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Title:
  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Platform:  Sony PlayStation Portable

Developed by:  G-Artists for Bandai

UK Distributor:  Atari

PEGI rating:  12+

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  34.99

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

Of all anime franchises, Ghost in the Shell has always seemed to be one of the most suited to making the transition to computer games.  It is therefore surprising to learn - considering the popularity of the anime - that this is only the third console outing for Motoko Kusanagi and pals to make it to Western shores.

This time around Section 9 are called to deal with terrorists who appear to be trying to suppress a top-secret document due to be made public as its secrecy has expired.  The document - known as the H-88 report - contains information on a 20-year old conflict, and it falls to Section 9 to not only try to work out why the terrorists wanted the report to stay secret but also to protect an army commander called Hiruma from assassination.  As any fan of Ghost in the Shell will know things are never quite what they seem, and before long our favourite cybernetic agents are up to their elbows in conspiracies and face a tough task to get to the bottom of what's going on.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex on the PSP is quite refreshing when compared to a lot of the games coming out on the console at the moment as it is not a rehash of an existing PlayStation 2 title.  Instead, PSP gamers are treated to one of the only first-person shoot-em-ups on the console, but unlike many games of this type Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has something rare - a really, really good plot. 
 

Fans of Ghost in the Shell will love the story and presentation in this game.  Despite using in-game graphics for the cut scenes rather than anime clips, the plot is so good that you do really feel like you are playing an episode of the anime.  As is common with the series the plot is revealed piece by piece, really keeping you engrossed, and all of the in-game dialogue - of which there is a lot - is delivered by the anime voice cast.  Fans will also be pleased to know that there are four playable characters (Motoko, Batou, Togusa and Saito), a huge amount of weapons to select and find, and that the Tachikoma battletanks accompany you on your missions.


Batou checks out Motoko's 3D cleavage...
 


The Tachikoma tanks are the game's main innovation, a heavily armed AI partner to which you can give weapons and orders to, but will seek out and destroy enemies without instruction if you wish.  Those who remember the original PSOne game will be pleased to know that it is possible to get into the Tachikoma and control it directly, but it's support on the earlier levels is essential as you struggle with the game's main flaw - the controls.

The PSP is simply not a console suited to modern first-person shooters, it lacks a second analogue stick and the one it does have can be pretty unresponsive.  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex tries to compensate for this by providing no less than eight different control configurations, but whichever you choose you will be very glad the Tachikoma is mopping up the enemies for you early on as you struggle to get used to it.  The second problem is that the game is obviously made for Ghost in the Shell fans, those unfamiliar with the franchise may find the plot hard to follow and may only find some of the games features - such as the hidden weapons in the gold 'Jameson' robots and the ability to ride in the Tachikoma - by accident.  Personally, despite how good the story was, I also found the lack of a one-player deathmatch mode to practise in a bit annoying, as you will end up failing a few missions until you get a hang of the game dynamics.

However, there are still a lot of pluses.  The game levels are large and well designed, there are tonnes of weapons and secrets to find, and the missions themselves are suitably challenging.


Mmmmm, minigun...

 
It is great to have the pick of characters (although there is little difference between them) and the Tachikomas add a tactical aspect to the game too, whilst the missions are very well integrated into the excellent story, despite being pretty standard FPS fare.  Unfortunately though, as I don't know anyone else with the game, I never had a chance to test the wireless multiplayer option, which is a bit of a shame as the possibility of playing as Aramaki (only available in multi-player) was quite appealing.
 

If you are a fan of Ghost in the Shell you will find that this game manages to get closer to the feel of the anime than either of the previous attempts.  The graphics are pretty good and the use of the anime voice actors really enhances a story that could have come straight out of the series.  The controls take some getting used to and lack the sensitivity you find on a home console, but Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is nonetheless a solid FPS which really draws on its source material to enhance the playing experience.  It may appeal more to fans of the series than to casual gamers, but if you want some stylish shoot-em-up action then this is definitely worth a look, as it will be some time before a better FPS comes out on the PSP.

Extras

There's quite a lot of hidden stuff throughout the game - every level contains a gold Jameson robot which gives you a new Tachikoma weapon if shot, and there are also powerful weapons hidden throughout.  Also, if you complete the story mode a Tachikoma bonus game reminiscent of the classic Spyhunter is unlocked, along with a movie viewer that allows you to play back the game's cut scenes whenever you feel like it.

Ratings

Game:   Extras:

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