We got a chance to play the game and were pleasantly surprised to discover that it isn't just a port of the PS2 game. This all-new first-person shooter puts Makoto and Bateau in the middle of dozens of new missions, and ... here it comes... also lets players team-up with and command a Tachikoma battle-tank.
The E3 demo had three locations unlocked--a harbor, a business district, and an old town area. We chose the old town area, which gave us the task of destroying an out-of-control maid android and rescuing a kidnapped V.I.P.
After choosing the mission, we were dropped into a mission-briefing screen that provided us with the necessary intel and gave us the chance to change the equipment attached to Makoto and to pick a Tachikoma. From the looks of things, Makoto can bring three or four weapons into battle, along with a handful of accessories (grenades, stabbing weapons, hacking devices). There were two different Tachikoma tanks to pick from in the demo, but we're assuming the final game will have at least eight to pick from, judging from how many empty slots were in the menu.
Controlling the game seems easy enough. It uses the soon-to-be common FPS setup, which uses the analog to move, the main buttons to aim, the R button to shoot, and the L button to jump. Nearly all of the first-person shooters in development for the PSP use this control scheme. You can swap weapons and command the A.I. controlled Tachikoma tank with the digital pad. We busted a few shots off with a pistol and assault rifle, and the response and results seemed on par with any good FPS. Enemies run away when you shoot at them, and short-circuit or slump over when you "defeat" them. In the demo, all we could do with the Tachikoma tank was tell it to provide backup or to save ammo. It held it's own against the pair of enemy androids it discovered, but also killed a civilian in the process... which was unfortunate, since one of the rules of the mission was to avoid killing civilians. Oops.
We didn't get a chance to see if Makoto can ghost-hack enemies and take control of their bodies, like she could in the PS2 game, but we asked the Bandai reps that were around and were assured that she will be able to do that in some missions.
An ad hoc multiplayer death-match mode will also be included, but it hadn't been implemented in the E3 version.
Visually, the game looks sharp and about on par with the PS2 game. The level designs in the PSP game seemed smaller, but the amount of detail was good (buildings are labelled with signs, there are cars parked all over, and civilians and enemies are everywhere). The smaller levels also make it easier to figure out where to go, which is actually good considering the fast-paced nature of portable games. We're also glad that many of the levels in Ghost in the Shell take place outdoors and in broad daylight, unlike the mostly-indoor levels we played in Konami's Coded Arms (the other FPS that's coming out this summer for the PSP).
Fans of the anime will be happy to know that the game's cut scenes and radio chatter will be voiced by the same actors that voice the currently-airing show.
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex for PSP is scheduled to ship later this summer.
5/20/2005 Frank Provo