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Ghostbusters: The Video Game Preview

Long before Activision picked up the rights to Ghostbusters: The Video Game, a video circulated online showing what amounted to a tech demo of the world’s favorite ghost hunters walking around with their Proton Packs. The fact that people got excited about that simple video showed just how strongly we all wanted to re-visit the Ghostbusters universe, DailyGame included. That enthusiasm, though, also laid the groundwork for the Internet-wide cursing when news spread that Activision Blizzard had dropped the game from its 2009 lineup.

Well rest assured, DailyGamers, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is alive and well. In fact, we had a chance this past weekend to bust some library-dwelling ghosts for ourselves, and what we played left us itching and begging to play more.

Ghostbusters The Video Game Screenshot

Our one-level demo began in the hallowed halls of the Library, where original Ghostbusters fans got their first taste of paranormal activity in the form of a seemingly sweet librarian. The first thing you notice about the game, other than its insanely detailed graphics, is that it stars the entire Ghostbusters cast. This is an important element to keep in mind, because the video game is being treated as the next chapter in the Ghostbusters franchise and is being written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who co-wrote the original film.

Although the original Ghostbusters cast hasn’t been together in more than 20 years, they slip right back into their roles with ease, with voice acting that even at this early stage is as polished and well-timed as the production value you’d expect from a movie sequel. Of course, the writing helps that as well, with little comments and personality quirks coming out via the dialogue. It also helps that the background music is kept to a minimum and echoes the original score, a very nice touch for making you really feel like you’re inside the Ghostbusters universe.

Ghostbusters The Video Game Screenshot

Once inside the library, the classic ghost-busting action kicks into high gear. Even in this first lobby, Ghostbusters: The Video Game includes is fair share of cheap scares, with ghosts bursting from walls, bookshelves and display cases. The core piece of equipment is of course the Proton Pack, which players need to blast ghosts back into The Great Beyond or capture them. However, the Proton Pack doesn’t include just one blast stream; it also has a capture stream (automatically activated) to pull ghosts into a Containment Trap, and “Boson Darts,” which shoot through the stream to briefly stun larger ghosts. Players also have at their disposal a PKE Meter, which acts like a radiation detector so players can track ghosts when the naked eye just won’t do, and also takes ectoplasm samples if needed.

Whether by design (remember, we were in a Library) or by the game’s very nature, the majority of our time was spent walking through hallways listening to our fellow Ghostbusters’ banter. Every now and then we encountered ghosts, most of which disappeared after a few strategic blasts from the Proton Pack. The ghosts themselves ranged from traditional Slimer-like apparitions and possessed books to a 10-foot-tall beastie who resembled a swirling cloud of encyclopedias (imagine a Rock Golem from Oblivion, but made of books instead).

Ghostbusters The Video Game Screenshot

While the lesser ghosts will be gone after a few blasts from the Proton Pack, the more powerful ones require a bit of wrangling into in the Containment Trap. After weakening the mini-boss ghost with Boson Darts, the blast stream automatically changed to a capture stream, which looks like a neon rope. When this stream is activated, the Ghostbusters must toss a Containment Trap on the floor and then use the right thumbstick to literally wrangle the ghost into the Containment Trap’s cone of light. This sounds simple at first, but the ghosts really put up a good fight, so it’s important to have a couple of ‘busters working on it simultaneously to ensure a speedy containment.

Throughout this capturing process, and in fact throughout the level, the game keeps track of how much damage the Ghostbusters have done to the facility, reflecting the sentiments of the original film’s hotelier, who was worried about his chandelier. Because our demo consisted of just one level, it’s not entirely clear how the balance of earned money versus repair money will play out, but we imagine funds will be spent on equipment upgrades. Or, in Venkman’s case, maybe some beer.

Ghostbusters The Video Game Screenshot

Although our demo didn’t support it, Ghostbusters: The Video Game will support co-op Ghostbusting action, with four-player online support on both PS3 and Xbox 360. Much like Halo 3’s meta game, the co-op is only mostly cooperative, as players may be working as a team to bust ghosts but will also be competing for the highest score. Unfortunately, only the Wii version supports split-screen co-op mode, but that’s probably because the graphical fidelity of the game is just too much for the CPU and GPU to process two gamers’ experience on a single box.

When the final game ships — yes, when — players will bust ghosts in the Library level we played, as well as a host of New York-inspired locations such as Times Square and a Museum. If there’s any area for concern, the gameplay we experienced was fun, but it could seem overly simplified or repetitive during the course of an entire game. Again, though, we played only one level, hardly enough to draw any conclusions.

What we can conclude is that we hate waiting until 2009 to play more, and that Ghostbusters: The Video Game will almost certainly be worth the wait. Between the all-star cast, the writing, the score and the authentic Ghostbusters vibe, this truly is the next chapter Ghostbusters fans have been clamoring for. Now if only Activision Blizzard would hurry up and officially re-announce that the game’s on track.

— Jonas Allen

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