It’s amazing that Ghostbusters still holds so much appeal as a franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive fan of the original film, but since then, it seems to have gone downhill. Since the original blockbuster hit, fans have endured a subpar sequel and a long awaited retail game that promised lots, but delivered little. Atari has now gone down the route once travelled by Bionic Commando and Matt Hazard, releasing a downloadable title.
The game centres on a group of four new ghostbusting recruits. Business is busy and the original team needs help in cleaning up the streets. You take control of any one of the new team members as you try to solve the mystery as to why ghost activity has increased of late. The narrative is told in the form of a comic strip, with no voice acting whatsoever. This works well for the story, but all of the humour elements are lost in the written form. All of the gags and witty lines fall flat and seem forced. The story is also the same as every other Ghostbusters story so far. An ancient god wants to be resurrected in order to destroy mankind, etc, etc, and it’s up to the four rookies to stop him.
The game is an isometric twin stick shooter. You use the left stick to move your character and the right to control the direction of fire. The proton packs have been upgraded, so they now have three different firing modes. These are colour coded, as are the ghosts. You’ll need to switch out the different modes to deal with the different coloured ghosts. This can sometimes become a problem when the game throws thirty ghosts at you in all three colours. There are bonuses that will appear from time to time to aid you, such as health boosts and shields. There are also collectables to be found in the form of cuddly Stay Puft Marshmallow men. How very uninspired! At the end of each level, you take on a final boss who you will need to wear down with your proton packs before throwing out a trap and performing a small button-based mini game.
The real problem with the gameplay is the AI of the three other characters. They will often attack a ghost with the wrong firing mode, and in some cases, will just stand there and do nothing! The only good thing they do is revive you if you get knocked out (something that you can do as well with the tap of the A button). Because the game gets incredibly frustrating at times, the fact the AI can’t work out how to play the game only makes thing worse. There is also the sewer level which has some real lighting issues. The level is meant to be dark and foreboding, but when the gameplay requires you to constantly move around, having such dark levels means you end up getting stuck on unseen obstacles. This just seems like poor game design.
The scoring system is another thing that seems like a bad design choice. You earn money for vanquishing ghosts and there are power ups that give you bonus cash multipliers, but the cash cannot be used for anything: no upgrades to weapons, no health upgrades, nothing! Why use cash as the scoring mechanic if there is nothing to spend it on?
The game does try and break things up for you a little by putting you in the new Ecto 4WD. I sat there thinking “Oooh, a vehicle section, that should be interesting,” but the reality is that it is just the same gameplay, only on rails. It’s a shame really, as they could have given the game a little bit more variety by just changing this up a little bit.
It isn’t all bad news, though. The one time that the game really becomes fun is in co-op. One of my friends and I got online and played through half of the campaign together and, when you start playing with real people, the game starts to become far more playable. By playing with another human being, you can coordinate your attacks so that you each target a single type of enemy (good for when there is more than one type on screen). This makes the game far less frustrating, and we found ourselves flying through the game at a steady pace. It means less time relying on the moronic AI and more time busting ghosts!
At 800msp ($10 on PSN), Ghostbusters: SoS won’t break the bank, but even the biggest fans of the franchise may feel they wasted their money. I recommend that if you are thinking of getting this game, try and get three of your mates to get it as well. Then, get your Ghostbusting ass online for some co-op. That way, you may feel like its money well spent.
Review copy provided by publisher.