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Old 10-06-2010, 04:20 PM   #1
psychohype
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Please rate this review - Ghostbusters: The Video Game Second Opinion

HIGH: Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd bringing solid contributions in both writing and acting.

LOW: Getting knocked down in an intense boss fight and waiting fifteen seconds for an AI rescue … and waiting in vain.

WTF: Missing a story cutscene due to the game’s funky save system.

Let’s just get this out of the way, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is not a great game based on a popular movie license. It’s a mechanically flawed but competent game made bafflingly enjoyable by its great use of said license.

As it’s been stated elsewhere, the game’s story functions in many respects like a third installment in the Ghostbusters canon. You play as a silent, nameless intern for the Ghostbusters, newly hired to join the team as a guinea pig for field-testing Egon’s dangerous prototype equipment. Through the course of the game, as a new paranormal mystery unfolds, you visit many familiar Ghostbusters haunts—such as the New York Public Library, the Sedgewick Hotel—and a few original ones.

And therein lies one of the first potential criticisms, namely that the game sometimes (especially, I’d say, during the first two thirds) feels like little more than a rehash and recycling of elements from the movies. Yes, you will have to hunt down that green, gluttonous “slimer.” Yes, you will face off against the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. What makes it nonetheless enjoyable is the constant in-game dialogue tying it all together, offering plenty of winks and nods to fans of the movies. Harold Ramis (as Egon) and Dan Akroyd (as Ray) definitely contribute the most authentic and engaging performances of the game, which would make sense seeing as they wrote the script.

What I would like to focus on in this “second opinion,” however, are the core mechanics. The game controls almost exclusively as a third-person shooter.
Whereas you start the game with only the standard proton pack, Egon soon begins introducing some additional equipment to the mix. Some ghosts just explode with enough firepower. Others you have to weaken, wrangle and trap. You also purchase upgrades to your equipment through a generic monetary system that earns you dollars for every ghost blasted and captured.

The combat uses an interesting AI buddy system. Whereas your character has his own regenerating health—which gets depleted as you get hit and knocked down by ghosts and flying objects—your second line of defense comes from your fellow busters. If you get knocked down without any health left, you’ll be unable to move and forced to wait for one of your AI partners to come over and revive you. Likewise, when one of your AI teammates goes down in battle, it will be up to you or one of the other characters to run over and revive them. In the event that you and all the other characters gets knocked out at the same time, it’s game over and back to the last save point.

The results are kind of a mixed bag. In some parts of the game you are fighting with only one ally. When they go down, you’d better try and revive them quickly or you won’t have anyone to save your own ass. There are even a few tense parts of the game when you’ll be all by your lonesome. Even with partners, however, many battles will quickly devolve into a frantic juggling game as you race back and forth across the map trying to revive your buddies who keep dropping like flies. When this happens you won’t be able to concentrate on shooting enemies.

While the system works, it definitely lacks finesse. Movement in the game is clunky at best and in some rooms it can be easy to get stuck or at least hampered by random objects and debris. Because the normal movement speed is sometimes too slow for getting to your downed ally in time, you can also hold down a specific button to sprint, but keep in mind this makes precision navigation even more difficult. Fortunately, the developers made up for the awkward controls with some forgiving and lenient targeting. Move into the general vicinity of a fallen comrade and you can revive them just fine. Get the erratic flying ghost pretty close to your crosshairs and it’s usually good enough.

What’s funny is that after a few intense boss battles (some of which took me several retries) I started to suspect there was a bit of luck involved in some of the more chaotic encounters. Regardless how precise your aim or nimble your virtual footwork, if your AI buddies are getting the snot kicked out of them, there’s sometimes nothing you can do to defeat the pattern of attrition. Eventually your ratio of upright to knocked-downed partners is going to fall too severely behind for you to catch up, and with no one else for the legion of baddies to attack, you might be in trouble.

Part of the problem is there’s almost no way to dodge, block or take cover from the attacks. Sometimes you can counter projectile objects with a good blast, but I haven’t even mentioned the fact that your weapon is constantly overheating.

Graphically, the game is decent and while the level design wasn’t the most inspired, no single mission gets too tedious. The real problems—presentation-wise—had to do with the menu and save system. The game includes plenty of Ghostbusters “lore” in the form of humorous text descriptions for all of the ghosts, equipment and cursed artifacts you encounter. As a gamer who tries to skim as much of this extraneous material as possible, I noticed that several of the text boxes would not scroll down far enough to read the full text. This was even the case for the main antagonist in the game! Does it kill the experience? Not at all. But it seemed like a pretty glaring oversight in terms of quality assurance.

What did momentarily kill the experience was the awkward auto-save system. After finally winning what seemed like the hardest boss fight in the game, the mission ended and my character ended up back at headquarters, where you’re supposed to go find a certain person to cue the next cut scene that starts the next mission. Assuming this was a natural auto-save point—the game never actually indicates when you’ve reached one—I turned off the game and when I came back, I was put in a new location at the beginning of the next mission. I had to go back on the Internet to find a Youtube video filling me in on the story that I’d missed. That strikes me as some pretty poor design.

The miracle is that the game is still so playable. Credit that to the authentic Ghostbusters story, quirky scenarios and incredible contribution from Ramis, Akroyd, et al.

As a final thought, what might have made the experience even better would be a choice to play the game as a male or female ghostbuster. I can only imagine the delightful challenge of having to fend off the persistent advances of Dr. Peter Venkman, in addition to the armies of the apocalypse.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 12 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time on “professional” difficulty) and .5 hours of play to multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, and Mild Language. The dialogue should be pretty safe for kids, but the humor is directed toward adults and fans of the Ghostbusters movies. The game does involve ghosts and the paranormal and may contain some sequences that could frighten young children.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The game includes subtitles and shouldn't be too much of a problem for the hearing impaired. The exception might be some directions given via dialogue during intense combat sequences.

Last edited by psychohype; 10-06-2010 at 05:00 PM.
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