Ghostbusters The Video Game Review: Back in the saddle

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When you have a hankering to relive some old childhood memories and delve head-first into shiny nostalgia, who you gonna call? GAME IMPORTERS!

Well, that’s if you live in a PAL-format country like Australia, and you play your video games on an Xbox 360; the newly released Ghostbusters: The Video Game has been released in such countries by Sony Computer Entertainment and they’ve held back any PAL release that isn’t on a Sony console. But I digress.

No matter how you get a hold of your copy (you lucky North Americans out there!), Ghostbusters is a third-person shooter (think Gears of War with ghosts) that instantly finds its place in two movie-strong universe, placing you as a rookie working alongside heroes Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman, and Winston Zeddemore — each voiced by the same actors that played the characters in the films. While clearly hoping on purchases by fans, is there enough in the game to keep other gamers interested? Read on.

The hot: Come on! You’ve ALWAYS wanted to use your own proton pack, haven’t you? The traditional pack from Ghostbusters and the smiler pack from Ghostbusters II both are featured heavily in the game, and are joined by status and proton shotgun (for lack of a better description) packs; each has a primary and a secondary fire mode. The multiple weapons are all great fun to use and switching between them is a must when dealing with the many unique ghosts you encounter.

To find the secret artefacts scattered throughout the game, using your own PKE meter is a must and further cements you into the world. Scanning your ghostly enemies is very Pokemon-eqsue, and helps in determining your foe’s weaknesses. Catching the ghosts is also hilarious fun as you slam apparitions into traps thrown by yourself or the other Ghostbusters (just don’t look directly into the trap!).

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On that last note, the names of the achievements/trophies are simply gold; fans of the films will find themselves chuckling when certain accomplishments are unlocked. It’s a small, yet GREAT throwback celebrating Ghostbusters in its 25 year anniversary. Cameos by Annie Potts (Janine), William Atherton (Peck), and Brian Doyle-Murray (Mayor Mulligan) also help to provide fan-service.

The meh: Dan Ackroyd (Ray), says this isn’t a movie tie-in, but “[it’s] essentially the third movie” – so much so that Dan penned the game’s script with fellow Ghostbusters movies co-writer Harold Ramis (Egon). I’d disagree with Dan’s statement and instead say that this game is the two movies merged into one; without too many spoilers, Slimer, the Grey Lady, Vigo, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and several movie locations all make reappearances. While they do serve to progress the game’s plot, they help to make the title feel like a rehash of things you’ve already seen in the movies (but still just as funny!).

If you have the choice between a copy for PS3 or Xbox 360, go for the Xbox copy – an animated image from Joystiq.com clearly shows why. This, however, might not matter to you if you’re Aussie and don’t want to go about importing the title.

ryanfrenchAdditionally, the appeal of the rookie character that you play was lost for me after I’d learnt that he was modelled after the game’s Associate Producer, Sierra’s Ryan French. The baby-faced rookie just fit the part for me when I first saw him, and learning that it was just some fan living out his dream of essentially being a Ghostbuster just cheapened it for me…it could be that I’m just jealous.

The cold: Difficulty spikes. On Casual, you can basically watch the Ghostbusters handle the bad guys, and as the game says itself, “just enjoy the story.” On Professional, be ready to tear your hair out – I’m looking directly at you, “Attack of the Stone Angels” checkpoint! At some stages, the game simply becomes an exercise of reviving a computer-controlled Ghostbuster only to be knocked down to be revived yourself, to then having to revive the AI that just revived you, and so on and so on in an endless loop until one of you isn’t quick enough and you get the “Mission Failed” screen.

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While there is a great online multiplayer mode, it’s deathmatch style and you can’t do the main story mode in any kind of co-op. It’s nice to be able to play as Ray or Egon in multiplayer (I’m not a Peter fan and I still don’t really understand why Winston’s around – token, much?), but why not in the game itself? A Gears of War style co-op story mode would have been great and would have ensured that cheap “Ghostbuster by himself” deaths would not happen.

All in all, this game deserves a solid Hot rating. The gameplay, not without its frustrations, is an On Fire!, and the repetitive (yet cool for nostaligia reasons) storyline deserving of a Chilly. Fans will definitely want to pick this up, and other gamers can’t go wrong if looking for a decent third-person shooter that’s not the standard shotgun and sniper rifle fare.