A new Ghost in the Shell game, the multiplayer shooter First Assault, is due in the near future. And of course we’re all awaiting the new movie, with Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi, (justifiable whitewashing accusations aside, I have to say Johansson’s perfectly cast for the role). Perhaps it was all this that inspired me to give the old Stand Alone Complex PS2 game a go, having not done so at the time of its release. Here follow some thoughts on that game.
The GITS SAC PS2 game alternates between two playable characters, Motoko Kusanagi and her second-in-command Batou – the obvious choices. While their missions are separate, the two are both working to solve one case; a typically GITS story, packed with complex corporate-espionage/terrorism/cybercrime. These characters are in communication with the others whom we know and love, and the Tachikoma tanks make appearances (indeed the Tachikoma is a third playable character, albeit for one brief mission alone). The GITS feel is captured superbly through the cast and the tale, with the use of voice actors from the TV series adding to the effect considerably; and while it can be hard to follow the complicated story initially, let’s not pretend that isn’t something to which GITS has often shown a slight tendency.
The graphics are – well, the graphics must have looked great back in 2004, so, I’m guessing that gives an idea of how they look today. But this shooter’s not overly old-fashioned in terms of gameplay; it doesn’t have the highest sophistication in terms of targeting etc, and some aspects of the controls are perhaps a little awkward from time to time, but overall it does much of what more modern shooters can do. On normal mode, I wouldn’t have minded a little more difficulty – at any rate, highly advanced players should certainly select hard mode. I’d also have liked more boss fights, or at the least more diverse enemies, as taking out increasing numbers of the same-old low-level types can become repetitive. That said, the makers do find other ways to introduce variety. The use of two main characters is important to the gameplay even more than to the story, each favouring a different approach due to their different areas of ability; I won’t go so far as to say that Kusanagi’s missions require stealth play, but her low strength/high agility compared to Batou rewards more emphasis on strategy. Though I did tire of the fiddly jumping challenges which Kusanagi’s missions involve, as it took me quite a while to acquire the knack for these. The option of ghost-hacking enemies also lends a little diversity (but in later missions I personally found hacking tediously tricky).
Overall I’d recommend this game to the GITS fans out there, the ones who didn’t play it at the time – I doubt the game’ll mean much to non-GITS fans, to be reasonable. But to those who are fans of GITS already – in particular the TV show GITS SAC – this work’s an essential addition to the universe. The characters and story do convey the GITS atmosphere accurately, and furthermore the game’s a fun little shooter (if not a wholly flawless one). It’s pretty cheap these days, given its age, so grab a disk on Amazon, or get the game on Steam; what have you got to lose?