Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Score: 96%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Terminal Reality
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1, 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ First Person Shooter/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:
It's almost a law of videogames: movie license-based games always disappoint. Typically, movie licenses are secured, then the game is either thrown together or simply done as a re-skin of some existing game, often without even using the voices from the license, all with the hopes that people will buy the game simply because they're fans of the movie. Ghostbusters: The Video Game proves things could be different.

The graphics in Ghostbusters: The Video Game are very good, using the likenesses and voices of the original cast members, from the Ghostbusters themselves - Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Winston Zeddmore (Earnie Hudson), to their receptionist Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), Vigo (Max von Sydow), and even their thorn-in-the-side Walter Peck (William Atherton). The character Mayor Jock Mulligan is voiced by Brian Doyle-Murray, who was not in the original Ghostbusters movie, but played the psychiatrist that interviewed the team in the psych ward in Ghostbusters II. While not from a previous Ghostbusters production, it's still interesting to note that Allysa Milano voices Dr. Selwyn, an expert in Sumerian and pre-Sumerian cultures who is serving as the guest curator for the "World of Gozer" exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

As for the likenesses, the characters all look uncannily like they did in the original movie. Sometimes, they feel very much like they're in the uncanny valley: very realistic, but just a little unsettlingly "off." Other times, they seem fine. This seems to be helped along a lot by lines that truly fit the characters and are spoken in the way the character would speak them. It seems personality goes a long way to getting beyond the "uncanny valley." Who knew.

I have to say I was quite impressed with the degree to which Ghostbusters: The Video Game translated the feeling of watching Ghostbusters (the movie) into an interactive experience. Everything I would have expected to be in the game seems to be there, from the particle throwers to the traps, ECTO-1, crossing the streams, slime, Slimer... even the Grey Lady from the New York Public Library is in here. However, certain artistic liberty is taken in developing additional elements for use in the game. Specifically, there are upgrades and new modes for the packs, upgrades to the ghost traps, even upgrades for the handy PK meter. Of course, all of these modifications come fully untested, courtesy of Dr. Spengler, and you get to give them their first field tests, well, in the field.

At first, the particle throwers are difficult to manage, as per the movie, causing a lot of collateral damage, which is merely amplified by the fact that you're trying to figure out how to use them. There are upgrades that refine the streams and make them more controlled, if you need to.

The general flow of the game has you finding a ghost, typically by using your PK meter, then once found, scanning the entity to get an entry in your electronic version of Tobin's Spirit Guide. Regardless of whether you're actually able to get a good scan, you're going to have to rely on your particle thrower to wear down the ghost (while dodging any attacks they may spring on you). Once you've worn them down enough, you switch to a capture stream on your thrower, and use (L2) to slam the ghosts around and actually get them to move where you want them. If you haven't already done so, this would be a good time to slide a trap out there, by pressing the (Square) button. Finally, you'll need to get them right above an active trap. Slamming the ghost into the trap helps to speed this process along; if you don't slam them, they will try to slip out to the side of the light cone and avoid capture. Once the trap is shut, you simply collect the trap and your done. With that one. Make it quick; they're rarely alone.

Ah, the other part I should really mention is the teamwork aspect. Even in the Single-player mode (actually, mainly in the Single-player mode), teamwork is an integral part of Ghostbusters: The Video Game. This makes sense; the Ghostbusters movie showed a lot of this sort of teamwork, including when Ray helped Peter up after his too-close-for-comfort first encounter with Slimer. Well, much in the same way, you'll need to run to your teammates' aid when they get hurt. Don't worry, they'll help you out of a bind about as often as you have to help them, but you can expect this to be a frequent occurrence. Accepting this and learning to manage this element will go a long way to helping you progress through the Single-player story.

In addition to the highly entertaining, story-driven Single Player Campaign, there are a bevy of Multiplayer games that can be played with up to four players (and as few as just yourself) over PSN. These different games are referred to as "job types" in the game. These job types include Survival, Containment, Destruction, Protection, Thief and Slime Dunk. Some of these are relatively self-explanatory. Destruction has you destroying artifacts that are spawning ghosts. Thief has you protecting artifacts that the ghosts want to spirit away with. (Sorry.) Slime Dunk has a lot of Slimer-type ghosts coming through a breach into the real world from the spirit world and you have to slam as many as you can into a large trap within the allotted time. These games can be played as Ranked or Unranked matches, as Instant Action (just one job) or as a Campaign (several jobs on one theme).

Ghostbusters: The Video Game can get frustratingly difficult at times. Go ahead and make fun of me, if you like, but when you've got an unlicensed nuclear device strapped to your back, you might see what I mean.

There are three difficulty levels to choose from, with the easiest being more forgiving and the hardest being evil and sent by Gozer the Gozerian, himself. I jumped right in to "Experienced" and found that sometimes it was reasonable and other times I would get stuck and have to try the same thing over and over. When I would get frustrated, however, I found that I could take a break and watch the special feature videos. I did find, however, that often, the reason I would get slimed, burnt, or otherwise ushered into the spirit realm before my time was that I got impatient and hurried forward too quick; a lot of things in Ghostbusters: The Video Game are triggered by your position; if you move cautiously, things will go a little easier on you. If you rush into things, however, you may trigger enemies sooner than necessary.

Another good piece of advice would be to keep your back to the wall... and preferably in a corner. You and I both know that ghosts can go through walls, but many of the ghosts tend to forget that when you're fighting them. Even if they go through certain walls at certain times, they're not likely to come and go through walls with reckless abandon. If you can find a nice corner to back into, you can generally reduce the range of possible attacks to a 90 degree angle. This is especially useful when you're being attacked by a horde of enemies.

Another thing to consider, however, is that you need to keep your teammates alive, if you're currently working with someone. To this end, you'll want to stay close to them so you can quickly get to them and revive them (or vice versa) as needed. When possible, combine these two tips; find a nice, comfy corner near your teammate(s) and dig in.

As always, practice makes perfect and stay out of the Multiplayer games until you're pretty darn good. The only caveat to that is that it is actually possible to play a Multiplayer game by yourself. Really, the only use of this is to get some practice and to familiarize yourself with the different Multiplayer job types and the levels, but it's nice for this specific purpose. You'll want to go to Unranked games, and then create a game and then go ahead and start it without any other players to do this. Of course, the other good place to practice is the Single-player Career mode.

Game Mechanics:
The combination of licensed talent, locations, likenesses, music and video makes Ghostbusters: The Video Game one of the most faithful-to-license games in videogame history. The use of the proton pack as a UI element to show the player's health and the heat level of the pack presents needed info in a quickly accessible manner without using an obstructive overlay. Additionally, a special effect of redness around the outside of the screen gets worse as you take damage, keeping you painfully aware of, well, how pained you are. These elements work together to make Ghostbusters: The Video Game a really good game.

That doesn't mean that Ghostbusters: The Video Game is without flaw. The difficulty seems to spike, at points, rather than being a constant progression. Almost everything is destructable, but I've seen things resting where things used to be, not the least of which was when Ray got hurt and I had to go "help him up" even thought he was floating at about chest level. Still, these are small grievances. The big gripe I have is about the Multiplayer games. I am not a big Multiplayer gamer, but I try these modes out, so I can report on them. A couple of times, when I tried to play a Multiplayer game, I got the job type's "Title" screen, but then nothing but blackness. I couldn't see anything at all until I would pause the game. When it was paused, I could see stuff going on in the periphery of the screen, but the screen was mostly hidden by the Pause menu and, of course, I couldn't move around or do anything, as the game was paused. This happened to me three different times, I believe - all back to back, so perhaps it was a network-related issue, but I wouldn't suggest that someone buy Ghostbusters: The Video Game solely for the Multiplayer gameplay. The Single-player Career mode, on the other hand, was nowhere near as glitchy, beyond the minor things mentioned above.

If you're a Ghostbusters fan and you own a PS3, you pretty much have to get this game. It's got its minor issues, but it truly delivers an awesome simulation of what you see the Ghostbusters do in the movie. Also, it includes special features from the Blu-ray version of 25th Anniversary Edition of Ghostbusters - a definite perk if you don't already have that.

I highly recommend Ghostbusters: The Video Game to Ghostbusters fans out there looking for a chance to step into the boots and strap on a nuclear accelerator to your back. Until there's a virtual reality game (and a well-made one, at that), this is as close as you're going to get to experiencing Ghostbusting... and it will give you something to do while you wait for Ghostbusters III in 2012.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.