Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Xbox 360) PAL Ghostbusters: The Video Game (PS3) PAL Ghostbusters: The Video Game (PC) PAL

Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360

For years we’ve been crying for a spiritual successor to the Ghostbusters movies. They were cheesy perhaps, but they enchanted a generation of children with talk of ectoplasm and PKE. It is over twenty years since the second film was created and at least five since the end of the last known Ghostbusters cartoon; we needed something to celebrate this series. Given the heavy delays due to publisher issues and then PAL territories getting a staggered release date due to Sony owning Columbia films and monopolising over Microsoft for once, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is now in the hands of everyone who could possibly play it. Were the years of waiting for a spiritual successor to the films worth it or are childhood memories cremated into mere dust?

Two years after the events of Ghostbusters II, yes, this is canon; the Ghostbusters decide to recruit a new face onto the team. Venkman insists they simply know him as “Rookie”. It is during his training that a large PKE wave covers the city, unleashing a number of ghosts onto the streets of Manhattan. What follows is a typical Ghostbusters tale that is full of spooky goings on, conspiracies involving the mayor’s office, and great voice acting from the original cast. If only the presentation of the actual game sequences was a little more consistent. While voice acting in the cut scenes is brilliant, character’s reactions to things get stale quicker than freshly baked bread. The usual “ouch” or screams of pain would have done, but the characters insist on trying to annunciate what they are feeling. The only redeeming aspect of this is that it takes a long time for Bill Murray to get annoying.

You couldn't get graphics like this 20 years ago...

If there is anything Ghostbusters got completely right in the films is the arsenal of weapons and gadgets that were used. The Proton pack in particular was a highly successful marketing toy in the day and to not have it here would reduce it to the travesties that were the movie games (back in 1984 & 1989 or later). Here though justice has been served by having the Ghostbusters use proton packs, along with other weapons. Each is customisable by obtaining cash by capturing ghosts or killing monstrosities. The Proton pack behaves just as it should including some hilarious results when you “cross the streams”. Other weapons are either substitutes for the more conventional weapons found in shooters such as the shotgun and machine gun, or lifted from the animated series “The Real Ghostbusters” in the form of a Slime gun. The Slime gun in particular is the most versatile as it not only harms enemy ghosts and spectres, but can be used to un-possess people, seal up portals and clean up harmful black caustic slime. Each weapon comes complete with a secondary fire option, including the Proton pack. You’ll never see it fire an RPG-like device, but you’ll be glad it does since it hurts enemies a fair bit. The Slime gun gets a tether, while the “shotgun” gets a stasis device which holds ghosts still. The “machine gun” gets a very useful homing device which if you fixate on a foe will make every consequential round go exactly for the right place.

But what the game delivers in flavour, it takes away in practicability. Take for example – trapping ghosts. You need to literally whittle down their health in order to get them weak enough to wrap a noose around them. This isn’t so bad initially, but combined with having to pull them into a trap while other ghosts can nibble at your ears or bombard your partners without any risk of retaliation is just stressful. One part even has possessor ghosts which can go into your partners, making them very difficult to capture. Thankfully not all ghosts are to fill the traps as others can be blasted into oblivion with the proton pack (and other gadgets) without any need for exposing yourself to the spectral peeping toms. In terms of flavour, again, this is something that is to be praised. In practicality, you’re left scratching your head repeatedly. It doesn’t help that the bosses are really easy and to be honest, a huge letdown. The second level gears things up to an epic encounter with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, only for it to be a simple case of zap the minions and blast his face if he gets too close. One thing I did find incredibly flavourful was the destruction counter. As long as you’re blowing stuff up, you will amass a debt which acts more like a separate scorecard than a hindrance. Still, it’s nice to know when you trash a museum JUST how much damage you caused in its full value.

Aside from the flavour, Ghostbusters: The Video Game acts like a lot of other third person shooters from past and present. The same over the top shoulder view. The patting your allies on the back to revive them when it all gets a little too much and they need to lie down. Unless you’ve lived on top of a mountain in the Himalayas for the past three or four years, it won’t be rocket science to you. While most games fill the screen with health meters and ammunition bars, Ghostbusters: The Video Game discretely places them on the proton pack. Given that things fly all over the place, having these here is a godsend. Those with smaller TVs might struggle to see these indicators, but it is a small price to pay for a benefit that outweighs the issue significantly. Even if you have a small TV, the controller vibrates when you’re about to run out of juice on the proton pack and damage is reasonably randomised.

And here's me thinking repairing your flashy car was a good thing...

Like most games based off a franchise or series, there are collectables. Thing is, there are an awful lot of them here with the most conventional being the haunted artefacts. Scanning the ghosts and buying equipment upgrades satisfies those who like to get stuff. But for the rest of us, the emphasis on grabbing new things that only serve as collectables doesn’t really sell the game. It’s like waving a bacon sandwich in front of a vegan – a pointless endeavour. While the upgrades are nice and some make trapping ghosts easier, others just reduce cool-down time or increase power. As for the collectables themselves, some give a nod to the Ghostbusters heritage. One even has a shameless plug for the Ghostbusters DVD (on sale now). This wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t Doritos machines scattered around certain locations. Thankfully, they’re destroyable and count towards the damage counter.

In essence, Ghostbusters left me with a mixed state of emotions. Technically speaking I found it to be an average over the shoulder shooter with some control issues, frustratingly difficult segments and ridiculously easy boss battles. The AI is rather similar like a trip to the supermarket as it can be as annoying as a toddler with a tantrum and as useful as one of the assistants. On the flip side, the story is what you would expect out of the franchise and the weapons are in keeping with what you would expect. But in all seriousness, the main thing that the game left me with was a craving for a third Ghostbusters movie. Sure they’re all old now, but there is such a thing as special effects and stuntmen to make sure the actors aren’t put through too much peril. All we need is the consent once again from the original actors to reprise their roles one more time, and we have something great in the making. So thank you Ghostbusters: The Video Game, thanks for making me realise that a third movie needs to be made. (A look on IMDB has brought to my attention that one is “currently in production”, thanks Ghostbusters: The Video Game!)