Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Video Game)
Reviewed by Mr. Dark
Available for the Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC, Nintendo Wii
Rated T for Teen
Published by Atari Games
You have no idea how difficult writing this review is going to be ... if I hope to avoid dropping any completely gratuitous references to the movies that inspired this game. That's my goal, though, and I think I'm up to the challenge.
It's pretty safe to assume that everyone on the planet has seen Ghostbusters by this point. Some of you also saw the sequel. Even fewer actually liked the sequel (I'm one of that rare breed ... Peter McNichol just makes that movie for me). If you enjoyed either of the films, you are in for one hell of a treat.
Ghostbusters is absolutely the best movie-based game ever. It not only serves as a great tribute to the films but as a new launching point for what could be a very promising future.
The game is set in 1991, and for all intents and purposes is Ghostbusters 3. The boys are back on the job, courtesy of incoming mayor Jock Milligan, who ran on a pro-Ghostbusters platform. Armed with a billing agreement with the city and a huge insurance policy, they're expanding their business and looking to try out some new toys. That's where you come in, as the nameless rookie 'experimental equipment technician'. Armed with amazingly unsafe gadgets and a license to destroy property, you take the streets with the four original GB's and start trapping ghosts.
What follows is an excellent first-person campaign that manages to cleverly place you in familiar situations while also telling an entirely new story and introducing plenty of new ectoplasmic enemies. Seems something big is afoot, and it involves our old pal, architect extraordinaire (and cultist nutjob) Ivo Shandor.
Without giving away the details, I'll just say that the script (by legends Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd) nicely ties in the events of the first film and the second film while simultaneously bringing the entire affair to a satisfying end. Ever wonder how Shandor managed to get away with building his Gozer temple on that high rise? How all that 'mood slime' found it's way into the sewers? It's all answered here, as you blast your way through most of the famous ghosts from the films. The gang's all here, from Slimer to Stay-Puft.
The game mechanics are simple: you are a Ghostbuster. The experience is exactly as you've imagined it, using your proton stream to weaken then pin a ghost before tossing a trap in and wrangling the spook in. This is pure fanboy joy for a guy like me who counted the film as his fave for a big part of the 80's.
Before that mechanic can get stale, new weapons are added to the pack to mix things up. Different ghosts are weak to different attacks, but developer Terminal Reality was smart enough to design it so almost every ghost can be taken out by almost any weapon, if one particular tool suits your fancy. The game feels most like a third-person shooter, but the play is so unique it defies simple categorization.
The enemy variety is also a strong point. Even without the various mini-bosses throughout the title, the run-of-the-mill spooks keep things interesting. You aren't just facing class 5 free roaming vapors here, they've populated the haunted halls of the game with a variety of spook types such as golems made from animated debris and fire breathing gargoyles.
In the midst of all the action are a number of collectible items that give you boosts of currency. Scanning ghosts and cursed artifacts (using those dorky PKE goggles Stantz had perched on his head for most of the films) gains you cash bonuses that are, in turn, spent on R&D in the form of upgrades for your equipment. This gives the game almost an RPG feel, as you slowly level up your equipment to suit your ghostbusting style.
The single-player campaign is decently long, maybe 20 hours if you stop and smell all the roses (and collect all the humorously-named achievements). There's also a fully fleshed-out multiplayer mode for those who just can't stay away from Xbox Live. While it's fairly ingenious (several different game types, a leveling and reward system separate from the solo campaign, etc.) it didn't hold enough variety to keep me playing for more than a few hours.
There are only two other negatives that struck me as worth mentioning. First, there are some bumps in the balance of the game. The healing mechanic works fairly well (you can revive your AI teammates if they're brought down, and they'll do the same for you) but in some scenarios you may find yourself playing nursemaid to avoid fatal team wipes. The AI of your teammates is pretty solid, but decisions to leave you shorthanded with only one or two of the other guys for some missions is just puzzling.
Second, and this was the biggest surprise, the voice work has one big issue: Bill Murray. I've read other comments stating glee over his performance, but man, I'm just not seeing it. It doesn't sound like he phoned it in, but for some reason it's severely underplayed. Venkman is all about personality and bluster, but Murray keeps the volume low. Considering his leading role in the films, it's a presence that's missed.
The other three vets shine here, especially Ernie Hudson, who is given much more work here than he did in either film. They've made Zeddemore a doctor in this story, putting him on a level playing ground with the other vets, and he gets equal screen time as well. Ramis and Akroyd shine as Egon and Stantz, and we even have William Atherton as Peck and Annie Potts as Janine returning. In an amazing 'what the?!?' appearance, acting legend Max Von Sydow voices Vigo, trapped once again in his painting, now sitting in the lobby of GB headquarters. Keep pestering him to hear gems such as 'My blade shall taste your flesh' and 'Stop burning the microwave popcorn!'
Needless to say, I recommend this one. Unless you just hate the films, there's probably something here you'll enjoy. If you love the films as much as I do, I guarantee you're going to get some serious grins boxin' and trappin' and shootin' through the joint, helping the Ghostbusters clean up the town!
Ah crap. Well, I almost made it.
4 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Ghostbusters: The Video Game in the Dread Central forums!