The technically free-to-play online multiplayer-only Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex shooter that Luke Plunkett was so bummed about went live on Steam Early Access this morning. So far learning to play is much more entertaining than actually playing.

I say technically free-to-play because in order to play the early access version of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault on has to spend at least $4.99 on an early access pack. That should cheer folks bummed about this being a free-to-play title right up. Do not worry, you actually have to pay money! Phew, dodged that bullet.

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It’s an odd choice of genre for such a character-driven show. Third-person shooter would have worked just fine. Maybe a platformer with shooting elements. An online multiplayer-only shooter? Hrm.

Jung Eik Choi of developer Neople explains the decision thusly:

With such a wealth of great content covered in Stand Alone Complex, picking a genre was no easy feat. However, while watching the series we were particularly excited by Episode 24 of Season One, in which the wrongfully accused team at Section 9 are tested to their limits, forced to take on an opposing Special Ops team in order to clear their names. This episode really made us imagine what it would be like to fight together as a perfectly synchronized team like Section 9, which helped us decide to bring that fantasy to life in a tactical team-based shooter.

And so players get to unlock and play as their favorite Ghost in the Shell: SAC characters, including Kusanagi and those other ones. Each character has a special power they can charge up in a fight, like invisibility or ARM MISSILES. That was in all-caps on purpose, because ARM MISSILES. Not only do they get these skills, but other players on their team in close proximity can sync up and use the skills for themselves, which should a savvy team should be able to use to great advantage.

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But enough about boring old shooting. Let’s play the tutorial, presented here without voiceover.

It’s a lot of fun, even though I managed to screw up the last bit. Crouching, jumping, shooting, hacking—it’s all very nice. I left the tutorial with visions of exciting first-person shooting possibilities dancing in my head.

The actual shooting people, while definitely Ghost in the Shell-flavored, doesn’t quite live up to that promising opening. Mouse aiming feels restricted, the hit registration feels off—though obviously the red team in the video below seems to have gotten the hang of it—and despite the character voices and player models the whole affair feels like the series without the passion, i.e. generic cyberpunk.

And then there’s the whole free=to-play microtransaction thing, which will put some people off simply by existing. There are weapons and mods for sale that would definitely give a player an advantage, and while most of the non-cosmetic items can be earned eventually, putting money down will certainly give players of the spending-variety an early advantage.

It’s still Early Access, of course, and players are providing feedback to the developers left and right. If Neople listens there’s a chance that the gameplay will rise up to meet the promise.

And if not, we’ll always have that stellar tutorial.

Contact the author of this post at fahey@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter@bunnyspatial.

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