More than Just Nostalgia
When Ghostbusters dropped in 1984, it was a national phenomenon. Everywhere you looked the iconic “No Ghosts” symbol could be found, and people simply couldn’t get the catchy theme song out of their heads. The original film blended the perfect balance between engaging storytelling, great comedic acting, and stellar special effects. Since then, Ghostbusters has seen its fair share of video games, with Activision releasing the most notable editions. Skip forward 25 years and Ghostbusters is once again in the limelight, this time with the original cast, Terminal Reality, and Atari at its helm.
Rather than making a new film with ageing actors, the core talent behind the blockbusters has gotten together to create a full-fledged Ghostbusters treatment for every gaming system imaginable. The result is a humorous and charming video game experience that Ghostbuster fans simply must play. For everyone else, I guess it depends on what you’re looking for in a game. Certainly, the title sports a mostly enjoyable presentation, a clever and varied array of foes to take down, and a ghost capturing mechanic that is both challenging and fun to master, but it also can’t hold up to this generation’s elite titles. Nevertheless, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is more than just a nostalgic journey, it’s a solid game that’s definitely worth a playthrough.
Ghostbusters is set in 1991, just two years after the events of the second film. Despite the team’s heroic actions, paranormal activity is literally through the roof. In order to cope with the deluge of lost souls, Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis’ character) has been hard at work developing a slew of new gadgets and powers for the crew’s proton packs. The only problem is they need someone to test out this new technology; that’s where you come in. Being the team’s Experimental Equipment Technician (EET) is a tough job. Not only are you one crossed-stream away from full protonic reversal, you’ll take a lot of flak from the rest of the crew, as they jibe you with taunts of ‘Rook’ and ‘Hoss.’ Still, the life of a ghostbuster is a rewarding one, and you’ll soon prove your worth to team and the city of New York. Blasting your way through a host of familiar and original environments is a ton of fun, especially considering you’re helping to write the next chapter in Ghostbusters canon.
That is definitely the major draw of this title. Players are essentially interacting and participating in the telling of Ghostbusters III. For starters, the game’s script was written by creators Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd. As such, not only is an interesting tale spun, but it is loaded with humor, laden with nostalgia, and is host to exactly the kind of dialogue you’d expect. Upon firing up the game, an initial cutscene, opening introduction, and cued theme music is wholly reminiscent of the films – it actually feels like your settling in to watch the next installment of the beloved franchise. What’s more, subtle details abound, such as the gizmo-filled firehouse from the movies, which truly ground the game in the IP.
Everywhere you look, players will find touches that make this game authentic. One of the biggest coups for the title was the collection of voice talent that was assembled. All of the major players from the films were gathered to bring this title to life. Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Harold Ramis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, and even Brian Doyle-Murray all do an excellent job of keeping this game steeped in the Ghostbusters’ tradition. Also, the theme music from the movies is very well implemented and wonderfully evocative.
Thankfully, the game is more than just a nice story and a whimsical trip down memory lane, the gameplay featured in the title is also quite solid. The most important facet is that of blasting ghosts with your proton pack and trapping them for release into the containment unit. Players will be able to use four different kinds of power streams (each one mapped to the D-pad for easy access). Each power stream has a primary and secondary setting. The Blast Stream is the classic ghostbusting weapon. Its secondary, the Boson Dart, is a powerful charged orb. This initial weapon combo is the game’s one-two punch, getting you through most situations. However, three other settings including the Shock Blast (cold shotgun)/Stasis Stream (freeze ray), Slime Blower/Slime Tether (fight slime with slime with these ectoplasmic weapons for exorcising and capturing ghosts), and Meson Collider (long-ranged sniper)/Overload Pulse (target tracking) settings keep ghost capturing fresh due to their unique properties.
I found capturing all the varied ghosts with different weapon types to be quite enjoyable. While I initially struggled to get the hang of ghost wrangling, it eventually became second nature. In fact, as you acquire funds for successful ghostbusting, weapon and gadget upgrades will become available that will only make things easier and turn you into a force with which to be reckoned. Upgrades eventually lead to more accurate, focused streams, decreased recoil, quicker trapping rates, and even the ability to bash tired ghosts right into the trap with a slam dunk. Nailing entities with the appropriate weaponry, locking onto them with your stream, and then wrangling them into the trap is a solid and unique gameplay mechanic.
In addition to blasting and capturing, players will also want to scan their surroundings with the PKE Meter and the Para-Goggles. This portion of the game I found to be both fun and annoying at the same time. The PKE Meter and Para-Goggles work in concert in order to allow the player to find and identify hidden ghosts, cursed artifacts, and environmental phenomena. Going through the environments and scanning them for activity is fun in that it introduces a collection mechanic into the game. Each artifact you collect and every ghost you scan will give you a bunch of interesting and helpful information and back-story about the object or entity. All this information is gathered and neatly organized in Tobin’s Spirit Guide (accessed through the Pause menu). In order to unlock 100% of the information, you’ll have to make sure you scan the subject with perfect accuracy. While this did up the challenge, it also felt a bit burdensome and unnecessary. Eventually, scanning became more of a chore to me as the game progressed.
Another awkward part of the game had to do with the reviving of team members and mission failure. Not all ghosts are pushovers; therefore, you’ll often fall in battle. Luckily, you can be instantly saved by a teammate who trudges over to your position with just a press of a button. However, if all of you fall at the same time, you will fail the mission. While I enjoyed the fact that there was a penalty for poor play (i.e. having to restart from the last checkpoint), having to sit through a lengthy load-screen and often suffer through the same cutscene several times got to be tiresome and is present throughout the game. As such, this game probably shouldn’t be played on the Hard difficulty setting. Even the Medium setting, though it featured balanced combat, was regularly plagued by the waiting game. I suppose those players that want to just experience the story will be best served by cruising through on Easy, so that restarts and pauses don’t muddle the experience.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game features quality cutscenes, detailed environments, and great character and creature modeling. Whether you’re charring Stay Puft, destroying relics of Gozer, or burning your initials into the floor, the game does a great job of communicating the visual experience of Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, in-engine clips, especially during conversation segments, are quite poor. The lip animation is never in-sync, a fuzzy, grainy filter is bothersome, and animations often look stiff and unrealistic. I would have liked to have seen a lot more polish in this regard.
Though no local co-op is available, players can get online and cruise through the campaign with friends. Even though the friendly A.I. does a great job supporting you through the single-player experience, it’s always more fun and more efficient to tackle the game with humans. Consequently, I was surprised the game didn’t include local co-op. However, a tricky camera could have killed this game, so I’m glad a slapped together co-op mode wasn’t on offer.
Additionally, players can also play in a surprisingly vast array of multiplayer modes outside of the campaign. In total there are six “Job Types” including Survival (waves of ghosts), Containment (capture ghosts within a time limit), Destruction (destroy possessed objects and their denizens in a time limit), Protection (protect PKE disruptor control points), Thief (ghosts try to make off with precious artifacts through slime portals), and Slam Dunk (a competitive mode that has players trying to dunk as many slimers as they can into traps). A lot of time and effort went into making this a unique multiplayer experience. A bunch of power ups, more challenging ghost types and behaviors, player ranking and statistic tracking, as well as leaderboard support help to extend the fun well after the story finishes.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game largely accomplishes what it set out to do by telling a humorous tale and bringing fans back into the fold on the franchise’s 25th anniversary. The game is full of fun elements, sports an in-depth multiplayer component, and is loaded with fan-service. While I think this is a solid title for anyone interested in action gaming and solid storytelling, it is certainly not a must-buy. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Besides, where else can you blast Class 5 Full Roaming Vapors?
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The environments, attention to detail, creature design, and character likenesses are great. Unfortunately, a grainy filter, poor lip-syncing, and stiff animations bring down the visual presentation. 3.9 Control
The controls are tricky to get the hang of at first. But once you do, you’ll be blasting and wrangling paranormal entities like a pro. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The star-studded voice cast and excellent theme music add a tremendous amount to this title’s cachet. 3.8 Play Value
The campaign is a great adventure punctuated by a lot of humor. The multiplayer also gives the title some legs. Still, this isn’t an experience everyone will groove on. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.