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Ghostbusters : The Video Game

Ghostbusters : The Video Game
© Atari Interactive / Sony Pictures / Columbia Pictures

Ghostbusters : The video game is a … video game initially released in 2009 by Terminal Reality and published by Atari on Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3 and XBox 360. The game even had a Playstation 2 and Nintendo Wii port. Ten years later, in 2019, the game has been released in a “remastered” version for Windows, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox One by Saber Interactive. This action-adventure game’s scenario is based on a story written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis that develop various unexplored parts of the first two movies. This is also the last Ramis’ work for the franchise and portrayal of Egon Spengler before his death in 2014.

Ghostbusters : The video game is set two years after the events of Ghostbusters II, in November 1991 during the Thanksgiving celebrations. The Ghostbusters company is still active and despite being tightly overseen by New York’s Mayor and his administration, the paranormal activity is rising again to a new peak. The story begins with the first day of the “Rookie”, the nameless player’s character, who is the last recruit of the Ghostbusters currently in training and tasked to test the various new experimental and dangerous devices. During his first day, a strong paranormal pulse emanates from the Gozer exhibit at the Museum of Natural History and free the ghost Slimer from its prison in the Ghostbusters’ HQ. The team goes to its pursuit in the hotel where they started at the beginning to chase Slimer again. But, following the recapture of Slimer, New York is suddenly attacked again by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the Destroyer Form of Gozer.

It looks like Gozer and his minions are back, a perfect start for a Ghostbuster recruit.

I haven’t played this game during its initial release, so for me the last encounter with the Ghostbusters franchise was the last movie, Afterlife. And discovering the story of this game gave me one feeling… Are they able to go away from Gozer’s lore ? Because this game and Afterlife are both based on the Gozer story and the usual stuff is here with the Marshmallow Man. Even when the first level was searching for Slimer again (the story implies its haunting is a recurrent thing with an expired warranty) frightened me about a random “all nostalgic references” with no personality.

However, the story eventually uses its own wings and we can follow an actual sequel of the previous movies. Mostly the first one, because aside from some references like the Vigo portrait in the Ghostbusters’ HQ, the second one is not really mentioned. As said in the introduction, the game develops some unexplored stories of the first movie such as the Librarian ghost backstory. Additionally, the story features elements that were intended to be in the third sequel of Ghostbusters planned in 1990 that ended-up in development hell and cancellation. According to Dan Aykroyd, this game is basically the “third movie”. These elements are the character of Ivo Shandor, a Gozer cultist, and the alternate dimension exploration the game features.

The original cast is almost complete : Aykroyd, Murray, Ramis and Hudson gave their voice and face to the characters. Additionally, William Atherton, Annie Potts and Max von Sydow reprised their respective roles of Walter Peck, Janine Melnitz, and Vigo the Carpathian. Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis were also approached during the development, but she decided to late and Moranis declined the offer, there’re only some short references to their characters. Some new characters are also in the party : Ilyssa Selwyn, a Mesopotamian and Gozer expert professor and Jock Mulligan, the new Mayor of New York. And of course, the Recruit. Several new antagonists introduced as Gozer cultists are also new characters, some of them based on actual first movie ideas or unseen antagonist.

On a more technical side, let’s talk a little about the game. Despite being a 2019 remastered version, the graphics has badly aged. While we can see the gap between the original graphics used in the various video cut-scenes, and the new render, it’s old. However, the various characters are nicely modeled, you recognized them without any problem and their role is nicely played by their original actors. Since the various décors and environments are not especially detailed and the textures look old, there is a big up to the proton stream effect. The render of the Ghostbusters’ feature weapon is absolutely perfect of the visual side with a nice tailored bending effect and the capture stream is just like the movies. About the various enemies, I must admit they’re quite random in their designs, even for some key antagonists, giving you the impression to see some picking from free online libraries.

On the gameplay side, Ghostbusters is a third-person action game using the proton pack as a gun. During the story, the player unlocks new experimental equipment to the proton pack. We start with the signature proton-stream with an enhanced feature. Indeed, the gameplay uses the conventional main and secondary weapon mechanics for each Proton Pack feature. The Proton Stream has a secondary weapon emitting a powerful concentrated energy ball to the target. Later, the player unlocks the Shock Blast, a melee weapon with a secondary usage able to freeze the ghosts, then the Slime Blower that throw positive-charged slime against the target, and the Meson Collider which is a bullet-like energy weapon. Each of these primary weapon has a secondary usage, such as the Slime Tether able to attach to surfaces and join them or the Overload Pulse emitting a powerful output. Last but least, the Rookie has, of course, his ghost trap he can throw at any moment to capture the enemies. For the exploration part of the game, the Rookie can use the PKE Meter (the scanner-like device) and the glasses to see the paranormal items. The scanner can also analyze the ghosts to find out their vulnerabilities.

The player can take damages during the fighting sequences and they must ensure the Rookie’s health bar remains in an acceptable range. It replenish by itself if the Rookie does not take damages for a period of time. The other characters are also present and you must ensure to revive them if they’re down too. Also, the Proton Pack cannot be continuously used and must be cooled. It can be triggered by the player like a “gun reload” in an usual shooting game, or automatically if the gauge is exhausted. The Capture Stream used to capture the ghosts can also be used during the exploration moments to move objects or key items. The gameplay is very conventional and despite being inspired by the Ghostbusters’ lore, aside from the Proton Stream, the various other weapons are not really innovative. I must admit the capture stream is quite difficult to master since you have to ensure the Proton Pack doesn’t overheat and you have to “slam” the ghost to capture it. Ah, a last item, some enhancement can be purchased in game using the earned money.

Regarding the artistic direction, if the story is quite nice and the acting excellent since its the original cast, I must admit I’ve been a little disappointed by the musics. They’re good, no problem, but I have the feeling to always hear the same and it’s just the musics from the first movie. Or maybe they’re original, honestly I can’t hear the difference.

So, I have some mixed feelings about this game. Good story and characters, but the gameplay is quite repetitive and sometimes difficult to master with a big mess of ghosts running everywhere and sometimes you get quickly harassed. However, it remains a good game that depicts what would have been the third movie despite its short length. And I think I’ve preferred its story compared to Afterlife, even if this one was nice too.

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