The April 2004 edition of Official Xbox Magazine has Starcraft: Ghost on its front cover with a nicely drawn image of Nova targeting her Gauge Rifle at the enemy from the top of an elevated ledge. A second illustration is displayed at page 2. The artist, Niko Henrichon, drew this image with Manga influences—making its style seasoned and attractive to any Anime fan. The coloring of that cover looks really neat. If Blizzard ever considered licensing Nova to an Anime TV-series, this would be a hit.

The Starcraft: Ghost article is located within the Feature section at page 28 through 37. Something that smacked my face when reaching page 28 is the release date. The article says that Starcraft: Ghost will be released by Fall 2004. Bad Medicine, mon! The splash page screenshot, covering 2 pages , shows a cloaked Nova in stealth mode sneaking behind what seems to be a unit not seen before, an SCV in Civilian clothes. This guy has no armor and no helmet. All that is seen is his back as Nova sneaks behind him in silent-mode. You can see his pants, and boots. A communications headset and a baseball cap. He is just standing in front of a massive 8-feet heavy-armored SCV unit. The screenshot shows 2 SCVs loaded on docks, similar to how Goliaths were in docks when we , as Duran, played the Single Player mission infiltrating the Psi-Disruptor to kill Stukov.

The article is named 10 things you didn?t know about Blizzard?s Starcraft: Ghost! As Nova you are sent into a recon mission by Colonel Jackson Hauler, who recruited Nova in her youth. As the cover mission develops, you as Nova will start to discover the truth behind your mission as it unfolds through your mission objectives. A typical Blizzard conspiracy among factions of your Terran race.

The planets visited are Aiur, Char and Mar Sara. There is an installation at a planet similar to Jupiter with a dark spot. Each mission trains your skills in the mastering all of Nova?s features from stealth, psionic punch, Hyper-speed (Matrix-style), silent kills, cloaking among some of her skills. As missions progress and you move to Zerg and Protoss missions, things will get ugly for Nova. You will have to rely on all the skills you learned and practiced in the Terran mission. The Game AI seems to be pushed to the limits in the Protoss mission. The article says that Protoss possess a high intelligence and no matter Nova?s psionic powers, she is just a newbie to them. They master the Psionic energies like a pro. If you are spotted the Protoss will kick your ass with a waving of a finger.

10 Things you didn?t know

  • The Perdition Flamethrower will be available to you not very often and you need to use it wisely only against light armored units like the Civilian guard and other units you may encounter in the Terran Installation. It seems that Nova will find this Flame Thrower items abandoned through the decks. Therefore, they might not be available in other races missions. If you still have the Flame Thrower during the Protoss Mission, it will help you not. The heavy shields of the Protoss will protect them. By the time you get to do some harm, they will kill you.

    Nihilistic has expanded Nova?s weaponry with an additional Energy-self-regenerating Pistol similar to those in Battlestar Galactica—yea that 70s Scifi show with Apollo and Starbuck. Since it self-replenishes energy briefly it has an unlimited supply of ammo. But don?t think this is the ultimate weapon. It is not lethal on all units. It might be used against light armored units and against Zerglings. The best use for this gun is to use it against cameras. This will allow you to save ammo for your rifle by using the Energy Pistol. A way to kill Zerglings is to use a nice feature of the Energy Pistol. By holding the Fire Button down for few seconds, it will load a massive concussion shot of energy. Knowing the background of some of the developers of Nihilistic who worked for LucasArt studios, I can tell you, this is similar to Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast and I love it. This is not the only similarity you will find with Jedi Outcast. Keep reading.

  • For first time we can view a screenshot of the hacking ability showing a new interface window that pops up from the left screen and takes about 25% of the screen. You can view in real time how zeros and ones digits(0 and 1) move around upwards and downwards; and some move horizontally. Some have colors: blue and red. You have to match this puzzle moving and swapping zeros and ones around to open locked doors. You can get back to that locked door at any time. Just watch it! The world doesn?t stop while you are decoding the Locked Door. You have to watch for any Guard patrolling the area. This adds a sense of adrenaline as you have to beat a timer when the binary window pops up in addition to external threats from Guards walking by. At the top of the interface I could see Press X to Review Instructions. This Help Feature is way handy for those who can?t figure out what to do with this bunch of zeros and ones. This hacking skill is something that Blizzard is refining.

    An interesting twist to this interface is that each time that you miss one of those moving zeros and ones a progress bar named the Success Bar updates by lowering your chances to be successful in the decoding of the lock door password. Of course, by missing few ones and zeros your chances to open the door are lower since the countdown timer will give you away possibly with an intruder alert. You might quit and try later, giving you chance to complete the mission at any time. The benefits of opening this locked doors is that some are ammunition rooms where you can be rewarded with nice weapons and ammo. Not to mention, if you are low in Psi energy, some rooms with locked doors can give you a Psi-energy recharge item reward. A good idea would be to cloak before you start decoding a locked door. Guards will be patrolling and will come near your area.

  • This skill is sweet. Starcraft: Ghost is taking stealth kill to the next level when it comes to interface and interactivity. Stealth kills are called Silent Kills. When you sneak on a Guard on Stealth mode, Nova?s body starts crawling slowly moving through the floor almost flat. Her height is around 3 feet when she is performing this animation. As she gets near her target you should press the B button and a sequence of animations initiate. Nova will get on top of the guard?s shoulders. A new interface named Progress Bar divided in different sections which will indicate your movements. By pressing one of this choices you make Nova perform different animations to allow you to kill the guard. As you find heavier enemy, th
    e amount of effort to kill them will r
    equire you to keep making attack combos through many buttons combinations to render your opponent unconscious or eliminated. The tougher the guy the harder to kill, and the more button combos you need to perform to finish him off. The amount of animations will surely give us the chills as Nihilistic evolved interactivity in this game. A plus to this silent kill series of button combos and animations is that the progress bar indicates you how close to kill the guy you are. The longer it takes you, the progress bar keeps updating telling you how successful you are at this point. This is a cool interface feature. If the Progress Bar gets low you will only stun the guard briefly or annoy him.

  • A key element to avoid getting swarmed by Marines is to kill them from a higher ground. You have the ability to climb to higher spots and snipe your enemy from afar. Then hide away from the edge to keep off sight. When you find a tougher enemy in the Terran Installation, set off your spider mine. The spider mine looks like it sounds. It is a spider robot with metallic legs that walks through the floor silently. Your viewing field becomes that of the spider mine allowing you to guide it to its final target. The Official Xbox Magazine shows a small screenshot with a close up on the Spider mine as it walks its way towards the Marine.

    Nihilistic has studied how to offer accessibility and at the same time add balance to the action and stealth to make newbies comfortable with the gameplay. Nova won?t be able to use stealth kills against Zerg units because of their high-density carapaces. The Terrans and Protoss will at this point offer Stealth kill animations with a progress bar. The whole Terran level is a boot camp training of your Stealth skill. Gunning your way through the installation will only cause you to be massacred as more enforcement units come to join the party. Stealth all the way because you are being trained for the true challenge . . . The Protoss. Basically try to master defense, offense and stealth when you play against the Terrans. It will prepare you to the nightmare you will face later on.

  • Jedi Force, ahem, Psi-recharge. The lovely LucasArt employees working at Nihilistic didn?t forget about us Jedi lovers. In Jedi Outcast, you could self-heal using Jedi Force, at the cost of leaving you vulnerable to enemies that attack you. In the case of Starcraft: Ghost, Nova in early missions she depends on her psionic skills to boost her physical performance. As she gains experience through missions, her psionic powers will evolve and develop further. A psionic bar did let you know that her psionic powers were depleting. You needed to let her recover psionic energy as the psionic meter increased. Nihilistic made changes to this. Nova no longer has to wait until the Psi energy bar replenishes. Psi energy is more interactive now. The player hits the D pad and holds it. As you hold the D pad, Nova?s Psi energy replenishes but at the same cost of Jedi Outcast. The animation will possibly make her show a concentration pose making her vulnerable to any approaching enemy behind her. She becomes vulnerable to attacks from afar if she is seen. The best and more secure way to replenish is to climb a wall to a higher spot, or crawling inside a crouching vent where she is off sight so that you are safe before pressing the D pad.

  • Fine you finished off your enemy with a series of interactive animations accomplished by button combos. Now what? A body laying down on the ground will just alert other patrolling guards that something is fishy. An intruder alert will be announced to the whole complex and you will be shortly overwhelmed by the swarm of marines from everywhere. This means, Nova needs to get rid of the corpses. Nova can drag a body toward a crouching vent near the wall on the floor, inside locked rooms or inside crates? Hmm. Aren?t those crates from Jedi Outcast. Hmm, my imagination I guess. You will find bottomless pit areas, conduits, recesses, and crouching vents where to get rid of a body.

    A neat feature of Nova is that with a button you can search the body to get special power ups for health, Psi-balls, and ammo. Interesting in body search is that this ability also has a progress bar that gives you 8 seconds to find anything inside an enemy’s dead body. All this Progress Meter gives is a lapse of time that Nova is searching, before she can move away. If by any chance another guard is approaching, you should panic. Nova won?t be able to move away until the Body Search progress meter reaches 8 seconds. This adds more adrenaline and tension in the gameplay. Just make sure that no one is around before you press the button to initiate Body Search.

  • Ah! Genious Nihilistic team! What all players ever dreamed of. Gunplay isn?t just for standing. Some games restrict your shooting ability to a specific position. In Starcraft: Ghost, it doesn?t matter what position Nova is, she will shoot her heart out toward enemies. This feature is similar to when I used to play Tomb Raider II. Remember how Lara Croft used to shoot to anything no matter what acrobatic move she would do? Nihilistic pushed this feature to the edge and blew it past it. You will be able to shoot while hanging, jumping, grappling, dodging and while flipping around in acrobatic jumps.

  • These come pretty handy. You can also make Nova reach hidey holes on the ceiling, where she can hide and close the crouching vent door. You can find on the floor, close to the wall, some conduits and recesses, or crouching vents where to crawl and hide. A nice place to hit D pad to increase your Psi energy meter unseen and safe from lurking enemy units. Another nice place to hide are those Crates we are familiar with from Jedi Outcast. Some specially marked crates let you know they are unlocked. You can make Nova hide inside this crates(box) to rest and to increase her Psi energies. Or umm if you need a short break to visit the restroom, you could leave her while you attend your ummm Nature?s call. While inside one of this crates, you may use Nova?s Sight ability to look your surroundings for any heat signature through walls that may alert you of what you will find ahead from a safe point of view.

    Nihilistic is making sure that the environment of Nova can be a tool for her to achieve her mission, giving you many options to beat the Terrans, Zerg and Protoss. Elevated spots keep you off sight and gives you a break to think. You can snipe units from this high spots and hide to remain unseen. There are plenty of ledges of different heights and platforms where Nova can grapple her way up or hang sideways. If you are familiar with Tomb Raider, Starcraft Ghost is your game.

    If you are on one of this high platforms and guards are too close, look at your surroundings. Analyze your options and alternatives. Find marked crates or a crouching vent on the wall. Once you have found this options you can jump down and run to hide on one of them. From there you can initiate more strategies. Nova can take one Marine on her own by going on Stealth mode. But find 2 Marines, and you are in trouble. The Stealth Kill will give you out to the second Marine. Since the Silent Kill may take too long to eliminate the Marine, the second Marine might start shooting at you. The strategy is to hide and snipe from a safe place in the proper angle. Crates, high ledges, platforms and crouching vents are the perfect place for a strategic assault on 2 or more Marines.

    There seems to be 2 types of Surveillance cameras. You can disable some with your Energy Pistol.
    We recommend using the Energy Pistol on cameras to
    safe ammo on the Gauge Rifle. The Energy Pistol doesn?t need ammo. It self-replenishes. The other type of camera can be disable only temporarily. It seems to auto-repair itself and can ?t be destroyed.

    Those were the 10 things you didn?t know of Starcraft: Ghost. We recommend you to buy the Official Xbox Magazine for $9.99 to check out this 14 cool screenshots.

    Something that needs mentioning is a nice and interesting feature never mentioned before. Nihilistic added a similar attribute of World of Warcraft. Reputation. It works a bit different in Ghost. It is called the Success meter. Somewhere in the interface is a bar that keeps track of how successful you were during the missions. At the end of the mission, Starcraft: Ghost mimics Starcraft?s Performance screen. The ranking system rates your performance based on the different factors and options you chose during the game. As example, if you noticed, most of this interactive animations where you control Nova?s movements through the use of button combos have a Progress meter. The hacking a locked door also has a progress meter. This meters along with other undetermined factors are used to calculate and rank your performance.

    Nova?s Energy Pistol has the other neat advantage that is more silent than the Gauge Rifle. But if you hold the fire button too long, it will shoot a massive load of energy, similar to the standard energy gun of Jedi Oucast, which is louder and may alert the enemy that is nearby across the wall. This type of massive energy shots registers in the Computer AI as a Sound event. It will trigger a swarm of enemies toward Nova. As a better strategy, it is recommended by Blizzplanet that if you need to use one of this Energy shots by pressing the fire button for few seconds, you should first hand use the Sight ability to watch your surrounding in Heat energy mode. This way you can be sure there is no one nearby to hear the shot.

    Nihilistic and Blizzard are still studying Xbox Live functionality. It is not ruled out yet to make Starcraft: Ghost a Multiplayer game. Keep your fingers crossed! If Multiplayer gets to be possible, you may expect nice downloadable goodies. Now that Xbox 2 might rely on some sort of ROM Sticks instead of a Hard drive, theoretically might be possible that we could download patches and additions or expansions for Multiplayer use. This last comment(in bold) is entirely my personal opinion and has not been confirmed by Blizzard/Nihilistic nor by Official Xbox Magazine. I didn’t quote word by word the article in Official Xbox magazine. Most of this review was based on observation of the abilities mentioned in the magazine.

    Go order your copy of Official Xbox Magazine!