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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Reviewed November 2005 by Sean Kasheri

Publisher: Bandai
Developer: G Artists / SCEI
Release Date: October, 2005
ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
Genre: FPS (First Person Shooter)
Price: $39.99

Since the US launch back in March 2005, the PSP has endured a season of mediocre games with a few greats such as Metal Gear Acid, Burnout Legends, Coded Arms, and a handful of others. But that dry season is ending this holiday season, and a steady line of good-looking games is headed for the PSP. And the game to start off the line of great games is Ghost in the Shell.

Ghost in the Shell, Stand Alone Complex, takes after the hit anime series, Stand Alone Complex. Her Section 9 operatives Batou, Saito, and Togusa, all of who are playable characters, join main character Major Motoko Kusanagi. And to lead them is Aramaki, their boss. Their assistance on the field, the loyal Tachikoma (which are AI-controlled tanks you can customize), is also included. The game starts off with your mission to recover a top-secret file known as File H-88. But from there, the story takes off into an elaborate plot, which holds you until the end. The game's plot is steady and strong, with twists and plenty of cut scenes in-between.

Game Play

Ghost in the Shell is the first FPS (first-person-shooter) on the PSP that gives a great run for your money. The game is solid, with good action and lots of options. There are over 50 weapons to choose from including grenades, dual handguns, machine guns and more. You can chose between 4 different characters, all a little different. Major Kusanagi is the balanced character, carrying medium weaponry, quick and strong. Batou is the heavy weapons, a little stronger, but slower. Saito's specialty is with sniper weapons, and Togusa is a balanced human with stealth on his side. By the way, so you know, Major Kusanagi and Batou are both cyborgs, while Saito and Togusa are humans. There are some pretty good levels in the game and some are pretty long, with plenty of objectives to accomplish throughout the game.

At the beginning of every mission, you get the chance to customize your weaponry and take what you want, as well as the ability to pick up weapons your opponents drop. You can also customize your tachikoma, who packs a very serious punch. Sadly, his ammo cannot be replenished during missions, but there are ways to get around this. There are 4 tachikomas, all with a little different personality. The good thing about your tachikoma is that you can control it, by giving firing orders, movement orders, and point movement orders, but the last order isn't so important. And one other fun play, you can mount your tachikoma. That's right, during most missions, you can pilot your tachikoma and rain lead onto your enemies. And the weaponry for your tachikoma ranges from laser, to shields, to sprinklers, yes a sprinkler. With all the customization available, 4 different characters to play as, as well as 4 tachikomas to use, you've got a lot of options in this great first person shooter campaign.

The game's wireless multiplayer mode is a brilliant idea, allowing up to 6 players and their tachikomas to go head to head in a free-for-all, or other modes as well. The multiplayer mode supports Ad-Hoc connections and can be initiated by the one player and others can join in after the "host player" finishes the game settings. There is no infrastructure mode where you can hop online and play with more players or keep a scoreboard.

The only drag in this game is the load times. There are a lot of them during mission parts and between missions, but they are thankfully short; about 10-15 seconds. One way to pass the load time is to watch the tachikoma pass the screen. After the 3rd time the tachikoma passes, the game almost always loads up.

Controls

Here is one spot where Ghost in the Shell shines. The controls are very thought out. There different control schemes, but they are all similar. Basic controls are as follows: use the analog stick to move around, the square-circle-triangle-x buttons to move around, L to jump and R to shoot. Up lets you pick up weapons, right lets you scroll between weapons, and left lets you reload. All works out really well, right? But what about when your enemy is moving, or you're having a hard time keeping a steady bead on an enemy? Well, our friends at Bandai came up with a clever idea that makes those problems go away. Press down when in your weapon's range of fire and you'll lock on to your enemy. You can keep on him and if he moves too far, stop shooting and your targeting will refocus on the enemy. The control schematics make the gameplay a smooth sail in this PSP shooter.

Graphics

Ghost in the Shell boasts some pretty impressive graphics for the PSP. The weapons look sharp, the enemies look nasty, and the backgrounds quite detailed as well. The characters are very well done, each has a well-detailed looks and has a few emotional features even, which is impressive. The graphics could be said to be a little better than Counter Strike, but certainly good enough to turn a few heads. Everything from explosions to the smoke coming out of your gun after overheating just looks good. The tachikomas look beautiful in 3-D and their weapons look even cooler. These are graphics that PSP fans can definitely enjoy.

Sound

The music in Ghost in the Shell isn't that incredible. It's just a couple of beats and rhythms here and there to keep you going in battle. That's the sound part that could have used work. Now this is something special in a PSP game: full voice acting in all cinematics. And the voice acting is good. Characters talking normally and it's not choppy, lip-synching is good and acting includes some emotional parts. It's incredible to watch the scene with voice acting that can draw you into the story.

Conclusion

Ghost in the Shell is a game that PSP gamers will love. It gives some great first person shooting action with an elaborate story line. The enemy AI as well as tachikoma AI works well and the cinematics are superbly done. The game controls make it easy for anyone to pick up and play. This is one game in 2005 that PSP owners should check out, even if you are not big on FPS games.

Playing Hints and Tips

- Make sure you take weapons you need to each mission. Don't take in 3 heavy machine guns cause they're strong. Take a little of everything.
- Customize your tachikoma how you want to. There are lots of options.
- If you need to, pull out of a firefight, it may save your life.

 

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Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

These graphics are great. Definitely make an FPS look good on the PSP. It might not have groundbreaking visuals, but you will not regret after seeing the cinematics and in-game visuals.

Sound

The music doesn't match the visuals or the top-notch controls. The beats are repetitive after a while. But the cinematic voice acting is something you don't want to miss.

Fun Meter

A good number of weapons and tank parts, as well as using your tank help keep the game fun. Multiplayer only has ad-hoc mode which is fun with some limitations. It would be nice to see an infrastructure mode.

Addictivity

It’s an enticing run for the first time. Not too many incentives to keep you coming back for more. Multiplayer mode adds some replay value.

Total Score= 3.875 Dragons, 77.5%



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