Things seemed to be going well in the firehouse where Ecto 1 was housed along with the four classic Ghostbusters — Ray, Peter, Egon and Winston — but then that green blob of ectoplasm named Slimer decided to break out of his display case and start running amok. And who better to catch the omnipresent omnivore but the new guy who just joined the Ghostbusters? That being you, the player, also known simply as Rookie or New Guy.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game — along with the Blu-ray Disc release of the first feature film — has brought the famed Ghostbusters franchise back to life for an all-new generation of people to scream “Who you gonna call?” at the top of their lungs. Atari’s game, out now for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 (as well as a very different version for the Wii), may sound to some like a gaming dream come true. After all, the first videos of the game surfaced years ago before the developer had even licensed the Ghostbusters franchise. Oops. But finally the game has arrived, essentially the third entry in the series due to its creation by and the involvement of all the original Ghostbusters cast.
Yet while some may herald the return of Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd’s writing to be a pseudo-sequel to the movies — and chronologically this game does fit into the series two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2 — the game treads on so much familiar territory that the first third of the game seems like playing flashbacks. Good flashbacks, yes, since they include battles with the massive Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the “gentle” librarian in the New York Library, but flashbacks nonetheless. Still, aside from the first third of the game, the remaining 4-5 hours or so are largely enjoyable.
Anyone who grew up in the 1980s has fond memories of putting on a pretend proton pack and running around the house zapping ghosts. I’m sure some even fashioned traps out of small cast iron pans and lids. Not saying I did that, but damn that’s a good idea. I remember being in elementary school and talking with friends over a game of marbles about how awesome the sequel was going to be, and who doesn’t remember the Ray Parker Jr. title song? So when hearing that the game was penned by Ramis and Akroyd, the original writers of the feature films, fans around the world were hoping this also could mean a third movie in the series too. For now, this game will have to do.
As mentioned, the opening couple levels take place in familiar territory: the Firehouse, The Sedgewick Hotel (twice) and the Library. The last couple of levels are unique to the game and are a breath of fresh air into something that for a moment feels somewhat like a rehash. I’m not saying that revisiting locations is a bad thing, as the nostalgia factor alone is enough to bring a smile to even the most skeptical of reviewers’ faces. Seeing books stacked up floor to ceiling and the index cards shooting from the drawers is grand, but this time “fully interactive” was a very fun thing to experience. Add to that the in-game chatter from the original Ghostbusters recalling similar events is also a nice touch. The biggest coup here was having all four of the main cast reprise their roles, complete with the sarcasm, scientific tidbits and complaining that we all remember from the flicks. Talk about flashbacks.
The game itself controls similar to what we’ve come to expect from third-person shooters as of late. Running is handled with one stick, aiming of the proton pack and its various add-ons is handled by the other. Want to open up the PKE meter and get a scan of some ectoplasm or a sacred artifact? Simply press the Y(or triangle) button and get a new view of the world. Controls were for the most part pretty solid, but I did have some concerns about things such as the lack of ability to take cover. I think being able to duck behind some rubble and popup to blast a ghost would have been a fantastic way to go, but sadly all you can do here is sprint and move out of the way. A proton pack upgrade is required to enable the ability to shoot and move, so be sure to save your cash up for this invaluable upgrade early.
Trapping ghosts starts out as a hassle, as they tend to be a little stronger than you initially and likely you’re skill at wrangling them will be weak. Once you grapple onto the ghost a slam meter appears onscreen which can be filled by fighting the ghost as you would a fish with a rod. Once the slam meter has enough energy, you trigger a slam with a trigger button to stun the ghost, enabling you to easily get it within range of the trap which you inevitably threw out already. Further upgrades let you slam the ghost into the trap, as well as use a slime tether to drag it into the trap.
Graphically the game looks nice and sharp. The proton packs leave a very nice trail of destruction where you shoot them, small fires are started and embers glow, and anything that’s destructible gets smashed to oblivion. The characters themselves are rendered very well, but they start to creep into the uncanny valley looking almost too human. Even the pock scars on Bill Murray’s face were rendered into the game, and this is the 1980s versions of each character, not the 20-year senior versions we’re used to seeing these days.
So the story…as I said, it’s not the full-on sequel that people will want to see. But there definitely is some story here that progresses in a manner that just screams Ghostbusters. Peter gets a love interest, and the guys deal with problems from people not wanting them to destroy things yet want them to fix things. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the story is exactly what one might expect from a pseudo-sequel and fits nicely within the video game realm.
But not all is perfect with the game; there are some minor issues that should be pointed out. First of all, I don’t think this is a AAA game by any means, but in saying that this most definitely is not a bad game. In fact it’s quite good, and my enjoyment of it grew dramatically after the first couple hours. It does what pretty much every other licensed game ever released has failed to do: represent the source material in a manner which is complementary and avoid screwing up people’s memories. Nothing in my Ghostbusters memory bank has been tarnished by playing through this title, and that says a lot.
But sometimes the audio in the game is a little screwy, like lines of dialog obviously needing to be separated yet immediately said right after one another — and in some instances even overlapping. Other times there are gaps in the dialog where the timing was off, making the conversations seem artificial. There are also some graphical issues, including slight tearing during some movement and some blocky artifacts during a couple small scenes. But overall the game looked good.
So fear not fellow children of the 80s: your childhood has not been plundered! I’d easily recommend that you go out and pick up this little gem of a licensed game and add it to your pile. I’ll admit right now that I have barely dabbled in the online play and already feel that this is a worthy game, so don the proton pack and get to bustin’ ghosts today.
- Score: 8.4