Ray, Pete, Egon, Ray and Slimer. These five names might provoke one of several different reactions to you, the PC owning reader of The Reticule. Ghostbusters: The Video Game will provoke a very similar set of emotions, closely linked to those same reactions you encountered of the former. Which makes the game rather difficult to praise. On the one hand, if you’re a fan you’ve probably preordered (or like me, got the game on import) anyway. If however you are nonplussed by Ray Parker Jr asking ‘Who you gonna call?’ then it’s quite hard to see you getting a massive amount of enjoyment out of this in the long term.
Ghostbusters – The Video Game is a third person action game that puts you in the shoes of a mute, nameless Rookie hired by the Ghostbusters to join the team just before a well timed event which sees Slimer released from the Ghostbusters HQ and return to his old haunt (pun intended) at the Sedgewick Hotel. Obviously you have to capture him again with the help of your fellow ‘Busters, and this serves as an opening tutorial level introducing you to the proton streams and the Ghost Trap you’ll be using throughout much of the game. To do the business of actually capturing ghosts you’ll have to damage them first before of course, deploying a trap and switching to capture stream to wrangle the pesky poltergeist into the trap. Actually using this equipment for the first time is a joy to any Ghostbusters fan. Terminal Reality have really managed to get the mechanics of using the proton streams right. They cause a suitably high level of chaos to their surroundings – encouraged by a measure of how much cost you are causing the city in repairs – and every level is strewn with plenty of physic-laden objects for you to slam ghosts into. There’s a certain type of glee reserved only for those who wished to walk along the streets of New York City with a Proton Pack on their back which the game captures perfectly.
Of course, for any game based on a film licence – especially one that bridges the gap between mainstream and cult as well as Ghostbusters, the plot and indeed faithfulness to the franchise is very important. The main cast (minus Rick Morains and Sigourney Weaver) are all here giving their likeness and voices to their characters (although it’s interesting to note that although they’ve got Annie Potts voice for spunky receptionist Jeanette, the model they’ve used doesn’t look like how she did in either of the movies). Wisely, the game’s script is also written by creators Dan Akyroyd and Harold Ramis – making for some very funny and entertaining dialogue throughout. One area where creative licence has been utilized is in your role as Ghostbusters new Prototype Weapons Technician – it’s a perfect excuse for the developers to come up with more weapons that never featured in the movies. It’s a smart if obvious decision, as you can imagine having the same weapon all the way through may get rather tedious, and it’s always fun to cover your buddies in slime.
However, there are some niggling flaws with Ghostbusters – The Game. Despite the attempts to keep the variety high with the new weapons, gameplay can feel very samey after a while. Almost the entire game is heavily focused on capturing ghosts – which is kind of obvious – but when it all ends in exactly the same way it’s a big task to put on the capturing/wrangle mechanic. If you didn’t enjoy capturing a ghost the first time, you sure are not going like the five hundredth time. Enemy variety is lacking as well. Whereas the description and look of most of your enemies is different, quite a lot of the time you’re actually fighting the same ghosts, just skinned to match the theme of the level. The upgrades system is a good idea but I can’t say when I played I noticed a huge difference when upgrading my equipment – some sort of visual feedback would no doubt have been a welcome addition. The game also suffers in it’s difficulty. On the lowest setting, it’s far too easy and you’ll probably complete it in about 6 hours tops, yet with high difficulty levels the AI of your fellow Busters can be stupid on the verge of annoying. There’s hardly anything more infurating than a stupid AI controlled Egon deciding to run right at the legs of a stone giant seconds after you’ve revived him and causing a Game Over because all the enemies concentrating on him are now attacking you. YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE A PHD, MAN!
This brings us onto the biggest flaw with Ghostbusters – The Video Game: it is a game that is crying out for co-op and multiplayer. And the fact that Threewave, whom did the MP for the console versions, chose not to include it for the PC is absolutely shocking. The Ghostbusters have always been about working as an almost functioning team, and while the AI makes an almost competent job for the most part, the fact that you can’t tangle the Marshmallow Man with four buddies leaves the experience with a gaping hole. Heck, we probably would have settled for even a split screen local option, but the omission is almost unforgivable. It’s even more of a shame when you realise how shallow the game really is to non-fans. Sure, it’s been an ambition of many children of the 80’s to be blowing up the Marshmallow Man with Ecto One’s sirens blazing in the background, or chasing the Gray Lady through the library with a Proton Pack on your back – but if Ghostbusters isn’t your thing you’ll probably find that this game suffers in a very similar way to most movie license games do, with an average game behind the fan service.
Even though it’s far from the best game based on a film license, it’s certainly a solid one. Fans will love all the little touches and nods provided especially for those and it would be very harsh to say it’s a bad game when it definitely isn’t. Overall Ghostbusters is a competent action game, and it’s easy to give them top marks for effort – there’s a lot of love gone into this license – how much you can ignore the niggles will definitely depend on how much of a Ghostbusters fan you are. If you love them then this is just about the perfect Ghostbusters game. I really can’t state enough how the lack of multiplayer on the PC is a real shame though.