Sluggish controls and lifeless gameplay make Ghost in the Shell worth playing only for loyal fans of the anime, and even then it isn't worth more than a rental.
- Customizable characters and tachikomas from the series
- Good music and decent voice work
- Tachikomas provide some comic relief in an otherwise lifeless story.
- Sluggish, imprecise controls
- Weapons have absolutely no impact, which makes gunfights weak and uninteresting
- Stiff character animations and bland environments
- Boring multiplayer
- Short single-player campaign.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a first-person shooter based on the popular anime series. Yes, it's a first-person shooter on the PSP, and yes, it suffers from some severely limited controls. If you demand precise, intuitive control from your shooters, you can stop reading now and forget this game ever existed. However, if you're willing to make a few sacrifices for the sake of playing as your favorite Ghost in the Shell characters on the PSP, you'll find a few things to like about this game. Even then, this game is better served as a rental, because the single-player game is too short, and the multiplayer game is boring and uninspired.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex follows the themes of the anime series of the same name, so you can expect a plot full of esoteric, often incomprehensible techno-babble that amounts to some crooked government conspiracy and a bunch of expendable bad guys that must be killed. In this game, you play as one of four members of the elite police force known as Section 9, and you have to unravel the mysteries of a convoluted terrorist plot. You'll accomplish this with your savvy sleuthing skills, which involve erratically blasting humans and cyborgs with all manner of heavy weaponry. There are a few missions where you have to escort a helpless VIP to safety or stun and kidnap an official to gather information, but for the most part, you'll be shooting the same few enemies repeatedly. There are six chapters, and each one is divided into three or four missions. The missions each take only a few minutes to complete, and you can easily get through the first half of the game without dying once. Later missions are more difficult, but most of the challenge comes from fighting the terrible controls.
There are four different control styles to choose from, and while some are slightly better than others, they all require you to look and aim with the four primary face buttons while moving with the analog stick. This is a problem, because aiming with buttons is way too imprecise and sluggish to be practical. Pressing and holding a button causes your aim to move too much, so the best way to manually aim is to tap a button a few times to try to get at least within the vicinity of your target, then fire wildly, hoping that at least a few of your shots will find their mark. Luckily you don't have to do that often, though, because most guns have a target lock function that's far from ideal but is at least functional in most situations. When you're close enough to a target, you can hit down on the D pad to lock on to the target. Then your aim will stay centered on the target so you can move about freely without having to worry about aiming.
Even with the lock-on feature, some of the guns are so inaccurate that you'll still miss. When bullets do hit, there's no indication to let you know that you've inflicted any damage. Enemies just stand there while you unload on them, and eventually they fall over dead. The same thing happens when you're being hit by enemy fire. Unless you're paying careful attention to your health meter at the top of the screen, you can get mowed down without even knowing it. The bullets have no impact, and there's nothing to tell you that you're in danger. In most shooters your screen will shake or flash red when you get hit, but in this game you just have to listen for gunfire and hope it's not pointed in your direction.
There's additional combat assistance available in the form of the autonomous spiderlike tanks called tachikoma. You can bring a tachikoma into battle with you and give it movement and attack commands. These little tanks can hold up to five weapons, and since they move and attack on their own, they can be quite helpful in covering your back during firefights. For the most part, you can sit back and let the tachikoma do all the dirty work, but you do have to be careful not to let it take too much damage, because if it dies, you have to restart the mission. You can also take control of your tachikoma at any time, although there usually isn't much reason to do so unless you need to move it out of your way.