|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Climax Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb.13, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
I accidentally asked the video store clerk if he had Knight Rider. Little did I realize how prophetic that question would be.
Before Baywatch, David Hasselhoff was Knight Rider. He had a talking car. It was about as compelling as Baywatch, and just about as intelligent. Nuff said? Nicholas Cage has a flaming bike. Luckily for us, it doesn't talk. Hopefully, the movie won't have anything in common with the Knight Rider TV series. The game on the other hand, sucks almost as bad as Knight Rider. The only good thing about that is there is no way the movie could possibly be any worse than the game. I would have more fun looking for gum under my theater seat than I had playing Ghost Rider on the PSP.
Ghost Rider was originally a comic book. I guess they're running out of superheroes to make movies and games after, but at least Ghost Rider is a cool character. He's not exactly a mainstream icon, but after the release of the movie he may just leave a burn mark on popular culture. The game would be best left to burn in Hell, where our anti-hero originates.
Allow me to give you a quick overview of the negative aspects of this game before you run down to the video store like your pants are on fire. The gameplay has potential, but fails miserably to live up to it. On the surface, the gameplay looks varied, but you'll quickly realize that this diversity is little more than a novelty, with all the depth of a collection of mini-games. Each gameplay element seems to fit into the concept of the Ghost Rider universe, but they fail to mesh into a cohesive whole. They are all disparate elements that can't be tied together by the mangled storyline. Repetition is rampant, and things are so predictable that you'll feel like you've got supernatural powers of your own as you just know what's coming next. But if you really are psychic, you wouldn't need to be reading this review right now, would you?
Fans of the comic series know that Ghost Rider has undergone numerous origin changes. Suffice to say that he's in league with demons. There are two entirely different versions of Ghost Rider. One involves a stunt rider named Johnny Blaze who makes a pact with the devil to save his partner from dying of cancer. For such a pact, Johnny is cursed to share his body with a demon named Zarathos. In the other version, Danny Ketch is a young man that finds a possessed motorcycle in the graveyard. Upon touching it he becomes Ghost Rider, champion of the weak: a vengeful soul gifted with incredible powers of retribution. In each version, the main character's head becomes a flaming skull with matching flaming motorcycles that are capable of incredible feats. The game blends these two origins into something that I like to call mush. It's not exactly the most spellbinding or original concept in comic book history, but the storyline in the videogame is so convoluted and disjointed that you'll be lucky to make sense of anything. Ghost Rider is commissioned by the demon Mephisto to rid the Earth of a scourge led by Blackheart, Mephisto's son. If he doesn't, his girlfriend will be dragged into the depths of Hell. This army of darkness is also the army of "sameness" as you'll constantly be battling the same demons with the same powers and attack patterns.
The gameplay is divided into two main components that consist of fighting and riding. The fighting is redundant thanks to the predictable enemies. There are some interesting weapons and abilities that Ghost Rider can acquire. By collecting the souls of the defeated demons, you can purchase new weapons, skills and upgrades. Starting off with virtually nothing, you will quickly work your way up to the flaming whip chain. Unfortunately, you'll have just about everything that you need in the first quarter of the game. Along with the whip chain there are shotguns, energy blasts, and various combo attacks. But some of the early weapons and abilities are the most powerful and these are the ones that you're most likely to use. In an effort to force some variety down your throat, there are instances where you have to mix things up. Using different abilities and weapons will build up your Vengeance meter, which will increase the amount of souls that you collect. These souls will also build up your Spirit meter which will allow you to access the Retribution mode which is the only way that you defeat certain enemies. It's not a bad idea, but it just feels too contrived and forced. Not to mention that you lose all the juice in the meter each time you take a hit, and getting hit is not easy to avoid.
Driving this flaming motorcycle should be a blast, but it's not. The controls are sloppy, and there's little else to do but pick off enemies and try to navigate some surreal courses filled with pits of death that you have to jump over. It's almost like an on-rails shooter, but with the added annoyance of trying to keep a wonky bike under control. You can try to sideswipe enemies that are on motorcycles, shoot at ones that pop out at you, or lash out with your chain. In the comic, Ghost Rider's bike is capable of some incredible physics-defying moves, but the only thing it defies in this game is logic.
The flames animate nicely, and Ghost Rider himself displays the occasional realistic move, but overall the graphics are weak. They are fuzzy, blurry, and washed out. The environments are lifeless, (no comma) with only the basic attention to detail. Levels are laid out identically as you are confined to one section that fills the screen. Once you defeat all the enemies in one screen, you move on, but you don't always move forward. There is a lot of backtracking involved, and these environments aren't so pretty that you can't wait to take another look at them. The framerate hiccups all over the place, and not always when the screen is loaded with enemies. Camera angles get too fancy and trip you up with their confusing perspectives. The storyline is presented in a comic book panel style. The characters are generic looking but this is where you'll find the best art in the entire game. Some narration accompanies the storyboard but that's it for voiceovers. Sorry, no Nick Cage.
Unlike the PS2 version, the PSP includes a few extra modes including a survival challenge mode and a multiplayer mode which can be played with individual copies of the game, or with one shared copy. Obviously the developers went to a lot of work to include these extras, but they still suffer from the same mechanical and control issues as does the single-player mode.
There are some good moments in Ghost Rider, but not enough to warrant a rental, let alone a purchase. Metaphorically, it's like buying a CD only to find out it has one decent song on it.
CCC Senior Writer