Ghostbusters: The Video Game
AMD Radeon HD 4800
“Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” That’s right! Ghostbusters are back in action, this time around in 3D... No, not that kind of 3D, the other kind of 3D; a video game! Dan Aykroyd himself (the creator of Ghostbusters), has called this game the “third movie”, but can it live up to this tall claim or are the Ghostbusters truly afraid of Ghosts? Time to find out!
The player is put in the shoes of a brand new character who is called...well we actually never find out...in any case, the Ghostbusters call him “Rookie” / “Rook” / “Newbie” / and many other similar names. At one point they do ask what his name is but another one of the Ghostbusters cuts you off, saying they’d rather not know your name in case you get killed quickly, which is very likely. You have probably guessed it by now too, your character is mute and never says a single word the entire game, on top of this he probably looks as generic as ‘generic’ can be. Now while this whole “new guy” joke can be funny, when done right *cough* Bad Company 1 *cough*, it just did not add anything to the Ghostbusters game. Personally, I would have preferred that they donned Rookie and instead have had us play as different characters from the Ghostbusters team at different points in the game. Not only would this have given us a bigger connection to the character we are playing, this also would give them the opportunity to have the character make comments on various things that you are doing in the game environment.
Be honest, you've always wanted to do this in a game.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game had multiplayer on the three consoles (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and the Wii) however; the PC version only has the singleplayer campaign and no multiplayer at all. The singleplayer campaign, or “career mode” as they call it, follows the Ghostbusters and Rookie as they battle various ghosts while trying to solve the cause of the recent outbursts. In the first half of the game, you will encounter a variety of well known locations and ghosts from the movies, while using various weapons and traps also taken from the movies. Towards the last half of the story, they start to introduce a variety of new ghosts and enemies to destroy and trap, along with some different weapons and even different locations. While this all might sound good on paper, in-game it doesn’t actually boil down to quite as much variety and interesting gameplay as one would expect. The main issue here is that, while the ghost types might all look different, their behaviours do not actually differ that much by the time you reach the game’s halfway point. The pacing and trends also really start to become apparent towards the last half of the game, thus only adding to the repetitiveness of it all. Probably some of the simplest and most boring sequences are when the game has you go at it solo for a while; these sequences are not helped by the fact that your character is mute. The only thing here that the game has going for it, is its few moments of humour when the actual Ghostbusters say their dialogues, both in and out of cutscenes. The singleplayer is spread over 7 different locations (levels) and on experienced difficulty (medium) it took me exactly 7 hours to complete, I did take the time to discover all the artifacts (collectibles) hidden about the levels. I also scanned everything there was to scan with your PKE goggles on each level, but more on those later.
The gameplay in Ghostbusters does hit the spot right off the bat, in terms of making you feel like a Ghostbuster. This is not only aided by the visuals of your costume and ‘proton pack’, but also by the way the UI is integrated into your pack. Meaning that, for all information about your health and such, you just need to look at the lights on your (very detailed looking) proton pack. While it does play like most third person shooters, some of the unique Ghostbusters weapons give the genre a unique twist. Before you can start fighting ghosts, you need to find them, to do this you have your PKE meter and goggles; these allow you to see paranormal activity and home in on the highest source of such. This will likely expose a ghost (or more), which you will have to fight and capture. While I have seen quite a few people complain about the PKE goggles, I did not actually find them bad at all. Once I realised that most of the time you can leave them off and still get readings by just looking at it on the side of your character while you run/walk around, they were no longer an issue at all. I think the main reason so many people kept them on too often was because the game keeps prompting you in various ways to almost always just run around with them, which is both annoying and unnecessary. Once you have found a ghost, you can weaken them with your various weapons and then capture them using the ‘wrangler’ and a ‘trap’. This is probably one of the few things in the game that I never got bored of, as the wrangling only got harder and harder as you progressed and had to fight tougher ghosts. It is also very fun as you use the mouse to move in the opposite direction of the ghost, this will build up your slam meter and then with right click you can slam them around in various directions to stun them, which allows you to then draw them near the trap to wrangle them into it. While this might sound easy, it involves fast reactions and is made harder later in the game by other ghosts and such, attacking you at the same time. It can really get the blood flowing! Sadly, not all combat sequences are this intense and some sequences go on for too long, poor AI only makes this matter worse.
Try not to damage the priceless artifacts!
The AI of both your Ghostbusters allies and of the ghosts really could have used a lot more work. The main annoyance with your allies is that they never try to dodge attacks from the enemies and have no clue what to prioritise and often fail to select the right weapon required for the right ghost type. On top of this, your allies can actually be incapacitated (just like yourself) when their health reaches zero. If you are incapacitated, they will try to rush over to save you, but can actually become stuck on small objects in the environment, or will rush right through ghost attacks and get themselves killed. If they become incapacitated they will rarely revive each other and thus will require you to run over to them constantly to revive them, this matter is made worse by their horrible AI, they will sometimes randomly just sprint off incredibly far away from you for no apparent reason. The ghost AI is no better, they can get stuck into avoidance loops, meaning sometimes you have to wait a long time before you can continue shooting them. All ghosts move and behave more or less the same too and some throw attacks that you should be able to dodge with good timing, yet no matter what you try, you cannot dodge them. As I mentioned earlier, there are different weapons in the game, to be exact, there are 4 of them. Each weapon has a primary fire mode and a secondary one; the first weapon is the regular proton beam that also serves as a wrangler and can fire charged ‘boson darts’. The second is a shotgun that also can fire a kind of freeze ray. The third is a slime gun that can fire ‘tethers’ to pull objects towards each other. The last one is a zapper gun that can mark targets and can machine gun fire electric homing bolts at that target. Different enemies in the game will have different weaknesses towards the weapons, by scanning them with your PKE meter it will tell you what weapon you have to use for each enemy. However, it is only on the last two levels that the game makes you have to switch rapidly between the different weapons during the same combat sequence. The game also has an upgrade system that allows you to upgrade your equipment with the money earned from trapping ghosts and finding the artifacts.
In terms of visuals, Ghostbusters has clearly had its graphics upgraded quite a bit compared to the console version, though I imagine these textures were already created for the console versions and then simply scaled down for performance reasons. Despite the visuals being upgrades, they are nothing to be impressed by either, but they do the job decently enough. The odd thing here is the cutscenes; some are entirely in-game, some are low quality recorded versions of in-game graphics and some are extremely high quality pre-rendered. While I don’t mind pre-rendered cutscenes (presuming they look really good), I always hate it when developers record low quality cutscene videos, it really ruins the entire cutscene. Most of the graphical work definitely went into the proton pack, no matter what the lighting conditions are; the proton pack looks stunning and is very detailed. Everything else in the game does not even come close to looking as good as the pack does, including the ghosts, which is disappointing considering they are actually what you are looking at a lot of the time in the game while you fight them. The visual variety in the ghosts does kind of make up for this, I just would have liked them to all look as good as the proton pack does. The weapon effects all look as good though as the proton pack, which is fortunate.
At their yoga classes of course!
In terms of sound, the audio effects are spot on. It really makes you feel like you are firing a proton weapon. The ghost sounds are all spot on and can even give you goosebumps at times! Where I did find myself disappointed though, was with the soundtrack. Most of the tracks were not that interesting and by the end of the game, I had heard some of the tracks multiple times. To make matters worse, the most important soundtrack was entirely missing, the actual Ghostbusters theme song! They did play it a bit at the end, but not even the full theme song. I found this quite disappointing, especially considering how catchy the song is. As I mentioned before, the original cast reprise their roles in Ghostbusters: TVG and they do an excellent job at this, I just wish there was more dialogue and humour. I rarely laughed during my playthrough, which is quite bad for a Ghostbusters story. During combat and normal gameplay, the Ghostbusters tend to repeat the same lines over and over again, the most prominent of which is “We almost crossed streams, don’t do that again!” and the many variations of that.
Beyond the poor AI, there is another massive flaw in Ghostbusters, at least on the PC that is; the port is done really poorly. Obviously, the multiplayer is missing entirely in the PC version. But the other area players will notice the port quality, is in the mouse controls, this game does not use any of your system sensitivity settings and instead forces mouse acceleration and its own odd mouse sensitivities. Mouse acceleration means that when you move the mouse slow, it will hardly move the screen at all, if you move fast, it will move the screen a lot. This usually is more handy for controllers as you can only move a controller so far, while a mouse can be moved much further and thus does not usually have this issue. A mouse is also much more accurate and thus only suffers from mouse acceleration. If this was not bad enough, the game also has it so that moving the mouse left to right feels normal, but moving it up and down hardly moves it at all. This is also something taken from consoles, as on consoles you usually only look left and right and do not look up and down too much on console shooters. I have tried tweaking the settings and searching on Google and the Steam forums for a work around, but could not find one. No matter how high I put the sensitivity, it still was not the same as moving left and right. Now, if this was not enough, there are even more issues on the PC version... At some points I ran into some serious performance issues, especially in the last boss fight where the action dipped down to 5 FPS (frames per second). For shooters you normally want at least 60.
My final recommendation? Stick to the movies! Ghostbusters: The Video Game just does not manage to deliver the story humour we are used to from the movies, while at the same time the gameplay is repetitive and, most of the time, quite boring too... and I swear if anyone ever tells me again to never cross streams...
- Fun characters: The original Ghostbusters characters are still as funny as they used to be and it is impossible not to still like them.
- Story: The story on its own probably would have made a really great third movie.
- Weapons: Wrangling just never gets old.
- The PKE meter: The game keeps telling you to put them on whenever you are out of combat, even though you do not need to keep them on all the time.
- Short: Only 7 hours long.
- Repetitive: The structure and gameplay of the game is quite repetitive.
- Character development: There is little to no character development in this game as a result, you do not feel any connection to the story.
- Bad port: The developers really needed to put more time into this port. The control scheme and poor performance detract from the overall experience.
- Theme song: Where did the original theme song go? This is after all, GHOSTBUSTERS: The Video Game!