Hands-On Preview: Sexy Lady + Cool Powers + Kick-Butt Guns = Sweet
Blizzard is, undeniably, the king of real-time strategy. From Warcraft's fantasy setting to Starcraft's sci-fi backdrop, Blizzard's worlds are vivid, well-developed, and chock-full of memorable units. It is this bigger than the game itself
mentality that has spawned Starcraft Ghost.
While it is a departure from the RTS formula that made Starcraft great, Ghost is recapturing the look and feel of the sci-fi universe while bringing the action to a much more personal level. In Ghost, you take control of one of the elite shock troops that make up the Terran military. If you played the PC RTS game or its expansion pack, Brood War, you will immediately recognize most of the characters, weapons, and special powers that populate Starcraft: Ghost. On the other hand, if you have played games like Halo, Tomb Raider, or Splinter Cell you will feel right at home with Ghost's gameplay. Does this mean that Starcraft: Ghost is a derivative rip off with nothing to offer? Not at all. We had the chance to spend an hour with Starcraft: Ghost at E3 and it impressed us all.
Starcraft: Ghost impeccably integrates its RTS lineage with action sensibility, crafting a third person action title with a first-person control scheme that is set in a familiar, yet unique, sci-fi world. The controls are as tight and sensitive as the best first person shooters out there. At the top of its game, the action feels as if it is torn straight out of Aliens, complete with the anxiety that comes with a dwindling ammo supply. Taking a cue from Halo 2, you can hijack vehicles from enemy soldiers. Specifically, you can hop on the back of a Vulture, pound the driver's head into the Vulture's controls, and throw him to the ground. There are a few unique pieces to the game formula, too, like searching bodies to find ammo, order logs, security keys. One drawback to the action side of the recipe is that switching between weapons requires you to hold down the X button to access an action-interrupting menu. It is heartbreaking that switching weapons isn't more fluid.
Stealth will play as much of a role in Starcraft: Ghost as action will, tapping into Starcraft's mythology to expand the gameplay possibilities. You can use the ghost powers from the RTS to more effectively infiltrate enemy bases and complete your objectives. Drawing on your Psi-power to engage your cloaking device allows you to walk right up to enemy soldiers without them seeing you. You also get to wield the Lockdown weapon and use a distinctive targeting system to shut down electronic devices like security guns. Not everything about Ghost is recycled, though. You can also perform stealth kills on enemy soldiers after sneaking up behind them. Then things shift to a brief rhythm mini-game as you overpower your opponent with great moves like stuffing a grenade into their armor.
Your character in Starcraft: Ghost is a badass that gives Lara Croft a run for her acrobatic money, too. Sure, these days almost every videogame character can leap to ledges and pull themselves up and Ghost is no exception. However, pull out a weapon while on a ladder and you get a taste of the original recipe coolness that Starcraft: Ghost is packed with. As you take your weapon from its holster you flip upside down, legs wrapped around the ladder, and slip into a first person targeting mode that lets you tag opponents from above. She is also equipped with a heat vision filter that allows you to track down opponents in the dark. It is a great alternative to the typical flashlight and lends an eerie effect to the Zerg infested levels.
Starcraft: Ghost isn't skimping on the multiplayer combat, either. While the GameCube version will be limited to split screen skirmishes, Xbox and PS2 iterations are featuring online battles. E3 had a four-on-four battle going-on on the show floor and the role based combat fit the Starcraft formula to a tee. The combat will offer decent variety, too as you will not only play as a ghost, but as a marine. Oh, yeah. Vehicles are included, too. Vultures and tanks were shown on the show floor. Lets put it this way: There is more action packed into Starcraft: Ghost than there are funny-haired characters in Japanese animation.