleyway or behind a small building, and pick them off with a machine gun one by one as they come at me.

In this game there’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say. The challenge is to work out the best way to do it, and I often have to try several different plans to find the best way. Death is instant but there’s no penalty for it, you just respawn and try again… and again… and again. It gives me a great buzz to complete a tough mission. Those LogicMini robots rain down insanely fast machine gun AND rocket fire on you but after many battles I know how to beat them!

Controls. Christ On A Bike!

I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s as crazy as a box of frogs, seriously. Right from the start of the game you’re confronted by a bewildering array of buttons, options, menus… Every single feature of the controller is used for something, and even those things have sub-things. After many hours of play I still forget how to do stuff and find myself mashing all the buttons trying to accomplish something seemingly simple.

The first time I played I used a Steam controller. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! The aim is totally impossible with the right glide-pad, which does not go into strafe mode, instead it thinks it’s the mouse and my cursor was veering wildly all over the place while a gang of punks rushed at me, guns blazing. It’s also useless for sniping because you can’t accurately position the shot. I’m not ashamed to say, after many attempts at this early mission, I rage-quit and refused to play for another 2 weeks.

When I ventured back I tried it with mouse/keyboard. It was a little better, aiming with the mouse is the most accurate but it’s still awkward to strafe in the heat of battle when they’re coming at you. WASD movement isn’t ideal and you’re also having to contend with keystrokes to change the camera view. Way too much to handle.

Another hiatus ensued, then I finally took the plunge and ordered an Xbone controller specifically to play this game with a proper right-stick. This turned out to be the best method. It’s great for twin-stick strafing in tight situations and it’s also not too bad for positioning shots when sniping, although I do still reach for the mouse sometimes for this job.

There is a special place in Hell for whoever came up with the motorbike missions. That thing is impossible to control, and you’re expected to fire shots while doing it. Being an actual biker myself this is especially painful to behold.


There are some easy missions (find the cat for example) but they’re mostly very difficult. On the flip side, this makes them rewarding and satisfying when you beat them.

The difficulty of the missions is exacerbated by the tricky controls (see above). There’s an isometric camera view which turns in increments so you’re either looking straight or diagonally, always from above, from one of eight angles. More often than not, buildings and other obstacles obscure your view and this can be especially frustrating in the heat of battle while you’re already trying to control two sticks with enemies swarming at you, and now you have to think about pressing your shoulder buttons to change the camera angle. I’ll never get used to it, I usually try to set the most useful angle at the start of a battle and then hope for the best.

There are waypoints dotted all over the place in the form of vending machines. You can only use them when you’re not being chased but they are very useful for completing missions one portion at a time.

Sound & Vision

Just look at these screenshots. Aren’t they just fabulous? The pink/blue pill logo is a brand that a real global company would give their right arm for, don’t you think? The sharp, clean vector graphics, pastel colours and interesting little secret items littered all over the place make this a great world to explore. There’s a distinct cat theme going on. I love cats. You can even collect them and deploy them to track down elusive prey. Another thing that warrants a mention is the comical running style, all knees and elbows, with oversize quiff haircuts wildly bouncing around. It’s hilarious when you get a conga line of them chasing after you sometimes.

The rhythmic electronic music suits the environment perfectly, and it changes as you move around different areas of the map. It’s one of those rare games where the music is actually worth listening to and enhances the experience. Top marks.


They’ve said it’s on the way but meanwhile, for those (very few) of you who might be interested, I’ve tried running it a) via Wine-steam (or standalone Wine-Tokyo42) – graphics had thin stripey lines but were generally good, but you can’t run Big Picture so you can’t set up the controller, and b) via Linux-steam, linking to Wine-Tokyo42 – Big Picture / controller sorted, but graphics are fuzzy and some areas of the world are inexplicably obscured by thick clouds making it unplayable. Weird. So in conclusion, I’ll have to wait for the proper Linux version.


The interface looks pretty slick but unfortunately I haven’t found anyone online in any of the 3 available regions so far. I don’t mind, the single-player campaign is more than enough to keep me occupied.


There is just so much content here. There are secrets, new mechanics, huge varieties of gameplay and replay value up the wazoo. The midrange price, in my opinion, is too low. You get more than your money’s worth here.


There are 19 achievements. The first 4 are quite easy but then global completion takes a nose dive down to single figures and before you even get halfway it’s below 1%. As I said, this is a TOUGH game!

No trading cards yet. Usually I don’t care what a badge looks like, I just go for the numbers for level increase, but in this case I would dearly love to display a Tokyo 42 badge on my profile so please get onto it devs!

Steam Cloud available which I will hopefully get to use later on when I transfer my progress to Linux!


I’ve had a love-hate-love relationship with this game. It certainly has its faults, but despite it all I find myself playing for hours on end. One time I played for so long that when I got up I found my feet had swollen up like balloons from sitting still for so long. True story. So I think it’s fair to say that this is going to be one of my long-term favourites that keeps tempting me back for more, especially if/when it arrives on Linux.

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