Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex First Assault Online – Beta Preview
Ghost in the Shell is one of my favourite anime movies (and series) ever. I think it’s fair to say that it would make most anime fans’ top 10 lists. I also think the biggest fear is that, with source material as awesome and complex and Ghost in the Shell’s, there is a high probability of disappointment with whatever a game company might produce. Still, from my point of view, I’m just happy if I get a decent game that doesn’t detract from the IP.
A number of years ago I bought a Ghost in the Shell game for my PSP. I will never mention it again, except to say that I did not play it for long. Frowny face…
Ghost in the Shell: First Assault – Stand Alone Complex Online, besides being quite a mouthful, is also a new multiplayer online FPS from developer Neople and publisher Nexon. I’d never heard of either before, however they did offer us a code to review their Beta and I only had to beg Matt a little bit to get it.
After installing the game and creating my new Nexon online account (we soooo need a digital account wallet to manage all these online shenanigans!), I got my first look at the game.
GitS:FA-SACO looks and feels like a Ghost in the Shell game should. The characters maintain their anime style and the interface looks slick and modern. The graphics don’t have the realism and sheen of other modern FPS such as COD, Battefield or Splinter Cell, but the anime graphics definitely suite this title. I don’t play online FPS, since I’m so terrible at them, but I found it easy to navigate around the menus. I quickly unlocked an operative, and ran through the quick tutorial before diving into a random match.
The controls felt smooth to me, so hopefully that means Neople know what they’re doing. Characters have the standard FPS movement abilities such as running, ducking, leaping, mantling, climbing, aiming and switching weapons. Gun fire generally felt solid, and the different guns I tried felt different and had appropriate sounds. Prior to each game (and when you respawn), you pick a loadout which includes a primary weapon (assault rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun SMG), a secondary weapon (always a handgun, for now anyway), a Megatech knife (for those up-close-and-personal kills) and a final slot for grenades or tactical weapons. Numeric keys switch between weapons, but there is also a button to quickly throw a grenade. Each operative also gets a special ability. The operatives include Ghost in the Shell Section 9 favourites such as Major Kusanagi Motoko, Batou, and Togusa, although the core team is all there. Major Motoko gets her famous Therm-optic camo ability, Batou gets an arm canon and Togusa can deploy drones. Other team members also get useful tactical abilities such as heat sensors, armour or the ability to deploy turrets. These abilities can also be levelled. Levelled abilities can be “synced” with teammates giving your allies the tier 1 ability affect. So, when playing Major Motoko with a tier 2 upgrade you can get your whole team to sync up and then all go in stealthed. It’s really cool.
There is also a decent selection of weapons and gear available. The armoury and store have a number of different weapons available to start and a bunch more than can be purchased with in-game currency. Each weapon also has a number of different attachments. The attachments modify the weapons stats and those with better stat boosts may also have some penalties to consider as well. There are also weapon skins, outfits and other items available in the store. Some parts of the store looked a little bare, but I expect they will fill out once the games moves out of beta.
As you play, you earn unlock points which improve weapon statistics. So the more you play, the better your equipment gets. You also earn (and can purchase, with in game currency) operative licenses to unlock more Section 9 team members in your roster. An additional member (Maven) was added during the weeks I was playing the game.
There are three match types available. A standard team death match, a capture the flag type mode called “Terminal Conquest” and Demolition. Death matches are always fun, but I found the terminal conquest to be quite a cool mode too. Teams need to race to terminals when they become live and hack them, which takes time. When a team successfully holds and hacks a terminal, it calls in one of Ghost in the Shell’s signature Think Tanks. If you’re not familiar with the show, the tanks kind of look like spiders with wheels on their feet. They’re heavily armed and armored but can be hacked to disable their defences. Anyway, no matter what mode I was playing I found it fun and fast paced. It never seemed to too long before I respawned and was back in the action. There are also 5 maps available, but not all maps can be used for all modes. The maps have decent choke points and sniping areas and seemed decent to me.
Perhaps all the cerebral content covered in the anime could find a better home in a game with more features than an FPS but … I really enjoyed this game. Not being a COD or Battlefield player, I can’t compare it to those franchises, but I think it is definitely worth a look. The gameplay and mechanics seems solid to me and the Ghost in the Shell properties make their presence felt through voice-work, music and visuals. The game is still in beta release, but I’ve seen improvements over the last few weeks and there are still greyed out areas of the main menu hub that hint at more content to come. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards for this title.
“And where does the newborn go from here? The net is vast and infinite.”
– Major Motoko Kusanagi / Puppet Master