StarCraft: Ghost Preview

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Publisher: Blizzard
Developer: Nihilistic Software and Blizzard Entertainment

Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
Official site:

"You are a Ghost, an evolutionarily advanced human with enhanced physical and psionic abilities."

Trained from infancy, Ghosts are those humans with mental capabilities far beyond the ordinary and used by the Terran Confederate Government as espionage and counter-intelligence officers. Lethally effective both in armed and melee encounters, Ghosts use a combination of their training, superior equipment and mental powers to cloak themselves (becoming effectively invisible), lockdown mechanical devices (rendering them temporarily unable to function), and even serve as spotters for devastating nuclear assaults. Now, you serve as a Ghost, at the Vanguard of the Terran military's operations, advancing the cause of humanity throughout the galaxy.

Projected Release: Late 2004
Kyle Ackerman

As with everything Blizzard does, StarCraft: Ghost (Ghost) shows an uncanny amount of polish. Both because it is a Blizzard title and because it is a high-profile game for all three consoles, Ghost has received tremendous attention since it was announced in 2002. So what could we possibly tell you that you haven't already seen or heard in a dozen places? The game is already unbelievably visually impressive, but you know that. Ghost is an ambitious project, simultaneously trying to pull in all the best aspects of other stealth/action games while maintaining unbelievable visuals and intuitive controls. We can tell you, they are succeeding. Really. Not only do they look ready to meet or exceed the standards set by other popular games, they are doing it all within the StarCraft universe developed for the richly detailed real-time strategy game.

Easy To Control And A Pleasure To Watch

Blizzard has a visual style that is ideally suited to video games. It's not strictly realistic, but rather stylized in such a way that makes the Human Marines seem brutish and the slavering Zerg Hydralisks gruesomely sinister as they luxuriate in the Creep. Screenshots really can't do justice to this game in motion, as the animations, art and lighting effects provide an amazing backdrop for the gameplay. Perhaps best of all, those slightly abstracted graphics allow Nihilistic and Blizzard to present a game that maintains the brooding atmosphere of a dismal future in which the Protoss, Zerg and Terrans are constantly at war, yet has enough color and contrast that you won't have to wait until the witching hour to play. Stray shafts of light won't prevent on-screen objects from resolving.

The development team has done a tremendous job of making sure that nearly any action you might want to perform can be achieved with the context-sensitive touch of a button. Drag a body to a precipitous drop, and with a twitch of your thumb, you'll be able to hurl that corpse into the abyss below. Items with which you can interact are highlighted with visible brackets, and alternate vision modes help you explore the full range of possible approaches to a situation. The game also has an impressive camera that always seems to automatically find the best view, but can still be manipulated for slightly or radically different vistas.

Call Down A Nuclear Attack

It's also marvelous to see how well integrated the StarCraft lore remains in this game. Fans of the real-time strategy game will see (and kill) many familiar units rendered beautifully in 3D. Nova is the name of the Ghost you control, and she uses every talent a Ghost should have at her disposal, and more. She can cloak herself, becoming effectively invisible, and it was great to see her sneaking up behind Terran Marines, startling them if she made just a touch too much noise. In a simple mini-game of timed button presses, she could leap onto their backs and perform a sultry stealth-kill (with a more complicated mini-game for tougher foes). She has a modified C-20A canister rifle enabling her to snipe far away victims, and can even do so while hanging upside-down. Nova can lock down electronics, be it to immobilize vehicles or sneak past surveillance equipment, and can even call in distant fire support. One level has Nova on a high ledge, painting targets to call down artillery fire from Terran Siege Tanks to devastating effect. You will even be able to pilot StarCraft vehicles such as Goliath Combat Walkers and Arclite Siege Tanks. Nova's Psi-skills are assigned to the D-pad, easily used, and even her focus animation (as she rests to recover Psi Energy) is dramatic.

Ghosts are experts at infiltration, and the game's stealth component is expertly implemented. Both the animations and the controls smoothly allow Nova to climb walls, silently creep, and take wires from above (like a tightrope) or below (going hand over hand). Nova can hide inside boxes or lockers and use special sight modes to keep abreast of her surrounding, and can use those sight modes to identify targets and weak points on her enemies. You'll need to be careful, as being spotted by guards and alarms can complicate a mission, as will leaving bodies where they can be seen. We saw Nova attempt to sneak past Zerg, and circumvent the Terrans' sophisticated surveillance. She will also face the Protoss, and we are told that her missions against the Protoss will be more puzzle oriented as she copes with their intrinsic psionics and advanced technology.

So what can we tell you about Ghost? That it will be fun. We can say this with more certainty than a typical preview, because the game is already fun. The only question is how much better it will get. With so many splendid touches, like the ability to snipe the grenade on a Terran soldier's belt to eliminate him from the action to the dramatic animations for stealth kills, there is already a lot to discover in Ghost, and we eagerly await the game's release to learn even more.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 13, 2004 9:03 AM.

Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed Preview was the previous entry.

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