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*GeeklyNewsGazette was invited to a close door beta testing with other press members. The session took place December 9th, with an extensive walk-through with the game’s development team. The thoughts of the writer reflects the beta played and not the final product released to the public.*

Ghost in the Shell has been around since 1989. The franchise has endured its changes, struggles and modifications to adapt to an evolving medium that is manga. Unfortunately, much like the comic book genre, Ghost in the Shell became one with the masses, an over crowded lot, fighting for your undivided attention.

Developer Neople set out to change the public’s mind and take it away from hit anime shows like Attack on Titan, One Punch Man and Death Note (to name a few). In doing so, it blended familiar game mechanics seen in popular genre titles with its own particular blend of stylized action.

First and foremost, Ghost in the Shell: First Assault Online is an online only infrastructure. Despite having a rather large story to pick through, the game places you in the shoes of a Section 9 operative. The operative system works similar to Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s Specialist roles. Each operative has different qualities or power-ups that make combat diverse. Power ups require point values (values earned from kills, challenges, etc) to unlock, so you cannot freely spam your power ups for cheap kills.

Combat can be bloody and intense.
Combat can be bloody and intense.

The three modes played were Team Deathmatch, Demolition and Terminal Conquest. Each of these, again, feel very inspired from other AAA titles but have Ghost in the Shell’s unique, quirky design elements that make it standalone. Of these three, Team Deathmatch lacked the oomph or thrills of the other two. Demolition provided the most spark, with each player only having one life. Point Control had operatives battling over several points in the map for total points, the most at the end of the match won. This lead to some heated firefights.

Map design is quite impressive. Sure, there is only five maps at release, while not a lot in terms of quantity, the quality of map design is top notch. Levels have not only size but verticality that allow for long range gun battles as well as up close, gritty hallway firefights.

The seven operatives (at launch) all had different power ups and skill bases that made for interesting combat situations. Borma (the operative I selected) had a powerful missile launcher that soaked up enemy combatants with a rather addicting, limb removing explosion. Ghost in the Shell: First Assault allows for operatives to sync to one another’s power ups, a great mechanic that allows for even more powerful operatives.

Despite being an operative, blessed with cybernetic abilities, shooting mechanics felt in tune. Each weapon (the arsenal goes from SMG to Sniper Riles as well as hand-guns) felt different, with attributes that include damage, range, speed, etc. Gun play in FPS games needs to feel tight, here, especially with the entire reliance being strictly FPS, tournament based competition. If the shooting doesn’t feel right, the game stumbles. Thankfully, heads will blow off with ferocity and bodies blow apart after grenade explosions.

Also worth noting, the game’s optimal performance. Ghost in the Shell ran at an impressive 80 frames per second at the highest achievable settings, without flaw. The consistency stood out the most in firefights, with the 80 FPS being met, with crisp animation and little to no texture pop-in. For all intensive purposes, the game could launch and be a quality visual FPS shooter.

Using your abilities comes with some helpful and dangerous friends...
Using your abilities comes with some helpful and dangerous friends…

Nexon has a few things up their sleeves in the future for Ghost in the Shell. One, expect updates that will change, alter the game to what the players want, rather than what caters to them. Also, the developer was clear in no charged DLC in the future. Updates will come with free maps or modes to add to the experience. Neople also stated that the company is looking into controller support, noting that, “It was on our radar.”

Finally, the market mechanic inside the game. Neople has created an in-depth, customization heavy market place for operatives to go in, and basically rebuild their weapon from scratch. Each weapon mod, whether it be the barrel, scope, or clip, has a point designation that helps or hinders your combat effectiveness. Each round ends with you earning spendable currency (you can also use real world money to purchase modifications).

The points are used for more than just modifications, but various other guns, explosives, knives or character decals. The system sounds mundane or simple in description, but surprisingly had immense depth. Load outs can easily be built around a characters strengths in combat scenarios and this seems to be something Neople is aiming towards.

Overall, Ghost in the Shell: First Assault Online played quite well. The shooting mechanics are pin-point, comparable to other AAA FPS titles and competitive play feels like a sci-fi version of Counter Strike. Creative leaps in operative play distinction makes every match feel intense and exciting. Not only that, but the extensive marketplace will allow for significant customization. Neople has a quality game on their hands here.

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