STAFF REVIEW of Ghostbusters (Xbox One)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Ghostbusters Box art I love when I get surprised by a game and then get to write about it so that you, the reader, can make an informed decision to purchase it or not based on my opinion. Well, Ghostbusters, developed by ForeForge, surely did surprise me, but not in the way that I had hoped. A brand new Ghostbusters movie released this summer for a new generation, and while I’m old enough to have grown up on the classic, it seems as though Activision decided to cash in on a game tie-in for the new movie in hopes that if you liked the movie you'd want to buy the game as well. If you’re a seasoned gamer you already know the track record for abysmal movie tie-in games in the past. Sadly this might be one of the worst offenders in so many ways.

Let me just say that I absolutely love Ghostbusters, it was one of my childhood movies growing up, and I had all the toys. Given that the 2009 Ghostbusters game was actually quite good, I had high hopes for this 2016 version. I guess I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes too high. While the game looks decent from afar, delving deeper into it and its mechanics shows its many flaws that not only make for a blatant cash grab, but not even an entertaining game in the end either. Everything you loved about Ghostbusters is nowhere to be found here.

While technically it’s connected to the movie, it takes place after the credits and doesn’t star the four new Ghostbuster ladies from the current 2016 reboot. It's almost as if they were trying to avoid any of the politically correct drama that encapsulated the movie’s protagonist’s genders. The game instead stars two women and two men, all of which seem like a B-Team to the famous group. There’s actually only one or two lines that connect the game to the movie, so I hope you’re paying attention if you play.

The core narrative revolves around the city once again becoming infested with unruly ghosts. Who you gonna call? Well, the Ghostbusters of course. Sadly, there’s no major over-arching story or plot to coax you into caring about the characters or their reasoning. Simply blast all the ghosts and save the city, that’s it. There are only two cutscenes in the game in total, and they bookend the entire game, which is sad, as the animation used for these cutscenes looks like it would be something you’d see on a Saturday morning cartoon. All other story tidbits are laid out in cheap 2D narrated phone calls. Not what you’d expect from a huge franchise like this.

As you begin your ghost busting journey you’ll have the choice of one of the four main characters, each of which has a different type of weapon and grenade. That’s right, you don’t simply use your regular proton pack beam, instead you have to whittle down a ghost’s life bar with standard-like weaponry. These standard weapons range from assault rifle, mini-gun, shotgun, and dual pistols, and sure they’re proton pack-ified, but it just seems silly and not fitting of the franchise.

The core game mechanic is a twin-stick shooter at heart, which makes for simplistic gameplay and easy couch co-op play (sorry, there’s no online multiplayer support). You begin in a simplistic tutorial level that explains how to play, but after a few levels you come to realize that nothing changes for the better the further you venture into your quest to save the city. A good game should slowly introduce new ideas and new mechanics as you progress to keep things interesting making a game interesting to play, but none of that is found here.

If by some miracle you manage to lose all your health, any of the other team members will automatically come and try to revive you. In my whole playthrough I only managed to fall in battle one time, and that’s because of the notorious bullet sponges that the game throws at you in the later stages, which I’ll delve into shortly. You gain experience as you complete levels and bust ghosts, which in turn levels you up, allowing you to spend skill points on upgrades like better weapon damage, trap multipliers, and more. This is normally a good incentive to keep you playing, but even after having maxed out a bunch of the upgrades I didn’t feel more powerful at all, even when replaying the earlier levels.

In the beginning the shooting feels alright, but the gameplay is so repetitive and unvarying that it becomes dull. Eventually every enemy simply has way more health than they should, requiring you to reload multiple times to unload full clips to defeat them. You heard me right, you need to reload (vent) your proton-ized weaponry on a constant basis. You do have access to grenades, with a very long recast time, but they don’t feel anywhere near as useful as they should be for how seldom you can actually use them.

Just like the true Ghostbusters, you have access to your PKE meter allowing you to find hidden secrets throughout the level. In the beginning I was constantly using it to find all of the secrets, but you walk at a snails pace when you’re using the PKE meter, so it makes a dreadfully long game even longer when doing so. Sure, completionists will want to find everything, but I eventually just gave up using it aside from the few forced sections which spawn a mini-boss.

As the game progresses not only do the simplest enemies take forever to defeat, but more and more are thrown your way to artificially make it more difficult. Most enemies are just reskins of previous ones, adding no real variety to strategy or gameplay. The worst of this comes to light in the boss fights and the final stage, which I don’t want to spoil, but it was a terrible experience.

When you manage to finally deplete a mini or stage boss heath bar, you then need to play a mini-game to trap it, which also feels like artificial lengthening to the tedious gameplay. First you need to switch your weapon to the classic proton beam, aim and shoot the boss, then aim the right stick in the direction it tells you to. Then you need to use the Left Trigger to slam the ghost (usually 3 times) before you can actually trap it. To trap it all you need to do is press the ‘A’ button and then spam the button as many times as you can before time runs out to boost your multiplier. These small parts should feel most like true Ghostbusters gameplay, but in reality they simply feel like tedious mini-games.

After a half dozen or so hours, and vanquishing the final big bad ghost, to which there’s zero indication you're coming to the end until you reach him, I promptly finished up a few achievements and quickly uninstalled. I don’t mean to come across as harsh in regards to this review, but there’s little to no redeeming qualities of this shameless cash grab. What makes it worse is that Ghostbusters is priced at nearly a full priced AAA game. That’s right, everything about this game looks and plays like a budget download title, but sadly the asking price is well more than three times the price I expected.

If I had to note a positive about the game it would be that at least they licensed the classic Ray Parker Jr. version of the theme song that the series is best known for. Unfortunately they even messed this up though, as the song only plays in the menus and not during the gameplay itself. What’s wrong with the way it’s setup is that every time you go into a menu and back out to another, the song restarts every single time. So the chance of you hearing the song from beginning to end is impossible unless you simply let it play in the background before you subject yourself to one more level.

I don’t particularly like pointing out so many negatives, but when there’s virtually no positives to speak about it’s difficult not to. A nonexistent storyline, basic and repetitive gameplay, terrible and constant one-liners, and nothing that makes it feel like a real Ghostbusters experience, makes this game a difficult sell at $20, but it’s price is unfathomably three times that amount. Ghostbusters is pretty much a waste of time as there really isn't much fun to be had. Who you gonna call? Hopefully someone else so that you don’t have to experience this for yourself.

Overall: 2.5 / 10
Gameplay: 2.5 / 10
Visuals: 3.0 / 10
Sound: 2.0 / 10


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