If there's one thing I'm happy about while playing Ghostbusters, it's feeling thankful that the game actually ended up finding a home and being picked up by Atari. Much like Riddick, Brutal Legend, and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (among others), Ghostbusters was cut by Activision after their merger with Vivendi. Fortunately, every game cut found a new publisher, and one game (Brutal Legend) has garnered so much new-found hype that Activision is now suing to get it back. Ghostbusters found shelter with Atari, and, even though this may not be the most sophisticated or complex game out there, it sure is a ton of fun. As the old adage goes: one man's trash is another man's treasure. Of course, not that I'm saying Ghostbusters was trash or anything, but I'm sure you get the point.
Immediately upon loading up the game's story mode and witnessing the first cut-scene, I immediately notice that this Ghostbusters game is getting it right from the start. And the more I played, the more it became obvious that this may very well be one of the best movie-licensed games, even if the game isn't based on any of the movies, but is technically the third entry into the franchise. 'How so', you ask? Very simple. You see, what makes this game so special is that, just like the movies, it's written by Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis. Rick Moranis, who had a small part in writing, is questionably absent from the game entirely, but it's okay, because Akroyd and Ramis are largely credited as the pivotal forces behind the creation of the Ghostbusters universe, anyways.
It's 1991, two years after the events of Ghostbusters II. Of course, the game takes place in New York City, and you will be equipped with a variety of ghost-fighting weapons and gadgets. You'll have to hunt, eliminate, and even capture the supernatural opponents you come across in the game – and there will be many of them. You'll reunite with familiar faces such as Slimer, Stay Puft, Eleanor Twitty, all the while encountering an assortment of all new enemies that are wrecking havoc on the city.
The story of the game revolves around another supernatural invasion of Manhattan. This time, there are more monsters than before, so the original Ghostbusters gang will need a new recruit – and that'll be you. Armed with their high tech gadgetry, your character will be suited up to help get rid of these creatures once and for all…or for the time being. You're character is also, essentially, the guinea pig, as you'll be the first to utilize the newest ghost trapping technology.
Now, there's no doubt about it, the simplicity of the game definitely makes this one very fun adventure. The game doesn't bombard you with a slew of awkward mechanics and confusing controls, but rather gives you an over-the-shoulder Gears of War/Resident Evil camera, and shows you the abilities that you have with your Proton Pack and gun. You can weaken ghosts further by smashing them right before throwing down a trap and pulling them into it. It's all straightforward stuff, but it feels extremely satisfying to trap a ghost, the struggle comes through the screen quite well. Plus, every gadget you have in the game is upgradeable, so as the ghosts become tougher to deal with, you'll have the resources to strengthen your equipment.
There is an online component that is also quite good, allowing for four player co-op matches, complete with leaderboards, voice chat, and even downloadable content. The co-op isn't related to the story, but are merely side-missions, which is a shame, because it sure would've been nice to take control of the actual gang through the story. Which leads me to some of my disappointments…
Perhaps the game could've used a bit more scale. You have the Ecto-1 and you have Manhattan. An open-world sandbox game would've been nice, and it'd have been wise of Terminal Reality to include side-missions into the story mode. It'd also have been nice to drive from place to place by yourself, or maybe even use the PKE meter to find hidden ghosts scattered in the city. There's just simply a ton you can do with a franchise like this, but ultimately, for the sake of a consistent story and to make this feel more like a movie than anything else, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is quite linear.
The graphics engine here is pretty solid. I particularly like the character models, as they're all pretty much carbon -polygonal- copies of the actual thing, and that certainly helps the immersion factor. You'll often find yourself in very large areas, be it the various parts of the Sedgewick Hotel, the streets of Manhattan, and other really cool environments I won't spoil. Texture detail is nice for the characters and for the indoor stuff, but it varies when you're outdoors. Still, there are no glaring issues, the framerate may stutter here and there, but it's tolerable. Furthermore, you've got a clean picture that is 720p native, but can upscale to 1080p.
Audio is where the game shines. A nice soundtrack plays in the background, but it's the voice acting that I enjoyed. Bill Murray's Dr. Venkman seems to have evolved into a more carefree and perhaps even lazier character, which almost seems natural for the character. All four original Ghostbusters reprise their roles, including Murray, Akroyd, Ramis and Hudson. Moreover, the remaining ensemble from the movies who will lend their voices and likenesses to the game include: Annie Potts, Brian Doyle Murray (Bill Murray's brother), and William Atherton. Rick Moranis declined to come out of retirement to reprise his role, as did Sigourney Weaver. None the less, the game's dialogue still shines with wit and laughs, so the two missing links don't really have much of an affect on the game, at all.
Overall, Ghostbusters is a really solid game that's worth your time. It may be straightforward and linear, but it is still extremely satisfying and a lot of fun – and ultimately, fun is what makes or breaks a game. The story is a bit on the short side, lasting about 6-7 hours, but the multiplayer events are cool and there is downloadable content in the works as we speak. Even Dan Akroyd has gone on record to say that the game is essentially the third movie in the franchise, and seeing as how both him and Ramis wrote this script too, fans of the movies should expect nothing less than solid quality here. Even though this doesn't tie-in to a Ghostbusters movie, this is still the best movie-licensed game I've played in a very, very long time…maybe ever. Publishers and developers, take note.