Starcraft: Ghost Preview
Anyone who has played a PC game this past decade probably knows of the PC developer Blizzard. Known as one of the top creators of PC games, with hit titles like Diablo and Starcraft under their belt, Blizzard is a company that is known above all else for the high level of polish they incorporate in their games. Now Blizzard is bringing that magic to the Playstation 2 with Starcraft: Ghost, a sci-fi action thriller based on the world of Starcraft for the PC.
Set in a hostile galaxy, the world of Starcraft contains three separate factions all, battling for dominance: The human-like Terran, the psychic Protoss, and the evil alien race known as the Zerg. Starcraft: Ghost puts you in the shoes of the lovely Nova, a female 'ghost'. The 'ghosts' are an elite military outfit, much like the Army Rangers or Marine Force-Recon. Ghosts use both specialized skills and psychic powers, making them far more effective than your run of the mill grunt. Nova is the Terran's secret weapon, meaning you'll be dropped into all sorts of unfriendly locales with orders to kick ass without bothering to take names.
Kicking ass requires more than just simple psychic ability, however, and to that end Nova is armed with a plethora of weapons, skills, and various other abilities. Since Starcraft: Ghost is a stealth based action game (hence the code name 'Ghost'), the most important of these skills is Nova's ability to cloak herself to avoid detection, similar to using the invisibility spell in Tenchu or the Stealth Gear in Metal Gear Solid. However, you can't simply run through the entire game cloaked from your enemies, as that wouldn't be fair. Therefore, how long you can stay cloaked is dependent upon your psi meter, a gauge that represents your remaining psychic strength. This meter will govern other psychic abilities as well, but nothing specific on that front has been revealed as of yet. On top of that, some enemies can detect you even when cloaked by using other senses such as sound, which should hopefully create a nice balance to this system. There are other abilities as well, such as being able to slow the world down Matrix style, giving you a speed advantage over your enemy, or the 'sight' ability which allows you to scan, via infrared (IR) for enemies and other potentially useful items. The sight ability allows you to pinpoint enemy weaknesses as well, giving you the ability to exploit those weaknesses in battle.
However, the coolest sounding ability announced so far is being able to call upon your drop ship to assist you in times of need. At certain points in the game, you can request backup from your transport ship, and they can do a variety of things, such as scan your surroundings for enemies and other items/areas of importance, lay cover fire, and, occasionally, even nuke everything around you.
Another big aspect of Starcraft: Ghost's gameplay is computer hacking. A great deal of the game will involve you hacking not only computers but your enemies as well. For instance, the Zerg exist as a collective conscious (much like the Borg from Star Trek... resistance is futile!), which means that it is possible to hack into their central conscious in order to control and even give orders to enemy drones. You can also hack into computers in order to manipulate your surroundings, such as security doors, latches, crane arms, etc. It will be quite interesting to see how this fits in with the stealth action gameplay, but knowing Blizzard, it should be both fun and logical.
Of course, no matter how many cool abilities your lead character may have, the most important thing is knowing that they can take care of business if spotted. For this, Nova has a good variety of weapons on hand to assist her in combat. She'll have at her disposal everything from machine guns to sniper rifles to sticky bombs, and everything in between. Smoke bombs, concussion grenades, irradiate grenades (which should be pretty self-explanatory), all the way up to the all mighty Hellfire grenade; this game's pretty much got it all.
Of course, the goal in any stealth game is to not be spotted in the first place, and so Starcraft gives you plenty of ways to stay out of sight. So far, it seems the stealth aspects of the game are shaping up similar to games like Wrath of Heaven and Metal Gear Solid; you can back up against walls, crouch, hang from ledges, etc. Instead of any kind of visual radar like that in MGS, Starcraft will use a visual meter very similar to Tenchu's; a numerical graph that rises the closer you come to being spotted. What makes this meter rise is dependent on several factors, such as how much noise you're making, the amount of light hitting you, etc.
Graphically, Starcraft: Ghost is being designed for all three console platforms from the ground up, with the intention of taking advantage of each system's specific strengths, much like Ubi Soft did with Splinter Cell. Currently, over 20 missions/levels are in the works, though producer John Lagrave states that not all of those are guaranteed to end up in the finalized version of the game. There's a real sense of commitment to making each version of this game stand out from both a visual and gameplay perspective. As anal retentive as Blizzard is when it comes to the small things, levels that don't make the grade visually or don't fit in perfectly with the story probably won't make the cut. Either way, it's currently unknown exactly how many levels the final game will have.
For many years, Blizzard has been making a name for themselves on the PC platform. With attention to detail that rivals legendary producers like Hideo Kojima and Shigeru Miyamoto, Blizzard Entertainment's Nihilistic Software (the internal studio at Blizzard responsible for the game) should be able to piece together a game that rivals even the current stealth action king, Metal Gear Solid. With E3 less than a month away, we should have much more information on this game very soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
4/22/2003 Ryan Hartmann