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Back in 1984, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote and made a wonderful film with Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, and others and it was a hit. In 1989 they made a sequel, which wasn’t as good as the original, but try telling a two-year-old me that. Ghostbusters was an integral part of my childhood. I had the VHS tapes, the proton pack and trapper toys, the NES video games, hell, I still have the original Firehouse toy in my garage somewhere. As with most things in my childhood, I grew past it, but I never grew out of it. I still watch the films every once in a while and feel all gooey and nostalgic inside everytime I do.
I love Ghostbusters! And yes, I’m holding a Proton Pack.
When I heard that a new video game was being made for the Ghostbusters in 2006, I was excited but confused. Hadn’t the last film been made more than a decade before? Then I heard the original writers were involved. Now I was just excited. Finally, I heard it was going to be written as a sequel to the movies. I believe a mild amount of twitching occured, followed by a happy kind of crying. In 2008, the series went to development limbo with the Activision-Blizzard merger and I wasn’t excited anymore. Little did I know it was temporary, and by 2010, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was on the bargain rack. I picked it up hoping it would make up for all the disappointments. And it sort of did.
They don’t even let you talk… that’s cold.
Anyone who has seen the original movies will love the opening and probably squee like I did. The opening moments capture the style of the movies perfectly, from the classic Columbia Pictures logo and Ghostbusters commercial to the creepy atmosphere and early scare. The game slips into introducing “Rookie” the sadly unalterable avatar you play the game through. The Ghostbusters are taking on a new recruit two years after the events of Ghostbusters II, and you are named as such because Venkman doesn’t want the team to get too attached to you. You tour the well-digitized Ghostbuster house as the city is hit by a massive PKE wave, unleashing a torrent of ghosts and setting up the story you’re about to giddily play through.
Bustin’ makes me feel good!
Gameplay is where you really get your nostalgia going. Unfortunately it also hurts the game a bit. Taking the popular “Gears of War” over the shoulder perspective, the always dependable Proton Pack is your first weapon and it looks and sounds absolutely GORGEOUS! Trapping ghosts is a game of maintaining the stream and flinging the ghost around, weakening it long enough to trap it, again just what I wanted. Unfortunately there are some downsides, like the AI taking forever to get you up if the ghost knocks you down, especially on harder difficulties (and one very irritating section of the Hotel level). Also, as you advance in the game, other weapons like the Slime Blower and Meson Collider, while more usefull against certain enemies, don’t quite make you feel like you’re playing a Ghostbusters game.
Traps and Proton Packs
Squee! Early game enemies are the BEST!
The story is also a little weak, despite a strong start. Early missions reveal the Ghostbusters are now Municipal Workers for the City of New York with any-and-all damages to the environment, which look fantastic, I might add. This also sets up an interesting metagame concept of either keeping city costs to a minimum, or damaging everything in sight and running up the bill. Limiting yourself becomes a lot harder once Walter Peck, the EPA agent and Venkman nemesis from the first film, is named as the oversight for the group. Beyond great setup, the story never seems to be better than average, with possessions creating red herrings and predictable plot twists.
This battle is an incredible set piece.
The game also gets a bit repetitive at times. Busting ghosts is fun, but how long that lasts is dependent on how much you love the series. This is certainly not a problem for me, I can’t get enough, but with only four weapons each with a minor secondary fire mode, I can understand other gamers not having enough variety to work with. Using the PKE Meter is a nice callback, but scanning doesn’t always feel appropriate when you have a now-licensed nuclear accelerator on your back.
Even with the drawbacks, there is a lot going for this game, even for non-fans. The graphics are incredible to behold, from the proton stream effects to the beautiful, destructable environments. Combat isn’t simply a matter of shoot and move on, and multiple opponents on-screen require tactical decisions not often seen in shooters, which this technically is (not childhood dream simulation, as I consider it). And despite the story being weak, it is stylized after the films, which is refreshing in a market of grim, gritty and “realistic” violent games publishers seem to be pushing in larger numbers. In fact, with its T for Teen rating, it might be the least violent game that looks this good in years.
The classic team assembled…and you on the far right.
The greatest part of this game is the great talent assembled. All of the original Ghostbusters are voiced by their original actors, even though Bill Murray’s performance is slightly underwhelming despite getting all the best lines. In addition, Annie Potts and William Atherton return as Janine and Walter Peck, respectively, though the absent Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis are sorely missed. The writing, headed by Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis, is just as sharp as it was in the 1984 original film. In fact, the dialogue is one of the great points of the entire game, as you are mostly working with the Ghostbusters as a team the entire game. This makes us fanboys buy stuff like this.
Breaks canon, but I’ll allow it.
Knowing fans have been missing the franchise since it’s second 1989 installment, this game packs everything a real fan of the series wanted to see in an interactive media. You revisit the Public Library and the Sedgewick Hotel from the first movie, Slimer appears as a ghost to capture (voiced by an unrecognizable Troy Baker), as does the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in a brilliant boss fight and Vigo the Carpathian has some historical lines as an Easter Egg in a storage room. Crossing the streams isn’t game over worthy, but the reason is quite logically explained by Egon as a safety feature. Other small touches include equipment from the animated shows, the original NES game’s ending screen, the dancing toaster and Louis Tully’s suit all make fans like me gush with the happies.
Can’t finish a Ghostbusters review without the car.
For the non-Ghostbusters fan, this game is a par game, not great but not bad, but great looking, funny and something new for about ten hours of playtime. For anyone who enjoyed the movies as a kid, buy it without shame. This game was made for fans, has everything you were looking for in a Ghostbusters video game and the writing alone would be worth the purchase price, even at new game prices. And considering this game is four years old, your won’t be breaking the bank to enjoy your childhood again. And it makes a nice primer if they ever get around to making Ghostbusters III. Still waiting on that one.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game is Rated T for Teen by the ESRB for Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. This review was of the version available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, though a different E10 version is available on Playstation 2, Playstation Portable and the Wii.
What’s your favorite bit of the Ghostbusters franchise? Let us know in the Comments below!