This year marks the 25th anniversary of the original Ghostbusters movie. When it was released, it was heralded by Siskel and Ebert as one of the few movies that can combine amazing special effects with a hilarious storyline that would actually work. Since then it became a cultural phenomenon, including a movie sequel, a highly successful animated series, a toy line, as well as tons of merchandising.
And then of course, are the games it was named after. Sadly not all of them were good. Perhaps the only exception might be the Sega Genesis platformer which actually featured three of the original Ghostbusters (with the exception of Winston, who seems to always be left out,) but the game that everyone seems to remember (mostly for all the wrong reasons) is the C64 version and its ports.
The worst as we know was the NES version, immortalized for its poor programming and its terrible use of the English language. "Conglaturaion!!! You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. No go and rest our heroes!"
As for the movies, while I loved the first one, and considered it one of the greatest comedies of all time, I felt the complete opposite to the sequel. The antagonist Vigo the Carpathian coming out of a painting was not as menacing as the original’s tandem of Ivo Shandor, Gozer, Vinz Clortho and Zuul, The inclusion of a baby to be a channeling device to bring Vigo to the real world was far fetched. And of course, having the Ghostbusters controlling the State of Liberty with positively charged mood slime and an NES Advantage joystick turned into three words: jumping the shark!
But the last movie was twenty years ago. Since then there has been talking about a Ghostbusters III and whether or not it would happen. While IMDB has it listed for a 2012 release, the closest we can get for now is the new game. If the movie never comes out, I would not be upset because the way I see it, the game did a more than admirable job in making its own version of Ghostbusters III.
Taking place on Thanksgiving 1991, (two years after the events of Ghostbusters II,) the "boys in grey" are in the process of franchising their business to other cities, and have hired a new employee to test out their experimental equipment. After Slimer escapes from Ghostbuster HQ and heads back to his favorite location, the Sedgwick Hotel, the Ghostbusters set out to recapture him, only to find out there is more to come. A new Gozer exhibit at the museum is causing a paranormal surge of epic proportions, and at the center of it is one Ilyssa Selwyn (played by Alyssa Milano.) Turns out there is more to her than everyone thinks.
Most of the cast from the first film has returned, and characters here are voiced by the original actors. In addition to the four Ghostbusters, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray,) Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd,) Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis,) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson,) smart mouth secretary Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) returns, as well as resident GB thorn Walter Peck (William Atherton,) now in charge of the Paranormal Contract Oversight Committee (P-COC.) New to the series is Mayor Jaques Mulligan (played by Brian Doyle-Murray,) creator of P-COC as a way to keep citywide damages to a minimum.
The only two film characters that are not in the game are Dana Barrett (due to Sigourney Weaver originally refusing the role, but changing her mind after her character was removed from the storyline,) and nerdy accountant Louis Tully (due to Rick Moranis’ retirement from acting.) Even without them, the acting is very high quality, rivaling that of the movies. And thanks to a script that was done with the assistance of Akryoyd and Ramis, this is the storyline that Ghostbusters II should have been!
The heart of the game centers on the Proton Pack that we all know and love from the movies. When fighting a ghost, the technique used is called "sap, cap, and trap." First the proton beam is used to drain a ghost’s psycho-kinetic energy (PKE,) When the PKE is low, activating the capture stream allows your Ghostbuster to wrangle the ghost (via the right analog stick on the 360 and PS3, Wiimote on the Wii) and lead him right to the trap. On the 360 and PS3, using the proton pack is a lot of fun, and if this was the only weapon I had available (similar to Tron 2.0 and its disc,) I would be more than satisfied. However, not all ghosts need to be trapped, some can just be drained of their PKE and dispersed.
But there are also three more weapons for the Proton Pack that are available for testing. There is the stasis weapon (a stream that freezes ghosts in their tracks and can also fire a blast similar to a shotgun,) the slime weapon (shoots out mood slime similar to that in Ghostbusters II and also has a Slime Tether used to attach two items together,) and the meson collider (which despite my feeling that it’s rather useless, shoots both a high capacity blast or rapid fire blasts similar to a chaingun.) While all of these weapons have unlimited ammunition, they do overheat, and you are required to vent your Proton Pack to prevent that from happening. All of the weapons are upgradeable via funds obtained from capturing ghosts and completing objectives.
Your rookie is also equipped with a PKE meter, which is used to locate your next objective, as well as special haunted artifacts, which gives more information about all the ghosts. All of their information is stored on your digital Tobin’s Spirit Guide, and being able to read about classic ghosts such as Slimer, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and the "Grey Lady" Eleanor Twitty (the Library Ghost) is great. Finally we get to know about their origins after 25 years.
Outside of the use of the Proton pack, the game plays more like a behind the back shooter. In fact, it nearly rivals Gears of War in comparison. It features the same behind the shoulder perspective, and running has a camera angle similar to it. Some ghosts actually emerge from portals that need to be sealed, and when your comrades are knocked out, you actually have to run to them and revive them.
However, having to revive your teammates will become quite a habit because the AI can make some really stupid mistakes at times. It gets worse when you have to revive them again a few seconds after they were revived by a cheap attack.
The single player campaign, while very fun with a great storyline, is unfortunately short, and can be finished by a typical gamer in about 10 hours. It will take longer if you wish to seek out all the artifacts and beat the game on Professional.
The multiplayer, however, is far beyond what is normally found in games like this. Instead of having head to head style deathmatches, all the online play is co-op and competitive at the same time. There are five multiplayer game modes: destruction (destroy the most ghost relics in a set time,) survival (withstand 10 increasingly difficult waves of ghost attacks, similar to Horde in Gears of War 2,) containment (trap as many ghosts as time allows,) thief (protect four artifacts from invading ghosts in the time limit) and protection (set up three PKE disruptors and prevent ghosts from destroying them.) Game modes can be done separately or as a three round campaign and winners are judged by how much money is earned by each Ghostbuster.
It’s about time developers made online gameplay that did not have to center on deathmatches, and I hope to see this happen more in the future. In fact, I never thought I’d actually ENJOY multiplayer more than the single player.
On the 360, Ghostbusters is an impressive looking game, but it’s far from perfect. While the characters are dead ringers of their real life 1991 counterparts, as are the ghosts, settings, weapon effects, and the traps, the game does suffer from frame rate drops when the action gets too tight. The screen also has a tendency to tear when the camera turns too fast.
The PS3 version has it worse. As reported by many sources, the game runs at a lower 540p resolution (as opposed to the 360’s 720p HDTV) and has lower quality textures. In addition, special effects (such as glowing embers made by proton streams present in the 360 version are nonexistent on the PS3.
The Wii and PlayStation 2 versions have a unique art style of their own. Not able to recreate the higher quality visuals of the higher end counterparts, developer Red Fly decided to give the game a more cartoonish look. In fact, it is almost reminiscent of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon in terms of character design.
In the end, this is at last the type of game that Ghostbusters fans have been waiting for. The lifelong dream of strapping on a proton pack and catching ghosts is as fun as I thought it would be. Even with the rest of the weapons being shooter fare, both the engrossing yet hilarious story and an amazing multiplayer mode makes this game a true honor to GB fans young and old.
PROS: FINALLY a great game worthy of the Ghostbusters franchise! Great storyline supported by funny dialogue and excellent voice acting. Proton Pack could be one of the most fun weapons to use in recent memory. Online game is actually as fun (if not MORE fun) as the single player experience"
CONS: "which is pretty short. Game can be finished in about 10 hours. Graphics suffer from frame rate drops and screen tearing (and on the PS3, lower resolution textures and missing effects.) Aside from the Proton Pack the rest of the weapons could fall under typical FPS fare. Partner AI can be a pain when you constantly have to revive them.
Editor’s Note: Game Reviewed Primarily on an Xbox 360, though in this case other platforms were also looked at during the review process.
Developers: Red Fly, Terminal Reality, Threewave
Platforms: Nintendo DS, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360