“Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or your family ever seen a spook, spectre or ghost? If the answer is “yes,” then don’t wait another minute. Pick up the phone and call the professionals… Ghostbusters.”
I grew up on Ghostbusters. My brothers and I watched the movies and the cartoons, played with the action figures, and even would dress up as the Ghostbusters, complete with our own proton packs. So when I heard in 2007 that Terminal Reality was making a new game based on the franchise I was beyond floored. The last Ghostbuster video games I had played were colossal pieces of crap released in the old NES days, so I was stoked that they would be giving the franchise a proper next gen update.
After some delays, cancellation scares, and publisher changes, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was finally released in 2009. I was excited to play it, but due to various issues, I never got around to doing so until last month when I was able to borrow a copy from my brother. Would the new adventures of Egon Spengler, Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, and Winston Zeddemore live up to my expectations? I fired up my Xbox 360 and set out to find out.
Let me start by stating that this game is essentially a third Ghostbusters movie. The story takes place a few years after the events of the second film, back in the year 1991. The team has decided to hire a new member, and in the midst of training him, a catastrophic paranormal happening once again begins to ravage the city of New York. The Ghostbusters will need to unravel the mystery behind these occurrences and save New York and very likely the world from destruction.
The idea of creating a new story that is meant to be a sequel to the films could have been a colossal disaster, had Terminal Reality gotten some random writers and actors to accomplish this feat. However, the script is written by none other than Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd. The voice acting is performed by the original film cast as well, and is nothing short of phenomenal. The dialogue all feels very natural, like the original cast has been playing the roles together for years, despite the more than 20 year gap between the second movie and this game. All the witty banter and goofy remarks from the movies have translated wonderfully to this new medium and the Ghostbusters universe really comes to life as the result.
The player is placed in control of the new member to the Ghostbusters team, a nameless character simply referred to as “The Rookie.” This rookie is tasked with being the guinea pig and field testing all the crew’s experimental new ghost-capturing equipment. As you probably have guessed, gameplay is centered around the hunting, zapping and trapping or destroying of ghosts. The player will utilize the series’ trademark proton pack, traps, and other gadgets seen in the films, as well and many new creations to accomplish this goal. The player will earn money along the way, allowing them to upgrade all of these ghost-busting gadgets and weaponry, making the going easier as the game progresses.
The game also contains some optional goals in the form of the Tobin’s Spirit Guide, as well as having the player hunt for hidden “haunted artifacts”. By scanning all the ghosts you happen upon with your PKE Meter, you fill the database that is the spirit guide. This allows you to look back to see info on each type of ghost, including weaknesses and behaviors. The haunted artifacts are hidden items that you can find in the levels, and are usually silly little nods to the films, such as a Stay-Puft Doll, or a haunted toaster.
The controls are typical for a third person action shooter, and for the most part are solid. There is a sort of soft lock-on system that assists a bit in your ability to zap the ghosts. The player also has some evasive dodge maneuvers to help avoid ghosts and their various projectiles. The game has a sort of squad-based teamwork component in the fact that you are able to rescue downed teammates and vice versa. This is both a blessing and a frustrating aspect of gameplay. Sometimes the AI for your teammates is less than stellar. If your character is knocked down, you must wait for one of the other Ghostbusters to come help you up. Occasionally they will either take their sweet time to get over to you, or they will let themselves take a lot of damage while standing still and reviving you. This sometimes causes them to die as they are rescuing you, and results in a game over. This is a tad frustrating to watch, but only becomes a noticeable issue in a few sections of the game where the action is exceptionally intense.
The graphics look pretty great, and utilize some nice tech to make everything feel like it is indeed set in the Ghostbusters universe. Player models and environments are detailed, and the lighting and effects are great for the most part. Occasionally I noticed some screen tearing, but I don’t recall it ever being bad enough to make me stop and dwell on it. Ghostbusters: The Video Game takes the player to many familiar locations from the films, as well as making many references to the events that occurred within them. Fans of the series will be pleased to see that the team at Terminal Reality went to great lengths to ensure these classic set pieces felt authentic, and also created some exciting new places to explore. Many little Easter eggs show up in the levels, which kept me remarking to myself, “Oh hey, it’s the ____ from that scene!” A few of the levels have some areas where the action drags a bit, but most of the time the pacing is fairly even. There was one section in one of the last levels that had me pulling my hair out, but overall the game was a respectable challenge on the Normal difficulty.
There is also a multiplayer component to explore. Unfortunately when I tried it out there didn’t seem to be many people playing. In the multiplayer mode, you play as one of the original team members, and compete against other players over XBox Live to see who can trap the most ghosts. Since I really only played one game on XBox Live, I really wont get into detail about this game mode, but it seemed like if there was more than one other person playing it would be pretty fun.
Basically, if you are a fan of the series, this game is a must-play. The story, gameplay experience, and the environments all filled me with waves of nostalgia, while still managing to show me a few new things and entertain me. It definitely isn’t a perfect game, but there is a lot to like about it. Even if you aren’t a fan, the game hits enough high notes to warrant giving it a shot. Take my advice and go bust some ghosts!