February 6, 2002
Overall score:  81 Ghost in the Shell (PSX)
by THQ  Reviewed by: Mark Skorupa

Screenshot The popular Japanese film and comic Ghost in the Shell is now a fast paced shooter for PSX. I will have to admit that I am not a fan of Japanese anime, so I don't know anything other than what the manual tells me. Apparently Ghost in the Shell is big time.

The story has you playing as a new recruit of the Public Security Bureau. You have passed all the tests with flying colors so you have been selected to have your brain wired. Why, you ask? Because you will have a Unified Sense and Fuchikoma device wired into your system. What is a Fuchikoma, you ask? It is an armored attack vehicle that is wired directly into your brain that you will ride around inside giving all of the commands as if it were an extension to your body. This is your vehicle to stopping crime and believe me, it ain't easy.

Like I said, I am not a fan of Japanese comics so the story did not really matter much to me. For people who are fans of this series, you will be pleasantly entertained with a fairly long and well-drawn intro sequence. We all know that spectacular intros have grown to become common on the PSX, but this one shines even more that the standard. Also, you will have the pleasure of viewing cut scenes throughout the game, so fans should get their fill.

Since I couldn't care less about the story and all, I was only interested in the gameplay. I quickly found that you don't need to know or understand any of the background to play the game. What we have here is basically an old school shooter in a next-generation environment. The game has a natural feel to it that will allow most gamers to pick up a controller and start blasting enemies in a matter of minutes. But blasting enemies is not your only objective, and it will take you a little longer to figure out the strategy of advancing through these objectives.

The structure of the game is mission-based and you're thrown into twelve different locales, each with a unique mission that needs to be accomplished before moving to the next mission. Some of the missions involve just finding an exit, while others have you racing against a clock to dispose of bombs before they dispose of you. Once you complete the mission, you are usually faced with a giant boss meanie that is a pain in the butt to kill. Most of the bosses did have a semi-regular pattern, making them somewhat easier to kill, but they were still very difficult. The frustrating thing about the bosses is that they came at the end of the level and if you died, you had to go through the whole level again to get another shot defeating the boss. On some levels, it got to the point where I could bust through the level with my eyes closed just to get to the boss. Other levels had me ripping out my hair just to make it through the level again, only to die quickly at the hands of the boss.

Screenshot The one thing that adds a touch of originality to the game is called a Fuchikoma. This is your means of travel throughout the game. It resembles a beetle or some sort of bug and gives you the ability to climb anything. You can walk up walls, walk upside down on ceilings, and just about anywhere in between. That means that you can seek sanctuary on roof tops and walls. This added a whole new element to a shooting game. There were times however that this became a bit of a pain because it was difficult to get your orientation. There were times that you end up upside down and not be able to tell exactly what was going on.

Your Fuchikoma is armored and has some weaponry for you to use. It had standard machine gun type guns, but if you held down the machine gun button, it would switch to a lock-on missile. When heated up, the missile would lock onto a target and it would self-guide to the target. If you hold it for too long, you will lose the lock and have to recharge it. This weapon could be used as often as you liked. You could also find grenades you found throughout the mission. These were the most powerful weapons, and I would usually save them until I reached the boss at the end of the level. Your Fuchikoma was only capable of carrying 3 grenades at a time. This sucked because 3 grenades will barely put a dent in the bosses armor.

I really did not have any major complaints about this game. I will caution on the difficulty level, because I think that some unseasoned gamers may find it a bit frustrating, especially when they must battle the bosses. The levels get progressively more difficult, but you will usually have the opportunity to master them: you die at the bosses so many times that you will have to work your way through the entire level again and again to get another shot at the boss. I got to the point on some levels that I would just bust to the end, ignoring everything else on the level, just to try and defeat the boss. Save points before the boss would've been nice.

ScreenshotFrom the opening cinematics to the in-game graphics, Ghost in the Shell does a great job. During gameplay, you had an auto-switching camera that you pull back behind you so you played from the third-person perspective. When things would happen in a tight area, the camera would zoom up to a first-person perspective. This felt very natural and worked well. Also, the gameplay environments all looked realistic. I never once found myself wondering what something was. It was always quite clear.

Bottom Line:
This is a pretty good game. It is not the best game of all time, but it was also not bad by any means. I threw my controller at the ground more than once, which means that I had to be enjoying myself. I think the difficulty of the bosses will keep some people from making it too far into the game, but seasoned veterans will be adequately challenged. I really liked the added dimension of being able to climb the walls. Shooter fans should enjoy it, but I recommend a rental for everyone else to determine if this game is for you.

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