I've had my eye on Ghostbusters for a while now. Ever since I found out that Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis would be involved along with Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten, in the writing and scripting of the story. This seemed like a perfect marriage of talent to me. Then when they announced Terminal Reality were the developer, which was met with a slight raised brow and a comment: oh...right...
As Hubert Farnsworth would say though, "Good news everyone, Ghostbusters isn't a bad game at all."
Set after the events of Ghostbusters II, those who are waiting eagerly for a third movie should find plenty to like in the game's story and return to one of the much-loved franchises. Ghostbusters casts you in the role of an unnamed recruit who becomes the team's official 'dangerous and unproven' technology tester. Along with Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston you are at the epicentre of a new major paranormal event that has some nice twists and turns. Through a mix of CGI cut-scenes and in-game graphics your journey with the team takes you through some pretty spectacular moments.
There are some interesting puzzles and elements to Ghostbusters that keep the game fairly fresh. For a start you have the whole Proton Pack and upgrade system to keep you earning cash for every ghost you destroy or bag. You are also very rarely on your own and you can have one or more Ghostbusters with you to help along the way. Just like Gears of War you're able to revive them if they go down and they can do the same for you, in fact, they're pretty good at pulling you out of tricky situations.
It plays similarly to a third person shooter, with the typical movement and shooter controls. What sets Ghostbusters apart from the rest of the pack is the Proton Stream that behaves as it does in the movies. The Blast Stream is a highly destructive beam that wanders around and scars anything that it touches; prolonged contact will eventually destroy a lot of things in the environment and rack up a nice city-damage bill that seems to be there just for kicks.
The Capture Stream is activated by a quick press on the PS3's shoulder-button and engages a beam that allows you to wrangle ghosts (kind of like fishing) and pick up larger obstructions, move things in the environment and solve some of the physics based puzzles later on. Everything you do with the pack builds up heat and this is shown by a red double-bar meter on the side of the pack. There is no real HUD in Ghostbusters, just the indicators on the pack that show you health, overheat and provides a visual indication of the current weapon you have equipped. From the shotgun-like Shock Blaster to the awesome Slime Gun that has a secondary function useful for attaching ghosts to traps for a quick Slime-Dunk moment, or the Meson Gun that fires a rapid burst of particles that can be tagged onto a target and follow it.
Every weapon on the pack has a secondary and primary fire and they're pretty inventive uses.
The true joy in the game is Bustin' ghosts. You lay down a trap and first weaken the ghost with the Blast Stream, when the ghost is sufficiently weakened the pack will auto-detect and switch to capture mode. Then you have to drag the ghost over the trap and prepare to fight with it a little. You can build up a Slam Bar and use that to stun a ghost for a more efficient capture. Once the ghost is in the trap's cone, you must force it down and compensate as the ethereal nasty tries to escape.
There is no finer feeling than Bustin' your first ghost. The developers have done a great job on the Proton Stream and the physics behind it. You actually feel like one of the Ghostbusters.
In addition to blasting and busting ghosts, there's the PKE meter. This is again tagged onto your character and you can see it at all time. Green means there's paranormal activity, red means there's a hidden ghost and blue means there's a cursed artefact. Every scan you perform nets you cash and this can be used to upgrade your core Ghosbuster pack and any additional weapons over the course of the game. When you switch to your PKE the game adopts a first-person perspective and lets you scan the area.
Over the course of your adventure you're going to encounter various kinds of ghosts and enemies. Some of these are weaker to certain kinds of weapons; they take more damage from the Slime Gun for example. Scanning them will add them to your Tobin's Spirit Guide and reveal interesting history, information and weaknesses about them. The game isn't just about blasting and Bustin' ghosts though, there are puzzles and maze-like environments to navigate as well as some surprises that rely on you using a particular weapon in the right way.
The graphics on Ghostbusters are good. The character likenesses are excellent, with top marks for the design of Egon, Ray and Winston. Peter Venkman's design is the weakest of the four with your character looking like a generic tester. The in-game engine still manages to do a respectable job of creating the right kind of environments and keeping a decent frame-rate even when things get crazy insane with particle streams and other effects blasting around. The game can get really hectic and looks beautiful when you're battling the various kinds of ghosts. It's a visual treat to drag one of the big ghosts into a trap and the effects in that respect are spot-on to the movies.
The levels and environments are well detailed and there's a good use of various visual effects. Atmospheric fog, diffused lighting and other tricks of the trade are employed to give each location a unique visual signature as well as heighten the right kind of mood and tension. The Ghostbusters Firehouse is an excellent example of the attention to detail and there are even a few surprises in there for you to find and interact with.
I did encounter a few frame-rate drops in a certain segment of the game and one part slowed to a crawl for a little while before it actually became a slide-show. I played the section again and determined that it was a million-to-one glitch that happened during the first play. So I am warning you about it but if you're lucky, you won't encounter it.
The star of the show here is the Proton Pack. The whole thing is animated with colourful indicators, flashing lights and looks the part. It looks like it was cobbled together exactly as its counterpart in the movies and has various moving parts as well. If you vent the pack there's a great effect where the various segments of the pack move out, it hisses and jets of steam escape. If you let it overheat and it automatically vents, then the effect is even better.
The character animations are good, they move fairly well during cut-scenes with only a slight jerk here and there. In game terms they're fluid enough and the only complaint I really have is there should have been some more variety when the Ghostbusters or you, go down from a hefty blow from an enemy. They kind of crumple over in a comical manner and whilst it doesn't really hurt the game, it does kind of break the immersion.
There's a lot of nice physics going on here in the game. The Proton Pack can wreak all kinds of havoc on the environment, destroying things left right and centre as well as being used to move objects in the world and activate some nice physics based puzzles later on with the alternate fire on the Slime Gun. All in all the physics are great and they hold up under pressure when a lot's going on.
The AI for your team is excellent. The Ghostbusters work with you, and each other to wrangle ghosts and attack enemies. They are surprisingly intelligent and they will throw down and collect their own traps, bust ghosts on their own and grab ghosts that you have caught in the Capture Stream to give you a hand. If you go down then they'll do their best to try and get to you and drag you up off the floor. They'll also call out during combat and attempt to help you with verbal cues if you seem to need it.
Enemy AI varies and works really well. The various ghosts all have different attack patterns and things they like to do. Some will rush you head on, some are more sneaky and will hide inside objects to animate them as deadly missiles.
The sound design in the game is excellent. From the creepy whispering that appears when Black Slime is present to the various ambient effects in the dark, the whole game oozes audio appeal from the start. The Proton Pack sounds great and the whoosh and sizzle of the stream is only eclipsed by the sound used on a successful trap, the screaming of a ghost as it fights to escape and the thunk as the trap closes. This is perfect.
To hear the Ghostbusters theme again brought a big smile to my face. Then when they used various musical cues from the movies, I was even happier. The soundtrack to the game is excellent and it supports the whole package nicely. It's suitably creepy at the right time and rises to an action packed crescendo when there's a lot going on.
Voice and Dialogue
Everyone has a blast in the game. Bill Murray seems to be a bit of a slow starter, or he's not fully throwing himself into his character. Dan, Harold, Ernie and the others though - they are all spot on and Dan does a great job on Ray. Harold is perfect as Egon and he shines the most out of all of them. The script, well, it's typical Ghostbusters and there are more than a few laughs to be had. All in all, great stuff.
You and three other players take on the roles of the Ghostbusters. There is an Instant Action setting where you can play across the 12 maps in a variety of different mission types.
* Containment: Capture all the ghosts.
* Destruction: Eliminate mysterious artefacts to prevent spawning ghosts.
* Protection: Protect Egon's devices from the ghosts.
* Thief: Save the artefacts from being stolen by ghosts.
* Slime Dunk: Dunk the most Slimers (real fun).
Then there's a Campaign Mode.
You work with three other players across one of the four locations, Library, Streets, Museum, Cemetery. These are split into 12 maps in total. You earn cash to upgrade your equipment and rise up the leader board.
The multiplayer is fast, frenetic and fun. Bustin' ghosts with friends relies on teamwork and you can play a variety of these modes for some light relief. There are some comical moments when things don't quite go as planned and there is sure to be something in these modes for everyone. My personal favourite is the Campaign Mode since the others can get a little more competitive and I prefer cooperation.
There was very little lag and no drop-outs in the games I was able to play online.
Bustin' makes me feel good
Overall, Ghostbusters is a really good game. It will last you around 8-10 hours and even more if you dive into the multiplayer aspect of the game. It plays well and capturing ghosts is the highlight of the game. There is a lot of fan-service in the game and you'll be chuckling at some of the comments and banter between the team. A solid performance and the best way to do a movie-based game: don't bother to shoe-in the movie, make your own story and forget the events of the film.