“Don’t cross the streams.” “There is no Dana, there is only Zuul” “Are you a god?” “We’re ready to believe you!” If these quotes mean nothing to you, then you can probably skip over the rest of this review as there is a bit of basic Ghostbusters knowledge you’ll need to fully understand this. In what can be described as pure fan service, Ghostbusters: The Video Game does everything it can to give you what is basically the third Ghostbusters movie. From the entire principal cast returning to do voice work, to Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis lending their help to the script, multiple references to the first and second Ghostbuster movies and even using many of the original film’s music, you really feel the immersion into the Ghostbusters’ universe.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game takes place in 1991, two years after the events of Ghostbusters II. You play the role of a new recruit who the other Ghostbusters only refer to as Rookie. The game starts off with paranormal activity that centers on the Gozer exhibit at the museum. A shockwave is sent out, which attracts the attention of Ray and Egon, and which also frees resident ghost mascot Slimer in the process. The team chases Slimer to the Sedgewick Hotel where he is eventually captured, destroying a familiar looking hotel reception room in the process. No sooner had they wrapped up this incident, than they were greeted by a familiar Gozer destructor form. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is wreaking havoc in Times Square and once again the team is called into action to defeat him. What unravels after these events is a plot which, of course, will bring about the destruction of the human world.
Gameplay is mainly comprised of third-person shooting. You start the game off with the iconic proton pack which weakens ghosts until the point where they can be captured and sent into a trap. Since there is no ammo in the game, you can continue firing your weapon until it overheats. If it overheats you temporarily cannot use your weapon, you can stop this by manually cooling it down. However if this were the only weapon in the game, the gameplay would get really stale really quickly. Luckily, being the new guy, Ray gives you all the new equipment to test. While some of these new weapons give you the feeling they were just thrown in without much thought, they are all distinctly different so it just doesn’t feel like a slightly different proton pack. You also earn money for every ghost you defeat that you can use to upgrade your weapons. The upgrades are minor and you can upgrade them all fairly quickly, but it’s a nice touch to have them.
Similarly, there are different types of defeating enemies to vary things up. While the stronger ghosts are captured, some of the lesser ones you just destroy by depleting their energy. Some are distinctly unique like the gargoyles which you must capture and slam into the ground to break them. There are also first person elements as well when using the PKE Meter. In the game, you use the PKE Meter to scan enemies for their weaknesses, reveal ghosts you normally couldn’t see, find passageways to the next area and search for hidden bonus items you can collect. There is no HUD that displays health, instead like many shooter heroes, your health regenerates when you aren’t getting attacked. If you happen to fall in battle, as long as there is another team member near you, they can revive you.
As mentioned earlier, this game does not try to hide the blatant Ghostbusters’ fan service. This is great for fans of the movies, but also limits the audience of who will enjoy this game who might not understand why a giant painting of Vigo the Carpathian constantly taunts you at Ghostbusters headquarters. But even for hardcore fans it may give you the feeling that it falls a little short of being a total revival for the franchise. At times it feels like it relies too heavily on past movie references. The storyline makes it feel like Ghostbusters 1.5 rather than a true third movie. Some of the performances feel a bit subdued as well, primarily Bill Murray as Peter Venkman. You get the feeling that he isn’t quite putting his all into the role. That being said the performances by Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis feel spot on and there have been more than once instance where I found myself laughing at the writing. Ultimately that is what’s going to keep you playing the campaign mode. The gameplay, while unique, doesn’t exactly carry single player. Since storyline quality can be a subjective thing, if it doesn’t draw you in, you may not find much to keep you playing.
It won’t take long to complete the campaign and it does not offer much replay value, but there is a surprisingly robust multiplayer mode that is available. All multiplayer modes are co-op up to 4 players and they all vary in mission types. For example one mode is a survival type mode, where you capture ghosts until your team is defeated. Another mode however has you protecting 4 relics from being taken away by ghosts until time runs out. Another mode has you destroying ghost spawn points. You can play these multiplayer missions on their own or you can play a campaign which has you playing 3 different missions one after the other. I was very skeptical of the multiplayer mode, but after playing it I found myself really enjoying it. It really does give the game a breath of fresh air after you’ve completed the campaign mode and it gives you a chance to check out other player’s crazy ghost capturing techniques. If you feel the storyline doesn’t carry the campaign mode for you, you can probably find a breath of fresh air playing with other people in smaller gameplay bursts.
One more thing I have to mention. The game does a great job at giving you a creepy atmosphere that you normally don’t find out of games like Residen Evil and Silent Hill. While you won’t find any pyramid heads doing questionable activities with mannequins, you will find yourself at the receiving end of some cheap scares. It took me by surprise, because the movie, while having to do with ghosts, was never really scary.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game definitely does one thing right. It completely caters to the Ghostbusters fanboy crowd. With anything involving fandom, many hardcore fans may be able to ignore the shortcomings of the game, but those who don’t quote Ghostbusters in every day life may find it hard to ignore them. Take away all the big name actors and the story and you have what feels like a fresh third person shooter with new mechanics, but eventually falls into a repetitious trap. For most people I would say this game is a solid rental. You’ll enjoy the experience and you’ll also enjoy that you didn’t pay full retail price for it.