Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Overview

Title: Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Release Date: June 19th (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and US Xbox 360), October 23rd (Other formats)
Developer/Publisher: Terminal Reality/Atari
Genre: Action
Platform[s]: Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS (Note: I am reviewing the Xbox 360 version)

The Ghostbusters are back! Despite a tumultuous start in life, Terminal Reality’s continuation of one of the most loved film franchises of all time hits the console market with a bit of a bang and more than a few raised “I told you so” eyebrows. Based a couple of years after the end of Ghostbusters 2, the GB’s have been happily bustin’ heads (in a spiritual sense) and causing massive amounts of damage to their beloved city, when a new exhibition celebrating the life of Gozer the Gozerian rolls into town. You play the part of a new fifth Ghostbuster…well, more of a Guinea Pig really…bought in to test drive any new technologies Egon has come up with (just in case they explode, for example) and to generally take a lot of ribbing from Venkman. During your first day, a massive psychic energy explosion kicks off at the museum, and it’s up to you and your four colleagues to get involved and find out what’s going on as a new batch of spooks, spectres and some old favourites cause mayhem throughout the city.
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Gameplay

Let’s get this out of the way to begin with – if this game didn’t have the Ghostbusters license, it would be a very lacklustre third person action/adventure title – other than the standard run and gun mechanic, there’s not much to it…no puzzles to solve and not much in the way of variation either. You simply steer your character around the rather linear levels, destroying minor ghouls, trapping others and carrying out less than epic end of level boss battles, either solo or with numerous other members of your team, before moving on and doing the whole lot all over again, but in a different location.

Thankfully though, this is a Ghostbusters game and Terminal Reality has crafted a beautifully faithful rendering of the films, and with full access to the source materials you would certainly hope so. Every square inch of this game screams Ghostbusters, and clearly a hell of a lot of love has been poured into it – from the word go you are made to feel like part of the team, as Ray walks you through the tutorial level, throwing out words of encouragement and pointing you in the right direction, before you join the rest of the team for some spook-bothering at The Sedgewick Hotel. Yes, several locations from the films have made it into the game and GB’s fans will have massive amounts of fun reliving their childhood dreams of stalking Slimer around the hotel, trying not to get slimed whilst the original cast voice the highly amusing radio banter.

So, let’s talk about the busting – your partical accelerator throws out beams to trap ghosts (and cause major environmental damage) with a squeeze of RT, while LT fires your secondary weapon. You use the beams to wear down your opponents, and once at their weakest point they will become stuck within your beam, giving you the opportunity to wrangle them into a trap. The spooks will undoubtedly struggle to break free, and some of the higher level enemies are real buggers to trap successfully – usually nipping out of the capture stream seconds before the trap closes. You can counter this by using the Slam Meter, a constantly recharging bar triggered by pushing the Left Stick in a direction and pressing LT – slamming the ghost into the nearest convenient piece of the environment, weakening him even more and making him easier to trap. It all sounds like an arduous process, but once you get your first few spectres under your belt it’s a highly rewarding experience, and one that sets you firmly into the boots of your on-screen familiar.

As you progress through the game, new weapons become available and are accessed by pressing the different directions on the D-Pad, which triggers a slight change in your proton pack’s appearance, indicating which weapon is currently selected. Your pack also tells you how much energy you have, and how long you have before your current weapon overheats, meaning that there’s no on-screen HUD to clutter things up.

Other equipment comes in the form of your PKE (Psycho Kinetic Energy, to the unitiated) Meter, whipped out with a press of the Y button and used for hunting down your foes and objects of interest, as your character puts on a pair of night vision-esque goggles. Not only does this give your vision a green tinge, but it also helps you to see ectoplasmic residue (slime) and generally guides you in the right direction, should you get too lost. This adds an interesting twist to how the levels progress (you have to find your next major spook as opposed to them being thrust at you), and makes you feel even more like a Ghostbuster.

As previously stated, the game is a faithful recreation of the films with several high profile bad guys making a (re)appearance, including an outstanding level long battle with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, which (for Ghostbusters fans) is surely worth the entry fee alone. We really cannot stress enough just how much detail has gone into the title, and we dare you to not have a shiver of excitement when the familiar sirens of Ecto-1 blaze into life during the opening cut scene, or when wrangling a particularly tricky foe with Spengler, Stantz, Venkman and Zeddemore battling alongside you, trading insults and friendly banter with each other.

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Multiplayer is also lovingly crafted, despite the more common modes feeling like an afterthought in places – as you control one of the four original Ghostbusters in a series of “jobs” around the city, some of which range from the standard “Survival” (read, Horde) mode to “Slime Dunk” mode, where you try and Dunk the most Slimers within a set time limit. Of particular interest is the online campaign mode, where you can earn cash to upgrade your equipment as you play. It certainly adds a dynamic edge to an otherwise stale section of most other Triple-A titles out there.

Graphics

Ghostbusters is a very good looking game, and it remains faithful to the films magnificently – the battle with Stay Puft is one of the graphical highlights and the sheer scale of the big sailin’ fella is represented perfectly. The proton beams also look exactly as they do in the films, and the dynamic lighting effects they cause on the environment is something special too. The proton packs have all the right fixtures and fittings, and the way different sections of them pop out when you change weapon is well done – die-hard fans may find this a turn-off, but from a gaming perspective it’s ace.

Other than a dodgy knock-down animation, where your character resembles a rag doll, at no point will you ever think that you are in less than a true representation of the franchise. Ghosts take on an ethereal, oddly coloured transparent hue and look otherworldly – while the destruction you can cause to the environment is particularly satisfying. Everything can be damaged in some way: walls can be scorched with proton beams, windows can be smashed and furniture dismantled. The CGI cut scenes are excellent, and despite some dodgy lip-synching the characters are virtually spot-on, looking like their real-life counterparts, even down to their facial expressions.
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Audio

No less important than the visual side of proceedings to such a well-loved franchise is the sound, voice-acting and scripting and again, Terminal Reality has really benefitted from having full access to all source materials, and sonically Ghostbusters ticks every single box. From the incidental score through to the main theme, all the music and sound effects we’ve come to know and love are present – we deny anyone to not squeal with joy at hearing the sound of the proton packs being switched on, and (despite the disappointing absence of both Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis) the original cast voice their likenesses with the same gusto and aplomb as before, adding again to the level of immersion and feeling of being in the films.

The all new script was penned by Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd, and it’s every bit as smart, snappy and downright hilarious as you’ve come to expect…very rarely have we laughed out loud so often at a game recently, and that’s at the in-game banter as well as during the cutscenes.

Overall Score & Replayability

In this world of open world RPG’s like Fallout 3 and Fable 2, it’s difficult to understand why Terminal Reality went for such a linear, restrictive layout for Ghostbusters: The Video Game. It has some very strong and original elements to it (helped no end by the license it holds), but the game suffers overall as a result of its lack of scope. We can’t help but imagine a free-roaming New York City where you can freely jump into Ecto-1, side-questing from job to job and indulging in some major ghost busting inbetween, upgrading your characters and equipment as you go. On the other side of the coin what we do have is an extremely enjoyable romp down memory lane, faithful to the subject matter and one of the best film tie-ins we’ve had to endure recently. Unfortunately any replay value tails off once all the achievements have been gained, and only the die-hard Ghostbusters fan will want to return to it time and again. Anyone who ever dreamed of being a Ghostbuster will find themselves satisfied, though – if only for a very short period of time.