Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Game Review)

If there are any anime fans out there, which I am sure plenty of Alt:Mag readers are, then you should already know what this review will be about, and for those who don't know, then here's a brief description of what Ghost In The Shell is in general:

Originally written by Masamune Shirow in 1989, Ghost In The Shell is a manga that has received several films and anime adaptations. The story follows Major Motoko Kusanagi who is part of a counter-cyberterrorist organisation known as 'Section 9'. Motoko is an expert hacker and will often hack into other people's cyber bodies. These cyber bodies are a product of the science fiction universe that the series takes place in, and most people have traded in their bodies for mechanical ones.

Right then, back to the game. When I acquired this game back in May, during the London Comic Con, I wasn't even aware a game of Ghost In The Shell existed, so as a massive fan of the series, I snatched it up immediately. The game comes in two flavours: the first being a story mode where you get to play as three of the characters from the series, and the multiplayer mode.

Let's start with the story mode. The story was actually pretty good and the character's voices were all from the show, which seems to be something of a rarity these days. The plot seemed as though it belonged in the show, however there were things that knocked it down some marks, for example, the excessive Jargon that the characters were talking about (a habit of the TV shows and movies) went straight over my head, but I was able to grasp the gist of what was going on after my third or fourth play through, and whilst it does give you the option of not having subtitles on, I would strongly recommend having them on, even if you are familiar with the characters and how they generally speak, otherwise it becomes very confusing and the joy of the game is taken away from it. The game itself only really lasted for about eight hours of play, with occasional breaks for tea and biscuits whilst you replay the messages the characters have been talking to you about, so a pretty short game by modern standards, but a nice break to relax to.

The mechanics of the game were very reminiscent of another game that I have recently played called Oni, as there was a lot of acrobatics involved in the gameplay. There is of course a shooting aspect to the game but it is limited because of the third person aspect which doesn't allow for long range fire fights, a spray and pray mentality being better for the missions. Going back to the acrobatics for a second, they could use some work, as whilst they looked amazing, with The Matrix style animation, their use in the game was minimal at best and they are only really used when playing as Motoko. The other alternative was playing as Batou whose missions were more focused around running and gunning than anything else. However, despite the acrobatics not playing a more important role within the combat side of the game, they were used a lot when it came to the puzzles that Motoko had to progress through, and let me tell you, they were hard, mostly due to misplaced collision events, the like of which had Motoko flying to her doom, particularity in the later missions where precision was a must. The other most important thing about the mechanics was the introduction of hacking, where the character could hack in to and control a certain enemy, and whilst this was very good and felt awesome to do, it wasn't really worth doing after the first level as the conditions to hack became a lot harder, you could only take out about one or two guards before they destroyed you and you'd have to go in anyway, guns blazing and karate chopping.
The enemies within the game were very stoic and unimaginative, their movement routes were similar, meaning that you could kill one with a grenade launcher and no one else would know of it, but you might kill one with a throwing knife and the whole level knows where you are, but half of the time the unpredictability really didn't matter, as the whole guns blazing tactic would work most of the time. However there are times when they can overwhelm you and it is at these times when hacking can help a lot.

Moving on to the animation, the cut scenes were pretty good, and the art style was not too much different from the actual game play, when it wanted to be fast paced it was very fast, however when it wanted to be a little slower it could do that was well. the prolific use of the optical camouflage in the film was well met in regards to animation, as the characters looked very well placed and blended into their environments easily, in fact when the enemies used it later on in the game, it was very hard to see where they were and made the game more real and a greater challenge.

Now that we have discussed the story and aesthetics, it's time to talk about the multiplayer. In the multiplayer you can choose from a variety of characters that you find throughout the game such as different level commanders or robots and even skin changes for the main characters, and whilst the battlefields are vast and interesting to play within with the unpredictability of not knowing where an opponent is, there is one problem that might only affect my copy of the game, which was not being able to pick up other types of weapon, which if I could do, would make the multiplayer one of the best I've seen in a while. 

So to conclude, the animation is probably the best aspect of the game, along with the original voice actors, and while the story is short, it still feels in character with the series. The enemies are predictable and not very challenging until the end of the game, and the multiplayer is interesting except for one or two things that could make it a lot better. Oh and for all you fans out there; I wish that Tachikoma's were a thing!!!

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