December seems to be the month of cyberpunk in the realm of PC gaming. OtherSide Entertainment teased the latest entry in the renowned hackers-in-space exploratory shooter series System Shock with a System Shock 3 website reveal last week, and officially announced its existence today. Meanwhile, Korean studio Neople – who is perhaps best known for the wildly popular MMORPG Dungeon Fighter Online – launched an early access build today for their upcoming squad-based shooter, Ghost in the Shell: First Assault, which is being published by Nexon.
A trailer for the game can be viewed below:
First Assault takes place in the fictional Ghost in the Shell universe, which is a Japanese media series that began as a manga written by Masamune Shirow and was later adapted to successful animated film and TV platforms. Ghost in the Shell takes place in the year 2030 in New Tokyo, where cybernetically-augmented humans carry out their daily lives amid towering skylines and dark criminal underworlds. The series follows a crack team of elite counter-cyberterrorism specialists, dubbed Section 9, as they tackle a swathe of threats to the Japanese populace, which include nationwide hacking attempts, political corruption, and rising tensions between Japan’s refugee populations and its native citizens. In particular, First Assault is set within the Stand Alone Complex continuity, which comprises the animated TV show series that aired between 2002-2005.
The Ghost in the Shell series is known for its philosophical reflections on human agency and our relationships with machines, but Neople plans to deliver a fun competitive shooting experience with First Assault. New players are able to choose from a robust selection of Section 9 operatives for their first character, including Section 9’s leader, Major Motoko Kusanagi. Each character specializes in his or her own niche; Batou deals in heavy weapons and rocket launchers, while Ishikawa works with deployable drones. There is no limit on how many of each character can be played in a match, meaning multiple Motokos and Batous can be found on a team. Though only one character can be chosen at the start, others can be unlocked through the in-game leveling system or by purchasing in-game unlocks with real money.
Players then embark on missions, whose scenarios are based on major events from the Stand Alone Complex series. The missions themselves consist of traditional multiplayer shooter game modes, such as Team Deathmatch, Terminal Conquest (control points), and Demolition (Counter-Strike’s Bomb Scenario). Players are encouraged to mix and match their weapons and character abilities to best opponents in combat. A player using The Major, for example, can sneak past enemies using optical camouflage (invisibility) while her teammates provide cover fire.
Though every player chooses a Section 9 operative to play as, enemy players appear as generic enemies that suit the scenario at hand. Opponents will appear as cybernetic soldiers, non-augmented terrorists, or whichever other faction populates the Stand Alone Complex episode upon which the mission is based. Neople has put great care into replicating the Ghost in the Shell universe through other small touches. Each mission begins with a digital overhead map much like the beginning of an episode of Stand Alone Complex, while Section 9 director Chief Aramaki will brief players during missions through neural intercoms and will update them on their progress. The cheerful Tachikoma smart tanks from Stand Alone Complex seem to be absent, though similar-looking spider robots appear to have taken their place.
Outside of matches, players can purchase new weaponry and level up their skills using in-game currency. Many of these upgrades allow players to share their abilities with teammates (explained in-game as each Section 9 operative being linked through a neural network), granting squad-wide invisibility or armor-reinforcing gel. Saito the sniper can even provide his teammates with the ability to see enemies through walls via a heat sensor. These weapon and ability upgrades will not cost real money. In fact, there is no in-game economy in the Early Access version of the game. Players will be able to use real-money in the future to purchase cosmetic skins and faster unlocks.
Ghost in the Shell: First Assault is available for play on Windows systems. Its website can be found here, where you can apply for the closed beta. Or you can purchase a buy-in to the early access for $5.00 US here. Neither Neople nor Nexon have given a release date for the ‘finished’ version of the game, but they plan to add more maps, game modes, and weapons as the early access progresses.