It's bizarre we've not seen more games from this franchise. Really, when you think about it, Ghost in the Shell is a long-standing series ripe for countless video game adaptations. You have guns, you have mechas, science fiction elements and even philosophical insanity capable of rivalling Metal Gear; all of which is not even counting the police procedural or detective elements. Unfortunately for us however, First Assault Online isn't quite the smash hit we were hoping for.
As you might guess from the name, the game focuses less upon deep or detailed storytelling than it does online mass multiplayer experiences. You play as members of Section 9 - the elite cyborg SWAT equivalent - and shoot guns at people. While certainly basic, the game's charm stems from the elements taken from the Ghost in the Shell franchise. Many recognizable guns, items and characters all show up looking as if they have stepped right out of the anime. The Tachikoma Tanks in particular stand out extremely well in all their machine gunning glory, and the cyberpunk concepts add a great new element. Unfortunately, all these positive aspects are only skin deep, and it doesn't take long to notice First Assault Online's deep rooted flaws.
Despite being a free to play model, the actual monetary scheme itself is borderline insane. The purchase bundles are enough to make Gaijin look conservative and overall offer nowhere near enough benefit to justify costs of up to £67.99. Worse still, the game seems as if it were built to force people to buy into these, as daily tasks do nothing to ease out the daily grind, and costs keep increasing across the board. A recent patch alone tripled the purchase price of more expensive weapons, and the XP rewards for your efforts are almost non-existent. By the time you hit level twenty - of the eighty levels in total - you will be beating your head against a brick wall.
Even discounting their schemes, the core gameplay is ropy beyond belief. Besides a netcode which seems to have been cobbled together out of spare parts, the hit-boxes of characters are inaccurate at the best of times, and desynch once you look down a scope. The scopes themselves just happen to be poorly aligned, and even weapons stats seem to be meaningless trappings at best. Cap this off with a near non-existent balance between weapons, meaning SMGs are the only weapon worth using, and you're left with an inept and poorly conceived product from an otherwise fantastic franchise.
While we rarely cover open beta game on this website, the developer's decision to front-load a storefront and lack of any progress after a year of work justifies this review. Short of divine intervention, there is little here which could truly fix First Assault Online's long standing failings, and it seems to exist only to trick anime fans into wasting their cash. With the likes of Counterstrike Go and Overwatch on the market, you really have no reason to drop any money on a game this bad.
GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX - FIRST ASSAULT ONLINE / DEVELOPER: NEOPLE / PUBLISHER: NEXON / PLATFORM: PC, XBOX ONE, PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW