Review – Ghostbusters: The Videogame
Action/3rd Person Shooter
A game event of biblical proportions?
Everyone remembers their first time. For me it was at a now demolished Cannon cinema on Station road circa 1984. It was here that I was introduced to the Ghostbusters a team of smart-ass paranormal investigators and eliminators who save New York from troublesome ghosts and later the world as we know it from a Sumerian god in the guise of a 300 foot marshmallow man. Many things have happened since then including the odd film sequel, spin-off cartoon TV series and even some videogames but nothing has come close to capturing the original excitement of listening to the Ray Parker Jr. theme tune and wanting to strap on a proton pack for real. Until nowâ€¦
After years of false starts, delays and publisher woes we finally have a proper Ghostbusters videogame that not only has all the spooks, spectres and phantoms you could want but also many of the original cast members returning to voice their characters and even a storyline by the movie’s creators based own their own unfilmed â€œGhostbusters III: Hellbentâ€ film script.
The single player career mode has you playing ‘the rookie’ a new and unnamed recruit to the Ghostbusters team who’s been hired to help out with the day to day jobs and test new experimental Ghostbusting technology. Picking up in 1991 a few years after Ghostbusters II the plot starts with the team’s unofficial mascot Silmer the ghost escaping from his containment cell and returning to it’s original haunting place in the Sedgwick Hotel. It’s here you’ll learn the fundamental skills needed to be a Ghostbuster from tracking, uncovering and scanning ghosts to catching them with the proton pack and ghost trap.
To find ghosts you’ll need to use the PKE meter which will change the normal 3rd person view to a 1st person view complete with a display showing strength and direction of psychokinetic energies along with the type of energy it is be it a hiding ghost, paranormal artifact or other manifestations like black slime. When you find a ghost and get close enough to it you scan it for Tobin’s Spirit Guide that’s viewable from the pause menu. This can tell you the ghost’s history, type and weaknesses against certain weapons which is very useful for later bosses that’ll easily beat you down if you don’t come prepared.
When the time for research has passed you’ll be called upon to fight a trap a ghost and I’m happy to say it’s just like you’d expect. You blast the ghost with a positron stream from your proton pack until you wear down it’s strength enough to lasso it with a containment stream. After that it’s just a case of laying a trap down and forcing the ghost in with the containment stream or slam dunking the bugger in if you’ve got the skills. Sounds easy no? Well the positron stream is highly destructive and will rapidly reduce most environments to rubble and crossing streams with a fellow buster can be potentially fatal so care is needed to avoid a total protonic reversal.
As the game progresses and the story starts to take you to new locations and plot twists you’ll also get to play with new equipment that expands your arsenal and gives you new fire modes and not only deal with ghosts but also hazardous environments. The first upgrade lets you fire single but highly powerful boson darts from your standard proton pack rather than always having to use the weaker but longer lasting proton stream, well until your pack overheats forcing you to vent that is but despite sounding complex functions just like you would reload a gun in any other action game. Soon the stasis stream with it’s secondary shotgun style fire mode becomes available with the slime thrower MK2 and rapid-fire meson collider appearing later on each with its own primary and secondary fire modes and each effecting ghosts differently be they possessors that jump inside innocent civilians or golem creatures that animate nearby objects to become junk built behemoths.
Gameplay aside the first thing you’ll notice is just how Ghostbustery (new adjective alert) everything is. From the sound of the proton packs charging up to little touches like the grumpy Vigo of Carpathia painting in the Ghostbuster’s HQ or even the Employee of the Month board covered with pictures of Venkmen. It looks and feels just like the films right down to the fire poles and containment grid in the basement. Many of the locations are taken from film like the Sedgwick Hotel or Natural History Museum and look and feel like near prefect recreations. What’s not prefect is some other aspects of the presentation which need to mentioned along with a few other miscellaneous niggles.
Ghostbusters is a very polished game when it comes to the presentation. It has the full original voice cast, minus Rock Moranis thankfully. A story written by Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd. The graphics are very good, especially the faces of the main characters. Unfortunately everything isn’t quite so slick.
The combat whilst generally fine just ends up being a bit confusing. You find yourself getting hit from behind with no warning a lot or you end up spending a lot of time running around reviving your fallen comrades. Whilst its realistic that you don’t tumble and flip like a gymnast the dodge doesn’t work all that well either. You either don’t move sideways enough or you end up bumping into scenery.
Luckily when the combat works, like during some of the very good set pieces it works very well. Using the proton pack to trap weaken and trap ghosts, works very well and is great fun. It’s just the general combat with the ghosts that just need to hit enough times before they evaporate. They are either too weak, so they only take a hit or 2 and they’re down, or take far too many hits to kill.
To sum up, the game is generally fun, especially the atmosphere and plot with excellent voice acting. Unfortunately the majority of the action gets repetitive, but the game is short, so it never really grates too much. I’d say this game is definitely worth a rental.
Secondary Score: 7/10
With the single player mode having such a dense plot it’s necessary to have lots of cut scenes (Not Hideo Kojima scale cut scenes ‘though, thank fuck) to move the story along and cover all the exposition. Some are pre-rendered and look great with the character modes representing like their counterparts and moving and speaking as they would if it was live action footage. For other plot moments that aren’t as important the in game engine is used and compared to the pre-rendered stuff looks like shit. Open and close lip synching, brittle character movement and even dare I say bored sounding line reading (Yes Alyssa I’m talking about you) will have you wishing they’d spent a little more time on presentation before rushing it for release.
But you know what when you have Spengler saying lines like â€œThe PKE readings are off the charts! â€¦ Guess I’m going to have to redraw my chart.â€ or Venkmen quipping â€œHe’s a New York bellboy just tip him and he’ll go away.â€ you won’t care about stuff like dodgy cut scenes or even the sometimes frustrating team-mate AI you’ll be too busy having fun. Yes fun that strange indefinable quantity which has been missing from so many games lately. Sure something like Gears of War 2 could be comparable in terms of gameplay mechanics but I’ve had tons more fun busting ghosts than I did putting a chainsaw to the locus hordes.
The multiplayer component is just as much fun with you and three other players playing different game types from simple timed busting missions to survival, siege and a mini campaign mode with you earning money to increase your Ghostbuster rank. The match making is a little temperamental with the game refusing to join open lobbies but persevere and you’ll find a game soon enough.
While the presentation is a little rough around the edges the amount of fun you’ll have more than outweighs these petty concerns. Ghostbusters a game almost unique in an age of quickly made soulless cash in movie videogames that exist only to make money from ignorant punters going with a name they know than risk buying something new. Full of humour, action and nostalgic love for a franchise that more than deserves to come back from the dead. Even after twenty five years bustin’ still makes me feel good.