Something strange in the neighborhood.
“Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or your family ever seen a spook, specter or ghost?"
[image1]As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a Ghostbuster. It was right up there with wanting to be a Jedi or He-Man (I've always had realistic goals in life). I think that's why out of everyone here at GR, I was best suited to tackle Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Nick saw the movie when he was five so he doesn't remember what happened, and Duke lacks the passion for it. I, however, quote lines from the the film several times a week, have attempted to make my own proton accelerator, and have a tattoo of Ray Parker Jr. on my chest (okay, that last one's a lie). Plus, I threatened to kidnap Duke's coveted Lara Croft statue if he didn't give me this one.
You need a fanboy for it, because that's who this game is for: the fans. The folks who, 25 years after the film's making, are still salivating more than a line of PAX nerds waiting to get Felicia Day's autograph for more Ghostbusters.
So is it awesome? The short answer: Yes. It is awesome... but not without some glaring flaws. Even with these problems, though, there is just so much that was done right that it's hard not to enjoy the experience.
You play as a nameless rookie who gets the privilege, no, the honor of field testing all the new proton blasters and experimental lasers that could make your nuts grow giant tumors and explode. Some crazy events have been happening in New York City since the arrival of the new Gozer exhibit, and they only get crazier. Not only that, but you've got Walter Peck breathing down the back of your neck and just looking for an excuse to shut you down.
[image2]In your quest to find out just what the hell is going on, you'll get a chance to blast the Stay Puft marshmallow man to gooey bits, capture the Gray Lady, and get slimed more than you would ever care to. The design choice to have the player be a nameless newbuster as opposed to one of the original four actually adds to the immersion, as if it was me kicking it with Egon and Ray instead of just using them as avatars to progress through the story.
The script is great, and as you would expect, there are a ton of nods to the source material. The humor has the right amount of sarcasm and semi-cheerful-morbidness, and everyone in the game is played by the original actor - getting the cast to reprise their roles is a rather impressive feat in its own right. (Okay, I'm sure no one's that shocked that Ernie Hudson accepted the work, but It's not like Bill Murray strapped for cash or anything.)
Most of the voice acting is great, but Alyssa Milano is horrible as the Gozerian expert Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn (somewhere, Tony Danza hangs his head in shame). A porn star with a speech impediment could have done a better job. And it's hard to tell whether or not Bill Murray is phoning it in sometimes - maybe he's just old or drunk - as the quality of his performance is sporadic. But that is all compensated by the performances from the rest of the cast, especially Dan Akroyd as the over-enthusiastic Ray.
Some of the early cutscenes seemed to have a lip-synching problem, which gives some of the cuts a late night Kung-Fu theater vibe. But they do get progressively more polished as you make your way through the plot. It is a bit distracting, though, breaking the moment.
[image3]As you may have already guessed, you spend most of the game hunting down and capturing spooks in your traps or completely destroying them with plasmatic shotgun blasts or positively charged slime. Gameplay is a mix of third-person action and first-person exploration. The game is HUD-less, like Dead Space, with all your vital information conveniently placed on your proton pack - other information will pop up briefly, like how much dough you made pimpin' ectoplasm or what setting your blaster is on.
In fact, the atmosphere can get a little Dead Space at times too, with eerie corridors and the disembodied voices of dead children whispering. To help you make sense of it all, you're able to scan just about everything you run into and store the information in your digital Tobin's spirit guide, and it can also help you decipher a creature's weakness. Jesus tap-dancing Christ, it's fun! There are some flaws with the controls, however - sprinting is a bit choppy and takes a while to initiate, and you can get stuck in corners while turning.
Health is handled in an interesting way as well. If you take too many hits, you'll go down and must wait to be revived by a teammate, a la Jericho (pay attention to this point, since it's the last time you'll ever find that game mentioned in a positive context). The difference here is that it works fairly well at balancing the difficulty. There will be times when everyone gets slimed or you'll be by yourself, get knocked down, and have to restart at the last checkpoint, but this usually happens during the more difficult boss battles and latter levels. So suck it up, games shouldn't be a cakewalk unless you're playing on easy. Besides, you're a Ghostbuster now and part of a team. Sure, you might be the part that gets used as bait for a giant demon from another dimension, but dammit, that's an important role.
Multiplayer has a decent but small selection of modes, some that are more enjoyable than others. I got the biggest kick out of survival mode, which is essentially Gears of War 2's Horde mode but with ghosts instead of subterranean monsters. I guess that makes it more like the most eff'ed up game of Pac-Man ever. If you have a good team and you all watch each other's backs, you'll get a chance to experience the intensity that this mode offers.
[image4]Capture mode, on the other hand, does not even seem finished. You start off with only two minutes to capture the first ghost and that timer doesn't stop in between waves either, making for some of the shortest rounds since the days of UFC on the Dreamcast. Thief mode has you guarding relics against thieving anomalies for a pre-determined period of time, sort of like capture the flag with only the defending half. It probably would've been better if they'd just had a CTF instead, and besides that, just what the hell do ghosts want with glowing vases anyway? It's not like they can take it with them.
When the smoke has cleared and the proton packs have been depowered, at the end of the day, Ghostbusters: The Video Game got the job done, though at times that job is about as tidy as the Sedgewick Hotel dinning room after an extermination. There are some flaws, including the lack of a local co-op mode, however there is just so much that was done right that you can't help but have a blast. It may not be everything you ever wanted out of a Ghostbusters game, but it's as close as you're going to get to perfection at this point. [And just be happy it was finally released. ~Ed.] So, what are you waiting for? Call them.