After plenty of rumours of cancellation and shifted release dates, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is finally here, but has it been worth the wait?
I’ve played a fair few Ghostbusters games in my time. In fact, one of my earliest gaming memories is playing the ZX Spectrum game, complete with the badly digitised speech “He slimed me!”. I had Ghostbusters II on my Amstrad, played the Sega Mega Drive game and, up until now, my favourite ‘busters game was HAL Laboratories’ New Ghostbusters II on the NES.
So, can this latest attempt to get video game gold out of the franchise succeed where others failed? In a word, yes. Ghostbusters: The Video Game (or GB:TVG) is certainly the best game to carry the famous No-Ghost logo, but there are one or two drawbacks.
Set in 1991, the game sees you cast in the role of the latest recruit to the team, joining Venkman, Ray, Egon and Winston (all voiced by their original cinematic counterparts). As one of the boys in grey, you’ll be slugging it out with pretty pesky poltergeists, spooks, spirits and spectres. The presentation is immediately impressive, with the characters looking just like the actors and everything is nicely animated from the proton packs to movements of the ghosts; it’s all well done. Destructibility of the environments in GB:TVG is another of the game’s strong points: smash up tables in pursuit of Slimer as you re-create the ballroom scene, or burn and blast books off library shelves.
The opening missions see you taking on a series of familiar foes, from Slimer to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the Librarian Ghost. The game is guaranteed to have any fan of the films grinning from ear to ear, I know I was. The script is sharp, witty and fun (as you’d expect, since it was written by the film’s writing duo of Ramis and Aykroyd).
Busting ghosts is a fairly straightforward process. Blast the ghost with the R2 button to wear down its energy before firing a capture stream with L1. Once you’ve got the spook in the capture stream you can wear it down, ready for trapping by moving the stream left and right with the right analogue stick. It might sound a tad clunky but it feels right, and is a tad reminiscent of some fishing games, albeit a fishing game where you use an unlicensed nuclear accelerator, rather than a carbon fibre rod. Throw out a trap with the square button, get the ghost over the trap and you’re done. You came, you saw, you kicked its ass.
You travel to loads of different locations and, thankfully, there’s a good variety of enemies to bust, rather than just a straight cut-and-paste job from the film. As you progress through the game your proton pack develops too, with more powerful beams, capable of slowing enemies down, or a shotgun-style beam called a Boson Dart that packs quite a punch. As cool as the original style beam is, it’s nice to have a bit of variety, and it keeps things interesting. As you advance through the levels, you can use your PKE Meter to scan for haunted artefacts which you can collect and use to buy upgrades for your various kit.
There are some minor problems, though. For one, some may find the actual trapping of a ghost repetitive, and sometimes it can seem like it’s taking forever getting that ghost in the trap (although Bill Murray once described the process of trapping a ghost as “like trying to stuff smoke into a Coke bottle with a baseball bat” so maybe the developer has a point!). You’ll spend far too much time either reviving your fellow ‘busters or waiting to be revived yourself. It’s similar to Gears Of War – if you take too many hits, you’ll be floored and have to wait for one of the guys to come to your rescue. It works both ways and you’ll be expected to return the favour when one of the other Ghostbusters get injured.
The game is also pretty linear in places and there’s not much encouragement for exploration, since most doors don’t open, and you often have to wait for your AI-controlled companions to open up the next section of the game. There are odd spikes in the difficulty level; you’ll sail through certain sections, only to have to repeat others. It’s not a huge game either, at around seven to eight hours to finish the main story.
Surprisingly, GB:TVG is also saddled with longer load times than you would expect. Despite installing to the PS3’s HDD, it takes quite a while to reload the level if you die. It’s also a shame that there’s no split screen multiplayer or co-op modes, with all the multiplayer options restricted to online only – it would’ve been great to play with a mate.
However, you’ll find it easy to overlook the bad points, because this is a game that makes you smile. The game sounds superb, all the sound effects are present and correct, while it makes great use of Elmer Bernstein’s original score as well as the classic Ray Parker Junior theme.
It’s clear that a lot of care, passion and attention to detail has gone into this game. It’s a great blast and genuinely funny. Fan or not, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a well put together action adventure game that goes beyond its licence to stand out as a great game and one that’s well worth buying.
It’s also worth noting that if you want to play the game on Xbox 360, you can get around the PS3’s European exclusivity by buying the US version of the game. Since it’s region free it will work on UK 360s. You can find the game online, including delivery, for around the forty quid mark, so you need not wait until the end of October for the UK release.