Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex PSP Review

I wanted to like Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I mean, I REALLY did. As a big fan of the anime series of the same name, as well as the original GITS movies, I found myself playing for hours on end, trying to find salvation within the presentation to make this a better choice than Coded Arms. Stylishly, it really is, but the game has so many faults that it ends up killing off any appeal it has before the game is completed. As a result, only hardcore GITS fans need apply... and even they may be slightly turned off.

In the game, you take control of a female soldier, scattered along with a few cohorts, as she battles a number of soldiers and automated enemies. Helping her out is a spider-like tank known as the Tachikoma, which means an incredibly mean arsenal of weaponry and has slick mobility and yet whines like a little girl. Go figure. Throughout each mission, you're given a variety of tasks to do. Some rely on escorting particular types from attacks, others involve hunting down an out-of-control robot, and then there's stealth missions. All this comes mixed in with the regular shooting action.

So what went wrong then? Well, nothing really went WRONG, per se. But nothing came together incredibly right. The game just rides the fine line of average, failing to really spice up in any category.

Let's start with the visuals. The 3-D modeling is somewhat impressive and there's huge worlds to trample through as you use your firearms, but some of the animation seems stilted, and there's zero anime clips from the show at all. There are some in-game sequences that try to push the story along, but, really, there's no excuse. The PSP is a fine machine for anime (Steamboy, anyone?) and this could've had a much more stylish presentation. The story itself also seems a little stunted, hung up on certain events and only flowing after a few hours in...if you can hold your interest that long.

Audio-wise, the music holds up okay, taken straight from the show. However, some key selections are missing to keep things vibrant. The voice work is suitable (aside from the whiny Tachikoma) and the sound effects, while nothing spectacular, do what they need to.

It's the gameplay that fails to take off here, really. First off, although the FPS controls in general are good, the game is sorely lacking in auto-aim, and sometimes doesn't make clear all the strategies that are available. This results in your completing a task incorrectly or getting killed in the process. Furthermore, you have a Tachikoma lending you a hand, but they seem to do a majority of the work instead of playing your back-up. It's sort of like sending a maid to clean the living room and she does the whole house, and then gleemingly takes all the credit when your wife is around. Sigh.

The variety of missions is helpful, but stealth missions become increasingly maddening, and when you're trying to "save" someone, it ends up being more of a daunting task than you expected. For instance, you're supposed to shut down a maid gone amuck, not destroy it. And yet, with its kamikaze patterns, that's damn near impossible.

Stand Alone Complex does pack some multiplayer, but it seems to be by-the-numbers. You can have up to four players take part in a session of team deathmatch or regular deathmatch, but that's it. No capture-the-flag, no "reprogramming", just the basics. Also, you can either choose Section 9 agents or Tachikomas, you can't mix up the two. Man, talk about unfair.

As a Ghost In the Shell fan, it saddens me that I can't give Stand Alone Complex a recommendation. It's still slightly better than Coded Arms, but it has too many faults that simply kill the ghost in the machine before it can get around to the good haunting. Shame.

What's Hot: Visuals and audio can be somewhat cool.

What's Not: Sorry to say the gameplay just falls flat.