Ghostbusters: The Video Game (360)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Like many children of the 80s, my three biggest childhood obsessions were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, and Ghostbusters. While the Turtles had some great titles in the NES/SNES days, the latter two have had a very spotty history in terms of videogame representation. It's surprising that Ghostbusters never got the treatment it deserved, as its concept lends itself very well towards a host of interesting weapons and enemies. When I heard the news that it was being made into a game, I was predictably excited. When I saw the first trailer and heard the unforgettable theme song, I'm lucky that I didn't go into a full-scale nostalgic fanboy seizure. The final product may not be a AAA-caliber game, but it's packed with plenty of fan service and is sure to bring back childhood memories for many 20-something gamers.

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It's crucial that a Ghostbuster game feature the actual Ghostbusters, and the developers made the right choice by ensuring that Ramis, Aykroyd, Murray, and Hudson were all fully onboard. Their likenesses and voices are necessary to complete this nostalgia-fest, and Ramis and Aykroyd even helped out with the script. Granted, it's not quite as funny as the films, and the plot isn't particularly gripping, but these shortcomings are forgotten when you're throwing your trap to the ground and wrangling a wily ghost with your proton beam.

Throughout both of the films, the Ghostbusters really only used the proton beam as their weapon (unless you count the "happy slime" they sprayed the Statue of Liberty with in the second movie). The devs at Terminal Reality handled the weapon situation well, as they gave the proton beam four distinct firing modes. Each of these has a secondary ability as well. The proton beam can capture ghosts and shoot a rocket-like blast, the Statis Stream can slow enemies down as well as blast them like a shotgun, the Slime Blower can clean black slime off objects and tether environmental elements together, and the Meso Collider behaves like the Bullseye in the Resistance series (a beacon attaches to your target, and subsequent shots follow the beacon).

While all the weapons are useful in their own way, the controls for them aren't exactly intuitive. There's simply too much going on with the shoulder buttons in the middle of ghostbusting. You'll fire with the right trigger, perform your weapon's secondary function and slam ghosts with the left trigger, activate the "capture beam" with the left bumper, and vent (reload, essentially) your pack with the right bumper. This means that in the course of an average ghost encounter, you'll be constantly using every one of the shoulder buttons, which can often be unwieldy. Considering how often you have to vent your pack, I think it would make more sense to map that function to the X button and move a lesser-used command like throwing your trap to the right bumper.

Frustration isn't limited to the control scheme. Little oversights, annoyances and glitches are frequent, from the lengthy load times to the hard-to-see beacon on your trap. One glitch in particular forced me to reload a previous save, as a necessary scripted event never occurred after I cleared a room of enemies. The game features several boss fights, but they're all downhill after the initial confrontation with the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man in Times Square.

Spangler, Venkman, Zeddemore, and Stantz certainly don't look like their real-life alter egos in 2009 (sans Ernie Hudson, who I'm starting to believe can never age), but they're a close enough approximation of their 1980s selves. Their voice acting is well-done throughout, with none of the stars sounding like they're phoning it in. The entire look of the game really matches that of the films, from the environments to the suits to the ghosts themselves. You'll see series staples like the Ecto-1, Stay Puft Marshmellow Man, and Slimer as well as smaller references like the Vigo painting and Sedgewick Hotel. Particle and weapon effects are impressive, with little details like the flaming scars the proton beam leaves across walls and floors. However, it's not without glitches as the framerate is somewhat unstable and the occasional environmental object will disappear into thin air.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game would be a strictly average game without its valuable license and impressive cast. Despite this, it will undoubtedly entertain the 20-something group that grew up with toy proton packs, drank Slimer-branded Hi-C, and couldn't get enough of the films and cartoon. Its campaign may be short, but the environments and enemies are diverse enough to keep your interest the entire time without resorting to backtracking or fetch quests. If you're unfamiliar with the franchise, you might be better off with other action titles with more refined gameplay. However, Ghostbusters can be a great nostalgic experience for childhood fans of the show like myself.

Graphics: 8.0

Sound: 8.5

First Play: 8.0

Replay Value: 7.5

Gameplay: 7.5

Overall: 8.0