Delayed for years, a high-profile game originally to be published by Sierra and now in the hands of Atari has finally become reality: a Ghostbusters video game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 that's actually billed as a sequel to the movies.
Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and voiced by nearly the entire cast of both films, it's not lacking in official Ghostbusters cred. The question is, how does it play? Reviews have been generally solid, but our intra-office discussions among the CNET editors' gaming roundtable have been just this side of heated. We're presenting our sometimes-conflicting views, and leaving it up to you to sort out who's right. Give us your opinion in the comments section below. Also, be sure to check out our exclusive trailer featuring many of the phantasms you'll encounter in the game!
The graphics and physics are impressive, as is the true-to-the-movie soundtrack. Sure, the characters look a little waxy-faced and Venkman walks unintentionally strangely, but this is still, easily, the best-looking Ghostbusters by a country mile. The storyline, while leaning heavily on a greatest-hits level-by-level rundown of your previous movie foes, is full of entertaining (for video games) banter. Fans can consider themselves well served. While each stage unfolds linearly, the haunted-house feel and goofy/nerdy tone work perfectly for the movie adaptation. But the one big bummer: when I started up the game and saw "Career," I thought it might be an open-world game like GTA, with ghosts to bust all around town. Sadly, that's not true at all. We wish we could freely roam 1991 Manhattan in the Ecto 1. The weapon upgrades are needlessly complex, and there's too much scanning and analyzing with the PK meter...it starts feeling like Pokemon Snap. Still, when has a movie game been this good? It tops The Force Unleashed, and this has online multiplayer, too.
First thing's first: If you're a fan of the Ghostbusters franchise, we're happy to announce that you will not be disappointed. The moment you fire up the game for the first time, you'll be overwhelmed with the amount of nostalgia that oozes from the game's presentation. From the blasts of the proton streams to the incorporation of the original score, there are tons of throwbacks awaiting you. The firehouse is littered with artifacts from the Ghostbusters universe, and there are plenty of lines of dialogue specifically aimed at fans of the series.
Solid presentation and loyalty to the franchise aside, underneath lies a solid third-person action game. While you'll probably need a few practice rounds with zapping and trapping ghosts, once you've mastered the basics the rest is easier to pick up. Of course the game isn't perfect--you may get tired of using the PK meter, and there are times when your character won't be able to stand back up from being repeatedly attacked.
Achieving that perfect balance of storytelling and gameplay is something many games unsuccessfully strive for--especially when dealing with a comedy. With Ghostbusters, we're seeing one of the best attempts at doing so. Ramis' and Aykroyd's story feels genuine and flows well.
Would the game stand up without its legendary franchise attached? Maybe not--but there's enough creepy moments and variety to even satisfy newcomers to the series.
It turns out that after years of delays and being bounced between two different publishers, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a well-made, compelling experience. Most of that credit goes to the script and voice-acting, provided by the film's cast. It's subpar compared to the 1984 original, but light years ahead of what passes for writing and acting in most video games (even if Bill Murray is clearly phoning it in).
Unfortunately, while it's a good game, it's not the game Atari needed right now. It's clear that no one play-tested Ghostbusters with a casual, mainstream audience in mind--exactly the kind of Gen-X pop-culture fans who could have made this a massive hit. The game is incredibly complicated and hard to master (we're speaking of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions), even on its easiest difficulty levels. Fighting many of the ethereal creeps requires deftly manipulating both triggers and both shoulder buttons on the Xbox 360 gamepad at the same time, plus various other buttons for deploying traps and switching between weapons. A much more pick-up-and-play vibe would help this game reach the larger audience it deserves.