Ever since the first footage of a Ghostbusters game leaked onto the web, fans have been dying to strap on their proton packs for yet another adventure with the fearsome foursome. Well the folks at Atari and Terminal Reality have made this possible with the release of Ghostbusters for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. After being in limbo, bouncing from publisher to publisher we finally have a chance to hang out with Ray, Egon, Winston and Peter. This third person action game really delivers when it comes to fan service, and should not be missed by anyone who is even remotely a fan of the original series. For once in your life you should not be afraid to lay down full price for a game based on a movie, mostly due to the fact that this game was built as a stand-alone sequel without being tied in with a feature film.
Dubbed as the third entry in the Ghostbusters saga, this game was penned by Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis respectively. Instead of creating a game that follows the events of either film, the team was lucky enough to get an original script, and even all of the original actors to perform their voiceovers. The story takes place two years after the events of the second movie, and pays homage to a lot of what made the series so incredible. You assume the role of the rookie; never given a name and instead referred to by degrading nicknames such as “slugger” and “kid”. Your job is to test out all of the fancy new equipment to make sure it is safe for the rest of the team. This works well as a catalyst to introduce the cooler weapons in the game (more on that later).
The story plays out similarly to either of the movies. The Ghostbusters are still one of New York’s most beloved icons, and even have the support of the Mayor. Before the opening of the new Gozer exhibit at the museum a supernatural shockwave blankets across the city. The chaos ensues and many of the famous icons from the movies make an appearance. Cut scenes are well done, especially with the fantastic writing and voice acting from the original cast. It is also really immersive to hear banter between the team as you work your way across the city capturing ghosts. Camaraderie is a huge part of the game, and it just makes me wish the single player campaign was playable co-op online; sadly it is not.
Ghostbusters plays out like any other third-person action game. There is no HUD in the game, which I always appreciate as it adds to the immersion. Everything you need to know is on your proton pack. Firing is as simple as moving the right stick to aim and pulling the right trigger to fire. You can also fire a secondary shot with the left trigger, or activate your capture beam with the left bumper (or L1 on the PS3 controller). No Ghostbusters game would be proper with a capturing aspect, and thankfully Terminal Reality has done an adequate job of recreating the act. You wear the ghosts down with your proton pack, then toss out a trap and trigger your capture beam. Once in the beam you have to wrestle with the ghost to get them in range of the trap, think of it as supernatural fishing. You can also slam said ghosts by pulling the left trigger down while pulling in direction, which can also be combined to slam dunk ghosts into traps.
As I mentioned earlier the proton pack will be outfitted with several new weapons as you progress through the game. One of the first you will receive is a proton blast that works basically like a grenade. This can clear out areas of smaller enemies as they pile up on you. You will also obtain the Stasis Stream, which can slow enemies down to a crawl, making them easier to catch. The Slime Blower was a personal favorite of mine towards the end of the game. Not only does it clear out the black slime so you can progress, it does massive damage to certain enemies and generally looks very cool. The secondary fire is where it’s at though. Slime Tether is one of the coolest ideas this game has. Simply slap one end of the tether to an enemy, and then unleash the other end on a solid surface, other enemy or anything else your heart desires and they smack into each other. There are also some cool puzzle solutions that use this clever contraption towards the end of the game.
The single player game clocks in at roughly 6-8 hours depending on your skill level and what difficulty you choose to tackle it on. Amazingly this worked out almost perfectly as the formula lends itself well to this time frame. The worry a lot of people have going in is that catching one ghost after the next would get repetitive fast; and let’s be honest it does. Just when this starts to become tedious the game introduces the new weapons and enemy types. Also to the game’s credit the level design was absolutely fantastic. The battle against Stay Puft is one of the most epic moments I have played in a game this year. I also attribute a lot to physics engine found in the game. Nearly everything is destructible, and you will have fun destroying it. Trust me the length may scare you away, but I promise that it actually works to the game’s benefit. By the last level you are ready to close down your adventure and head online, which really keeps the game afloat.
Online had potential to be incredibly awesome; now don’t get me wrong, it is still a lot of fun. However, the lack of being able to tackle the single player game with three of your buddies really bums me out. As it is the online game consists of various game types that employ you and three friends to tackle either individually, or as an online campaign. The modes range from really fun, to mildly entertaining. I really enjoyed destroying spawning targets and survival mode, but protecting the artifacts just becomes annoying really quickly. The other one that annoyed me constantly was protecting the PKE antenna while ghosts continuously attack it, then rinse and repeat. There are some epic moments online though, and working together as a team to trap ghosts is truly a blast. You can earn new suits and money online, but sadly none of this transfers down to your single player experience.
Visually the game looks great. I was sick of hearing the resolution comparisons about the game when it launched, and when I finally popped the disc into the tray I was really impressed. The physics engine that Terminal Reality created really does a fantastic job of rendering destruction. I loved the level designs such as the flooded hotel floor and the castle level towards the end of the game, and the effects of your weapons are really impressive. There are some clipping issues and of course slowdown when things get hectic, but never once did the game really drag down because of it.
Sound is equally impressive when pumped through headphones or a nice digital setup. The voice work is obviously the highlight as hearing this famous characters recreated is an audio treat. The environmental effects are outstanding, and I really found myself creeped out when I heard whispering voices and screams coming from the ghosts. The music is what it is. Every song from the original movies is here complete with Ray Park Jr.’s classic theme song. You will either love it or hate it, but there really isn’t anything new or original to be found. If I had one complaint about the sound, it would be the excessive use of the theme song for every loading screen, of which there are quite a few.
Ghostbusters is the perfect example of how to treat a cherished license right. The game plays great, looks great, and really captures the essence of what makes the series so beloved. With a solid campaign and an enjoyable online portion there is more than enough here to recommend for fans of the series. If you never bought into the whole Ghostbusters phenomenon than this game isn’t likely to change your tune; a weekend rental would suffice. However, fans of Stantz, Zeddemore, Spengler and Venkman need not hesitate. This is the best thing to happen to the series since the original movie; don’t think, just buy it.