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Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Review (PS5) – Family-Friendly Multiplayer Horror Is A Treat

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Review (PS5) – PSU gets out its PKE Meter and readies the Proton packs as it takes on IllFonic’s ‘Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed’ in a review of the latest licensed multiplayer experience.

It seemed inevitable we’d end up with a multiplayer Ghostbusters game. Few licenses make as much sense for the medium as the lovable rogues who enjoy a good bustin’. In IllFonic, it has perhaps the perfect partner to appreciate that.

It feels like IllFonic has been honing its multiplayer chops in recent years. It’s had to learn from mistakes, and probably understands better than most what is needed from a modern asymmetrical experience. Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed will now provide the perfect template for it.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed PS5 Review – Family-Friendly Multiplayer Horror Is A Treat

Who You Gonna Call?

Having previously tackled seemingly unstoppable killing machines, Jason Voorhees, in Friday the 13th: The Game and the Predator in Predator: Hunting Grounds, IllFonic has switched the formula somewhat with Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. Ghosts are vulnerable but sneaky and able to cause chaos, whilst the Ghostbusters have an arsenal of gear to apprehend the little rascals.

The game takes place after the events of Ghostbusters Afterlife, and brings in a brand new set of Busters. That would be you and your pals/nearest online strangers/bots. Four player characters enter one of several maps to deal with the local spectral pest, who can be controlled by a fifth player.

The ghost’s job is to wreak havoc to the point that the area gets badly haunted and panics the local populace. To do this, ghosts can set up haunt objects to taunt the Ghostbusters (even possess objects to hide in plain sight), throw ectoplasm about to slow them down, and generally mess the place up.

The more unchecked chaos the ghost causes, the more the map changes, dripping in slime and quickly emptying the building of civilians.

It’s a delightfully floaty and fun experience where relative vulnerability is offset by the slimy tools at a ghost’s disposal. There are a few ghost types, all customizable, and they each have special abilities distinct to them. I found it was pretty easy to find a type I was comfortable with and I was able to efficiently utilize their skillset with little practice.

Ghost players also have a small advantage over the Busters because they won’t initially know what kind of ghost they’re up against until they see it, so a stealthy start can make a huge difference.

Multiplayer Mayhem With Ghosts Vs Busters

As for the Ghostbusters, they use their PKE meters to seek out the spirit, find and close three rifts, then flush out the specter with proton streams, and permanently trap it. While thankfully optional, they can also reassure stressed civilians that it’ll all be ok in a quick QTE minigame that garners a bit of extra XP. The team has to stop the ghost before it fully haunts a location, and it’s tricky to get a hold of the slippery little beggars.

The proton streams can hold them for a while, but between the ghost’s struggles and the increasing need to vent the proton pack before it overloads, timing is everything. You can’t simply trap a ghost right away. The rifts hidden in the map allow the spirit to return if trapped, so they must be taken out first. On the plus side, it does offer a small reprieve in the ghost’s growing ectoplasmic influence on the map.

The hunt for the ghost is a bit more frustrating than being the ghost, but a well-coordinated team can easily outsmart their translucent foe with good communication. That’s obviously easier said than done for many who play a co-op multiplayer title, and as ever, hinging the balance of play on that is a risky business. I think IllFonic has managed to compensate for that to some degree though.

Generally speaking, it’s quite easy to follow a ghost’s trail of destruction, so there’s little in the way of aimless running about. If a ghost ‘wins’ by haunting the entire map, the Ghostbusters have a short window to trap it for good, thus equalizing the threat. IllFonic has also ensured the more common multiplayer frustrations are buried by allowing full cross-platform crossplay and dropping bots into unused player slots if someone checks out early.

The downside is the bots aren’t particularly smart, and on more than one occasion I witnessed them just dawdling about, far from the action. Still, no worse than some of the people I teamed up with post-launch.

All-in-all, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed works nicely as asymmetrical multiplayer games go, and gives it a family-friendly spin. On a technical level, it’s easily IllFonic’s best effort out of the gate, which is something of a relief considering the troubles it had. What truly makes this one work best is that it gives individual players more to do than just sit in queues outside matches.

Having the Ghostbusters license would be wasteful if the nostalgia of it wasn’t tapped into. To that end, Spirits Unleashed has a familiar hub world in the form of the iconic firehouse HQ, with Ray Stanz’s occult shop situated just next door.

A Firehouse Of Ghostbusters Nostalgia

You can slide down the fire pole, chat with Winston and Ray, witness the dancing toaster, pop captured ghosts in the containment unit, and yes, even collect spores, molds, and funguses. There’s even the jaunty little tunes of the original score dancing about in the background to really sweep a Ghostbusters fan up in the nostalgia wave.

The personal touch of being able to customize your very Ghostbuster/Ghost helps too, bringing you into the world a bit more, and the underlying story that progresses every few matches or so gives some meat to the bones of the basic gameplay structure. There’s care being taken here that is unsurprising given who is involved, but it’s welcome all the same.

Still, there’s a sense Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed isn’t quite finished cooking yet. The gameplay loop is enjoyable, but ultimately limited in scope and replay value. Not every game needs to be a game for life though, and Spirits Unleashed can be a short-term hoot that you come back to as it grows. A few rounds of this every October would be a nice treat in my eyes.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is out now for PS5 and PS4.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.



The Final Word

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed brings family-friendly fun to the asymmetrical multiplayer horror space, and provides warm nostalgia for Ghostbusters fans.