Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Multiplayer Impressions
The Ghost in the Shell goes multiplayer, and we get to check it out in this preview of its four Wi-Fi modes.
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We finally got our hands on a couple of copies of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex for the PSP to check out this first-person shooter's four Wi-Fi-compatible multiplayer game modes. You'll be able to control one of five characters or any of the customizable Tachikoma robots in either free-for-all or team-based multiplayer gameplay. We enjoyed exploring some of the game's more memorable levels, as well as checking out the variety of weapons. Although the multiplayer is limited in some respects, we found that it did a good job of bringing the style and feel of the single-player game to multiple PSPs.
After selecting multiplayer, the first thing you can do is select one of the five protagonists, then a Tachikoma, and customize their appearances and inventories. The five characters to choose from are the classic Ghost in the Shell female protagonist, Motoko; the muscle Batou; sharpshooter Saito; nimble Togusa; and a character that we're seeing for the first time in this version of the game, a Heihachi-resembling suited man named Aramaki. All of the characters can carry up to three weapons, and although the default is typically a pistol, a heavy weapon, and a grenade of some sort, you can currently mix and match your weapons any way that you see fit, so if you want to carry a machine gun, a sniper rifle, and a rocket launcher, you certainly can. Presumably, that's what you're going to end up doing. Of course, if you choose those three strong weapons, you'll miss out on a lot of the cooler alternatives like the EMP mines, for example. At the beginning of the game there are 14 weapons unlocked, including several different types of mines and grenades, a grenade launcher, a number of pistols, the aforementioned sniper rifle and rocket launcher, and a few machine guns. But there are 51 spaces in the weapon list in total, which means that you'll probably unlock all the different weapons in the single-player game and be able to use them in multiplayer. This also means that your weapon options will quadruple over time. We're not sure that any of the additional weapons will be necessarily better than the current options, but we like the idea of having that choice nonetheless.
The Tachikoma robots that are central to the Ghost in the Shell series also have a number of different weapon choices, and you can carry up to five at a time, corresponding to the Tachikoma's five mounted guns. At any point in gameplay you can switch between the weapons, but you cannot currently fire more than one gun at a time. You can also change the Tachikoma's personality, opting between balanced, aggressive, humorous, and intelligent. Although the personality choice seems to have little bearing on the multiplayer game, as the Tachikoma will always be controlled by you and not by the computer. There are also eight different colors of Tachikomas that you can select.
Though you can't enter your own name into the game, you will be able to select between the 26 different available names that correspond to the military alphabet, so you can be Bravo, November, Romeo, or Whiskey if you'd like. Up to six players can play at a time, and the four different modes are split into two with human combatants, and two for Tachikomas. Unlike the single-player game, you won't be able to use both characters at once and switch between them. The multiplayer is split according to whether it's free-for-all or team-based. This means that all of the multiplayer games depend on the same first-person-shooter gameplay with little variation. You can select varying time or frag limits, how severe friendly fire will affect your teammates, and whether or not the targeting lock-on is permitted. Finally, if you're up for several rounds of gameplay, you can turn map rotation on, and then the game will automatically select the next map instead of returning you to the game-select screen at the end.
The eight different multiplayer maps are the same that you'll encounter in the single-player game, and they require completely different strategies to master. On the rooftop levels, you might not want to jump away from fire as much, and in the sewers you'll spend less time exploring than you do on the much larger Uptown level. Each game begins with a one-minute dead round that makes sure all of the players have loaded the game and are starting at the same time. After the round is up, the real game begins, and you're ready to go. As with the single-player, the multiplayer uses the same control scheme of the face buttons to look around, the analog stick to move, and the triggers to jump and fire. You can use the directional keys to switch between weapons, or put autolock on, but the autolock makes the game a little too easy.
Graphically, some of the levels look better than others. There's a fair amount of detail in the environments, and they are all quite different from each other. Though the multiplayer is very focused and is based entirely on deathmatch-style first-person shooting, we enjoyed the opportunity that we had playing it, and we look forward to seeing more of both the multiplayer and single-player game when it's released later this fall.