Atari dropped by last week to give Brad and me a look at the Xbox 360 and Wii versions of Ghostbusters: The Video Game. In addition to getting some hands-on time with these versions, we also sat down with Andrew Bermudez, associate producer on the Wii version, and Alexis Habert, a tester at developer Terminal Reality, and recorded a brief podcast discussing the game.
Atari's paranormal visit to the Giant Bomb office kicked off with a look at the Wii version of Ghostbusters. When dealing with multiplatform games these days, it's a pretty natural instinct to dismiss the Wii version out of hand, so I feel it's important to make it clear here that Ghostbusters on the Wii isn't going to be just an ugly, slapdash port of the “real” game. It certainly shares a lot of key elements with the other versions of Ghostbusters: The Game, such as plotting, voice-acting, and so on. But Atari's claims that developer Red Fly--which most recently produced the well-received Mushroom Men--developed this version of the game specifically with the Wii in mind seem to hold water. Or at least, ectoplasmic residue.
What's most immediately striking about the Wii version of Ghostbusters is the cartoony art style, which may be somewhat reminiscent of the old Real Ghostbusters cartoon if you yourself happen to be old, though I think that's selling the look of the game short. All of the returning Ghostbusters look like extreme caricatures of themselves, which seems to benefit Egon in particular, and the environments are similarly colorful and playful. This art style seems to allow the game's visuals a level of simplicity as a choice, rather than a technical necessity. This, I think, will be key to making Ghostbusters on the Wii feel like a real, standalone game, and not just a cheap-looking afterthought.
Once I actually started playing the game, more unique features became apparent. The controls have, of course, been custom-built for the Wii, and in my short time with the game, they seemed relatively intuitive, letting you move with the analog stick on the nunchuk and aim with the Wii remote. With your unlicensed positron collider strapped to your back, the game basically plays like a third-person shooter, and while I encountered a number of enemies that could just be blasted out of existence, there were some that still required the old wrangle-and-trap method, a process that seems to benefit in particular from the Wii controls.
The Wii version of Ghostbusters promises some platform-specific touches, which we got to see a few of during our demo. Unlike the other versions, you'll be able to play as either a male or female version of the silent rookie character that joins the Ghostbusters at the start of the game. While Atari isn't talking about co-op play in the other versions of the game, we got to participate in a little two-player splitscreen action, as well as a single-screen battle against the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, which saw our characters dangling over the edge of a skyscraper whilst Stay-Puft climbed it, Kong-style.
I'll admit, my affinity to the source material could certainly be clouding my judgment here, but I came away from my time with Ghostbusters: The Game on the Wii eager to see more.
In terms of broad game mechanics, not much has changed since the last time I got my hands on the Xbox 360 version of Ghostbusters. You've still got multiple weapon types installed in your proton pack, many of which approximate existing shooter weapon archetypes. There was a general level of refinement in this new build, though; the Ghostbusters' character models are looking more like their real-life counterparts and also a little more animated and lifelike than they did a few months ago. Atari was showing off a couple of new levels, one in the bizarro alternate dimension you'll enter from time to time, where everything is off-kilter and creepy-looking. The other was set on top of a building, where I had to trap the spirits of some lewd-talking construction workers before facing off against none other than the Staypuft Marshmallow Man. Or, at least, I got to see him climbing up the side of the building--then I had to give the controller back.
Even though you're not shooting and killing stuff, per se--the ghosts, ghouls, and specters are already dead, I think--the game seems like it will be immediately accessible to anyone who plays third-person shooters. Your nameless rookie Ghostbuster has a lateral dodge move you can use to get out of the way of trouble, and you can go into a short sprint, Gears of War roadie run-style, to cover ground quickly. The process of wrangling a ghost with your beam, throwing out a trap, and maneuvering the ghost into it is different enough from a typical shooter to give Ghostbusters a unique feel, though.
In the last preview, I talked about how you can use your PKE meter to investigate the scene for paranormal clues. This time, I saw how Terminal Reality has taken a cue from BioShock's camera mechanic by also letting you scan and research ghosts with the PKE device. When you jump into first-person view, you can target and scan an enemy to add it to your database. If you only catch it in the side of your viewfinder, the enemy merely goes in the list. If you get it centered right in your reticle, however, you get a full scan that adds a lengthy description (written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) to your library. You also get a 10 percent damage bonus against that enemy, so it will be pretty worthwhile to get some scanning done
Lastly, I feel the need to point out that everyone's least appreciated Ghostbusters villain, Vigo the Carpathian, will figure into the game. During a cutscene in the Ghostbusters' firehouse HQ, I noticed Vigo's painting hanging out in the background, and a rep for the game remarked that you'll be interacting with the ol' prince of darkness from time to time during the storyline. Add Vigo to the list of minor characters from the series, like Walter Peck and Annie Potts' Janine Melnitz, who are popping up in the game, and you get the impression Terminal Reality is really cramming everything but the kitchen sink into this game.