Choose The Form Of The Destructor
HIGH About a bajillion times better than the 2016 movie.
LOW Not the strongest remaster. It’s also incomplete.
WTF Dan Aykroyd’s actual thoughts on ghosts, and many other topics.
The patchwork preservation and archiving of videogame history continues to be a blemish on the entire industry, and nowhere is that more clear than in the world of licensed games. While the stereotype of them being crap is mostly true, the occasional great one should be remembered and enjoyed for generations to come. Sadly, due to often-complex contractual obligations, that’s not easy to do.
For example, if one wanted to play the best licensed game ever made in the form of The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, the only current way to do so is by pirating. It’s even more difficult for titles that didn’t receive PC ports, such as 2003’s 007: Everything Or Nothing, which is objectively the best James Bond title ever made (Fight me). Even something made only four years ago like the excellent Transformers: Devastation is totally absent on digital storefronts.
Another one that fell through the cracks was the surprisingly good Ghostbusters: The Videogame from 2009. Like so many other decent tie-ins, it’s been de-listed from stores and hasn’t been available for years. While the timing is weird considering 2016 would’ve made more sense when a new Ghostbusters movie was released (the less said about that, the better), Saber Interactive has teamed up with Mad Dog Games to update this lost gem for modern hardware.
The story is set in 1991 and written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis. The game also stars the pair, alongside Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson. Also featured are Annie Potts reprising her role as secretary Janine Melnitz, and even ol’ “dickless” William Atherton returns as EPA flack Walter Peck. With this much authentic star power involved in its creation, this made it the defacto Ghostbusters sequel fans had been clamoring for since 1989.
The setup? After the New York museum features a poorly-thought-out Gozer exhibit that wakes the paranormal world, the Ghostbusters (along with their silent new rookie, the player) get the call to go save the Big Apple once again.
Aside from a touching tribute to the late Mr. Ramis inserted near the end of the opening cutscene, the singleplayer campaign is largely unchanged — it’s a third-person shooter where players run around with the famous Ghostbusters from the films and, well, they all bust ghosts.
Players use their proton pack to shoot a stream of energy at various ghouls until their health bar is depleted, then deploy a trap and reel them in like a pseudo fishing game. As the campaign progresses, Egon also develops new forms of energy propulsion for the proton pack (Essentially? We get a shotgun and a grenade launcher). Players also have access to the trusty PKE meter, switching to a first-person view when using it to investigate their surroundings. Players can also take snapshots of ghosts in this mode to reveal weak points and discover collectibles littered throughout.
Cash earned from catching ghosts and insurance from destroying the environment (nice) can be used to upgrade the equipment. The game also features no HUD, and does that cool Dead Space thing where all the important information is represented by lights and graphs on the back of the proton pack — a nice touch
G:TVR‘s gameplay is a serviceable vehicle to get players through the story, which is well-done and features tons of expertly-placed nods to the original movies. Players will traverse setpieces lifted straight from the first film such as the New York Public Library and The Sedgewick hotel, and it’s all accompanied by a huge amount of snappy dialogue delivered expertly from the cast. Dan Aykroyd’s real-life zest for all things paranormal and occult shines through, Harold Ramis’s deadpan performance is exceptional, and while I remember people complaining about Bill Murray’s work here, I think he does a good job at being Bill Murray — acting like he doesn’t give a hoot is kinda his thing.
Oh and Ernie Hudson is there too, I guess. He’s good.
In terms of how faithful it is to the source material, there’s a level of care put into the story and world that simply isn’t found in most licensed titles, and it’s easy to tell that the original cast cared about getting it right — from this perspective, it’s a memorable experience.
Looking at the rest of it, a decade is an eternity in videogaming, so a lot of Ghostbusters feels dated, and some of the problems the original had — the AI taking an eternity to revive friendly characters, for one –seem worse now. This becomes far more annoying later when things get hectic, as one spends as much time downed or reviving teammates as they do zapping ghosts.
Once the allure of palling around with Egon, Stantz, Venkman, and Zeddemore wears off, it becomes abundantly clear that Ghostbusters is a fairly basic title. Players zap and trap ghosts, solve basic puzzles and proceed to do more of exactly that for about eight hours.
As a remaster, it’s… alright. The original ran at 30FPS on consoles, so getting it at 60FPS in a higher resolution is a nice upgrade, but it lacks any other modern bells and whistles. The framerate also has hitches (even on enhanced consoles) and there’s some serious slowdown in certain cutscenes. Speaking of the cutscenes, most of them are pre-rendered using the in-game engine, and they’re not compressed particularly well — these are downright ugly.
Furthermore, the original featured a competitive multiplayer mode that was surprisingly good, and this remaster leaves it out completely. The team at Saber said this was because they focused their time “recreating the single player from the ground up” which seems like a bit of a stretch, and they’ve promised an entirely new co-op multiplayer component to be released at a later date, although I wouldn’t hold my breath if the sales charts don’t catch fire.
What was great about Ghostbusters: The Videogame still shines through in this remaster — it’s a loving tribute and fitting ‘sequel’ to one of the greatest comedies of all time, the dialogue and performances are top-notch, and fighting the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is still tremendously enjoyable. With that said, the nostalgia that masked gameplay warts in 2009 isn’t quite as potent today. However, it’s still a romp that any fan of the franchise will greatly appreciate, and given the sorry state of game archiving these days, I’m grateful we get the opportunity to play it again.
Disclosures: This game was originally developed by Terminal Reality, now remastered by Saber Interactive and published by Mad Dog Games. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, Switch, and the Epic Store. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS4 using a PS4 Pro outputting to a HDR Certified 4K display. An estimated 8 hours of play were devoted to the main campaign, and it was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and features Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, and Mild Language. This is a pretty weak Teen rating. The game features no blood of any sort and the script isn’t vulgar except for Bill Murray being occasionally pervy. Parents with a young fan of the movies shouldn’t have any problems with this title for kids above ten.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game features subtitle options and presents them in large, clear yellow font but with no way to resize them. The story and cutscenes are fully voiced, but in gameplay there are no necessary audio cues, so players shouldn’t have a problem.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are fully remappable. From the options menu, players can change every aspect of the controls however they see fit.