28 May 2009
Developer: Terminal Reality
Release Date: June 16, 2009
From mythological heroes of old to modern-day cartoon heroes like Danny Phantom, there are plenty of stories about heroes who fight ghosts, but for many people, the Ghostbusters hold a special place in our hearts. Perhaps it is because the Ghostbusters are not exactly heroes but futuristic exterminators who still wear plain jumpsuits and live day to day in a reconditioned firehouse. Perhaps it is the solid chemistry between the Ghostbusters that just makes them fun to watch. Perhaps it is even the way their technology straddles the line between fanciful and realistic. Either way, the Ghostbusters manage to hold their own among the legions of ghost hunters.
Despite the fondness many have for them, it's been a while since we've heard anything about the Ghostbusters. Some argue that it was due to rifts among the primary cast, particularly Bill Murray and Harold Ramis, while others blame the poorly received second movie. As the cast aged, it seemed more and more likely that we'd never see a revival. As video games have grown more advanced, it's also become apparent that a video game, not a movie or animated feature, might be a possible way to revive the franchise. Ghostbusters: The Video Game is, for all intents and purposes, a new Ghostbusters movie. It is written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd and features the return of the original cast, barring Sigourney Weaver and the retired Rick Moranis. Even with the poor reception that "Ghostbusters II" received, the franchise has a lot to live up to, and fortunately for fans, Ghostbusters: The Video Game looks to be exactly what they've been waiting for.
Ghostbusters opens up after the events of the second movie. As usual, the goodwill that New York City has toward the Ghostbusters has already worn off, and the Ghostbusters are back to the menial ghost-catching that pays the bills. Fortunately, they received a contract from the city from the mayor, who rode into office on the back of the Ghostbusters' popularity. This allows them to hire a new Ghostbuster to test out all their experimental and dangerous equipment. As the new Ghostbuster, you're quickly thrown into a hell of a first day on the job when a mysterious surge of paranormal energy awakens every spook and specter in New York City. Before long, the Ghostbusters are thrown into a new and dangerous situation involving their old nemesis, Gozer the Destroyer. Along the way, they'll have to deal with foes, new and old, including the infamous Grey Lady who haunts the New York Public Library, and their old "friend" Walter Peck, who the city places in charge of governing the Ghostbusters' activities.
Ghostbusters is a third-person action game not unlike many that you've played in recent memory. Players move and aim with the right analog stick and dash with the B button. The shoulder triggers control the primary and secondary weapons, and the bumpers allow you to reload your weapon to instantly switch to the Capture Stream when using the primary proton equipment. Since you're part of the Ghostbusters, you're rarely alone on the team; instead, you're paired up with various Ghostbusters in a style very similar to Gears of War. If one member of your team is knocked down, you can go over to him and press the A button to help him up, and if any of your team is around when you're knocked down, they can do the same. The area where the game really stands out is in its enemies and how you fight them. Rather than fighting The Flood or the Locust, you're fighting good old-fashioned supernatural horrors from beyond the grave, and no amount of bullets or explosions can stop them.
There are multiple kinds of ghost types in the Ghostbusters universe. Corporeal ghosts inhabit objects, and they're the easiest to defeat, as the way to dissipate the supernatural enemy is to destroy them. Any of your weapons can do this, although certain weapons are more effective than others, depending on the enemy. Unstable ghosts inhabit certain objects and interact with the world around them, usually to form Golems made of nearby objects. You must "wrangle" the object that forms the core of the unstable ghost and destroy it, while others can be defeated by doing a substantial amount of damage. Finally, you have incorporeal ghosts, which can be harmed by your weapons but can't be dispersed like the other two forms. To defeat an incorporeal ghost, you must weaken them and then trap them.
Your primary weapon is the proton pack, which is the Ghostbusters' most iconic weapon and is your go-to equipment for most of the game. The primary mode, called the Blast Stream, is a concentrated stream of protons that does substantial damage to anything it touches and weakens anything made of ectoplasm. The Blast Stream can also be modified by using Boson Darts, which are super-powerful bursts of energy that do far more damage than a regular Blast Stream but overheat your proton pack much faster and can damage you if used at point-blank range. The Ghostbusters, at least in the single-player mode, don't need ammunition for their proton packs. Using your weapons slowly overheats the pack, and you can manually vent the pack or it will automatically vent itself when it gets too hot. Either way, you can't attack again until the pack cools down.
In addition to the Blast Stream and Boson Darts, the default equipment also has a Capture Stream, which holds incorporeal ghosts in place once they've been weakened enough to trap. Players can throw out a ghost trap or wait for a friendly Ghostbuster to throw out one of their own. Once a trap is set, players have to guide the struggling ghost to the trap. If you pull the ghost in the opposite direction from the way it's trying to run, you'll build up the Slam meter. Build up the Slam meter enough, and you can forcibly ram the ghost into a wall or floor, stunning it and making it easier to pull it toward the trap. Once the ghost is over the trap, a cone of energy will suck down the ghost. You must keep the ghost within this cone of energy until it's sucked inward, at which point the ghost is trapped. The Capture Stream can also be modified to work on small objects in the environment, allowing players to carry them around, throw them at corporeal ghosts, or simply move them out of the way.
Your second weapon is the Dark Matter Generator, and like the basic proton pack, it has multiple modes. The primary mode, Shock Blast, is basically the game's shotgun and overheats fairly quickly. It fires large bursts of black matter energy at ghosts and is most effective at dispersing corporeal ghosts. Its secondary mode, Stasis Stream, fires a long beam of "order reversing particles" at the enemy, which slowly drains its speed. The longer you keep it on a foe, the slower it becomes and the easier it is to target. Keep it on long enough, and the enemy will be completely immobilized and covered in a strange substance. For certain enemies, this only lasts a short period of time, and damaging them breaks them free. Others can be shattered like glass statues for an instant kill. Even certain corporeal flying enemies can be frozen in mid-air and shatter on the ground.
The third weapon is the Plasma Distribution System, or "The Slime Blower Mk. II." A modified version of the weapons used by the Ghostbusters at the end of the second movie, the Slime Blower is now built into their proton packs and contains a self-replicating version of the mood-altering slime. The primary mode is a slime blower and is used like a flamethrower. It can destroy the strange caustic black slime that is located around stages, and it's extremely effective as a weapon against enemies who are made of that black slime. It also can reveal objects or doors that have been hidden by supernatural powers. The secondary mode is the Slime Tether, which allows you to shoot a super-stretchy "tether" between any two points to draw them together. This is primarily used to solve puzzles, but it can also be used as an effective weapon by pulling enemies to a certain point or causing them to smash into a wall.
Your final weapon is the Composite Particle System, which has two forms of attack. The Meson Collider is a straightforward energy blast that is very effective against certain kinds of ghosts and does a lot of damage, but it's slow and overheats quickly. The Overload Pulse turns the weapon into a machine gun and fires rapid bursts of energy at enemies. The real trick to this weapon comes if you use the two modes together. Any enemy that has been hit by the Meson Collider is "painted" with a glowing target ,and any Overload Pulses fired while an enemy is painted will home in on the target, allowing for much greater accuracy against fast-moving baddies.
Beyond your various weapons, each Ghostbuster also comes equipped with a PKE meter and paragoggles. Pressing the Y button brings up the PKE meter and equips the ghost goggles, putting the player into a first-person view. While activated, the PKE meter works like a divining rod by scanning for supernatural energy. The meter displays a signal that grows more intense as you approach supernatural matter, and the two "wings" on the side of the device rise and fall as you pinpoint it. The ghost goggles allow you to see invisible objects when used in conjunction with the meter. It's a bit like playing "hot and cold." There are three kinds of signals: green signals are supernatural phenomena, red signals are hidden ghosts, and blue signals are hidden powerful supernatural artifacts. When not activated, the PKE meter rests on your belt, allowing players to see the screen and get a rough idea of when they're approaching ghostly phenomena.
However, simply locating ghosts and supernatural stuff isn't the PKE meter's only purpose. When players locate anything supernatural, they can "scan" it with the meter to yield information and, more important, a hefty cash bonus. While it's easy to scan artifacts or ectoplasmic residue, ghosts are a little harder to scan. The ghost goggles have a small three-ring crosshair in the middle of the screen, and scanning a ghost properly involves scanning it while it's in the middle of that reticle. If they're in the outer rings, they only receive a 25% or 50% scan, which is enough to give you information about its basic strengths and weaknesses, but no solid facts. If they're dead center in the crosshair, you get a 100% scan, which provides a detailed history and backstory on each of the ghouls. You can try multiple times to get a scan, but each time you miss, the PKE meter will require a few moments to cool down, which can be deadly in a hectic battle.
Whether it's by scanning artifacts or busting ghosts, almost everything you do in Ghostbusters earns you cash. Fortunately, since the Ghostbusters have a contract with the city, most of their basic financial issues are covered, so they can devote a fair amount of money toward researching new Ghostbusting devices. As you earn money, you can spend it to upgrade any of the tools at your disposal, including the PKE meter and ghost trap. These upgrades give you access to new and improved abilities. For example, upgrading the ghost trap allows you to perform a Slam Capture by slamming a ghost directly into the trap. Aim this right, and you capture the ghost instantly, without the long and time-consuming process of wrangling it into the trap. Your basic Boson Darts can be upgraded so that they take less heat or do less damage to the player if used at point-blank range. Each weapon has multiple upgrades as well, which turns even the weakest weapon into a force of supernatural destruction.
Visually, the game is quite impressive indeed. While nobody is going to mistake the in-game character models for the actual actors, they've done a good job of capturing the facial expressions and body language that made the various Ghostbusters so memorable. There are also lots of nice visual effects. Fighting the minions of the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man may leave Ghostbusters covered in white sticky marshmallow fluff, for example, while being hit with the Slime Blower may leave them dripping goo. Sadly, one thing you can't do, at least in the game's single-player mode, is cross the streams. Trying to do so causes a stream limiter to activate and earns you a reprimand from one of the other Ghostbusters. The stage design is also quite good. Most of what we saw in the preview build were levels that referenced the previous movies, such as the Sedgwick Hotel or the New York Public Library, but rendered in far more detail than we ever got to see in the movies. There are also some new areas to explore, and players should expect to see a lot of familiar faces.
There isn't much to say about the soundtrack that you couldn't hear by simply popping the "Ghostbusters" movie in your DVD player. Everything is there, from the voices to the background music. Even the famous "Ghostbusters" theme song plays during the game's loading screen. The movie soundtrack is put to excellent use, and it adds a lot to the game's atmosphere. It's been many years since the last "Ghostbusters" film, but the actors don't have a hard time getting back into the swing of things. It isn't long before you're simply hearing Egon, Peter, Ray and Winston again, regardless of how many years have passed.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game is the game that Ghostbusters fans have been eagerly awaiting. It's almost the movie that fans have been eagerly awaiting. Everything is here and rendered in loving detail, from familiar hum of the proton packs to the gibbering noises made by everyone's favorite ghost, Slimer. The gameplay is solid and fun, and learning to trap and capture ghosts is easy as can be. Best of all, it reunites the entire "Ghostbusters" cast in a way that seemed previously impossible. If you're a Ghostbusters fan, you're probably going to have a smile on your face as you play this game, and even casual gamers should have a great time busting some ghosts.