Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex PS2 Review

If it’s robots, freakishly coloured hair and big round eyes you want, then anime should be very much your cup of tea. For the anime outsiders, it’s the equivalent of being on a very bad drug trip. Viewing Japanese anime is indeed an extremely weird experience on the whole, but thankfully Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex isn’t as difficult to get to grips with as some of those bizarre plots.

We were talking about the game itself of course, as the plot is like a jigsaw with half of the pieces missing. There’s plenty of waffle in here to contend with, but thankfully it’s nowhere near as complex as The Matrix Reloaded, which we quite simply didn’t understand a single word of. The game is set in a techno future and based on the series of the same name, there’s also plenty of crazy stuff within. Anime fans should naturally be in their element with it all.

Playing Standalone Complex for the first time is quite a shock to the system, not only because the visuals are colourless, rather drab and lacking a cel-shaded touch. The controls also feel rather strange at first, as each button doesn’t really do what you would expect to do; shooting for instance is executed with the L1 button. It does take some getting used to, but soon enough we found ourselves gunning enemies down without a hitch.

Even when we were wrestling with the controls, we found that our enemy didn’t really feel like much of a threat. To put it simply, they’re as dumb as dumb and not capable of much beyond falling down and dying, at least they manage to do that respectably. This isn’t a problem of course, as long as the game feels enjoyable to play and Standalone Complex fits this pleasing bill.

Throughout the game you take control of Motoko Kusanagi and Batou, each offering individual characteristics. Blue-haired Motoko is fast and athletic, meaning you can pull off some stunning jump and evasion manoeuvres, Whilst Batou is beefier and therefore slower, although this is counterbalanced by the fact that he can make use of the bigger and more explosive guns. The duo are also able to utilise hand-to-hand combat in close situations, which is bolstered by some smart and slick slow-motion.

The two characters can even hack into the brains of their foes and take control (it’s an advanced future remember). The hacking part brings up a little mini game, which is often more about luck then anything else, and sometimes a feature that we felt wasn’t worth the effort and time. When successful you can unleash hell with an “enemy” on your “enemies” for a limited period of time (lasting until the enemies stop their friend dead in his tracks or the control timer reaches zero).

A multi-player mode for up to four players is present; it’s something that obviously intends to extend the lifespan of a fairly short title, and in this aspect the developer’s heart was definitely in the right place. It’s just a shame that it’s almost a throwaway feature, which is merely passable at best. It would have been nice to see a cooperative mode included, but it just wasn’t to be.

Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex is a great action game, which weaknesses only become clear when the game is compared to similar titles, which is sadly inevitable. As a (no pun intended) standalone game it’s worthy of the attention of fans of the series as well as those who like huge round eyes and explosions.