Ghostbusters: The Video GameESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: 3rd Person: Action
Developer: Terminal Reality
Online Multiplayer: 1-4
As I sit here at my keyboard I am reminiscing about 1984. It was then that I sat in a movie theatre watching the original Ghostbusters film. I, like many others, was surprised with what the movie had in store for all of us sitting there with our popcorn in hand. And of course, who can forget the threat of mass destruction being decided as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man walked down Central Blvd. creating all sorts of havoc before our heroes vanquished him into a pile of sticky marshmallow goo. I have since watched the movie many times, most recently picking up the Blu-ray edition that was released in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the films theatrical release. When I found out that Ghostbusters was being resurrected in videogame form, I was somewhat apprehensive given how movie based games have turned out in the past; however this one had some promise given that the script for the game was being written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd themselves. Well the time for judgment has come and I have to say that after playing the Xbox 360 version that the game is definitely not all is bad at all and fans of the franchise will be proud as Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddermore make a glorious return.
Visually the game looks good, but it does hit a few speed bumps along the way. First the good. The game does a great job of recreating the City of New York that existed during the two films. As well, all the locations that are familiar to Ghostbusters fans will seem instantly recognizable. Add to this the new areas that you explore, and you have a pretty diverse looking game that really manages to capture the look and feel of the original movie. The game is also quite colorful, and this is evident during the many battles you are involved in. With different colors of particle beams spraying all over the levels and ghosts coming in different colors as well, there is no lack of eye candy here. I am of the opinion that all the color was well used and it made for some great looking battles.
On the negative side, some diehards may be disappointed by the in-game cutscenes. Sometimes the characters seem stiff and they don’t animate as well as I had expected. I also noted some variance in the graphic quality of some of these scenes. For a game that does such a good job of creating the Ghostbusters atmosphere, this was a huge error. These cut scenes are paramount in crafting the story and to have some issues of fluidity and some low res textures kind of took away from the whole experience. Finally, there were some technical issues as well, such as screen tearing and some slowdown that occurred when the screen got really crazy. Overall though these negatives did not hurt the game that much but they were just noticeable enough that it stopped the visuals from being the work of art that they could have been.
The audio in Ghostbusters: The Video Game is pretty strong. First off, you will notice that all the voices in the game are from the original motion picture(s). Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and even Annie Potts, to name a few, all lend their voices to the game. New to the franchise is Alyssa Milano who plays the love interest. To have this level of voice talent reprise their roles for, or get added to, the franchise is a huge boost for the game and adds a level of authenticity that is far and few between. The dialogue in the game is quite enjoyable as well, and even the supporting cast (e.g. Annie Potts) manages to make a difference in the game.
As for the music, it too has been taken from the original Movie. Now there is some plus and some minus to this. The plus is that it further adds to the feel of the movie being brought to life, and is a tribute to what was done in 1984. However, the minus is that the game is much longer then both the movies combined, and it can become repetitive. I think that if Atari wanted to hit the ball out of the ball park in the music area they should have added new Ghostbusters themed music to make it less repetitive.
Given the amount of carnage that takes place in the game, the sound effects do a solid job of representing the on screen action. From lights and windows breaking, to the sound of proton beams hitting their target and dragging their prey to the trap, all is recreated quite faithfully. I also have to comment on how ambiance is created in this game. From the sounds of eerie whispers in a hallway to the moans and groans of the bigger bosses, the paranormal is well represented too. All in all I think that Terminal Reality did a great job in the audio department and it pays off in full.
This game is pretty much the closest thing fans will get to another sequel. As noted, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd have taken the time to pen the script to the game and they have done a wonderful job. The game is set two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2. You take on the roll of a new member of the squad known simply as the “Rookie”. You are the experimental weapons technician and you test all the crazy modifications that Egon makes to the standard Ghostbusters weapon: the Proton Pack. Yep, you are the high tech guinea pig of the bunch. As you are being introduced to the rest of the team a large scale PKE shockwave ripples through New York City and events are set off that play out in the game. You will come across new and old nemesis from this point on and as the story unfolds you will be led on a wild journey throughout various locales in and around New York, and even out of this world (so to speak). Overall, fans of the original movies will love what has been done with the game’s script.
The game itself is a third person shooter, so you’ll get lots of screen time with your Proton Pack. Interestingly enough, this same Proton Pack serves as your in-game HUD. You will get information such as how ‘hot’ your weapon is running, what weapon mode you are in, and other key features to get through the game. On a side note, you can vent heat from your weapon in an effort not to overheat. The use of the Proton Pack as a HUD was well implemented. I found that this was a great touch as it not only minimized the need for an on-screen HUD that would take up visual real estate, but it helped to further the whole Ghostbusters movie-like experience as it did not look like just another third person shooter.
Something also quite interesting, and again linked to the Proton Pack, is that you know have the ability to choose from four different firing modes by the time you watch the end credits role. The default mode allows you to emit a capture stream to grab onto weakened enemies, and there is an added bonus of the Boston Dart which when emitted is basically a strong burst of energy that weakens a number of different enemies. The next mode allows you to emit a shock-like blast and a stasis stream that literally slows down certain types of enemies. The third mode is the Meson Collider, this lets you shoot a homing beacon onto various enemies and then blast them with rapid-fire beams. Finally, the fourth mode consists of a stream of green sticky goo. Here you coat enemies and objects with positively charged goo and it allows you to have some interesting capabilities which you can get quite creative with. All of these ‘firing’ modes are chosen by pressing in a certain direction on your D-pad.
It wouldn’t be a Ghostbusters game without high tech gadgets and weaponry, as well as a horde of different ghosts to use it on. Well this game has all. You can upgrade your Proton Pack with the aforementioned firing modes, but overall there are 20 different upgrades that you can buy for your main weapon as you go through the game. Of course what use would this weapon be if there were no ghosts for you to ‘bust’. After playing through the game, and searching the internet for some hard numbers, I can report that there are 55 ghosts for you to scan in with your PKE Meter. After doing so you can go back and check out what they are all about from their origin to what weaknesses they have. Interestingly enough, the PKE Meter plays a big role in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. When you press the corresponding button to use it you are taken into a first person mode. Here you can see, through the high tech goggles, such things as enemies, objectives and even the hidden artifacts that you can search for through the game. The PKE Meter is like a ‘detector’ so to speak and it becomes quite useful as you play.
Overall the game plays pretty well in terms of control and AI, but this area is not without some issues. One of the most noticeable, for me, was the fact that the game could be pretty challenging now and then. Sure, I believe no game should be a cakewalk, but given the fact that this game could go from zero to hero in a matter of seconds was kind of disheartening at times. I found that there were a few sections that I had to try more then I wanted to, and some of them just seemed out of place to me. These were not that frequent though, but when they occurred they were definitely noticeable.
Part of the games mechanics is that you can be hit enough to be knocked out and your computer AI teammates have to revive you and vice-a-versa. With this in mind, I found that there were quite a few times that the game turned into ‘let’s just revive each other’. The reason this was frustrating was that many times it seemed there was nothing I could do but just run around, revive my teammates, or wait to get revived myself. All the while I couldn’t focus on weakening the enemy and catching them in my trap. Sure, eventually I was able to get through, but given how this occurred, it took a bit of the game experience away as you don’t really feel like you have much control of the gameplay during these times. That being said, these instances do not particularly ruin the game, I just noted them as a very large annoyance.
AI issues aside, the game will take you anywhere from 7-10 hours to complete depending on your skill level and how much time you spend searching for the 42 hidden artifacts that are dispersed throughout the game’s levels. These artifacts are not needed to finish the game, but they do add some interesting bonuses to the overall Ghostbuster: The Video Game experience.
Terminal Reality also added a four player multiplayer experience to this game. There is both an adversarial and cooperative aspect to these modes and they are pretty well implemented. There are a total of six mulitiplayer modes (called jobs in game) and they are as follows:
1. Survival – this mode sends waves of progressively stronger ghosts for you to catch/destroy (think Gears of War 2 Horde mode).
2. Containment – capture and destroy as many enemies as you can within the time limit.
3. Protection – defend disrupters (PKE Poles) from ghostly attacks.
4. Destruction – demolish as many relics as you can while under attack before the time runs out.
5. Thief – ghosts try to steal artifacts that you must wrestle them back.
6. Slime Dunk – compete to slam-dunk the most slimers into your traps.
You can choose to play these modes on their own, or for even more fun and a longer lasting experience you can string them into a short campaign-like mode. The cash that you earn in each mode is kept track of and it is used as experience points enabling you to climb the 20 available Ghostbuster ranks available. There is also an added bonus for you ‘collect them all’ type gamers. Playing the online modes will also allow you to see rare ghosts that only turn up when you play online. This is definitely a true collector’s reason to play some multiplayer. In my rush to get this review done I definitely did not spend enough time online, but what I did manage to play was enjoyable. The game’s online modes were identical to the single player style of play, which is a good thing. Terminal Reality did a great job of adding a multiplayer component which seems to have kept to the Ghostbusters feel as there are only four of you playing. I don’t think a true versus mode could have worked here given that it would have taken the game out of the universe it worked so hard to replicate.
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