Summary [8.5/10 (for fans) 6.5/10 (for anyone else)]
Set in 1991 the Ghostbusters game effectively serves as a de facto third movie This is a cannon installment in the series which will apparently be relevant to the actual third movie. Written by Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis, the game finds the Ghostbusters thriving and happy working off a new contract with the city. Business is booming and they find themselves in need of some extra help. That is where you come in. You are a nameless and voiceless new recruit to help the Ghostbusters and test new experimental equipment. When things go wrong at the Gozer exhibit and you inadvertently damage the storage facility, you find yourself knee deep in on the job training doing both new and iconic things in the series. You get to take on Slimer, the librarian and the Stay Puft Marshmellow man as well as visiting new areas and ghosts.
I am a big Ghostbusters fan. I saw the first movie in the theater when I was a kid and watched it so many times when it came out on video I stopped counting at 50 in the first month. I even like the much maligned second movie. So obviously when I found out that they were doing a continuation of the series with the original cast coming back to reprise their roles in voice (except for Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver) I was in. Of course, excitement aside, game adaptations of movies do only marginally better than movie adaptations of games so the outlook was pretty grim. Thankfully, unlike a lot of movie game tie-ins, this one actually tries.
- The Story: The story isn’t as good as the first movie but better than the second and is engaging and funny. I was worried initially when I heard about all the call back levels to the first movie but the return to these locations makes sense in context and you never feel like you are retreading anything at all. Everything that happens and every thing you do feels Ghostbusters and there is never a time when you are yanked out of the story by something feeling out of place. If I were watching this in the theater I would be very happy.
- The Voice Work: With a cast that includes Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Alyssa Milano, Max von Sydow, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Joel Murry, you are in very good hands. All the main characters sound as they should and the new supporting characters are expertly voiced to match. In some cases you can hear the age in the actors’ voices which doesn’t match their younger game counter-parts, but for the most part they are all pitch perfect. There has been some criticism of Billy Murray but I found his performance just as good as Peter as it has always been.
- Graphics: The game looks great. The locations and backgrounds are detailed and vibrant and the characters are almost creepy at times in terms of their realism (except for the times when their eyes make them look creepy in a scary and unnatural way). Character movement looks natural and the equipment is insanely detailed. The ghost and proton stream effects are perfect looking like a cleaned up version of the effects in the movies. The visual aesthetic matches the quality in the voice acting and storyline such that the overall presentation is almost without reproach.
- Feel: This game just straight up feels like Ghostbusters. I am not sure I have played anything that so accurately conveys the source material. From the overall design to the things the game has you do, you always feel like you are a real Ghostbuster working along side the other real Ghostbusters. Even the level of damage you can do feels the way it should. The attention to detail is superb. They even got Max von Sydow to do the voice for the Vigo painting that hangs in the firehouse kvetching about the sorts of things dead magicians trapped in paintings kvetch about. I can’t overstate enough that everything on this end of things is pitch perfect.
- Gameplay: The general set up of the gameplay is much like how they do business in the movie. You search for ghosts using your PKE meter and when you find them you wear them down with a proton stream and capture them in a trap. You do this a lot. If you are a fan of the movies and have always wanted to run around doing this then you are golden. If you aren’t then it may get repetitive after awhile. The game does a decent job of changing things up with a variety of equipment and upgrades and different sorts of ghosts require different techniques so it isn’t the same thing over and over all the time. Still, if you aren’t already invested in the property then you might find it somewhat tedious after the first few levels.
- The controls: Generally the controls are responsive and intuitive. Proton streams behave pretty much how you would expect them to and wrangling ghosts feels right. Your character can move around pretty well and can dash Gears of War style when you need a little something extra. Swapping between weapons is generally easy although if you are a bit clumsy with the D-pad you can end up with the wrong tool at the wrong time but typically it is easy to do what it is you want to do. The accuracy of the aiming is pretty good and you won’t find yourself trying to bust the controls rather than the ghosts.
- The Equipment: The tech in Ghostbusters has always been cool and I have always wished that real ghost hunting was anything even vaguely like that. Getting to fire proton streams and trap ghosts is great fun but if that is all there was, things might get stale. Because you are helping test new equipment for your team, you get to play with some new weapons and modified old ones. The basic is the proton stream which wears the ghosts down, then you can use a capture stream to wrangle the ghosts and allows you to slam them around to loosen them up a bit more for trapping. The basic proton pack also offers a Boson Dart which functions as kind of a missile or grenade launcher. You also get a shock blast that is not dissimilar to a shot gun with a secondary stasis stream which can immobilize or stun a ghost for a few seconds. The third mode is the slime blower from Ghostbusters 2 which dowses the ghosts (or anything else) with positively charged green slime and includes a secondary slime tether mode. The slime tether is pretty cool in that you can use it to pull platforms together, open gates, pull things across the room and even yank a ghost into a trap. It is a really cool idea I would like to see expanded further if there are more games in the future. The last bit of proton pack goodness is the Meson Collider which is a rapid fire projectile that has a secondary homing feature. Unlike other games with a variety of weapons, this game encourages you to use all of these things often and in interesting ways. The only thing I never really did much with was the stasis stream.
- The Achievements/Trophies: It seems like a goofy thing to praise but the achievements here are actually fun to go after and provide a reason to replay outside of just seeing the story again.
- Artifacts: You have the option to use your PKE meter to track down cursed artifacts around the stages. Some are things like the dancing toaster from the second movie and others are just hilarious items that the writers have come up with. It is an interesting diversion and appear in the firehouse after you collect them.
- The Difficulty: The difficulty is majorly uneven. If you play on casual, the easy mode for people who just want to see the story, you can blow through this game in around four or five hours. It is REALLY easy. If you go up the next notch to Experienced you will fall victim to a level of frustration unheard of since the 80′s. Now, the thing is that it is not that it is hard on a skill level where you just need to get better at the game to do well, it is difficult on holy god that was the cheapest thing I have ever seen level. Your health meter is on your proton pack which you will never be looking at when you are trying to fight anybody and if you get hit a few times you go down. One of your fellow Ghostbusters can come over and revive you but what happens a lot in the cheapest segments is that your fellow Ghostbuster will get busted in the ass while helping you. If there are only two of you then you are restarting the sequence. About midway through the game on Experienced it starts to take multiple tries to get through any given stage. Not for nothing but I don’t think you should have to replay each sequence for an hour each to get lucky enough to survive. There is some strategy involved that can help you advance but for the most part the deaths are cheaper than a one legged hooker with syphilis. I never even tried the hardest difficulty because I don’t have the money to replace a controller hurled through the flatscreen. As a special note, there is a sequence near the end that is damn near impossible even on easy and made me want to score this game a 2. After 45 minutes I finally managed to pull it off and then proceeded to the final boss who I killed easily and without losing any life. There are SERIOUS balancing issues here.
- Lack of Extras: One would think with this level of fan service going on there would be some cool supplemental material here like something about the making of or some extra modes. But there isn’t anything like that. You can’t even play the Q-bert arcade machine in the firehouse.
- Replay Value: There really isn’t any unless you care about achievements/trophies.
- Online Play: The online play that is here is sort of mediocre and flat. What SHOULD have been here is an option to play through the game in co-op. Now I understand why they didn’t do that, because of the story, but dammit it still should have been available. In its absence I reject any other online mode.
Summary [8.5/10 (for fans) 6.5/10 (for anyone else)]
I liked the game a lot. The story and presentation was incredible and I recommend it to anyone who is a Ghostbusters fan. The balancing issues with the difficulty is a real problem though and I doubt very strongly that any one who isn’t a fan will have the patience for it. The easy mode isn’t challenging enough to be worth it for the casual player and the greater difficulties are so broken that there wouldn’t be much enjoyment for someone who isn’t a fan. Still, there was a ton of love that went into this project and for a fan it is really great to experience. It was strong enough to get all the major players back in and kick started the plan to make an actual third movie. If you are a Ghostbusters fan then you need to play this even if it is only a rental. If you aren’t a Ghostbusters fan there really isn’t a lot here for you.