Today I'm previewing three early access titles now available on Steam: Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex First Assault Online, Rust, and Hurtworld.
Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex First Assault Online
...Tactical Combat Video Game Entertainment Simulation System. Okay, I made that last part up, but somebody in Nexon America's marketing department really should have reigned in that title a little bit. It can't even be made into a convenient acronym. "Hey, want to play GITSSACFAO?" asked no one, ever.
Anyhow, I was drawn to this title because I love Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (as well as the Ghost in the Shell films). If you're not familiar with the series, it follows a special forces team led by Major Motoko Kusanagi in a sci-fi 2030s Japan where everyone who can afford it is a cyborg. (The overoptimistic timeline is worthy of Back to the Future!) The setting is leveraged to deliver some surprisingly sophisticated philosophical and social commentary—for an anime, anyway. But more to the point, there's also a lot of over-the-top action and a hint of gun-fetishism, which makes the series perfect for a first person shooter. It's surprising, then, that nobody has tried to make one until now.
Unfortunately, the results are mixed, at least at this early stage. I've seen some significant stuttering during some matches, which is a real problem in such a fast-paced shooter. The gunplay also is also ever-so-slightly off. It's got a satisfying, weighty feel to it, but I can't quite get used to the aiming and recoil. Adjusting your aim while looking down the sights is so incredibly slow compared to the pace of player movement that the best strategy seems to be to just never use iron sights at all except at extreme range. It feels like they're taking cues from Counter-Strike, but they haven't quite nailed the experience yet.
I trust that some of these issues will be fixed as the game is developed further, but what's more worrying is the character progression mechanic. Although early access to the game costs money, this is pretty clearly intended to be a free-to-play game, and as such there are already a plethora of unlockable weapon and ability upgrades. There are so many different things to customize that it's almost overwhelming at first. That would be a good thing if not for the fact that the pace of unlocks seems very slow (as if to encourage people to spend real money—imagine that!), and the unlockables don't seem very balanced. A fully upgraded character has clear advantages over a new character, which leads to a frustrating sense of unfairness.
I think this one is worth keeping an eye on, but I don't see it becoming my go-to shooter unless I end up being dead wrong about the free-to-play monetization scheme.