Ghostbusters has to be one of the most recognizable franchises in the world. Ever since the first movie graced our screens back in 1984, its ageless humour and witty premise have possessed the minds of millions of people who grew up loving the 80s. Its ability to hold up to present-day comedies is something so many other 80s comedies did so well and is the reason why it’s still so loved today. Forget about the shoddy special effects (which even still hold up today) or its severely lacking-in-humour sequel – Ghostbusters is one of the greatest comedies of all time. The strength of the franchise some 25 years after its first appearance is impressive and after so many failed entries into the gaming medium, Igon, Ray, Winston and Peter get a true recreation on the PS3 and 360. But is it positively charged enough to exorcise its way to brilliance?
Set in 1991, two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2, a mysterious spiritual shockwave makes its way out of a Gozer exhibit at the New York museum and throughout the city. With the Ghostbusters now a city treasure and heavily insured by the Mayor’s office, the original team hire an unnamed “experimental weapons specialist” to test out all of the new ghost hunting weaponry. Thankfully, you’ll be the one to control this unnamed hero as he subjects himself to testing of an advanced unlicensed nuclear accelerators.
While the story is – and always has been – an extremely important part to the Ghostbusters mythology that takes a front seat from the special effects and horror, it takes a back seat to the gameplay in this Ghostbusters adventure. Dan Ackroyd mentioned during development that this was essentially Ghostbusters 3, as he and Harold Ramis had penned this story. While the story isn’t terrible, it’s not at all memorable. There’s still the great humour from the likes of Peter and Winston (both voiced brilliantly by Bill Murray and the legendary Ernie Hudson), as well as the clumsy actions of Igon and Ray, but the narrative isn’t anywhere near as strong as a Ghostbusters fanatic would probably expect from a story that was meant to be considered as a full-blown sequel. Granted, it would be tough to translate real-life characters with such iconic positions in cinema to a game. For the most part the writing team has done a fantastic job maintaining the memorable Ghostbusters humour, but the story just doesn’t feel “new” enough. The whole plot is pretty much just a rehash of memorable scenes from the first Ghostbusters, which really isn’t all that bad considering people are probably going to want to play this for the 80s nostalgia and ghost-catching gameplay. One of the best aspects of the game is the cheesy and funny one-liners you hear from the original Ghostbusters team as you engage in combat against a hoard of ghosts. Things can get pretty hectic and even a little scary, but you’ll quickly be brought back down when you hear Ray let out a hilarious line over the walky-talky. There’s hardly a moment where you forget your playing a Ghostbusters game, because the humour is always there.
The game starts off with you testing and getting used to the proton pack. You’re taught the basic fundamentals of ghost catching – weakening, slamming and then trapping – and while the whole trapping method initially feels tedious, once you upgrade your proton pack and get your hands on some new weapons the whole experience is really engaging and enjoyable. You’ll struggle with the first few ghosts as you get used to the controls and methods, but you’ll soon have mastered the tricks of the trade and be catching ghosts in a matter of seconds. The development team has done a great job of translating the great ghost catching scenes that we see on film into a great gameplay experience. The core gameplay is a hell of a lot of fun and will be especially enjoyable for Ghostbusters fanatics.
As you progress through the game and earn cash, you’ll be able to buy and upgrade weapons. Upgrades such as an improved ghost trap or a stronger proton stream all make catching ghosts a lot easier and enjoyable, while weapons such as the Slime Pack, which shoots out positively charged slime, weakens ghosts a lot quicker and is incredibly fun to control. There’s plenty on offer when it comes to weaponry and just like with the films, there is a great offset between the humour and the actual technicality of ghost catching. Ray and Igon are always throwing out big words and ideas that make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it gives the whole experience a sense of meaning and realism that is soon shot back down by the memorable humour. That’s what made the films so great and that’s one part that makes the game so enjoyable.
There are plenty of unlockables scattered throughout the game with the PKE meter playing a vital role in both ghost catching and searching for artifacts. The meter can be used in eerie locations to help find a hidden ghost, but you can also use it to find hidden artifacts that are often spread out through the locations. Some of them are really thoughtful and cool, such as a Ghostbusters DVD, which can be found in the firehouse and is labeled as an “artifact from the future”. The Tobin’s Spirit Guide also has a strong presence in the game, as every single ghost you come up against has a back-story and definition. Once you scan a ghost with the PKE meter, it is brought up in the guide, detailing its story. It’s a fantastic addition that adds an all-new level of enjoyment to the title, as it’s actually great fun to read up on each ghost and acknowledge that every single one has been detailed in the game.
Ghostbusters only major downfall is the graphical presentation. It’s an inconsistent presentation overall, with a disappointing look that doesn’t take advantage of the Playstation 3 hardware. There are framerate issues throughout the entire experience and while the character models represent each character well, the lip-syncing is cringe-worthy. Poorly lighted areas lack detail and overly lighted areas highlight poor textures and some minor clipping issues. Still, it’s a bright and striking game in some areas and the level of detail on the proton packs and firehouse more than make up for a few environmental issues.
The sound is great, with fantastic voice-acting from all of the major actors, as well as memorable tunes from the first movie. The Ghostbusters tune isn’t overkill either and it’s actually played far less than one would have thought. Sound effects are awesome as well, with the proton pack sounding just as it did in the movies.
The multiplayer is surprisingly good, with a deep co-op mode that allows you to buckle up with three mates and control one of the four original Ghostbusters. Each Ghostbuster has a specific job in the field, but the main aim is to catch ghosts. You can also play through a co-op campaign mode, although there is no story attached to it and it’s essentially the main co-op mode with a more flowing and level-based feel to it.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game should please fans of the movies. Whether you’re a die-hard or casual Ghostbusters fan, this game has enough on the gameplay side of things to keep you entertained. If you never saw or enjoyed the movies, a lot of the jokes might fly right over your head and you might even find it difficult to find enjoyment out of catching ghosts. It’s difficult to rate a game with such a strong following, as it’s near impossible to imagine anyone not liking Ghostbusters. In saying that, this is a game purely for the fans. The gameplay is great, but is really particular to the whole mythology and may not have the same effect on you if you’re not familiar with the franchise.