Note: This post has been re-edited in April 2015.
Summertime is a period of discount sales, that’s why this time I decided to give you 3 reviews at the price of one.
You have already learned that I am a cyberpunk freak but, if you have read my post#143 on “Neuromancer”, you also already know that this literary movement never made it to the ’90ies. Cyberpunk-themed movies and games, on the other hand, had different fortunes so off we go “jacking-in” once again …
File#1: “Ghost in the Shell” (PSX, 1997-98).
The game in question – taken from the manga series of Masamune Shirow – was a 3D shoot’em up in which you piloted a spider-like robot called “Tachikoma” (or Fuchikoma) across various environments peculiar of this saga: harbor piers, power plants, multilevel parking lots, transmission towers and so on.
Despite the original hype, the game didn’t turn out to sell that much here in Europe, probably due to the long development period. To unveil the plot you will have to complete a total of 10 missions, exploring the levels until you find (and fight) the final boss.
Each mission is preceded by anime-style cinematic expertly created by creator Masamune Shirow expressly for this game. Not only the fans of Shirow (original manga) and of Mamoru Oshii (director of the original movie) but also occasional gamers will, therefore, have something pleasant to watch.
As said, each mission is basically split into two parts: the first one, in which you navigate the given level and take down various enemies, and the final part in which you have to fight the boss.
This is easier said than done since a totally unbalanced change in difficulty makes this latter task an impervious one (except, maybe, for the very first boss). I love “Ghost in the Shell” saga, but I remember being that close to throwing the disc out of the window, particularly during the very last mission which featured a final “double boss”.
To summarize this first “file”, let me just say that the shortness of the campaign coupled with those dreadful difficulty spikes ended up to cripple what is, in reality, a very inspired and fast-paced action game that could have been a much better product.
File#2: “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” (PS2, 2004-05).
Things got much better with the release of the next installment, this time inspired by the homonymous TV serial. Using the (obvious) superior hardware capabilities, this time Bandai managed to build a shooter in which you could finally impersonate the beautiful main character of the saga: Major Motoko Kusanagi. “S.A.C.” story spans a much wider environment and time period, putting you also in control of other avatars.
As “Major” Motoko Kusanagi, Batou, and Tachikoma, you can engage enemies in both multiplayer combat and single-player missions.
In single-player mode, your missions involve hacking into machines and computers, controlling your enemies’ minds from a distance, and using a variety of weapons to eliminate your enemies. Complete the Story mode to unlock more playable characters, costumes, and additional weapons. [Source: www.gamefaqs.com]
In addition, you also have exploration and stealth sessions to enrich your experience.
Being Mokoto a cyborg, she’s able of jumping from building to building thus allowing for 3D-platform phases which are very suggestive but also fairly difficult, since the responsiveness of the control is not as precise as it should be.
Just for the records, in 2001 Bungie West (Mac and PC) and Rockstar Toronto (PS2) came out with a game called “Oni” which was DEEPLY inspired by Ghost in the Shell and Major Kusanagi. (In my opinion, a real rip-off!)
Edit: The GiTS saga is not over yet. The prequel of the anime, called “Arise”, went into production some time ago. “Part I” is already on DVDs and “Part II” is now showing in theaters.
Take a look at this live impression, taken from the Tokyo Game Show …..
[See the color of the merits? Grandma knew it all! Continue reading and also retrieve post#126 for additional info.]
So we finally get to File#3. Although not directly related to the first two files, I thought that this game could be their natural complement for a number of good reasons. First off, it is a true cyberpunk product which cut its teeth on previous platforms (PC, PS2), reaching its maturity on the PS3. All the cyberpunk styles can be found here: human body augmentation, computers hacking, megacorporations dirty affairs, multilevel megalopolis
information overloading TV channels, high tech and low life (again, see post#143) and much more.
Secondly, it has intriguing game mechanics that shift from a first-person view while exploring and shooting,
to a third person view during stealth phases (thus greatly improving situational awareness)
to a full-figure front view while talking to/fascinating NPC’s.
Finally, its stunning visuals (Co-created by SteamBoat Studios) are extremely evocative and, at the same time, credibly futuristic yet similar to our everyday environment, thanks to an excellent choice of colors that moved from stereotyped black-and-green base to a warmer set up (“smooth” yellow and amber – GrandMa ruled!).
As most games, even this one has a few flaws. For example, the platform phases (buildings climbing and such) sometimes mislead your perception of the environment, since the “pure” first-person view doesn’t give you enough reference points (unlike the beautiful but mistreated “Mirror’s Edge” from DICE); in the long run, the “talking phases” look all alike, since NPC’s all behave in the same way for the most part; at least in the Italian-dubbed version, the audio pipeline is sometimes out of synch, so parts of the speech fall out of lips movement and, finally, FVM cut-scenes are all pre-rendered and tend to cause a discontinuity with the “less” detailed in-game graphics.
Aside from these, I personally think that this game is really a “must have” one.
As stated on www.gamefaqs.com, in “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” you play Adam Jensen, a security specialist, handpicked to oversee the defense of one of America’s most experimental biotechnology firms. But when a black ops team breaks in and kills the scientists you were hired to protect, everything you thought you knew about your job changes. At a time when scientific advancements are routinely turning athletes, soldiers, and spies into super-enhanced beings, someone is working very hard to ensure mankind’s evolution follows a particular path. You need to discover why – because the decisions you take and the choices you make will be the only things that can determine mankind’s future.
You will start the game (which actually represents a prequel of the other two “Deus EX” installments) after the black ops team has left you for dead. To save your life, the company you work for has augmented your body and, during the game, you will be able to gain “Praxis Points” needed to power yourself up even more. It’s up to you to decide how you want to do this, the choice being strictly related to your personal playstyle.
Enhance hacking and passive defense skills if you prefer a stealth approach…
… or improve your active protection if you like to blast enemies away.
The great thing about the game is that you can (partially) modify your approach during the game since there are multiple ways to achieve the same objective. Too bad that, once completed, there’s no “New Story +” feature. It would have been cool to experiment a second (or third) playthrough with a completely augmented body.
Deus Ex: HR also has a very nice DLC (called “The missing link”) that perfectly fits inside the story thus resulting not redundant and, most important, a well-made investment.
Finally, being Deus Ex a Square Enix product, there is room for teasers, like the following poster of “Final Fantasy XXVII” (that’s right … 27!) that I found inside a tech lab during levels exploration.
These days Square Enix has often very good deals on its online store, so grab this game while you can.
Cyberpunk is not dead!
[all pictures were taken from www.gamefaqs.com, except when obvious … :)]