2009 Reviews

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

  • Review Date: 2013-11
  • Release Date: 2009-06
  • Developer: Terminal Reality
  • Rating: 7.5

It's been a long time since I played something from Terminal Reality - not since 1999's Nocturne, which was actually a pretty decent survival horror game. They've set their sites on consoles more recently but Ghostbusters is their first PC game in five years (as of 2009). So they're not big players in the developer realm, but at least they did have a popular franchise, on top of The Walking Dead, BloodRayne and The Blair Witch franchises which aren't massive, but Ghostbusters will have a small cult following.

I was never really a fan of the movies, the actors were all geeky middle-aged men, not something I could relate to in the 80's. All four main characters are well into their 60's now. I can't stand Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd or Rick Moranis - they'd never make it big these days. Thankfully Rick doesn't appear in the game, but Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston all play big parts. Even Max von Sydow is back!

But now, 25 years later, I get the appeal a bit more and found it quite a joy to play alongside the four. Probably more due to the fact that I'm no longer 9 years old (my age when the sequel was released). In fact the dorkiness of Egon and Ray is quaint while Peter has plenty of good lines. Ugly old Bill Murray trying to play a ladies-man is preposterous (as always), but it is amusing.

The game almost feels like a new Ghostbusters movie. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the game script, so it's full of decent dialogue and a proper story. Despite the many cutscenes it's not quite the same as a movie, because all the action you'd see in a movie is instead the gameplay. But it's a good story with lots of nostalgia and throwbacks to the two movies' enemies as you fight them again. Unfortunately the character you play is a stupid looking, might-as-well-be-mute, nameless character with zero personality. The idea was that you feel like you are the character, but that idea goes out the fucking window when they have a fat faced dork being played in third person instead of first person perspective. He needed to be an actual character not a blank canvas.

The niggle aside, the game is a good example of how to do a movie-franchised video game with a good amount of cutscenes and character interaction.

There are seven main levels in the game; Hotel Sedgewick (played twice), Times' Square, The Library, History Museum, Shandor Island, Central Park Cemetery. All look great, with lots of details packed in. Even Hotel Sedgewick looks great. The highlight is Shandor Island, a large gothic castle full of slimey dungeons. The exterior walking in reminded me of Quake3's palace/gothic style. The game does a good job of feeling spooky at times. Not completely scary, you can't do that when you have such powerful weapons to take any enemy down, you need surivival-horror for real fear, but Ghostbusters has plenty of moments that even make F.E.A.R. look weak.

Unfortunately the game is quite linear and flat. The cemetery levels, while looking fantastic, really felt like Painkiller's design style. It's also plagued with a few too many corridors.

The gameplay is quite different, which is very difficult to achieve these days. In particular you need to wear enemies down enough with your Proton weapons, lock onto them, and then frustratingly drag them close enough to the ghost trap so they're sucked in. Sometimes it's a pain the ass and inconsistent, requring too much button mashing, but at least it's a different kind of combat. Fortunately not all enemies require trapping, some just die with enough hits. There's a boss at the end of each level, but don't be expecting Devil May Cry kind of boss fights, they're pretty easy.

You get four different weapons with lots of powerups, but most of the time you'll be using the same weapon throughout the entire game. There are a few puzzles related to the slime gun which make a pleasant change.

The biggest problem? As usual, the console port was done without the ability to remap mouse buttons, even with keyboard remappers like Glovepie. So for the first time I decided to switch my setup and use WASD. Something I haven't used in almost 20 years of keyboard/mouse gaming. It takes a bit of time to adjust so I played on easy. I know I could have been a lot better without learning a new control scheme, but even then easy provided a fun enough experience. I died three times (twice on boss fights then on one particular battle near the end which is harder than all the boss fights). I mention this because I can't really comment on how difficult this game is on normal difficulties since I was on easy, but I imagine there probably isn't a huge difference in the difficulty levels. I also had issues installing it - you have to install it twice on PC (the second time missing files from the first install turn up) and it gets messy if you try to change the install path.

There are at least another 12 action games released in 2009 rated above Ghostbusters on Metacritic. When you get a game like this that doesn't even make the top ten action games of the year, then you know you're in for a good year of gaming.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

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