The two questions circulating the new Ghost In The shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault game (Or GiTS for short) is whether or not you should buy the early access version, and if it is a good game. The game is developed by Neople and published by Nexon.
I had about $5 from selling Steam cards and the Steam Lunar New Year sale marked First Assault down to $2.99, so I went ahead and got it for such a low price. Before I go on, I want to say that this game is extremely fun, but there are some people out there that hate it for a few reasons, so I want to clarify some things first.
Is it a Bad Game?
There are people who say it looks like a Call Of Duty clone with a Ghost In The Shell skin put over it; others say it looks like a bad game because it has nothing to do with the GiTS Anime. In a way, both are true, the answer to both accusations is “it is and isn’t”. The reason for this is because the game doesn’t dive much into the hacking aspect and completely ignores the story, so essentially it is just using the characters and environments from the anime.
I also want to point out that this truly is Early Access, so there are quite a few features missing and it also has quite a few glitches right now, but I knew this going into it so I don’t think it makes this a bad game. Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s talk about the actual game and what makes it so fun to play.
When you first boot the game up it will play a small cinematic movie with Motoko Kusanagi talking with Batou. It then dives into the tutorial to teach you how to play. At any time you can skip the tutorial and access it from the main menu. You start by choosing one character, and from there you can unlock more as you go along.
The controls for the keyboard uses the WASD keys to move and mouse to look around. You get a sprint button, a crouch, and a walk button to soften your footsteps so that you don’t make as much noise.
The anime has a lot of acrobatics; the game, not so much. You can approach ladders and special platforms and if you move towards them and jump you can climb up and over the obstacle to reach higher platforms. You can also vault over rails and cover points, so it does have a very slight parkour element when sprinting and jumping over obstacles, but it is more of a gimmick than anything cool. However, I will say that you will use the vault function a lot in actual combat.
There currently is about five to six stages in the game and three game modes, this means that there are about two stages per game mode or so.
The three game modes consists of Classic Team Death Match, where the first team to reach the set amount of points wins the game.
Next is a slightly more complex game mode, Terminal Conquest. Players have to capture and hold the Terminal base for a set amount of time. If your teammates stand in the capture zone with you, you will gain a team multiplier bonus to capture the point faster. If you are successful you will gain one point, and will also spawn a Tachikoma Think Tank (also known as a “Spider Tank”) that will fight by your side and kill enemies that approach it.
The Think Tank will travel around the stage and will help you attempt to take the next terminal point. However, if an enemy player gets close to it you can hack it to shut down its defenses, which will make it vulnerable to take more damage so that you can kill it faster.
Hacking the Think Tank is as simple as pressing your interact button while close and staying alive for the preset hacking sequence to finish. This game mode is challenging because it has a very long respawn timer, so attempting to capture and hold a base can be challenging if your team dies, making it a frantic mad dash to race back to the Terminal point to prevent the enemy team from gaining the Spider Tank as an ally. The first Team to reach 5 points wins.
The last game mode is Bomb Demolition. Everyone only gets a single life, if you die you are forced to spectate the round. This mode has a simple concept, the assaulting team must sneak into the enemy team’s base, plant the bomb, and defend it while the timer counts down and eventually blows up. The defending team must seek and destroy the enemy team, while also protecting their base and preventing the bomb from being planted. If the bomb is in fact planted, the defending team must locate the bomb, hack it, and disable it before it explodes. I believe you have about thirty seconds to disarm the bomb after it is planted.
Even if you manage to kill all of the assaulting team members, if the bomb was planted you still need to disarm the bomb to win the round. After you complete a set amount of rounds, the game will than switch the roles for both teams.
One thing I really like about First Assault is that if you want to win any of the game modes you will really need to work well with your team. I found that the run and gun, lone wolf playstyle normally doesn’t go very well, but slow tactical gameplay where you stick with your team normally works in your favor. I was also surprised that if I suppressed enemy players with bullets, they would take cover and hide, which allowed my team to flank them to get the kill.
Regardless, all of the Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex First assault missions are extremely frantic and fast paced.
Characters and Abilities
This now brings us to the tactical element of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault. All of the characters have special abilities attached to them.
Kusanagi can of course turn invisible for a set amount of time like in the anime.
Batou has an arm rocket launcher.
Togusa has seeker droids that blow up on contact.
Saito has a radar to see enemies through walls.
Ishikawa can deploy an auto-turret that fires when an enemy passes by.
Paz can activate a speed boost to run at turbo speeds and jump higher.
Borma can recharge his life with a slight Overshield effect.
And the newest team member Maven, can put down Optic Shield Walls that slow down bullets and creates an optic illusion to hide team members… in simple terms, it makes you invisible as long as you are behind the wall.
All of the abilities have two tiers, you can unlock the second tier by killing enemies which gives you ability points. After you earn enough ability points you can activate your more powerful second tier ability which normally does more damage, lasts longer, or you can share the ability with a few teammates if they are nearby. For example, players near Kusanagi when she goes invisible will be able to go invisible as well. This ability system encourages teamwork by sticking together and sharing abilities, and if done correctly you can dominate the battlefield and really turn the tides in your favor.
However, I found that the abilities don’t break the game and it isn’t unbalanced. Based on your playstyle they all have their pros and cons. One other unique feature is that the enemy team will always appear as a terrorist in your view, so you will never know what abilities they have. Only players on your team will look like characters from the anime. My personal favorite is playing Ishikawa, using a custom MP5.
UPDATE: I completely forgot that characters can level up and you can upgrade them using chips you find in battle to make your characters “stronger”. There aren’t many variations in the current game. The reason I forgot to include this tidbit is because the chips are almost useless in the game’s current state and thus, I never use them. The upgrades also decay with use, so you have to replace them after the upgrade runs out of charges. The upgrades give you bonuses such as reducing grenade damage, increasing your movement speed, or allowing you to reload faster. Characters have about four to five augment slots in their body that you can use to install upgrades. This will be a really cool feature if they add more upgrade chips for players to unlock, otherwise, it serves no real purpose with the current poor selection they have in game at the moment.
Weapons and Customization
The Early Access version of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault doesn’t have too many weapons to choose from, maybe about twenty different guns or so. Currently they have three pistols in game: the default gun you start with (which is almost useless), a large powerful magnum, and an automatic Beretta 93-SE. They also only have one melee weapon, which is an arm blade that you can slice people with and perform one hit kill assassinations. You can also buy flash bangs, smoke bombs, and all players by default start with grenades.
The SMGS, Shotguns, Sniper rifles and Assault rifles can be customized with a variety of scopes, laser sights, holographic sights, front hand grips, different barrels, muzzles, and magazines, to change the statistics for how the guns both look and function. You can buy some of these items from the market place (which ONLY takes in game money, you don’t have to spend real life money), but other items you have to unlock by earning TP, which you gain from playing battles. If you win or perform well, you have a higher chance of earning more TP to unlock more attachments and equipment for your guns.
The weapon customization isn’t too detailed, but I found it to be acceptable for now. I just hope they add more guns and upgrades in the future, because the melee weapons and sidearms have a really poor selection.
One major problem I found with combat is that I found that it takes a few too many hits to get kills, all the guns need a damage boost. It takes about five to six body shots from your pistol to get a kill, and about three to the head. For machine guns, it takes about two shots to the head to get a kill and about four to the body depending on the gun. Snipers are about two to the body and one clean shot to the head. As a result, most players like using sniper rifles. Regardless, a minor damage boost should seriously be considered by the developers. I once shot a man in the head through glass with a shotgun and he flinched and just kept going…
Graphics, Sound and Effects
Graphically, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault isn’t mind-blowing, however it is optimized for lower end gaming PCs to run the game at a smooth framerate, giving you quite a few options to turn the graphics down.
Turning the graphics up, the game still looks at best like a game made in 2013. It does have a few gimmick special effects that I like, such as when you “Dive” into a mission it is like the Matrix where you see digital code streaming up the walls and across the floor as you wait for other players to load in. The music sounds like the movies Inception and the Matrix as well, with loud horns and trumpets that blare in the background. After everyone loads in, the screen clicks and changes and you are suddenly standing in the stage. It is quite cool.
Sound effects are crisp and clear. I wouldn’t say realistic, but it does suck you into the game in the heat of the moment. There was a Terminal Conquest match where I was playing Ishikawa and following a teammate playing Paz, he activated his speed boost and I linked to him to share the ability. There was a bridge on the second floor that we were running across while snipers and the Tachikoma Think Tank opened fire on us; running across that bridge at high-speed while bullets were flying everywhere made the sound on point and matched the action perfectly. When bullets pass by your head it makes a very distinct bullet whizzing sound as they barely miss, and you can hear as the bullets hit the ground and walls. As a result, playing in that moment was like playing in an action movie and was really intense. Foot steps can also help you win because you can hear other players running close by, if you take your time and hide it could help you get a few kills just by waiting and listening.
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault isn’t visually ground breaking, it isn’t anything new, and the hacking is lackluster. They seriously need more guns, and a heck of a lot more stages because the few they have now aren’t enough. However, the base game is pretty solid. There are a few known glitches in the Early Access version such as players not being able to connect and play (I never had that problem), a glitch where you randomly get stuck in the loading screen so you have to force close the game, and a few lag stutters.
The thing is, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault is extremely fun when you are actually in the game and playing it. It has its flaws but it is also addicting to keep playing. I like the market system and cash shop system they have in place, the only cash shop items are skins and more character slots (they give you three characters for free, and you can always buy more using in game money), everything else is purchased with money you earn from battles. So the game is no where near Pay to Win. I just hope they keep this system when it goes full free to play. I honestly wouldn’t mind if the game just stuck with a cheap $4.99 price tag and had extra skins in the cash shop instead of going full free to play.
If Nexon listens to the fans and makes a few minor adjustments, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault could become a really fun Free to Play first person shooter. Overall, I would say it is worth the price and worth playing if you enjoy Call Of Duty style shooters.