We hate to say it, but we’re nowhere near as excited now that we’ve finished Ghostbusters: The Video Game as we were prior to its release. Inevitably, taking on such an iconic brand as Ghostbusters comes with huge expectation, and when they’re not achieved we’re bound to feel a little despondent. That’s exactly the case with Ghostbusters: The Video Game. It’s good, but it’s not as brilliant as we thought it would be. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of positives to tell you about, and overall it’s a game that deserves attention, particularly if you’re a fan of the movies. If that is the case, then you’ll certainly get a kick out of joining the familiar figures of Spengler, Stantz, Zeddmore and Venkmann on their ghost-busting antics, as you chase Slimers through hotel corridors and dash across Times Square to escape the towering figure of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
The brand new storyline of Ghostbusters: The Videogame takes place two years after Ghostbusters II, during Thanksgiving 1991, when paranormal activity has increased to unprecedented levels. This leaves a nice opening for you, the new rookie, to join the ghost busting team, investigate the ghoulish goings-on and eradicate the threat. Armed with a proton pack, a PKE meter to search for mischievous spirits, and with your ghost busting buddies at your side, you “zap, cap and trap” any ghouls that cross your path. As well as attempting to save New York City’s citizens, you can earn money to spend on upgrading your equipment, which comes in handy when trying to capture the bigger ghosts you encounter at the end of each of the levels.
The gameplay in Ghostbusters incorporates a number of third-person shooter elements, but it’s the ghost capturing mechanic that makes up the bulk of the action and drives the game along. Disappointingly, the proton pack is your only weapon, though it can be modified so you can use it in different ways, like as a shot-gun or machine gun. The proton pack produces a stream of energy that allows you to grab hold of ghosts. It’s challenging and satisfying to use the three-pronged attack to zap a ghoul, then throw him around, smashing him into objects to drain his energy, and then finally throwing down a trap and enjoying an aerial tug of war to suck him into the small device. There’s a large variety of ghosts to trap, with some familiar appearances from the likes of iconic Ghostbusters characters such as Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the Slimers, in addition to appearances from Opera singing and fishing ghosts, and apparitions masquerading as Chefs and Librarians. The majority of ghosts have to be caught using the trapping mechanic, but some, in typical shooter style, must simply be blasted to pieces.
That’s all there is to it, really. We knew we’d be busting ghosts throughout the game, but we hoped there would be a bit more to the gameplay. You’re generally partaking in "arena-based combat" around every corner, where you’re cornered into a section until you can get rid of all of the ghosts. There’s a few cool upgrades such as ‘Slam dunk,’ which speeds up the process of capturing a ghost and allows you to dispatch him in a visually impressive manner, but the upgrade system is generally a weak one. You unlock items during the game automatically as you progress, so there seems to be no real point in buying them. With the shallow upgrade system and lack of variety in the gameplay, it feels like the developer has missed a trick somewhere along the line. Even the big boss battles rarely generate much excitement. They’re impressive to watch, but not very exciting to play. You’ll see what we mean when you tackle the Marshmallow Man head-on while dangling from the roof of a skyscraper. It should have been an awe-inspiring moment, but it all comes to a disappointing conclusion. Nevertheless, there are still some great moments to enjoy, and the impressive trapping mechanic and the Ghostbusters vibe keeps you plugging along despite the repetitiveness of the gameplay.
You are given occasional respite from the combat with some exploration-based gameplay. When activated the PKE meter switches your view to the first person perspective, you can move around slowly following the indications made on the meter that point you in the direction of objects of interest. These can be artifacts that you can collect, or they can be hidden ghosts that may be tucked under a vase or behind a painting ready to jump out on you. It’s a nice addition to be able to scan ghosts and add them to your bestiary and take a look at their back-story and weaknesses whenever you feel like it. The PKE meter does add a bit of suspense to the gameplay as well. Though none of the ghost are particularly scary, there are a few frights caused by sneaking around with the PKE meter on.
It’s Ghostbusters’ presentation that really excels. The Ghostbusters soundtrack, complete with the signature “Who ya gonna call?” theme tune, captures the spirit of the movies and provides an excellent audio backdrop to the ghost catching. The detailed locations, including Times Square and the various rooms of The Hotel Sedgewick, are peppered with objects and furniture that you can use to slam ghosts into. Despite some graphical inconsistencies, the areas provide an excellent setting in which to bash and trap the ghouls. The life-like character models of the Ghostbusting crew, alongside the voices of Bill Murray (Venkmann), Dan Aykrord (Stanz), and others, plus a script that captures the humor and sarcasm of the Ghostbusters movies, all do a good job at creating a believable Ghostbuster vibe. Overall, despite some ropey cut-scenes and the lack of chemistry between the characters, the Ghostbusters brand is well represented here. This alone should be enough to motivate fans to drive on through to the game’s conclusion.
Credit also needs to be given to the game’s multiplayer modes. The six paranormal-themed game modes are a bit of mixed bag, but generally they provide a decent array of online entertainment with a subject matter that we don’t normally see in videogames. ‘Survival Mode,’ for instance, is fast-paced and can be very exciting as hordes of ghosts descend on you, whereas ‘Thief,’ in which you have to guard relics from the ghosts, provides a nice variation on the standard ‘Capture the Flag’ mode.
If there had been a bit more time on the development side, it’s clear that Ghostbusters could have been a lot better. As it stands, it’s littered with inconsistencies. Sprinting feels a little clumsy and takes a fraction too long to kick in, the healing system is a peculiar one in which team-mates will happily revive you but not each other, and the some of the in-game cut scenes severely lack in quality in comparison to other parts of the game. As you approach the final two levels, in what surmounts to a total game experience of six to eight hours, you’ll know that you’ve experienced everything Ghostbusters has to offer and things really begin to get stale. The feeling that it wasn’t quite finished to the highest of standard and that there could have been more things done to make the gameplay more varied niggled away at us right up to its unimpressive conclusion.
Despite our negativity, we wouldn’t want you to go away thinking Ghostbusters isn’t worth playing. That would be doing the game a grave injustice. While we’d be lying if we said that Ghostbusters will be a title that we’ll still be talking about in the coming months, it’s worth letting you know that we did have fun while it lasted and its subject matter provided a refreshing alternative to fighting soldiers and zombies. The ghost trapping mechanic is enjoyable, and the array of mischievous ghosts are fun to do battle against. With its familiar soundtrack and voices, plus some generally impressive visuals, fans of the movies will enjoy Ghostbusters: The Video Game even if they do get a little bored before the end.