52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 25
Ghostbusters: The Game
Release Date: June 16, 2009
Developer: Threewave Software (Multiplayer)
ESRB Rating: Teen
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Ah 1984! Pierre Trudeau retired from politics allowing Brian Mulroney to win the elections by a landslide. Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space and future NHL stars Rick Nash, Eric Staal and Marc Andre Fleury all enjoyed their rookie year of life. This was also the year that Ghostbusters fever griped the country. The movie, staring fellow Canadians Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis, featured a group of eccentric parapsychologist who take up ghost hunting for a career. The movie was a smash at the box offices while the catchy theme song by Ray Parker Jr. burned up the airwaves. Fast forward 25 years and most of us still get a warm feeling whenever we hear the words "Who you gonna call?"
Ghostbusters: The Game is not actually based on the hit movie (I use the singular form on purpose, I prefer to believe that Ghostbusters II never happened), but rather on the Ghostbusters license. The game was designed to be the spiritual successor to the movie. For the one or two readers who has never seen Ghostbusters do not worry as prior knowledge of the movie is not a requirement to play the game, but having done so will enhance the enjoyment level obtained from the game.
The game story is set in 1991, seven years after the events of Ghostbusters (two years after the sequel that I am choosing to ignore). Our favourite parapsychologists are still busting ghosts and are looking to recruit some new blood to test out some new equipment. As the new recruit (called rookie), the gamer will engage in all things relating to ghostbusting such as capturing ghosts, zapping evil demons and saving the world.
The game presentation is exceptional. The game looks and sounds like a movie. The visuals are outstanding (for the most part). Many of my favourite locations from the movie have been faithfully recreated in the game. The character models are quite detailed, especially the proton packs. All proton streams and damage caused by the streams are also quite impressive. Let us not forget the ghosts as they do look amazing. My only gripe visually is that the animations are quite limited resulting in a slight unnatural movement of the main characters. Also there needs to be more variety in all the ghost models. These are minor gripes, but I have no complaints about the sound quality because the sound quality in the game is simply outstanding. All the main actors from the original movie have come together once again to lend their voices and likeness to the game characters. Fans of the franchise will be pleased to hear not only the voices of Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stantz , Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler, Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, and Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore, but also those of many supporting characters such as William Atherton, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Annie Potts have also returned to reprise their role once again. If being treated to the original crew was not good enough, the game also features the original sound track from the movie. I dare anyone to listen to the theme song and not crack a smile.
Great visuals and sound does not make a great game. The good news is that Ghostbusters: The Game features plenty of action. At its core, Ghostbusters is a third person shooter. Just replace the shooter’s typical assault rifle and shotguns with a proton pack and different attachments and the usual assortment of zombies, Nazis or aliens baddies with ghosts and other supernatural spooks.
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To capture a ghost, the modern Ghostbuster utilizes nothing but top of the line equipment. Before a ghost can be captured, it must first be located. The proper tool here is the PKE meter and goggles. Apparitions emit a paranormal radiation which can be picked up and isolated by these two items. The same two items will also assist in the discovery of paranormal items as well. Once a ghost has been located, the first task will be to scan the ghost using the PKE meter. This will open the reference to that ghost in Tobin's Spirit guide, which will indicate the best way to rid the world of this ghastly spectre. Some ghosts must be trapped, while others such as gargoyles must be smashed into bits. Once a ghost has been located and scanned, it is now time to power up the proton pack.
The proton pack is a portable nuclear reactor that is equipped with four different weapons, each with an alternate fire mode, and a Capture Stream. The main weapon will be the proton stream which resembles a malleable laser beam used to weaken ghost. The Proton Stream can also alternately fire a Boson dart which is a concentrated blast of energy. Next weapon is the Statis Stream which is used to slow down ghosts and freeze them in place. The statis stream can also shoot shotgun style burst to also damage the target. The Meson Collider fires an energy ball used to produce massive amount of damage, this ball can be targeted using a tracking ball also shot by the collider. Finally the Slime Shooter is used to emit a stream of positively charged slime that can neutralized negatively charged ectoplasm or to tether two bodies and pull them together. The proton pack will never does run out of "ammunition" (at least in the single player mode at least), but will overheat requiring either an automatic cooldown, or a manual venting. This is equivalent to reloading in other games.
Once a ghost has been sufficiently weakened, easy to notice as the meter around the ghost will be depleted, it is now time to trap it. This is done by releasing a trap and then using the Capture Stream to capture the ghost, weaken it up some more by smashing it into stuff, then guiding it into the trap. As the game starts, only the Capture and Proton Stream will be available for use, but as the game progresses the other weapons will all become available for use. Once the rookie starts earning some money for his hard ghostbusting work, he will have the option of purchasing weapons and equipment upgrades.
The single player experience may not be based on the movie, but it is a rehash of the two movies (ok, I must acknowledged that there was indeed two movies). Many of the missions are taken from those two films such as going back to Sedgewick Hotel to re-capture Slimer, or to rid New York once again of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. This is not a bad thing, as these are the experiences that we have all been waiting to play for the past twenty-five years and to that extent I was not disappointed. The game does have one real problem, the difficulty scaling. The game is not a hardcore game, this was even mentioned by the developers who called it “Gears of War Lite”, but unless gamers play the game on easy, the difficulty level goes from very simple to extremely challenging in a very short time span. This dramatic increase in difficulty will require many level to be replayed over and over again, something that will dissuade anyone but the hardcore gamers to simple set aside the game and move on to something else. For the hardcore gamer that does stick with it, they will find the single player experience to be quite short. Once the single player game is done, the game is not completely over as there is plenty of multiplayer action to be had.
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Canadian developer Threewave was tapped for the multiplayer aspect of Ghostbusters. Threewave has an impressive resume in the area of multiplayer games including the development of the multiplayer portion of Turok and Army of Two and creating multiplayer maps for Doom III, Jedi Academy and Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Multiplayer introduces a few changes to the game. The most notable is that the gamer now has the ability to play as any one of the original Ghostbusters or as the rookie. Also unique to multiplayer modes are new items and power-ups such as the Ghost Shrinker and the Ethereal Shield. Different than the single player experience, proton packs do not replenish themselves automatically after use. Once a proton pack has been depleted, it will need to be replenished. This is accomplished by picking up a refill pack laying around each level. When playing in co-operative mode, teamwork will be required to ensure that the player needed the refill pack the most actually picks it up.
Multiplayer allows for either some Instant Action or Campaign mode fun. In "Instant Action", Ghostbusters can test their skills in a half dozen jobs types such as stopping ghost from stealing valuable artefacts or destroying ghost generators. Campaign mode adds something that many would consider missing from the single player experience, and that is co-op play. In Campaign mode, there are four scenarios available for maximum ghoul zapping. Co-op play makes the game a lot easier. All games modes will reward Ghostbusters with cash and upgrade and also increase their rank of the player. As the player increases in rank, he/she will face more difficult ghosts and challenges. The multiplayer aspect will not save this game from being traded-in for store credit. Multiplayer game modes are fun because it allows gamers to test his/her skills against other people. The problem with the multiplayer modes in Ghostbusters is that gamers do not get to battle other gamers, just compete against them in a series of specific tasks or challenges. This in fact turns the multiplayer aspect into a series of mini-games that will only keep gamers interest for a few rounds. In fact, after only one week on retail shelves, it was already quite hard to find anyone playing this game online. This could have been remedied by simply allowing gamers to play as either a ghostbuster or a ghost making the multiplayer aspect a little more inviting.
Ghostbusters: The Game does not take any chances. It is quite obvious that the developers set out to deliver an immersive ghostbusting experience to gamers everywhere and I truly believe they succeeded in this goal. Overall the game is very fun, even if it is short lived. The game will most likely follow the path of the movie and spawn a sequel. If the developers can this time deliver a game that hardcore gamers will love, Ghostbusters the gaming franchise will outlive its movie counterpart.