Review by Johnus Maximus
Believe it or not, the first Ghostbusters movie was released a little over twenty-five years ago. To coincide with the anniversary of its release in June this year, developers Terminal Reality and publishers Sony Computer Entertainment released Ghostbusters: The Video Game.
Reprising the original cast members, this game follows on from the events of Ghostbusters II and sees the team take on a new recruit. Action, adventure and comedy ensue. The game is available now for PS3 and will be launched on the Xbox 360, PC and Wii in October.
Hollywood has often been accused of running out of new ideas, instead opting to recycle old and sometimes long forgotten franchises. Shattering emotional attachments to films and TV shows some of us grew up watching is one likelihood, but in some marginal cases a rare success occurs – take the Transformers movies or the Battlestar Galactica reboot for example.
Amid the flurry of 1980’s entertainment currently being recycled, revamped and rebooted there was one franchise above all others that I hoped would remain untouched and that was the Ghostbusters. I’m going to assume that you know who the Ghostbusters are, if you don’t then come back once you’ve watched one of the best films from that decade.
Picking up not long after the events of the second film, this game tells the continuing story of the ragtag group of parapsychologists from the perspective of their new recruit – the aptly named “Rookie” – an unassuming mute who if I’m not mistaken is the lovechild of Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd.
With the capitalistic American Dream to live up to, the Ghostbusters are going to consider the possibility of franchising their business, but first they need to use Rookie to road test some prototype equipment. Strapping on the new model proton pack (a nuclear powered particle accelerator) you begin the game with a tutorial on using the experimental equipment to snare, weaken and then trap ghosts.
Winston objected to his late fees…
The controls take a little getting used to, it’s not overly difficult to capture a ghost and when you snag your first ghost it is quite a thrill, but if like me suffer from “sausage fingers” you might find things a little fiddly at times. After the tutorial you’re off onto the first mission which is to re-capture the escaped Slimer from the Sedgewick Hotel. Essentially mirroring the scene from the original film, but with added running and shooting, this serves as a gentle introduction to the game.
In between levels you return to the Ghostbusters fire station headquarters to be debriefed as well as enjoy some banter between the characters. You can walk around and investigate various props that serve as in-jokes for fans of the films, listen in to the phone calls that receptionist Janine takes, or simply be accosted by the portrait of Vigo the Carpathian sitting in the lobby.
Moving on, the game then takes you to Times Square, where a large and unruly destructor form spectre is unleashing sugary mayhem across the city. Yes, another classic character has returned and you must work your way through the city streets eliminating various ghosts which include Stay Puft’s marshmallow hound minions, whilst evading Stay Puft’s attempts at attacking you, ultimately finishing the fiend for good (again) in a rooftop finale.
Don’t cross the streams!
One of the best parts about this level is the mess created by the marshmallow monsters, each one explodes into a white sticky mess and it’s hilarious seeing the Ghostbusters covered head to toe in gunge, just like in the films (or Crackerjack for those old enough to remember). The real emphasis of this level is to make you work as part of the team, bringing down reluctant ghosts together or reviving fallen comrades before moving on.
Once your mission is a success, you once again return to the headquarters, are granted more cut scenes and then given time to prepare for the next mission. Each captured ghost, recovered artefact and completed mission grants you a cash bonus to spend on equipment upgrades, but be warned – any collateral damage you cause will be deducted from your total. Despite this negative effect, it is great fun trying to write your name in ten foot letters across a wall using a proton stream.
After the showdown with the giant marshmallow, you have five more levels to complete, which will require you to utilise a variety of proton pack modifications – my favourite was the Slime Blower, which coats your enemies in protoplasm and also has an alternate firing mode which pulls objects together and is usually the solution to many of the games puzzles.
Ray introduces the book monster to the business end of a charged particle beam
The succeding levels include trips to the public library and history museum, amongst other beautifully drawn locations, culminating in a massive showdown with the villain of the game. The pace and difficulty is scaled pretty well, with the exception of one section in Central Park cemetery which nearly made me throw the pad across the room and I’m sure would challenge the patience of a saint.
In all, you’re probably looking at approximately five to eight hours of play depending on how competent you are with third person “Gears-clones”. Once you’ve played through the single player campaign, there is little to encourage repeat plays aside from a few unlockable videos featuring interviews with the original cast members.
Also included in the game is a four-player skirmish mode, in which you team up with up to three online buddies to hunt and trap a variety of ghosts. Aside from trophies/achievements, there is little glory to be had, it has no bearing on the main game and also holds little repeat value. It makes you wish they had included a co-operative campaign mode instead, with you and your buddies playing as the Ghostbusters themselves, rather than just the rookie.
Egon collects spores, molds and fungus.
For a title with such potential, it seems to fail to impress in many areas. There is little variety in the enemies, with the most enjoyable ones being those from the films. You can’t pause any of the cut scenes, and the dubbing is sometimes way out of synch. The night vision sections feel like a clumsy and awkward episode of Derek Acorah, doing little to heighten the tension between comedic episodes.
The huge install time seems to have little effect on the loading screens, including the one you see when waiting to respawn, which as a result will probably make you hate the Ghostbusters theme song by the end of it. Also, Tobin’s Spirit Guide, which collates facts and information about the ghosts and weaponry in the game feels disjointed on the occasions you need to use it.
If you’re willing to forgo those factors then you will at least get to play a fun and satisfying, if short, cinematic action-comedy “romp”. Getting the old team back together for another outing will certainly please fans, the writing and acting is so in tune with the two films that it does feel true to the lore. Also, those oblivious to the franchise (whoever they may be) might at least be inspired to catch up on a piece of cinematic history.
Ghostbusters scores four excitedly ectoplasmic stars out of five.