Ghostbusters: The Video Game
The following review contains spoilers, so if you want to be surprised by what happens, you might want to skip this.
It’s a well known fact that I am a big Ghostbusters fan and was looking forward, very much, to the game. However, even in my excitement, I was skeptical. The first movie has been my favorite movie since I was but a wee lad, and while it’s not generally accepted by many, I even love the second movie. But the Ghostbusters franchise has never been known for it’s great video games.
I’m glad to report that this game single-handedly turns that around.
The game opens in 1991 New York, two years after the events of Ghostbusters II. A giant psyonic pulse rips through the city from the museum holding an exhibit on Gozer, the villain from the first film.
You start the game as “Rookie” an unnamed character who has been hired on as an experimental weapons tester. Not giving the character a name helps one put themselves in the characters shoes, they even give a decent explanation as to why the don’t bother learning your name, not wanting to get “too attached after what happened to the last guy.”
There’s been a few complaints about the control system being confusing, but they’re actually quite simple and quite fun. When there’s one ghost to capture it’s fun enough by itself, but very quickly you get thrown into the mix with several ghosts all around at once and then it gets not only fun but chaotic, slime and streams flying in every direction. To compare the controls to anything, they’re like Gears of War (I played the 360 version), with some obvious changes for the sake of the franchise. But the integrated using things like the traps, PKE meter and Ecto goggles seamlessly into the current standard shooter controls.
The story is also one of the best stories I think Ghostbusters fans have ever gotten. Good enough to rival the first film in my opinion. Right from the get-go you’re playing an abridged version of the first film, going to capture an escaped Slimer who had returned to the Sedgwick Hotel and having a showdown with Mr Stay Puft, himself. Also early on you get to meet the love interest of the story, Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn (voice by Alyssa Milano) who is in charge of the Gozer exhibit at the museum.
The Ghostbusters, now contracted by the city, are under the watchful eye of a returning Walter Peck (reprised, at least vocally, by William Atherton who hasn’t missed a beat.) who reports to the new Mayor, Jacques Mulligan (voiced by Brian Doyle-Murray)
The Ghostbusters get a call to check out the library, continuing the revisiting of scenes from the first film, but this also serves as a transition into the games’ original material as the library is one of several cross-points in the city where the ghost world is merging with ours with the use of the deadly BLACK SLIME that can be used to create portals. The others include the Sedgewick and the museum, with a fourth in the middle of the Hudson river. After clearing the other three cross-points you go to the river and up comes Shandor Island. An island castle built for Shandor and his fellow Gozer cultists. It is also here where they kind of tie the first two movies together, finding a room in the castle where they have several different colors of slime, Winston makes the comment that must be where the mood slime (the river in GBII) came from, as they would have been able to pump it directly into the sewers. You also find out here that Ilyssa is related to one Evo Shandor, connecting her even more to the disturbances brought on by the Gozer exhibit. After a fight with a juvenile Sloar (the creatures mentioned in Vinz Clortho’s speech from the first film) the island sinks again and you go to the final showdown in the graveyard.
The graveyard is a prick and a half. Giant monsters that blow fire, kamikaze stone angels, hordes of ghosts and reanimated corpses attack you in a somewhat confusing maze map leading to the building where the final battle takes place. Its understandable that the path to the final boss would be difficult but it gets from challenging to downright annoying pretty quickly.
Once you get to the end you find out that Evo Shandor himself has possessed the Mayor and decided that since Gozer had failed him twice he thought it would be easier to become a god himself and take over the world. Once you defeat him in Mayor form, you’re transported to the same room in the spirit realm where Evo shows his giant demonic self that, quite honestly, looks kinda cheesy, and the battle isn’t at all difficult, especially when compared to some of the other boss battles, or even just the trip through the graveyard. But the battle ends with a cool cut scene where the team is once again forced to cross the streams in order to defeat the monster.
The game ends with the kiss between Peter and Ilyssa before he jumps out of the way of Slimer, allowing her to get slimed.
The story, as I said, is great. And the game is just fun. Its great to see things from the movies referenced as part of an original story featuring characters that we love. Voiced by the people who brought them to life. I spent a great deal of time just exploring the levels and especially the firehouse scouring for any and all Easter eggs I could find. Just standing in the office talking to the Vigo painting or listening to Janine answer the phone provided enough entertainment to waste time between missions.
Other reviews have said that the repetitive shouts your team mates yell as well as the soundtrack get annoying after hearing the same things over and over. I didn’t find that so much. True, the original score they integrate into the game was built for a 2 hour movie, not a 15 hour game, but I was so busy either exploring or fighting to really notice. It’s actually struck me as funny in some parts where the music was playing the dramatic battle music from the end of the first movie and I was just wondering around, not even close to a fight, following my PKE to hidden artifacts. And the screams from your team, are repetitive, but I can think of much more annoying shouts from games that got higher review scores. ( “HEY HEY LOOK LISTEN HEY HEY!” comes to mind) And maybe its just the fan-boy in me but I was just happy to hear the characters voiced by their actors. They could have said nothing more than “DUHHH…” and I would probably still be happy.
The game is not without its few drawbacks, however, besides the difficulty spike in the graveyard.
When your team mates get knocked down, it is your job to run over and revive them. They can also revive each other. There are several times, however, that I would get knocked down and they would take forever to revive me, if they revived me at all. There was one point when Venkman was standing right next to me saying “Don’t worry, someone will come get you.” and I was eventually revived by Egon. Who was nowhere near me when I fell. There was also a point where I went down and there was apparently only one way to get to me, Winston started t come to my rescue but got knocked down as well. Ray was on his way to get me, but Winston was in his way. Instead of reviving Winston and then coming to get me, he just ran in place until he got knocked down and we had to start over.
There were times when I would be wrangling a ghost, trying to lead it towards the trap, while getting gnawed on by a creature standing behind me. My team mates would be off picking their noses or something instead of bothering to help watch my back while I capture the real threat.
There were a couple points I reached where the room was cleared of all ghosts, I would go to the door I needed to get to in order to move on. But there would be no prompt to open it. I would wonder what I needed to do to move on, only to find out the only thing I needed was for my team mates to be with me at the door. But they were too busy just STANDING in the middle of the room to follow me to the door. And I would have to attempt to get their attention to corral them to the exit.
When referencing “Rookie” they sometimes use terms that I feel are a little too robotic. “The Recruit” “Trainee” and the like. I like that they never give the guy a name, as I previously stated, but it felt much more natural when they would call him “Kid” “Youngblood” or even “Newbie” I wish they would have stuck with terms like that.
I was also annoyed by the constant mentioning of Dana Barrett. She was a big part of the first two films, sure, but her absence is only made that much more apparent by their mentioning of her. And it’s not like they were recalling her specifically. The mention her in the context of “Remember Dana Barrett’s building” which I think could have been easily avoided by calling it “The Central Park West building” or seeing as Evo Shandor is the big baddie of the game, call it the “Shandor Apartment Building.” And at the very least, the first time they mention her, Peter doesn’t even flinch. One could make the argument that he’s just playing it cool as only he can do, but remember in the second film, the first mention of her name and immediately he needed to be involved again. He’s a womanizer, yes, but Dana he actually cares for. It would have been nice to see that reflected a bit.
But aside from those little issues it is an extremely fun, albeit short, game.
But what excited me the most, though, was during the credits. They ask “Rookie” if he’s ready to start his own Ghostbusters franchise, mentioning Ghostbusters: Chicago and Ghostbusters: Los Angeles. I’m excited at the idea of a possible sequel with a brand new team in a brand new city. Not that I don’t love the original team, VERY far from it. I just think that, as Ray said in the first movie “The possibilities are limitless.”
All in all, do yourself a favor and pick up this game. Whether you’re new to the franchise or a seasoned Ghostbusters veteran, I don’t think there is anyone who won’t enjoy this game.