james debate
james debate

Monday 6 July 2009

Developed by Terminal Reality
Genre 3rd Person Shooter
Platform Xbox360, PS3, PC, PS2, Wii, PSP, DS
Release date(s) 4th November 2008 (download), 23rd January 2009 (retail)

Ghostbusters video game

First a disclaimer, there are different versions of this game available. The 'high end' systems (xbox 360, PC, PS3) get one version, the best version and the one I tested for this review, and the other low end systems get different versions. So don't go get this game for the Wii or PS2 and expect to get the same experience I am describing here.

Now that that's over with, let's not beat around the bush here. Licensed games invariably suck, and generally the better the franchise, the suckier the game. As such any fan of the legendary Ghostbusters franchise, like myself, buys a game like this with a fair degree of pessimism. It would have been so easy for them to take these iconic characters, locations and stories and just churn out a mediocre money making piece of crap, but in this case we might just have the greatest licensed game of all time.

The key here is authenticity. At some point Terminal Reality decided that the way this game would succeed is if it became more like the third film to the series, rather than simply a cheap game adaption. Looking at the results it's hard to disagree.

The first master stroke was hiring all the actors from the original movies to voice these characters. Dan Aykroyd is here, Harold Ramis is here, Ernie Hudson is here, and of course Bill Murray is here. But on top of that you also have some of the less known actors reprising their roles from the films. Annie Potts returns as the secretary of the Ghostbusters, as does William Atherton, who portrayed Walter Peck, possibly the biggest douchebag ever see in cinema, in the first Ghostbusters film.

But that's not where it ends. The full soundtrack from the first film is in this game, from the iconic theme song to the full score. Classically recognizable tunes are integrated into the cutscenes and the gameplay itself to fully evoke the drama and atmosphere of the films, and it is all done so excellently that it really feels like you're playing a new Ghostbusters film. I defy any fan of the films not to smile when the opening cutscene plays, giving way to a proper opening credits sequence complete with Ray Parker Jr.'s classic, or when the game's main menu opens, with the score playing in the background, sheer awesomeness.

The script is also penned by the original scribes to ensure that the game maintains the humor and feel of the films. All of this is polished to such a fine sheen that it's simply impossible as a fan to play through this game without a big grin on your face.

But of course the gameplay is what really determines whether a game succeeds or flops. Fortunately they have not slacked off here either. Using the signature proton pack to wrangle a ghost down into the trap is as addictive and satisfying as you'd expect, and accompanied by one of the more spectacular video game light shows you will see.

Then, to spice things up a little bit, the developers have added in a few weapon upgrades of their own. These are mostly well done, and the look and feel certainly is in keeping with the geekiness and aesthetic of Ghostbusters. Most notable is the slime tether, which allows you to attach one object to another with a shrinking tether, giving way to a variety of interesting physics puzzles.

And speaking of the physics engine, it is really fantastic in this game. Pretty much every object in the game world can be tossed around or blown to pieces, and it is immensely satisfying after an epic battle with some bastard of a ghost to look around the room and the complete devastation you have caused with your mighty ray gun. Sweet.

However, probably my favorite additions to this game are the little in-jokes and easter eggs for players to find. To begin with, all the achievements in this game are lovingly named after classic Ghostbusters quotes. For example, capturing Slimer gives you the 'the flowers are still standing' achievement, and crossing the streams gives you the 'total protonic reversal' achievement. Further more, there are various artifacts in the game for people to discover using the PKE meter. These include things like a Stay Puft doll and various other items all with humorous descriptions. These also appear in the Ghostbusters headquarters in between missions once you have found them. It all makes for a very complete and rewarding Ghostbusters experience.

This game is top notch, however it is nowhere near perfect. First of all the game is very linear and basic compared to the norm for games today. The 'career' mode is deceptively named. It brings to mind images of games where you design and customize a unique character and guide him or her through an open world of ongoing missions. This is, of course, not what you get here. You just get a handful of very linear levels with only one path through each of them, and with a standard cookie cutter, voiceless, protagonist, it probably would have been simpler just to let us play as one of the main guys.

There are also issues in the storytelling. Even though this is scripted by the original Ghostbusters writers, the jokes feel watered down, as if to avoid offending anyone. While this is understandable considering the notoriously picky censors in some coutnries, it is still a shame. Further more Bill Murray is woefully underused in this game. Pretty much every mission starts with him running off to hide and be lazy somewhere, meaning that he is only ever a part of the game during cutscenes and a few select parts of missions. I don't know if he would have cost them too much but it's silly anyway.

More worryingly, however, is the occasional erratic difficulty level in this game. Occasionally you will hit a segment where it is either seriously confusing with what you have to do to get to the next part of the game, or when you will simply be overwhelmed by an absurd number of ghosts/monsters. I'm not normally one who baulks at a challenge, but your character has a nasty habit of falling over at the slightest push, so when you're surrounded, very suddenly by 50 badguys, all of which are trying to push you flat on your ass, there are times when literally you have no control over the game because your character is stuck on the floor or in various tedious animation loops.

However, ultimately this is a very decent game, and an absolute necessity for any fan of the series.

The Music
The Voice Acting
The attention to detail

Schizophrenic difficulty
An overly 'PC' Ghostbusters
Shallow gameplay mode

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