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Ghostbusters: The Video Game Review

3
  • X360

In its quest to serve up as much Ghostbusters fan service as possible, Terminal Reality delivers a game that's brimming with homage, but one that's not as funny or fun as you might hope.


The gang's all here! But is that enough?
Ghostbusters: The Video Game belongs to a rare strain of movie tie-in video games. Rather than serving as an expensive marketing bauble for a new theatrical release, this game--alongside titles like The Godfather: The Game and Scarface: The World Is Yours--is designed to mine the longstanding affection for a long-dormant film franchise. As mercenary as that might sound, the involvement of the original writers and the good majority of the original cast made it sound like this might actually offer an authentic Ghostbusters experience, and for the most part, it does. The game is absolutely bursting at the seams with details that only a line-quoting Ghostbusters fan would notice and appreciate, and the story itself goes to great lengths to incorporate major aspects of the Ghostbusters fiction. That heavy emphasis on nostalgia can't completely distract from the game's dearth of actual laughs, or the repetitious, scuffed-up feel of the gameplay. 

Taking place a few years after the events of Ghostbusters II, Ghostbusters: The Video Game puts you in the role of a nameless, mute new recruit who's been brought on as an "Experimental Equipment Technician," which is another way of saying "your proton pack has all kinds of new tricks." Right off the bat, you're hanging in the firehouse with the boys, listening to Janine take bizarre calls, striking up conversations with Vigo the Carpathian, and generally just soaking in the rich ectoplasmic atmosphere. Once the game kicks in, you'll go on a whirlwind tour of memorable Ghostbusters faces and places, starting off with the recapturing of Slimer at the Sedgwick Hotel, moving to Times Square to face the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and then on to the main branch of the New York Public Library to finally bring in the silence-loving Grey Lady. The story even does a fairly admirable job of tying it all back into a story about Gozer the Gozerian. For the first few hours, I honestly found all the loving fan service intoxicating. Even the new characters and locations seemed to mesh well.  

It's like a Ghostbusters wax museum!
Eventually, though, I realized that, while there were moments of amusement, there hadn't been an honest laugh in the game. The references and call-backs are relentless, but just saying "hey, remember that?" isn't inherently funny. The tone of the material itself isn't great, but part of the blame definitely rests on the voice work itself, which often feels flat and disconnected from the action. Still, you can tell that someone is really proud of the fact that they got Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and William Atherton to reprise their roles, because it seems like there's barely a moment that someone's not chatting your ear off. Characters are constantly explaining your next objective, providing some backstory, or shouting out helpful tips when you're going at it with ghosts. Again, it's rich in volume, but it can feel overbearing, and it has a habit of recycling certain lines a little too often. It bums me out to admit it, but after spending some six hours playing through the story in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, I don't want to hear any of those actors' voices for a while.

The process of trapping a ghost is an involved one, and in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, a terrific-looking one, as well. The way your energy beam chaotically twists around your targets and blows apart any unfortunate objects that might get in your path, and the way a ghost will stretch out and try to claw its way away from the trap look as good as it ever did in the movies. The characters look uncannily like 19-year-younger versions of the actors playing them, though there's something about the way they animate, particularly during cutscenes, that feels cartoony in a way that doesn't quite match the characters or the voice work.

The gameplay is reliant on the basic act of busting ghosts and the familiar hardware associated with it. There are a lot of lesser spooks that will evaporate if you hammer on them long enough, but you'll also spend a lot of time going through the full capture process, wearing down ghosts and wrangling them into a trap. You start off with a basic neutrino wand and ghost trap setup, but as the story progresses, you'll be granted upgrades that allow you to shoot more concussive blasts of energy, "freeze" ghosts with a stasis beam, neutralize toxic black slime with your positively charged slime blower, and more. Some of your proton pack's abilities--specifically the capture beam and the slime tether--let you play with the game's physics, allowing you to engage in some occasional light puzzle work. You'll earn money for every ghost you take out, which you can put towards various upgrades, but for as regularly as the game introduces new toys for you to play with, I didn't feel like the core of the gameplay really changed that much from the beginning to the end, and it all feels a little bit sloppy. I won't deny that it's unique amongst third-person shooters, but even still, what was exciting the first few times eventually felt rote to me. 

There's no question that trapping ghosts is a cool-looking process.
Most of the time, the game puts you on a narrow, straightforward path. Turns out this is a good thing, as it's rotten about giving you cues as to where you need to go next, which can lead to some aimless wandering on the rare occasion that it opens up a little bit. You'll spend most of the game rolling with some combination of the Ghostbusters team, who will occasionally lead you down the right path, back you up in a fight, and revive you if you get knocked down. Your AI-controlled teammates can get knocked down too, and it seems like that happens rather often, leading to a number of chaotic situations where it feels like you're spending more time babysitting the AI than actually bustin' ghosts.

Perhaps most baffling to me about my experience with Ghostbusters: The Video Game is, as problematic as I found the single-player experience, how much I found myself enjoying the multiplayer. This online mode consists of six different four-player co-op "job" types, which you can attack one at a time, or in a few different three-level mini-campaigns. It's mostly just variants on arena-based multiplayer modes you're probably already familiar with, but the unique tools of the Ghostbusters put an interesting twist on them, and there's some good persistence with the money you earn and a "most wanted" list of ghosts to hunt down to keep you coming back. Some modified weapon behavior aside, it doesn't really handle much differently from the single-player, but the pacing is tighter and playing with live teammates is far more gratifying. This, no doubt, is a point that will irritate PC players, as that version of Ghostbusters: The Video Game features none of the multiplayer action found in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game is nothing if not enthusiastic for the source material, which will undoubtedly be enough for some to have a good time. It certainly kept me going for a good while, but nostalgia alone couldn't quite carry the whole experience. This is one of the pitfalls of something as recognizable as Ghostbusters. It comes with a built-in audience, but that audience can come with some high expectations.
51 Comments
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Posted by HawkSE

Wow I'm shocked at a 3. I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder. I haven't finished this yet, but this is my dream come true. All that matters right? Great review though!

Posted by guerrajr

Yeah I'm a little surprised with the score but everyone has their own opinion. I really liked. But most of the flaws pointed out in this review are very true. Nice review.

Posted by RHCPfan24

I still have not played it yet, but I can see how there are pitfalls in the game's design itself. This would be a good rental.

Posted by EpicSteve

The game is way too punishing on your AI mates. 

Posted by buzz_killington

I thought it would be a four-star game. But well, Ghostbusters fan-service is all I expected from this game and it seems like it delievers.

Posted by zityz

Hey Ryan? Would you be able to do a review of the Wii version as well? Seams like its different enough to warrent a seperate review.

Posted by Colonel_Fury

I'm really enjoying this game. The thing that bugs me the most is that my AI teamates are constantly dying. Its like I'm the only one dodging attacks. So far, I'd give it a 4.

Posted by Akel

sounds good.

Posted by kyle18

this game is awesome than again I am a Ghostbusters fanboy but the game is worth the 60 dollars

Posted by noble_art

This game deserves at least 4 stars.  By far the best ghostbusters game ever made.

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

"Perhaps most baffling to me about my experience with Ghostbusters: The Video Game is, as problematic as I found the single-player experience, how much I found myself enjoying the multiplayer."

"This, no doubt, is a point that will irritate PC players..."

Salt...meet wound.

F you Atari.  F you.

Edited by Jared

Well to knock down the game for not busting out laughing is kinda weird in my opinion. I've seen Ghostbusters probably 500 times and while the jokes are funny I don't find myself falling over or really laughing out loud. No one should go into this game thinking it will be better then the first movie or duplicate the brilliance of the first movie especially after the second one, this is a game after all....4/5 here, if you like Ghostbusters buy the game, for a GB fan this is a brilliant game.

Posted by Jared
@noble_art said:
" This game deserves at least 4 stars.  By far the best ghostbusters game ever made. "
Agree, but I' am comparing this game to GB for the NES, lol. This is easily a 4/5 star game in my book, 3/5 for people that are really into Ghostbusters.
Posted by Death_Burnout
@Jared said:
" Well to knock down the game for not busting out laughing is kinda weird in my opinion. I've seen Ghostbusters probably 500 times and while the jokes are funny I don't find myself falling over or really laughing out loud. No one should go into this game thinking it will be better then the first movie or duplicate the brilliance of the first movie especially after the second one, this is a game after all....4/5 here, if you like Ghostbusters buy the game, for a GB fan this is a brilliant game. "
You know what bugs me? i have not seen either one of the films in nearly 10 years! and from my memory...i dont really remember finding them "that" funny either...but im desperate to see them again, i'd probably find them funnier after all the GiantBomb GhostBusters antics.
Posted by Yagami

Have to give it to you Ryan, you nail it, from A to Z.

Posted by goaliebrain

Thanks for the review. As for the comments, I didn't come here for your reviews :)

Posted by dabada

@Ryan

It doesn't bother me that the game got 3 stars. For people who play a game once and call it a day, this game is really short. That length alone would make 4 stars generous.

It kind of hurts my heart that you don't seem to like the game all that much. I genuinely found the game to be funny, and I found the atmosphere to be perfect. The game is repetitive, I'll give you that, but I really didn't mind it. I think the game's short length actually works to the games advantage in this regard.

Anyways, I'm not trying to change anyone's mind, I promise. This will become one of those bite sized games that I like to play from time to time. Just like I play Mega Man 2, Streets of Rage 2, and Gunstar Heroes from time to time.

Posted by MagusMaleficus

Is anybody really surprised Ryan wasn't jazzed? He's made it abundantly clear--often--that he wasn't feeling the game. He didn't even sound enthusiastic about it before he played the game. Ryan was bound to be let down.

If you disagree with him, great! That's just fine. The review is, after all, just an opinion. Ryan's not going to sway the world with his views on a fucking Ghostbusters game.

Wow, that comes off harsh and negative towards Ryan, but it's really not.

Posted by dabada

@MagusMaleficus

When you're right, you're right...

At no point did Ryan's socks seem to be blown off.

I don't envy game reviewers in one particular aspect. When your rubric on games becomes sophisticated, a game really has to be something special to catch your fancy.

Posted by LordXavierBritish

This is one of the few reviews on Giantbomb that I whole heartily disagree with.

I'll agree that sine if the cutscenes look a bit askew, some of the lip syncing is way off, but I thought the acting and atmosphere is great. I'm also wondering where this perception of most of the jokes being throw backs came from, because I thought the game was at its best when it wasn't making references.

As for the gameplay itself I barely had any trouble with the AI outside of their tendency to sometimes gravitate damage to themselves like a magnet, and the PKE meter seemed almost always point me in the right direction to keep the pace fluid. The only time the game just straight up came to a complete stop for me wasn't until the final level in a little scenario involving stone angles and a door frame.

Ghostbusters is no where near perfect, but so far it has been one of my favorite games of 2009.

Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

That's fair. Maybe I will get it, just because I want to enjoy some bustin'. I was waiting for this review before I made my final decision.....seems just short of what I'd consider worth it, but I'll take the chance.

Posted by natetodamax

Surprised to see this got such a low score.

Posted by Lydian_Sel

Maybe you're intended to play this game with a head full of crystal skull vodka??



Posted by HydraHam

Easily 4/5, then again look at the score red faction/prototype got here :-/

Posted by GozerTC

Since there are no "half" stars or percentage scores here I think 3 is a fair review.  While I don't agree (I'm giving it a four currently once I right up my full review) I don't see the three as a bad thing.  More like "If you're not a Ghostbuster fan this isn't going to be your game."  And in a word it's not.

I love all the gadgets, the inside jokes, the jargon, and all that.  In fact I like the idea that a "normal" bust becomes "normal" because at the end of the day the Ghostbusters are basically exterminators.  They know it, and now we do to after becoming one.  Sure they get to do extrodinary stuff but the normal day to day ghosts are "no bid deal" for them, and for you (I'm probably half way through the story mode) it quickly becomes the same thing, and I'm fine with that. 

As for the humor, when the audio works (For some reason the lines would cut out on me here and there) I agree it's hit or miss, but then again the original humor was never "gut busting."  More a sly, or dry humor.  A he he not a ha ha as it were.  

Posted by zig

I'm not that into Ghostbusters so I'm pretty sure I'd find this game completely worthless.

Posted by DarkGamerOO7

7.5 from GameSpot, 3/5 Stars from Giant Bomb, and a 8/10 and a 7/10 from Game Informer..... I may wait for a price drop before picking this game up. Excellent Review.

Posted by Arjuna

If Ryan was even being the slightest bit lenient, clearly being a fan of the Ghostbusters franchise, then this game must not be all that great.  However, given the dirge of quality this time of year offers for games, this game might still be worth a buy; if simply to tide one over until later in the year.

Posted by Death_Unicorn
@zig said:
" I'm not that into Ghostbusters so I'm pretty sure I'd find this game completely worthless. "
Same, that's the feeling I got from the quick look.
Edited by brocool

Not really a ghostbuster guy but I'm 3 hours in and I love it! I found it weird that they expect you to automatically know each character's name at the start.. but as ryan mentioned I kind of  know every members name now thanks to their endless, yet funny banter. The ghost catching is extremely fun, with different ghosts that have different weaknesses. Play it!

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Did you try the Wii version at all (or is it very different)?  When you mean the combat is sloppy, are you talking about something else other than the things you detailed?  If so, what's specifically sloppy about it?

I know you guys already did a QL of the demo, but if the multiplayer is good it would be cool if you could QL the multiplayer just to show us why it's good.

You know, with or without griefing :)

Posted by Etaber

I think 3/5 is fair but not for the same reasons as Ryan, I thought the story and voice acting were the best part. The cheapness of some of the enemies (especially some of the bosses) combined with your completely brain dead AI teammates are more than enough to knock off 2 stars.  

Posted by MichaelBach

Video review please!

Posted by TomA

Now i love the Ghostbusters movies. But i don't think that that concept plays to a video game all that well.

Posted by WickedCobra03

That is what I am hearing about this game.  There is fun to be had, but at $60 dollars and just a moderately ... alright game, I just don't think that I will be picking it up until it is like 15 or 20 bucks at the most.  

By the way, will you guys have a Wii review going up as well?  I know as far as graphically they took that game in a difference direction, but what about story and gameplay?

Posted by Yummylee

It may not be worth full price, but its still a successful triumpth far as movie-tie ins are concerned, this with wolverine origins and u almost have yahself 40 quids worth of solid movie2game merchandising :P

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor
@Death_Unicorn said:
" @zig said:
" I'm not that into Ghostbusters so I'm pretty sure I'd find this game completely worthless. "
Same, that's the feeling I got from the quick look. "
I'm in the same boat. This is a shit idea for a shit game if ever there was one. The movies were awful & were all the time being rerunned on cable & then regular TV. Let it RIP already.  

What's next?  Are we going to get Stripes 2: The Video Game?  Or how about Smokey & the Bandit?

Let's just rehash ad nauseum from 20 years ago for all our movies & video games because it's easier to do that than try to make new, more engaging & interesting material.


Posted by hunt_ad

An easy 4. It may have been short but I enjoyed every minute of it and the MP is pretty entertaining. Oh well...this is Ryan's review, not mine :P.

Posted by ghostNPC

I gotta say, after playing the game, I agree with all of Ryan's points. I wish it would have been funnier and Bill Murray's lines were generally written horribly.

Online
Posted by KimFidler

Rented it and passed it yesterday.  I totally agree with the 3 stars.  It was alright but definitely not a game I'll be playing again.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor
@Styl3s said:
" Easily 4/5, then again look at the score red faction/prototype got here :-/ "
Pbbfftt...I didn't care for Red Faction either, but it sounds better than crap REHASH.  They just ran Ghostbushers on AMC.  I caught the latter half & then thought: they made a remake from this crap?!?
Posted by Daniel_BMS

Only a 3?  I can understand.  But I am thrilled at simply the aspect of the world's first good Ghostbusters video game.  This make the Genesis Ghostbuster edition look like a joke.

Posted by Kohe321

Well written review as always. I agree with your score

Posted by Einherjan

I think I may check it out. Don't think I will buy it though. No Rick Moranis, though?

Posted by Media_Master

too bad, wonder how the wii version will go...

Posted by HydraHam
@Lind_L_Taylor said:
" @Styl3s said:
" Easily 4/5, then again look at the score red faction/prototype got here :-/ "
Pbbfftt...I didn't care for Red Faction either, but it sounds better than crap REHASH.  They just ran Ghostbushers on AMC.  I caught the latter half & then thought: they made a remake from this crap?!?
"
1. It is not a remake
2. Ghostbusters is NOT crap
3. You have 0 taste in movies
Posted by Lozz

I hoped it was going to be better than this, but I think I'll still play it.

Posted by Sharpfilly
Tough review...

I thought the game was fun, amusing, has solid controls, and is atmospheric. The bad is that is has some glitchy AI, sometimes cheap enemies (although I never found the game to be hard), and is aimless on the rare occasion (when you don't have the others telling you what to do).

@Etaber said:
" I think 3/5 is fair but not for the same reasons as Ryan, I thought the story and voice acting were the best part. "
I completely agree. And I'm not even a Ghostbusters "fanatic".
Posted by halomasta96

My personal thoughts of the game was they did good graphics and did an execellent job of recreating the teams faces. I also thought it was cool that they brought the original voices of the ghostbusters to the game.

Posted by DiscoBob

 Great game for ghostbusters fans. about all that's missing is some co-op for the story missions and online could be a bit deeper, but is still fun. love to see another one.

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