Bears nearly no resemblance to Doom. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Based on the Japanese comic and animated film of the same name, Ghost in the Shell is a shooting game that, unlike most, bears nearly no resemblance to Doom. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Taking the role of a female cyborg special agent, Major Motoko Kusanagi, and living in future Tokyo, you hop into a Fuchikoma (an intelligent spider-like tank) to take on enemy forces over 12 widely disparate missions. The Fuchikoma is a fairly maneuverable little ride, which can jet about quickly and cling to virtually any surface. Herein lies where the game makes a solid break from Doom. Instead of simply taking place in a series of unending corridors, Ghost in the Shell has you scaling buildings within large cityscapes, speeding down highways, and skimming along the ocean's surface - and even when you find yourself in a corridor environment, you can climb walls and hang from the ceiling. Is it a first-person shooter? It can be, though its default mode is a behind-the-back third-person view. Altogether, these factors combine to make Ghost in the Shell a fairly fresh title, with its mix of traditional shooting elements, mission-based objectives, railed shooters, and arcade action.
The game controls are simple, and most people will take to them like a fish to water. Besides the basic directional setup, buttons are assigned to jump, slide left, slide right, grenade toss, and machine gun fire (and holding on this button will get you a multiple missile lock). No more weapons or functions are added later in the game, and you're even limited to the number of grenades you can carry. The fun is figuring out the best strategic way to use them within a given stage (they vary very nicely).
The first mission takes place on a waterfront populated with mobile missile carriers, helicopters, troops, and robots - and it's a cakewalk if you fire down on the enemies from atop crates or warehouses. Meanwhile, the second stage can be trumped by hanging back and firing missiles at opponents who have far worse range than you do - save for a much more complex and tougher boss. The game really opens up after the third stage (a gun-based take on the third section of Fox's Die Hard Trilogy) in terms of both variety and fun, with the aforementioned city, water, and highway runs. In other words, if you're bored or frustrated in the beginning, push on through, there's better fare farther in.
Also worth mentioning are Ghost in the Shell's animated sequences, expertly created by creator Masamune Shirow. While some introduce missions, most are hidden prizes for you to find. For example, winning the game and scoring high in the training mode will only get you nine out of 17 possible movies (totaling ten minutes of footage in all), and they're cool enough that you'll likely want to hunt down the rest.
But pretty pictures aside, Ghost in the Shell is a fairly worthwhile title, leveling out somewhere in between the categories of "good buy" and "great rental." If it possessed just one or two more levels, it would be squarely placed in the former category. As it is, it walks the line.