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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (PlayStation 2) artwork

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (PlayStation 2) review


"Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex keeps within the pre-existing universe already set up by the anime. The distinctly futuristic Japan is your playground, and the hi-tech gadgetry contained inside your toys. In keeping this universe intact, it presents the player with a unique and fresh game that always manages to impress."



Parachutes are for whiny little girls and hippies. Cyborgs ignore the threats represented by high altitudes and jump from hovering helicopters, landing gracefully in a combat-ready crouch and scanning the area for hostile targets to gun down.

While being fed constant information from the cybernetic implants that allow her fellow teammates to keep a high-tech voice-feed link directly into her brain, "Major" Motoko Kusanagi finally gets the chance to survey the area she has been so dramatically dropped in. The Nihama Pier's untroubled appearance of docile water bordering a concrete jungle, stacked with rusting metal storage containers can be seen through with a little investigation. The huge shutter doors leading farther into the open-air facility are guarded rather shabbily by a napping guard. Creep past the slumbering stooge or silently cap him, but you still need to find the correct computer panel to slide open the portal to your destination.

Because hidden within the breezy pier is a suspect that Motoko's government agency, Section 9, would very much like to question. And it's only upon further probing into the once innocent-looking location that you discover he's brought along with him a small army of prosthetic soldiers equipped with military-grade armourments and a surly disposition. It's your job to eliminate all these threats as well as apprehend the suspect before he escapes on a soon-to-depart freighter boat. But in more simplistic terms, your goal is simple: kill anything that moves before it kills you.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex makes wholesale slaughter fun again.

You see, Motoko isn't your standard femme fatale: she's a one-woman army. She can slink around her beautifully recreated scenarios while unleashing hails of bullets effortlessly; execute dazzling athletic abilities to avoid the unwanted attentions of her heavily-armed foes; perform complex feats of agility like springing off walls or pulling herself up from sheer drops or even pummel faces with devastating melee combos that crush skulls and snap necks. All handy traits that you'll have to employ at your discretion if you want to progress through the hostile-choked dock and find your target.

Not long in to the mission, you need Motoko to hack into a huge, hulking stilted construction machine so she can use a mammoth stack of steel containers as a makeshift stairway, allowing her to leap at the recently activated moving platform above. You then sneak through a warehouse filled with those who passionately vie for your demise, only so you can later scramble to survive a frantic slice of gunslinging on top of a crane many stories high, simultaneously being showered with bullets from bee-like robotic drones that hover agonisingly out of your range. All the while you need to make precise jumps across this unforgiving span with a single error leading to your death-dealing freefall. Then, just when you have your target in view, you find yourself having to contend with a trio of snipers perched well beyond your reach. You must use your surroundings to evade the flickering laser sights that are your only forewarning to an oncoming one-shot kill that can ring out at any time.

Making zigzagging runs when you are not sheltered behind the sanctuary of cover to try to shake off your unwanted attention, you still have the on-ground forces armed with their acquirable shotguns, assault rifles and sub machine-guns to worry about. You can't reach your destination as long as those snipers have you pinned, and you don't possess the firepower to reach them. Ghost in the Shell presents a fresh option: obtain localisation codes held by a commanding officer foe and hack into the cybernetic mind of a pesky sniper, then have him off his colleagues before suggesting he dive from his elevated platform to a squishy demise. Problem solved!

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex keeps within the pre-existing universe already set up by the anime. The distinctly futuristic Japan is your playground, and the hi-tech gadgetry contained inside your toys. In keeping this universe intact, it presents the player with a unique and fresh game that always manages to impress.

It also gives you choices. A later level will hand you control of Motoko's long-suffering partner, Batou, as he battles his way through an abandoned military training camp to try to gain access to a derelict building suspected of hiding suspicious materials. Upon reaching the entrance, he'll find it guarded by a hulking battle-bot and two huge AI-controled gun emplacements. Your options are as follows:

1/ Abuse the smattering of heavy weapons your less burly colleague can't manage and run at these threats head-on, hurling high-impact mayhem around in a delightfully violent manner whist trying to avoid the explosive repercussions directed your way by the alerted security systems.

2/ Sneak through a hard-to-spot hole in the fencing and destroy each threat stealthily before it notices your presence and tries to gun you down.

3/ Heartlessly murder all the area's surrounding soldiers until you find the right code, and then hack yourself into the robot and make it run rampage against the gun emplacements.

Standout moments like this liberally litter Ghost in the Shell. Both Batou and Motoko have to brave a battle against a nimble anti-tank helicopter, but they use their strengths to wage war differently. Stocky Batou grabs a bulky rocket-launcher and goes toe-to-toe with his hovering adversary while lithe Motoko runs around a desolate building, avoiding wave after wave of bullets and heat-seeking missiles to track down a surface-to-air missile emplacement she can employ to dissuade her foe. Even then, she needs to climb to the building's summit and jump into the out-of-control, burning carcass of the 'chopper in order to finish it off, having to nail a centimetre-perfect leap flawlessly to avoid the fatal repercussions. Moments like gaining control of a Tachikoma, a spider-like mini-tank with sentient AI, as it glides around a large open space to nuke any targets stupid enough to present itself; moments like double-jumping up a curving air duct, knowing that a single slip-up will grant you a bloody death at the hands of the industrial-sized fan that slices beneath you; moments like running around a biologically engineered farm hacking into the numerous consoles littered around while trying to dodge the onslaught of a tank clad in stealth camouflage.

And then it ends all too soon. Ghost in the Shell will rock you with nonstop action and brain-twisting inventiveness, but the fantastic conclusion comes so abruptly. Perhaps you can amuse yourself with the tight multiplayer mode that allows up to four players the chance at filling each other with lead, or retry the game on any of the three difficulty levels to earn unlockable bonuses, but your original experience will stay with you. The action within may not last for as long as it should, but it will grab you by the throat and not let go.

The only way to engage in wholesale slaughter can be found in Tokyo. Mindless violence has never been so much fun.

Rating: 9/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 18, 2005)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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