STAFF REVIEW of Ghostbusters (Xbox 360)

Saturday, June 20, 2009.
by Adam Dileva

Ghostbusters Box art If there?s something strange, in your neighborhood, Who you gunna call? Ghostbusters! Upon hearing that there was going to be a new Ghostbusters game I was excited that it had potential to be a substantial hit for those that grew up with it, but also was nervous because if Terminal Reality (the development company) couldn?t deliver to the fans standards, there would be many people disappointed; and people don?t take their childhood nostalgia being ruined very lightly.

Knowing the track record of movie licensed games, I really set the bar low with expectations. I wanted something fun to play, something that made me laugh and smile as much as the original movies did, and to see the real Ghostbusters in action again. Thankfully all of these points were delivered on.

Being a huge fan of the original Ghostbusters as a kid myself, I was completely ecstatic once all the original characters would be voiced by their actual counterparts was announced. Bill Murray is back as Dr. Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd as Dr. Saymond Stantz, Harold Ramis as Dr. Egon Spengler (my personal favourite), and even Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore. Even the receptionist Janine Melnitz is voiced by Annie Pots herself. Having the real voices played an absolute huge part in making this game as authentic as could be. Ghostbusters the Video Game is essentially Ghostbusters 3, just in game form.

There are even many more hidden Easter Eggs and nods to the series. The most notable for me would be seeing the ending of the original NES Ghostbusters game on one of Egon?s lab computers. Small things like this among others really show that many small touches have been taken to please the fans as a whole.

The story takes place 2 years after the second movie and now the Ghostbusters are doing well and you now need to save the city from the newest paranormal plague. You play the new recruit; literally, as you never speak a line of dialogue and your real name is never revealed either. The reason for this is because as ?The Rookie? you are the one testing out Egon?s new inventions and additions to the Proton Pack (you?re officially the Experimental Equipment Technician) , so the Ghostbusters don?t want to get attached to you since something is bound to go wrong and you will be no more. While it may seem like a shady move storyline-wise, it tends to work out well since you do eventually feel like an absolutely genuine Ghostbuster.

The story does a great job by bringing your team back to classic Ghostbuster areas like the Headquarters Firehouse and also fighting against classics like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and even the Librarian from the first scene in the original movie. There is a side love interest story that involves Venkman and new character Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn (voiced by Alyssa Milano) but it felt completely rushed and forced and didn?t seem natural at all between the two.

First thing you may notice once you start playing is the lack of any HUD or much clutter on the screen. This was done on purpose and all the basic information you need actually built onto the Proton Pack status meter of your equipment to show how close to overheating your weapon is. When you switch between different beams on your pack, the look will slightly change so that you can see which weapon you are using without having to fire. At first I found having to search for your health bar and status meter was slightly annoying since it is small on the pack itself, but once you learn that the edges of the screen go blurry and red when you become more injured, there was no real need to look at the meter on the pack. Seeing these meters on a small standard definition TV might be quite a challenge though.

The iconic Proton Pack is the main equipment used by all Ghostbusters to weaken and capture ghosts. In the beginning you only have your standard Blast Stream (primary fire) and a Boson Dart (shotgun like secondary fire). As you progress through the game and earn money by busting ghosts, you can eventually purchase Proton Pack upgrades for new types of beams and even improve your PKE meter and capture trap.

Once unlocked, you will gain access to new types of beams to be used in different situations depending on what types of ghosts need to be busted. By pressing Left of the D-Pad you gain a Shock Blast (primary fire) that is like a shotgun and excellent for short range and weaker enemies, and also a Stasis Stream (secondary fire) that essentially will freeze a ghost for a short time.

Down on the D-Pad will let you use a Slime Blower (primary fire) will allow you to clear away dreaded toxic black slime and an interesting Slime Tether (secondary fire). The Slime Tether attaches two any two points and will contract and pull on whatever is on the two ends. Some awesome uses for the Tether is attaching one end to a car or something heavy and the other end to a roof or wall and seeing it move it with ease. There is even an achievement for Tethering one of to a ghost and the other to your trap, essentially sucking it directly in.

Later in the game you will also be able to press Right on the D-Pad and gain access to your Meson Collider (primary) and Overload Pulse (secondary). What?s interesting about this gun is that your Meson shot will basically mark a target or ghost with a homing-like signal and holding down your secondary fire will have all your shots automatically home in on whatever target has been marked with your primary fire. It?s very useful for those quickly moving ghosts or the ones that just seem to always get away from you.

While having all these choices of different weapons is interesting, I still found myself using the trusty Blast Stream to get the job done most of the time. Through the latter half of the game, you will be forced to use the Slime Blower to clear paths away and close emergence holes, but using the other beams are purely optional.

Not all ghosts can be seen regularly, and this is when the Ghostbusters will use their Psycho-Kinetic-Energy meter (PKE meter) along with Ecto-Goggles to see sometimes invisible ghosts and also residue left by them not always seeable with the human eye. The device is mostly noted for its winged ears that raise and lower much like a hot and cold meter to track down ghosts. In the game when using your PKE meter, you are put into a first person view (the whole game is played in a third person view behind the back) and have to follow the hints your PKE meter shows you.

The meter will flash different colors depending on what is nearby. Red signals for ghosts in hiding, Green for environmental phenomena, and Blue when you are nearby a Cursed Artifact. These artifacts are basically the games secret findings and unlock bonus content and extra cash for upgrades to your Proton Pack.

Once the ghosts are found and weakened enough to be captured, it is a Ghostbuster?s job to get them contained as quickly as possible. This is done by throwing out your ghost trap with the ?X? button and a small beam of light will be shown coming out so that you are aware where your trap is when you are wrangling a resistant ghost.

Once a ghost is weakened enough to be captured, you must then wrangle it into your trap. If a ghost is trying to get away by flying to the right, you must try to pull it to the left to move it where you want it; with some ghosts obviously not being as cooperative as others. Pressing the Left Trigger will literally slam the ghost against a wall or the ground to try and stun them so you can maneuver them into your trap. Once you become good enough at capturing the ghosts, you can actually ?Slam Dunk? them directly into the trap without having to wrestle against them very much.

When you are done saving the city in the campaign, you can hop online and play as any of the Ghostbusters (even the Rookie) and play in a few different interesting modes. First off, the online menu system is very basic and its very sluggish at trying to find an appropriate game, and even when you do find a game, it may not connect since it may already be in progress (so why is it showing on the list).

Once you are in a game lobby, you choose what weapon you want to be your primary weapon specialization, regardless if you?ve bought and unlocked all the others in campaign. You do feel somewhat locked down into your weapon (almost everyone uses the standard Beam anyways) but there are powerups in the levels that grant you limited ammo of the other beams.

There are essentially 6 different modes (referred to as jobs) that offer some gameplay that differs greatly from the standard story play. Firstly you have Survival which is exactly what it is named. Almost like Gears of Wars 2 Horde mode, you are faced with waves of ghosts that become more and more challenging as you try and survive 10 waves. Should you all become knocked out and not revived within a certain time and you lose.

Containment has you simply catching as many ghosts as you can within the allotted time limit. You can run off away from your team to try and capture more on your own for more money, or do you help your team to capture more ghosts overall.

The Protection job has you defending PKE Disruptors as they are being automatically built. When a ghost attacks one of these, it reverses the building process and makes you have to defend it for even longer.

Thief mode has you defending 4 relic artifacts that any ghosts will be trying to steal away from you. You need to defend them and the waves of attacking ghouls will constantly be pushing towards you. There is a time limit and as long as you save one artifact and ride out the time, you will succeed.

Destruction has you destroying cursed artifacts as well as the ghosts nearby that are spawned by these relics. You have a time limit and need to destroy as many as you can within that limit.

The mode I had the most fun with online though is the unique Slime Dunk mode. Waves of Slimer ghosts come through and players need to Slam Dunk them into their trap. Whoever got the Dunk gets the cash, so it?s a competitive mode that allows for a lot of fun. You can try and wrangle someone else?s ghost into your trap or even try to sneakily throw your trap right beside another player?s and hopefully get it in your trap instead of theirs. There is an interesting feature though that is completely random and I?ve only come across a few times so far, but is an interesting feature none the less. Sometimes on harder difficulty waves you may come across a ghost that looks similar but has an orange glow to them; this means they are a special Agro Ghost that will do some sneaky tricks like duplicating themselves, leaving pools of deadly black slime, or even sabotage your traps.

If you have a good Ghostbusting team, you may even see a rarer Most Wanted Ghost randomly. These special ghosts are almost like mini bosses that are more difficult to take down and will net you more cash in the end and check off their portrait in the corresponding screen of these special ghosts. It?s an interesting feature that keeps the monotony down and can keep you on your toes since you never really know what to expect every time you play online.

While in the menus it does say there is an online co-op campaign, this is some very tricky wording, as it actually has nothing to do with the single player game at all; it?s just different online job types stringed together without any actual story in between them. It was very misleading and very disappointing. There is no reason to not have 4 player co-op with the actual campaign.

There is an online ranking system, but there?s no real way to see what level or rank you are other than the online career dollar amount that you gain from winning matches. It would have been awesome to create an online persona with unique tags and icons, but this online system (modes aside) is very basic and bland. It does add longevity of the title once you are finished saving the city on all the difficulty levels, but I really found myself not caring after awhile without the ?true? online rankings to show of or work towards.

Obviously it?s impossible to not review this game with some nostalgia heading some of my bias love for the Ghostbusters, but I?m trying to be as objective as I can with the title as a whole. As a game, it does become a little repetitive and the sections that split you up and put you all alone are nowhere near as fun as when you are traveling with the whole team, but what the game does do right, does it perfectly, and that is make you feel as if you are one of the actual Ghostusters.

While the game is completely linear without any room to explore at all, the constant one liners and perfect voice acting will have you forgetting about it and simply enjoying your 6-8 hour play through on the normal setting. While it was a very short and completely doable in one sitting especially once you figure the few puzzle segments, it?s a completely enjoyable ride back to your childhood memories.

Another issue I had that stood out was the autosave system. While it does work, you don?t really know when. When you finish a major objective or basically get a cutscene you know it saves, but there?s no icon to show that it?s saving, so you better hope you have the time to finish a complete level just in case. The only other issue I was let down was that you don?t get to drive the Ecto-1 once; they even tease you to drive it, but alas, sadly nothing.

While the completely CG cutscenes looked brilliant and the animation was fantastic, the ingame ones just didn?t have the same quality to them and especially with the off-sync lips to go with the voicing. Also, for having one of the most catchy and recognizable theme songs ever, you rarely get to hear it other than when you die and have to wait for the level to reload (these reload times are unusually long, as in Mass Effect long)

While the game itself may have its own shortcoming, its charm and nostalgia will more than make up for it. This game is an excellent example of what a movie licensed title should be and it shows with how much detail was given to please the true fans.

With a great story (albeit short) and the actual cast voicing their original characters, even if you are somewhat of a Ghostbusters fan, this game deserves to be beside your Ghostbusters I and II dvds and is big enough service to the fans to please almost anyone. Whatever you do, just remember to never ever cross the streams!

-Please don't label something as campaign unless it truely is that.

-Having an Ecto-1 driving stage would have broken up the monetany a little bit.

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.6 / 10
Visuals: 7.7 / 10
Sound: 9.2 / 10


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