Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ghostbusters: The Video Game review

It's been 22 years since Spengler, Stanz, Venkman and Zeddemore were last on our screens officially as the Ghostbusters. Since then there have been several cartoons, two fan made movies (Freddy vs Ghostbusters, and Return of the Ghostbusters), yet no sign of the original cast reprising their roles for another adventure. Until now. Atari and Terminal Reality have teamed up to deliver a game based on the franchise that is both written by Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd, and also stars them alongside fellow members of the original cast Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and William Atherton. Will bustin' make you feel good? Let's have a look...

Format: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3, Wii, PSP and DS)
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Terminal Reality
Expect to pay: £10 - £20

Graphics: 8 out of 10
Other than the usual problem of the characters looking like they're made out of wax, and poor lip syncing during the cut scenes, Ghostbusters is a very nice looking game. The proton stream looks and behaves as you would expect, ghosts are well designed and in keeping with the source material, and everything moves around at a frantic pace no matter how much chaos is on the screen. It may be a very small thing to mention but I really liked the fact that the developers had taken the time to put the light reflecting in Egon's glasses during cut scenes - it's little bits of attention to detail like this that show that they've put a lot of care into this project.

I do have one other minor niggle with the graphics, in that things can get a bit too dark even with the brightness setting turned all the way up. This is especially noticeable during a level set in Central Park, where the blackness of the environment combined with the games propensity to not give you much help as to where you should be going next can conspire to get you well and truly lost. Otherwise though, the 360 version of the game does a good job of delivering a realistic representation of the Ghostbusters universe. The Wii version however, looks very different, with cartoon style visuals, and although the stories are similar, it should really be considered a separate game.

Sound and Music: 9 out of 10
This is where the game truly shines, because as stated in my intro, many of the cast members of the original motion picture have returned to do the voice acting for their characters. Unfortunately this doesn't include Sigourney Weaver or Rick Moranis, but you can't have everything. It's a treat to hear the likes of Dan Akyroyd and Bill Murray both deliver classic lines and perform a whole new story for us. Because the dialogue has also been written by Ramis & Akroyd, it too is also of very high quality.

For extra layers of authenticity, you not only get genuine Ghostbusters music including both the theme tune by Ray Parker Jr and the rest of the soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein, but you also get sound effects taken directly from the films, including the proton pack, and the siren of the Ecto-1. It's enough to make you weep sweet tears of nostalgia just listening to it!

Game Mechanics: 7 out 10
Capturing a ghost in this game consists of several stages: first you have to weaken it by blasting it with one several different types of proton pack beam (more on this in a minute). Then, you have to wrangle it with you capture beam, and direct it into a trap. Either hold it over the trap for a few seconds, or (new to the game) slam dunk the ghost directly into the trap for an instant capture. As well as types of ghost that you have to capture, there are also minor types that you just have to destroy - these usual consist of possessed object such as candelabras that have come to life.

Initially you will just have access to the familiar proton stream as seen in the films but as the game progresses Egon will invent several new types of beam including ones that behave like shotgun blasts and a machine gun, as well as a slime stream. This particular stream can be used to remove caustic black slime from the environment, reveal hidden doorways, and in its alternative mode of fire, be used to tether two objects together. This is used in many of the games puzzles - for example in a sewer level you need to fire one end of your slime tether at a weight holding a sluice gate closed, then the other at the floor to pull the weight down.

I would say Ghostbusters is a very enjoyable game 80% of the time, but it does have a few minor problems holding it back from being an amazing game. Firstly, the game doesn't do a particularly great job in telling you what you need to be doing next in certain places, and sometimes it turned out I actually had done what I was supposed to do but hadn't walked over the hot spot to trigger the next event. At other times it's a case of going into your PKE meter view and scanning the environment until you find something ectoplasmic or otherworldly. My other problem with the game I have already mentioned - the overly dark graphics. However these minor issues don't prevent this game from being the best game licensed from a movie in years.

Before I move on, I would also like to mention the online multiplayer side of Ghostbusters, as it's great fun and adds a lot of life to an otherwise short game. You can team up with up to 3 other players and capture ghosts in one of four environments: New York Times Square, The Public Library, Central Park or the Sedgewick Hotel. There are various game types including Survival, which is this games version of the Gears of War Horde mode, Thief, where you have to protect 4 artifacts from being carried away by mischievous ghosts, and a Slam Dunk competition where you have to speedily slam more ghosts into traps than your opponents. It's great fun both working together and against real players online. As is the fashion these days, you earn cash from each ghost captured and can level up your character. When certain requirements are fulfilled, rare Most Wanted ghosts will appear - for example once you have won a round of every game type in Central Park, special ghosts will come out. Capture them all (no easy feat) and you will earn an Achievement.

Innovation and Cleverness: 5 out 10
The slime tether mechanics have been cleverly integrated into the game and are involved in the majority of the games puzzles, and the way the proton stream acts and feels like its movie counterpart is very smart. Terminal Reality deserve kudos for delivering a game that not only looks and sounds like the films, but plays like you would hope it would too.

Value and Replayability: 6 out of 10
The main single player campaign is pretty short at around 10 hours. There are things for completionists to find such as logging every ghost in Tobin's Spirit Guide, finding haunted artifacts throughout each of the levels, and context sensitive Achievements (for example, find an item that doesn't belong at a bar mitzvah in the Sedgewick Hotel level and destroy it to make it kosher). I would give extra points here for the highly enjoyable multiplayer mode but there's a bit of a problem here - not many people are playing it any more. If you have 3 other friends who own the game that you can bust ghosts with, then this will likely last you months, but if you can't find anyone online to team up with, you'll be pretty much stuck with the single player mode I'm afraid.

Overall: 8 out of 10
Ghostbusters fans will be overjoyed with this game as it delivers everything that they could ever want from a video game based on their beloved franchise. It is a fine, if brief, experience despite the few problems I had with it. I hear that now that interest in the series has been rekindled thanks to this game, a proper Ghostbusters III film is in pre production. I will await this with trepidation as other classic film series that have been revived recently have varied in quality between mediocre and abysmal. If the third movie falls though and doesn't get made, then fans can be happy in the knowledge that this game is a a true continuation of the Ghostbusters story, as it feels 100% authentic.

1 comment:

French Fries said...

Also the game is on PC but the PC doesn't have the multiplayer part of the game.