Ghostbusters starts out incredibly strong in the visuals and sound department. Youíll be treated to a nice opening animation that introduces the gameís characters. Theyíre quirky, charming, and the animation is incredibly fluid and engaging. The characters each have their own personalities, and with the help of some great voice acting, they seem to play off each other in a way that draws you in. For example, one character says, "Picture this," while she does the imaginary picture frame with her hands, and one of the guys starts posing inside of it. I mean, this opening is just packed with personality; itís the kind of short you might watch several times to be sure you got it all. During the loading screens, there are comic book style artwork panels done in the same quality level. Unfortunately, "starts out strong" is the key here, emphasis on "starts," but more on that later.
The voice acting does continue to be top notch throughout the game. And you wonít wait long to hear the classic Ghostbusters (the 80's version by Ray Parker Jr.) theme. In fact, it plays during the save file selection screen. Those are the highlights of the game. And really, the backgrounds, ghosts, and weapon effects from the proton guns are all pretty nice too. Thereís lots of spooky fun like floating chairs, funny easter eggs, and detailed backgrounds. Itís just that even though theyíre done so well, theyíre so repetitive after a while. It seems like a few good ideas were stretched out so far that they just broke. And that great voice acting? Well it is great, but most of it is delivered in disconnected dialogue and random catch phrases. No matter how well itís voice acted, itís just not engaging if itís random and disconnected from your actions or the game.
With Ghostbusters being released along with the 2016 movie, youíre probably wondering if the game just walks you through the movie. No, it doesnít, and "inspired by Ghostbusters" is probably a better way to think about it. The original characters in this game do make reference to their "foremothers," an obvious reference to the all female cast of the 2016 movie. You do fight ghosts from the movie such as the demon from the concert and the Aldridge manor daughter. But for the most part, this is a standalone game, and watching the movie wonít make the game more or less enjoyable. Letís answer the really big question: No, there is no Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, or Leslie Jones in this game.
Ghostbusters really does start out great. That animated cutscene starts you out and you meet an interesting and varied group of characters. The animation is extremely nice, and I was wondering if the entire game would be based off this awesome looking cel shading (the answer is no). You get out there, get started, and still youíre thinking, "Hey, maybe this game based on a movie will be OK this time." You learn about your ghost fighting weapons (each character has a different one). You also learn how to scan your environment with the P.K.E. meter, and you see little poltergeists scattered throughout the level. At this point, I was thinking a few things. Cool, these weapons will get upgraded. Oh, maybe we can interact with the poltergeists? Sure, itís just a floating phonograph now, but I bet itís really going to get crazy later on! Maybe weíll have to piece together a story about the ghost, or who knows. The summary of this first 5 minutes is basically, "Wow, this could go anywhere."
Then it proceeded to go nowhere. I played on and on, hoping that the first few levels were just hurdles before the game really picked up speed, but it just never changed. Levels are overly long and filled with way too many nearly identical ghosts and poltergeists. It got to the point where I dreaded any ghost that showed up with the telltale bars over their head that signified weíd have to take out the proton guns. The proton guns and ghost trapping - ugh, I just could not take it after a while. What should be a gameplay element to look forward to was a chore. Pull with the proton beam, slam ghost, repeat, repeat, repeat. It just takes so long for so little payoff.
I really kept looking for something hidden in this game, something I was missing, but that was it. Itís all just long, loooong levels with a very standard formula. You get a call, go through a level, and trap a lot of ghosts (many of which are completely identical), then trap one or more "important" ghosts at the end of the level (usually identical to the ones you've been trapping all level long), then repeat. Upgrading weapons and stats is not very exciting either, with only marginal differences in speed and power over time and no other real changes to your weapon or character (OK, OK, you can earn different colored outfits, but thatís not a game changer here). At least, no changes that would break up the monotony.
Although there is some banter between the characters at the beginning of each level, this ends quickly. And with no subtitles over the in-game dialogue, itís difficult to hear and difficult to distinguish which character is talking. Itís a shame, because at least if there were some interaction between the characters somewhere mid-level, or something funny to unlock, it might have helped this game stay somewhat engaging.
You can choose from 4 original Ghostbusters characters (meaning, no relation to the recent or past movies) and level them up as you go. None of them are named, thatís up to you, but there are two guys and two gals to choose from. Each of them start with different stats and weapons, though you can upgrade both as you level up. The variety of proton weapons in the game is interesting, with weapons such as a proton shotgun, rifle, and gatling type machine gun. However, each weapon is tied to one character and each character only ever gets one weapon. There are different grenades as well, but these are tied to each character just like the proton weapons belong to one character only.
4 players on the screen at once may be this gameís major saving grace. While the A.I. is unsurprisingly dumb, if you can get 4 humans to play this game, you can really work together to power through the levels. And any game with couch co-op is immediately more fun, no matter what the gameplay is like. Actually, the repetitive nature may be helpful in some groups, since the game is so predictable, any gaming group can pick it up quickly and use their leftover brainpower to provide some creative quips or hilarious trolling.
Ghostbusters does not have any selectable difficulty, but things donít get hairy until about 4 or 5 levels in. Checkpoints automatically save your progress, so if you do get wiped out by a tough ghost or room, you wonít get kicked too far back. You can also revive your companions as much as you want, so as long as someone is standing, the fight can go on forever. The computer does a decent enough job of reviving you if youíre playing alone, so it really is easy to survive if you at least keep a couple of your CPU companions up.
You can certainly level your character in order to make things easier, however, due to the extremely long levels in this game, grinding isnít really an option. You see, experience is only rewarded at the end of each of these long levels. So for the most part, you have to rely on the checkpoints (extremely repetitive, if youíre having some real trouble on a level), the easy revives, and perhaps on the kindness of any humans you can recruit to make this game easier.
Ghostbusters actually does pretty well with controls and reliable game mechanics. I canít really complain here. The dual control stick scheme means you move with one stick, aim weapons with another. Any complicated or special things the game asks you to do are generally explained to you every time you need to do them.
One of the more frustrating aspects of Ghostbusters is its saving scheme. Although checkpoints are frequent, your progress will only be saved after you beat a level. This is extremely frustrating when levels can take about a half an hour to complete (even if youíre not going for full completion). Thatís a lot of tedious progress to lose.
Ghostbusters feels like a very short concept of a game that was polished and finished, and then stretched out to its limits on one of those medieval torture devices. And I mean that in, you know, a totally not fun way - without any vengeful ghosts involved. I tried my best to find the fun game hidden in all this, but I just couldnít. Ghostbusters might be a fun party game if you can get the right drinks into everybody, but other than that, I canít see anyone but a rabid completionist getting through it.
I was provided a copy of this game for review by Activision.