*Ghost in the Shell details based on wikia and my personal recollections/viewings of the anime movies/series.
With the upcoming release of the Hollywood Ghost in the Shell live action movie, starring Scarlett Johansson, a slightly old thought returned to my mind - what form would it take as a video game?
Ghost in the Shell’s philosophical elements and stylish sci-fi setting might make it a good fit for a cyberpunk RPG above all else, and to be honest that's something I’d like to see that happen. Today however, my mind was filled with the thought that it’d make for a nice tactical shooter as well. I don’t mean a purely multiplayer-focused title when I say that by the way, which we kind of have in the form of the free-to-play Ghost in the Shell: First Assault (I say kind of because I’m not sure how tactical it is; I'm talking about one with a solid campaign as its main meat.
There’re a few reasons why I think Ghost in the Shell has the potential to be a pretty cool single player tactical shooter, and that’s what we’ll be ghost diving into here.
Although Motoko Kusanagi/ the Major is the main protagonist in most or all of the Ghost in the Shell media (the Ghost in the Shell: Innocence movie being an easy exception) and a badass cyborg, she’s not a one-woman army. Backing her up are the members of Public Security Section 9, which consists of individuals of various skills and expertise. Among their number are Batou, who has cybernetic eyes and strong melee combat skills; Saito, a sniper with a prosthetic eye that interfaces with satellites to give him incredible accuracy; and information warfare and technology specialist Ishikawa.
Their presence and the Major’s dependence on their skills are the main reason why I believe Ghost in the Shell would fit the tactical shooter genre, with the core of the gameplay involving commanding and utilizing them in addition to controlling the Major. What make things different here than other tactical shooters are their individuality and specializations, which means everyone brings something different to the table.
For gameplay’s sake, we could maybe have the player only take a few members along for a mission, and the choice affects how the mission is carried out. For instance, with Saito you’d have an expert marksman spotting targets and covering you, while taking Ishikawa would provide unique intel that opens up new possible approaches to the objective. With this, the decision-making process will be present even before dropping into a mission, and it adds a bit of replayability to missions should you want to tackle a previous mission with a different set of operatives.
The Therm-optic camouflage technology is perhaps one of the easiest piece of Ghost in the Shell tech that comes to mind, and in gameplay terms it’d help with the stealth side of things, should the player wish to take that route. For those who like to go loud, the franchise has some nice big guns - the massive gun used by Batou in the end of the original anime movie comes to mind for me, followed by the massive gun that was mounted on explosive specialist Borma’s back in the 2015 Arise movie.
There’s also the Tachikomas, which the wiki describes as AI walkers or roller tanks. I consider them to be cheerful robot buddies that make for nice transports, although they can also provide some welcome firepower. They can perhaps be unlocked later in the game, serving as optional back-up and perhaps adding some mobility to larger, out-door missions.
In addition to all that are less conspicuous technology like cyberbrains, which can be hacked to alter memories or sensory input. This could allow enemies to influence civilian NPCs and make things more complicated for the player. There’s also Ghost Diving, which lets one pour their “Ghost” (or consciousness/soul) into the internet and navigate it as if it were a physical construct; it also allows one to enter another person’s mind through hacking. These could add elements to the gameplay like deciding between hacking a target’s cyberbrain to obtain info or simply eliminating him.
Do we need to muse about what it means to be human while wondering how to rescue hostages held by cyborg terrorists and figuring out how to best utilize your Section 9 teammates’ talents? Perhaps not, but it wouldn’t hurt to have that element layered onto the off-mission sequences and cutscenes, or to have hints of that in missions via an odd robot or two.
The conspiratorial elements on the other hand -should they be part of the narrative - can play a bigger role in missions and lend urgency and purpose to your task. Instead of simply focusing on solving a tactical puzzle, it’d be nice to strive towards piecing together the plot puzzles as well, and each new twist or revelation that the plot reveals along the way can change the mood and atmosphere of subsequent missions to prevent them from feeling like just another mission.