Review: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Ghostbusters.jpg When you need a movie game that doesn’t suck, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

I know, that was a terrible play on the Ghostbusters theme song, but I just couldn’t help myself. After a troubled development cycle that has seen the game through a rumored cancellation and three publishers – it started life with Sierra Entertainment and then fell into Activision’s lap in the merger with Blizzard before ultimately winding up in Atari’s care — Ghostbusters: The Video Game is now busting ghosts on all the current gaming platforms. And with the launch has come even more controversy.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard all the fuss over the inconsistency in quality between the different platforms – the PC version, for example, lacks the excellent multiplayer content of the consoles (though it has a $30 budget price to make up for the loss), and despite Terminal Reality making the PS3 version the lead platform, comparison shots have shown it is graphically inferior to the other versions. All of this is a shame too because having spent the last week and a half hooked by the Xbox 360 version – which appears to be the only version to launch without any significant content cutbacks – I can tell you that, when at full strength, Ghostbusters is one of the most genuinely entertaining video games I’ve played this year.

Think of Ghostbusters: The Video Game as sort of an unofficial Ghostbusters 3, as the story picks up a couple years after Ghostbusters II (the movie) with you strapping on the Proton Pack of a nameless rookie recruit in training to be the fifth member of the Ghostbusters team. All of the original Ghostbusters reprise their roles from the movies – yes, Bill Murray (Peter Venkman), Dan Aykroyd (Raymond Stantz), Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) and Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore) all lent their likenesses and voices to the game – and Aykroyd and Ramis even helped write the game’s script.

This high level of authenticity to the film franchise is a huge plus, as it imbues the gaming experience with a distinct sense of humor and personality that just is Ghostbusters. Despite a somewhat phoned-in performance by Bill Murray, the voice acting is natural and witty, and the character models are rendered in lifelike detail. Familiar ghostly faces return as well, like Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and the unforgettable theme song is as catchy as ever. At times the cinematic focus does drag down the game’s pacing – there are numerous sort of intermission moments within the levels that force you to listen to the characters banter back and forth before the next event triggers or access to the next area unlocks – but with the writing and acting so sharp it becomes easy to forgive these slow periods.

It also helps that the gameplay behind all the humorous chatter is unbelievably fun. Ghostbusters is a pretty straightforward third-person shooter at heart, but instead of blasting away with machine guns and rocket launchers, you’re zapping and trapping paranormal baddies with proton beams and other fun upgradeable weapons and gadgets. There are some light puzzle solving and investigative moments to be had (breaking out the PKE meter to scan ghosts and hunt down hidden collectibles is a treat), but in general the game is all about zapping ghosts until they’ve softened up enough for you to latch on with the capture stream and wrangle them into a well-placed trap.

Wrangling ghosts is a lot like wrangling in a big ol’ bass. You hook them up and proceed to yank and slam them back and forth as they struggle to break free, proton beams buzzing and crackling all the while. The game isn’t necessarily that difficult, but the ghosts do put up enough of a fight that every successful capture empowers you with a satisfying sense of accomplishment that never gets old.

As you stalk supernatural beings through hotel lobbies, haunted libraries and creepy cemeteries, you’ll find that the game has a surprisingly immersive atmosphere about it as well. Like the movies, the game isn’t jump-out-of-your-seat scary. Rather, the scares are more light-hearted and comedic in tone, like tables and chairs rising up off the ground and hovering all around you, bookshelves sliding to block off your path and ghosts popping out of hanging pictures or wall fixtures. I think it’s also important to point out the limited HUD interference. All the standard HUD elements – health bar, PKE meter, weapon status, etc. – are effectively displayed on your character’s proton pack, so there aren’t any distracting gauges or meters cluttering up your view of the action.

The single-player story mode is only around six hours long on its own, but in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions players are treated to a surprisingly robust multiplayer mode. Unfortunately you can’t play through the storyline cooperatively, but you can work together and compete with up to four players online in six online jobs or different mini-campaigns consisting of sequenced series of jobs. The six jobs include Survival, Containment, Destruction, Protection, Thief and Slime Dunk, and each tests your ghost-trapping skills under various stipulations. Survival, for example, tests how long you and your teammates can survive progressively stronger waves of ghosts, whereas Thief mode has your team defending a collection of magical artifacts from sneaky ghosts trying to swoop in and steal them. None of it is that deep, but there’s just something about working together and pulling in ghosts with a group of other real players that makes you feel like a real Ghostbuster.

And that is what’s so great about the game as a whole: it truly does make you feel like a real member of the Ghostbusters team. Great acting, writing, music, atmosphere, graphics and gameplay harmoniously converge to pull you into the Ghostbusters universe far beyond what I’m sure fans and gamers alike ever dreamed possible – I certainly didn’t expect the game to be this gosh darn fun!

Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a movie game done right and a proper tribute to the film’s 25th Anniversary, and I simply cannot recommend it enough.

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Pros:
+ Zapping and trapping ghosts is a blast
+ Wonderfully fun multiplayer mode
+ Great writing and voice acting
+ Immersive graphics and atmosphere
+ Authentic continuation of the movie license

Cons:
– Pacing is a bit too slow at times
– Inconsistent quality between different platforms

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox 360, also on DS, PC, PS3, PS2, PSP and Wii
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Terminal Reality
Release Date: 6/16/09
Genre: Action/Shooter
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-4
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!