One of the genres that is seriously under represented on the PSP is first person shooters. The only attempt aside from this game lies with Konami's Coded Arms, though the less said about that game the better. The controls on the PSP make it a little difficult to develop a FPS title, obviously not deterred by this Bandai have released Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex and whilst the game does try to prove that FPS titles can be done on the PSP, it ultimately fails.
Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex is based on the popular anime, and features four playable characters from the series including Motoko, Batou, Saito and Togusa. The game tells a very lackluster story where you play as a member of the elite police force (known as Section 9) and you have to reveal the mysteries of the terrorist plot. The story actually remains largely a mystery to you as not too much is revealed until the very end.
There are a total of six chapters in the game and each of them is divided into three or four missions. The missions are very short, which is good for those who like to play their PSP on the train. Each mission lasts about five minutes.
Tachikoma's, which are best known from the anime series have also made it into the game. When you're in battle your tachikoma will always be alongside you. It's also possible to customise your tachikoma and get them to shoot for you, as well as order them where to go. You're also given the ability to control a tachikoma later on in the game, whilst this is a cool addition, the novelty wears off fairly quickly.
As is becoming the norm on the PSP, there is full Wi-Fi support, and whilst this could have been a great feature it comes off feeling a little restrictive. You're able to choose to play as either a tachikoma or a human in a deathmatch styled arena. There are a total of eight maps in multiplayer, but they all look relatively similar to each other and are really small, which makes the mode feel even more stripped down than the single player mode.
Controlling a FPS is always going to be an issue on the PSP and Bandai have tried to take this into account. There are four possible control configurations, but all of them require you use the face buttons on the PSP to aim, moving is done with the analog nub. The control system is far from perfect, but the auto aim system does make things a little easier. We're yet to be convinced that a decent FPS title could be developed on the PSP and this game helps to support out contention.
The game itself takes a fair while to actually get into the action. At the beginning it is possible to just leave your tachikoma to do most of the work and go around collecting the ammo and opening the doors. Once the game actually becomes a little challenging it definitely becomes a bit more entertaining, but unfortunately this doesn't happen until it's possible you've actually lost interest in the game.
This isn't just because of the easy gameplay though, the environments themselves aren't as varied as we'd hoped. As such, it is common to actually find yourself surrounded by similar looking enemies and similar looking obstacles in a level that looks practically the same as the one you were in fifteen minutes ago. We would have really liked a bit more level variation, because the levels make you feel very claustrophobic.
The cut-scenes are the highlight of the game graphically and look amazing. We really would have liked if the cut scenes set a precedent for the actual levels, but unfortunately this is not the case. The colours are bland, and the highlight of the game are the tachikomas, they mainly stand out because of the colour though. The environments are just far too bland, and we expected more from the game. We're pleased to report that we didn't expect any hitches in frame-rate and the loading is fairly decent, so there is some advantages to the game looking average.
The same people who voice the characters in the anime provide the dialogue for the game, which is fairly impressive. There is also a fairly decent amount of voicework in the game, which is impressive. However, the same cannot be said for the soundtrack, which feels like it is on a twenty second loop. The game is littered with techno music which seems like it has been thrown together in ten minutes. The sound effects are fairly average as well, just about every gun sounds the same and other effects like explosions just sound tacked on.
If you expect this game to last a decent amount of time you may be a little disappointed as well. The main story mode doesn't really take much skill to breeze through, and if you're feeling extraordinary lazy you can let the tachikoma's do most of the work. The ad-hoc Wi-Fi could have made up for the lackluster single player mode but it doesn't as the maps are simply too small and there isn't a varied enough range. There is also no reason to come back to the single player mode once you've played through the game.
We can't help but feel fairly disappointed by Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, The controls in the game are the least of our concerns when it comes to playing this title, the uninspired level design, easy and repetitive gameplay and poor soundtrack really bog this game down. If an FPS title was developed for the PSP that rectified this problem, then the only real concern would be the PSP controls, but as it stands Ghost in the Shell is just another disappointing addition to the PSP library. If you had to choose an FPS for the PSP then Ghost in the Shell is a better title than Coded Arms, but that's like saying dying quickly is better than dying painfully.