Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex review
Pay attention or get left behind...dead, or confused
Faithful to the license; Balls to the wall action; Decent enough weapon selection; Awesome graphics and sound; Amazing English voice acting; Controls feel quite smooth...The bad:
...once you're used to them as the controls feel bleeding awkward at first; Ghost hacking wasn't quite used to its full potential, and it's a pain in the ass to initiate it; Enemy dialogue can feel repetitive after some time; Barely any replay value to speak of due to uninspired multiplayerSummary:
A game that I often see in bargain bins and second hand stores everywhere, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a licensed game designed by Bandai. It could be ignored for two reasons - one, nobody is over that piece of shit Dr Jeckyll And Mr Hyde game for the NES, and two, it's a licensed game therefore it'll suck - but no matter what, there will always be people who are willing to try it out and see why it's ignored, but then get mad because it doesn't deserve to be ignored. Me, I halfway agree. Part of me says that this game had a buttload of potential and could have really kicked ass if Bandai tweaked some things, but the other half says that it was a pretty good game with a couple of problems here and there that just needed time to get used to. Well, you should get a good idea of what half is reviewing this...
Faithful to the license, the game's story revolves around Motoko Kusanagi and her partner Batou, members of an elite counter-terrorism cyber-warfare group known as Section 9, beating up bad guys through whatever means possible, and often confusing the hell out of you when you aren't paying attention. In the game, Motoko and Batou are being called in for a military investigation involving weapon smuggling and black markets set up by terrorists. You'd think that a bomb was involved, but sadly there isn't. Oh well - story starts of good anyway. Later on, the plot twists and changes a bit. They're somewhat predictable - moreso if you've watched the anime - and would make the story out to be shallow and without too much feeling, but actually experiencing them still leaves a good feeling, even if you saw it coming. Why? Because it's entertaining, that's why!
As well as some exposition between levels explaining the missions and some dialogue exchanges throughout missions to suss them out, you also have conversations with the rest of Section 9 via cybercom (which is like the codec from the Metal Gear series) to further suss out the missions, as well as exchange some funny and somewhat witty banter with your teammates who are obviously not bothered enough to help with the missions... Oh well, their purpose is to make the game seem more interesting, so if that's the case, then mission accomplished, because we all know it's Motoko's and Batou's job to clean up the terrorism while the rest just come up with witty stuff to say to keep the player amused.
Lets face it - it's a typical third person shooter. Without the license, the game wouldn't have too much recognition. It is because of the license that makes this game recognizable from the myriad of third person shooters out there. It's like how Capcom managed to separate Chip 'N Dale from other platformers on the NES just because its Chip 'N Dale...okay, not exactly, that game had a lot of emphasis on throwing items.. And this game manages to separate itself in some form or shape beyond its license, but we'll get to that later. Right now, I'll explain how the game actually plays.
Using either the ever so agile Motoko or the tank with the heavy artillery Batou at points in each mission, you carry out missions to stop terrorists from trying to bomb people or assassinate good people and whatnot, but its usually done by getting from Point A to Point B while blasting your way through enemies with a decent array of weapons, hand-to-hand combat and ghost hacking. Sounds like every other third person shooter on the market, sans the ghost hacking.
The weapon selection, as I said, is decent. You start each mission with a sub machine gun and some grenades. If you're using Motoko, you also start with some knives, but goddamn the knives suck! The sub machine gun is awesome because you can practically mow down mobs of enemies with it and the grenades can help out well enough, but the knives miss 9 times out of 10. They're supposedly instant death, but I could probably throw it to an enemy's face at point blank range and it misses. Can I just ask... WHAT IS UP WITH THAT!? By the time the knife finally kills him, you're probably not too far off, you're left open for assassination - you're screwed! Good thing Batou doesn't want anything to do with that crap! Nah, he's too busy taking crudloads of damage while shooting enemies with two 12 gauge sawn off shotguns... well, not exactly sawn offs, but its some sort of shotgun, and they, among the sub machine gun, all the other automatic guns and grenades, are awesome!
But the big question is... What would you have equipped? Since you can only have 2 main weapons at a time, you have to do some quick calculations - is it worth picking up that shiny sniper rifle, or do you want to bite the bullet, run like hell so you don't get hit by the snipers just to keep that shotgun? It's a bit of a thinking game when you encounter this kind of situation...
So yeah, weapon selection is decent, but do you want an idea of what the best weapon you have is? Your goddamn fists! Among gunfighting, there's also hand to hand combat where you and some enemies beat the living tar out of each other. Simply equip no weapon and just beat them all up. You can also engage in a sort of "close combat" where if you beat an enemy down, you enter into a sort of "bullet time" effect where everything is slowed down while you put the smackdown on that enemy. There, the camera shows you the moment you hit the enemy, which looks pretty cool if you ask me. It's a nice little addition and makes hand to hand combat decently useful, provided its against maybe one or two enemies. Against whole groups, you may want to bring out your shotgun or something or things WILL get messy.
One last thing that Motoko and Batou can do is a little thing called ghost hacking. What happens is that they'll hack into a person or a machine in the cyber world and they'll be able to take control of them...well, after we kill off their commanding officer and get some information out of him. Once you get the information, you can hack into their soldiers and machines, and get them to kill the other soldiers. However, the process of actually doing it is bloody frustrating! SERIOUSLY! You have to line up some sights and press X, then line up a bunch of goddamn circles in a sort of line and all these circles are spinning in some direction and GODDAMMIT IM TEARING MY HAIR OUT! Might as well button mash - at the harder portions, it pretty much does the same thing as timing it correctly. It really sucks because there are times where it's more useful than just coming in blowing everybody up, but at least those times are rare.
Although...I feel that with some tweaking and adjustments, the ghost hacking can either be more like a fun little mini game or just control by default provided you line up the very first sights with the enemy and just press X. But either way, like I said, it's rare when you have to use it, if at all, which brings me to another real problem I have with it - it wasn't used to its full potential. I felt that it could've involved machines activating some switches or guards going through some enemy infested zone you could get through yourself without charging into a massacre or said guard using his keycard to open a door then kill himself so you can get through the locked door - anything to make the player actually want to use this feature. Alas, it wasn't done, and it really drags down the game, because - with the exception of melee and the fact that its a licensed game that's actually good - it would've separated itself from the other third person shooters out there.
Then there are the actual level designs. Level designs are something that makes or breaks a game, and the level designs in this game are pretty good. Technically, they're linear as each mission involves getting from Point A to Point B, but its on the way that counts. On the way to Point B, you're faced with ledges and forks in the path, as well as some interesting concepts like in the first level how you can use the crane as a means of transport. Motoko can also be like a ninja and do some walljumps, which mixes up the level designs a bit. Speaking of jumping, it handles well enough as it allows for stable control in the air, and you jump decently high, and it all accommodates well into the level designs, as levels often include some platforming in the mix, just to keep you focused without there being a ton of enemies surrounding you. All in all, the levels are pretty damn impressive.
Actually, as a whole, the game plays well enough, but if the ghost hacking was fixed up, this game would have some really awesome gameplay and be able to separate itself from the rest of the pack.
The controls are fairly good for the most part. Unfortunately, they suffer from Oni syndrome - awkward as a haywire pogo stick at first, but once you get used to the controls, they feel natural, and flow like a river not affected by global warming.
Beginning with one I KNOW people will have problems adjusting to - the use of both analog sticks to aim and move. Now, this worked finely in Monster Madness for the 360, but that's because it was a hack n slash (mostly), and we all know it worked well with first person shooters because...well, they were in the first person and the camera focuses on where the head turns. Here, we have ourselves a third person shooter, and they're expecting us to aim with the right stick knowing that enemies move a bit and our shots will miss? Well, sorry guys, but that's tough luck if you can't get used to that sort of aiming scheme, because once you do, you just don't want to go back. You'll be shooting enemies down with relative ease once you adjust to the aiming controls. Again, you'll end up not wanting to go back.
Then there's another that people will get annoyed about - the overall button layout. "What the hell is up with it" you might be thinking. I found it weird that the shoulder buttons handled shooting and jumping, while switching weapons was done with triangle (for guns) and square (for grenades/knives/etc). Just felt awkward having to get used to the layout. Yeah, I know there are customization menus in the options menu, but no matter which one you choose, the layout will feel a bit awkward at first. Then there's the fact that you don't get weapons all that often (and even so, there's hardly ever a need to change what you have) so those buttons might go long periods of time without being touched, but it's the shoulder buttons that'll give you grief, even though it's just a matter of getting used to it.
Not much else to point out. The controls are good once you get used to them because they respond so swimmingly.
Quite pleasing to the eye. It's often pretty hard to have anime characters jump to 3D without looking awkward...at least on the PS2 (on the PS3 and 360, it's easy as hell to get nice looking 3D anime characters), and it's safe to say that the characters in this game are not interesting personality-wise, but also awesome to look at graphically. Kind of sucks that only a few Section 9 members are fully rendered, but oh well, it might have to do with memory limitations or something so I'm not holding that against the game. The environments also look very nice and are textured and rendered well enough to look awesome. Yes, I'm fully aware that the PS2 can do better, but still, these are some pretty good graphics...
I actually thought that the English voice acting was awesome, as well as the dubbing of the original Japanese script. Since the game was chock full of voice acting, Bandai had to make sure that the voice acting was top notch, which it was. They spared no expense in making sure it sounded good and felt good. If there's anything wrong, I'd say the enemy script is a little lacking as what they say as they die or chase you down gets awfully repetitive, but if there's no memory left on the disc, I'd understand.
Now that I got that out of the way, I can focus on the soundtrack and sound effects in peace. The soundtrack is something people often like to bitch about (or at least some of my friends did when we talked about this game). You know what? I liked it. It didn't feel that uninspired, it wasn't all just s "mindless techno ambient uninspired half assed soundtrack", but rather, an awesome soundtrack I wouldn't mind putting on my iPod. It fits in well with the cyberpunk theme of the anime and... It just sounds good, what else do you want? You could also say the same for the sound effects, which complement with what's happening.
Barely existent. I mean, yeah, you could replay the game a few times on higher difficulty levels, but that's about it. Personally, I didn't find multiplayer all that great. It was pretty much like every other third person shooter's multiplayer and at the end of the day, I just felt like playing Call Of Duty 4 or even Halo instead because there's more people to play with and more fun to be had. I have nothing against the multiplayer or anything, but it doesn't really increase the lifespan when games offer better. Haha and people say the soundtrack is uninspired... HAH!
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex is an entertaining game that should be in your collection and not the nearest bargain bin. Although the controls take time to get used to and the elements that tried to make this game different weren't all that successful, the rest of the game shapes up pretty well. If you're into third person shooters or the anime and can adjust to a somewhat different control method, give this a purchase. Everybody else should at least give this a rent. With some hot action, Jak advises you try before you buy.
About the author
- Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Vol. 1 (Movie)2004
- Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Vol. 3 (Movie)2004
- Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Vol. 2 (Movie)2004
- Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Vol. 6 (Movie)2004
- Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Vol. 7 (Movie)2004
- Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Vol. 5 (Movie)2004
- Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Vol. 4 (Movie)2004
- Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Movie)2004