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PLATFORM: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
ESRB RATING: T
DEVELOPER: Terminal Reality
It’s been 20 years since the second Ghostbusters movie threatened to eliminate the goodwill from the first, and fans clamoring for something- anything- close to a new film have finally been graced with Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Boasting a script (at least initially) penned by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and featuring voice work by the original four-some, as well as Annie Pots, William Atherton and Brian Doyle-Murray, it promises to be everything you’ve been waiting for.
“Well we haven’t been able to get Ghostbusters 3 together, so how about we just pump out a game?”
Set two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2, the story somehow manages to be even more repetitive than that film. In an incredible bit of fan service you’ll find yourself fighting ghosts you’ve already seen before (Slimer, The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and the Librarian) in locations already explored in the films… like the Sedgewick Hotel, NY Public Library, the firehouse, and, uh… the Sedgewick Hotel again.
There’s a story about a cult and an evil ghost trying to bring together dimensions but it’s all lackluster, and the majority of the story seem to be in place to give you more enemies to fight, rather than service the plot. The same things happen all over again- ghosts get let out of your containment field and you have to hunt them down! Stay Puft splatters onto the streets of NYC! Oh, and Walter Peck still hates you and will do nothing to stop you, despite what happened in Ghostbusters 2, and getting possessed in the game and pulled into another dimension. The Ghostbusters are frauds!
It’s like a new Simpsons episode- the characters may look like the old characters, they might sound like them, but they’ve got no substance to them anymore. They’re just caricatures of their former selves. There are a few moments here and there that are great, where the characters’ banter reveals some interesting tidbits about them and makes feel like you’re back in the good old days, but they’re way too infrequent.
In short, this is a horrible story, and if this is supposed to be Ghostbusters 3 it’s a good thing that it’s just a game. Ghostbusters 2, while still quite fun, was only a shadow of the first film- and this is even lower on the scale.
The one thing the game gets right is capturing ghosts. While the controls are a bit clunky it’s incredible fun to destroy everything in the environment as you try to take down the ghosts and pull them into the traps. Usually you’ll have to weaken the ghosts a bit before they get weak enough to be captured, allowing you to slam them around the environment and then pull the stunned ghosts into a trap. A tally lets you know how much property destruction you’re causing, but it’s not used for anything except a couple of achievements.
The PKE meter is your most useful tool. Use it to find hidden
artifacts, point yourself in the right direction (occasionally) and
find out what weapon to use on every enemy.
In order to change up the gameplay you’ll fight lots of little ghosts that don’t require trapping, just a steady stream of protons. There’s a nice variety of enemies and it’s awesome that you can use the PKE meter to scan them and read the story behind what made these apparitions.
You’ll get money for killing or capturing ghosts, but from who? No one knows. But the cash you get can be spent on powerups for your new weapons, such as the slime blower from the second film, which weirdly shoots green slime this time around. (Guess it’s more game friendly.) There’s also a stasis stream (shotgun) and meson collider (rocket launcher) which can all be selected with the d-pad. Your pack will slickly morph into each form. Shoot too much and you’ll have to vent the pack (reload) before it overheats with the right bumper.
While the combat is solid, the cheap enemies threaten to ruin any fun you might have with it. Numerous enemies have attacks that knock you down with one hit, and they have a great knack for hitting you from behind when you least expect it. Same goes for your teammates, which you’re forced to revive by running over and hitting the A button. Get knocked down a couple of times and you’re down for the count unless a teammate can help, and since their AI is pretty horrible there’s a good chance they’ll get knocked out as well, and it’s game over time. By the end you’ll spend more time trying to make sure that your teammates aren’t getting knocked out just to survive a battle than actually busting ghosts yourself!
The game also has a problem with some truly horrible level design. Most of it’s fairly linear and standard (the only paths that deviate from the main one inevitably hold a collectible artifact) and the few times that you’ve got a bigger area to navigate you can easily end up getting stuck with no idea of which way to go. Not even the PKE helps you out every time. It’s ridiculous- it’s nice that they don’t hold you by the hand like most games do, but at least point you in the right direction! Smart developers know that you should use lighting or graphical cues to draw enemies towards the right area, but there’s nothing of any sort here. Expect to get stuck multiple times.
If you want to get the “Destructor” achievement, you’ll have to blow up
every object you see. Thankfully when you backtrack everything will be
be magically fixed.
There are some big boss fights but they’re all fairly easy- some of the smaller, faster enemies pose more of a threat. And the big setpieces- like fighting Stay-Puft while dangling from a building- are nowhere near as exciting or cool as you hope they’d be.
This is what will make people the most happy, as it looks and sounds just like it should. It’s a good-looking game, and it’s pretty awesome to walk around with a proton pack and be able to explore familiar locations like the firehouse. Of course, you’ll soon note how you can’t really do anything in it (except look at the Vigo painting, which has mysteriously reverted back to its ugly self) but it’s still cool to see how well they nailed it. And the music is mostly all recycled from the films, you’ll hear a lot of the same themes- although not THE theme, which only pops up at the beginning, end, and some loading screens.
CHUDTIP- Keep moving as you fire. The cheap enemies can knock you down easily, and a couple of knockdowns will leave you KO’d. Don’t stop moving.
The voice acting ranges from stilted (Murray) to quite entertaining (Aykroyd and Hudson). Bill Murray sounds like he’s half asleep through most of his lines. While his usual understated ways work well on film they definitely don’t translate to games- he should have known that he’d have to up it a few notches for his performance to shine through. Aykroyd more than makes up for him, however, and falls back easily into his favorite character.
They should have recorded a few more lines though, as you’ll hear the same ones repeated time and time again. There seems to be a bug online where no matter which character you pick everyone yells Venkman’s “Ow, Ooch, Ow!” line whenever getting hit… over and over. Irritating.
But as nice as everything looks, it appears to be too much for the system to handle at parts. Graphical glitches and slowdown abound- during some of the most climatic parts of the game!
Oh, and I hope you like advertising, because the game has Doritos everywhere. Worse than that, one of the haunted artifacts you can pick up is a Ghostbusters dvd! Completely serious, a fucking copy of the Ghostbusters dvd! And the description say that it’s an artifact from the future and that you should buy it. We’re playing the fucking game, do we really need this crap?
The single player campaign took me 6 and a half hours, and that was trying to hunt down all the artifacts, hoping against hope to find a blu-ray copy of Ghostbusters, or perhaps some Ecto-cooler. Barring achievement junkies and Ghostbuster fanboys, you’ll never want to go back through it again.
If there are portals around, close them before you do anything. A few enemies can easily swarm your team and take you all out, so make sure you keep their number to a minimum.
There’s an online multiplayer mode but we’ve been misguided a bit as to what it entailed. The so-called “Campaign mode” simply gives you a few missions to handle in one of four locations- the Library, Times Square, Museum or Graveyard. You’re given a job before each one which might have you surviving waves of ghosts, trying to destroy evil artifacts, protecting artifacts of your own or even doing a king of the hill-style mission where you have to stand near PKE meters. That’s about it. You play with three other people and have to work together, yet are still competing for the most cash. You can unlock new costumes and powerups and such. It’s fun enough but nothing that will keep your attention for too long.
A rental. Ghostbuster fans will undeniably have fun with it and it’s worth playing, but once it’s over and the nostalgia factor has washed away you’ll see what a mediocre game it really is. Fun at parts but more often frustrating- the franchise deserved better than this.
(Keep an eye on the site for a review of the Wii version, which does some unique things from the next-gen versions…)