Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Japan's foray into the shooting stealth action genre


The Lowdown

Pros: 3D Full Motion video looks nice, has two different characters to play

Cons: Awful controls, twitchy jumping, repetitive, nothing to make this game stand out

Purchase at Play-Asia
Many people have heard of the movie Ghost in the Shell by now. The popular Ghost in the Shell franchise had its first game on the PS One. While many fans of the movie liked it, the average gamer saw it as a ho hum licensed game. Now the Ghost in the Shell anime series that has been running in Japan for quite awhile and will debut in America in the summer gets a game, too. Does Stand Alone Complex suffer the same fate as the Playstation One game? Sort of, but not exactly. One thing for sure is like the original game Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex will divide fans of the series and gamers looking for a decent action game.

If you are unfamiliar with the Ghost in the Shell anime series know that the game features two main characters Motoko, a cyber solider with the gifted ability to hack into people's minds and Bateau another cyborg under the command of Motoko. The game will progress with story segments from the anime before and after levels as a reward for completing them. One thing to note is that instead of cutting and clipping segments from the anime series, the developers created full 3D computer graphic animation. Fans of the series will be pleased to know that the character models for Motoko and Bateau look really good. If this were a movie Ghost in the Shell: SAC would have scored fairly high, but its a game.

Playing Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex puts you in two completely different sets of shoes. Sometimes you're Motoko who is an agile fighter. She can perform acrobatic leaps with the press of a button like doing aerials or swan dives. She can also move pretty fast to dodge enemy attacks. Then there is Bateau who plays like an invincible solider who can hold his ground with his guns firing endless rounds. While it is nice to have two different styles of gameplay, they aren't different enough to make it worth while. No matter which character you play Ghost in the Shell: SAC follows a simple formula run, gun, jump, fall, jump, fall, jump, fall, well you get the picture. In between the action there is more jumping than you would expect. There is way too much in the first level, a shipping yard, where it just happens that crates are aligned for you to jump on. The controls for jumping call for the trigger buttons, one button to jump and another button needs to be pressed in mid air so you hold on to whatever is higher than you. For awhile the control scheme is frustrating, I found it better to set my own scheme than deal with the default screen. Even then jumping was a boring chore. Maybe its the depth perception of the game, but it seems looks like you can jump over many objects, only to find out that you can't. When you first start this game allocate one hour for pure frustration.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex emphasizes a stealth element to the game. One of these elements is "hacking" a person's mind. After shooting down some enemies you may notice a floating triangle over one of them. If you want you can download hacking data, which will allow you to hack another troops' mind. Before you get into a person's mind you must align three spinning discs together, like fitting a key into a lock. The puzzle gives you a time limit where if you can't complete it you don't fail, but have to do it over. Since you have unlimited tries there really is no reason to care about solving the puzzle, its merely a formality that shouldn't exist. It does have its reward because hacking is one of the coolest features of the game. When you're in someone else's mind you can control them for a limited amount of time. This allows you to do sneak attacks on enemies or infiltrate new areas. As a bonus once the time is up the enemy dies. Although part of the stealth element is cool, there is no reason to use it. The average enemy has the IQ of a blind goldfish. You can walk right in front of an enemy and they wont even react. You'll find it much faster to run straight up to enemies and blast them away or use your hand to hand attack for some variation.

The only challenge you'll get in this game is playing with another player. Thankfully, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex does offer a multiplayer mode. You can even play with up to four players, if you have a multitap. The multiplayer mode is your standard split screen deathmatch. You can pick the type of character you have between varying levels of speed and attack and pick different areas to fight in. Pretty standard video game stuff that you've seen in many games like Timesplitters 2 or XII, which offer online support.

Visually, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has some things going for it. I already mentioned the beautiful full motion video sequences. I'll also mention some slick in game animations like Motoko's aerial cartwheel move and the hand to hand combat animations. Other times the graphics are laughable, like the hand to hand combat finishing moves. When finishing an enemy off with hand to hand moves the game switches to a slow motion camera, which captures the last hit a la the Matrix. However, most of the time the last hit doesn't hit the enemy. So you'll see an enemy get knocked down in slow motion from a gust of wind instead the kick you used. Instead of being cool, it just looks silly and out of place. Another addition would be to add some more details to the backgrounds. Most of the backgrounds lack unique land marking objects. Instead you're given the same objects over and over. This is more than boring it can confuse a player into thinking they're in a new area.

While the graphics aren't the greatest there is something to be said about the sound quality. The background music is ambient techno. There are few beats in it, but is mostly white noise. The feel of the down tempo music meshes well with the game. The voice acting in the game is plentiful. In all of the FMVs and most of the in game story segments the characters talk. The sound effects are your standard boom, boom, bang, bang that fit the job assigned to them, too.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex doesn't have the action you'd expect from the name. It plays more like a platformer game at times mixed with the idea of stealth action. Along with the frustrating controls the game makes it hard for gamers to get into. Fans of the anime series will appreciate that the game follows the same story. They'll even appreciate the graphical translation and the whole hacking bit. Although, for your average gamer with no ties to the series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is something better experienced watching than playing.

Import Friendly?

Few of the in game menus are in English. Most of the important tutorial information and controller options are in Japanese, too. So even if you want to play the game and ignore the all Japanese voiceovers you'll have to invest some time.

US Bound?

Cartoon Network plans to air the series this summer so you can bet on an American release after the anime is shown.

Overall

Everything that's in this game has been seen in other games and many of those do it better. While fans of the series will still jump to pick this game up, its not great enough in any area to fully recommend as a game.