Released: 4 October 2019 (Hey! That’s my birthday!)
Originally Released: 16 June 2009
Developer: Saber Interactive
Original Developer: Terminal Reality / Red Fly Studio
Also Available For: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, and Xbox 360
Ghostbusters, as a franchise, has always had a bit of a chaotic history; the original Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984) went through numerous rewrites and changes of concept to get the project off the ground, the under-rated sequel, Ghostbusters II (ibid, 1989), failed to match the critical or financial success of its predecessor and has been largely (unfairly) written off by cast, crew, and fans, and the difficulties stars and writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis had in getting a long-awaited third film into development eventually led to an all-female reboot in 2016, whose scathing reception finally led to an official continuation being green lit for release at some point next year. Personally, I blame a lot of this on star Bill Murray; Aykroyd and Ramis fought to produce a true third film for years, turning in all kinds of different scripts and concepts, only for Murray to balk at every suggestion and hold production back.
Somewhere in that void, though, Atari announced that they were working on a new Ghostbusters videogame, one that would revisit a lot of the undeveloped ideas for the unproduced Ghostbusters III and even, after some back and forth with Murray (obviously), managed to reunite the four main characters of the movies for what is largely considered to be the third Ghostbusters movie…but in videogame form! I first played Ghostbusters: The Video Game on the PlayStation 3 and remembered enjoying it for its fidelity to the original movies; having the four main cast members back, featuring the same locations, music, and aesthetics, all gave the game a sheen of quality largely missing from other similar videogame tie-ins. Yet, for whatever reason, I got rid of the game shortly after completing it and always regretted that decision so, when the remastered version was announced for Xbox One, I jumped at the chance to revisit the game and try to figure out what it was that kept me from keeping the game in my library the first go around.
Some time after the events of Ghostbusters II, the Ghostbusters are universally lauded and have an official contract with New York City to conduct their business. However, when a supernatural energy pulse emanates from the Gozer exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, ghosts begin to increase in frequency and, alongside a new recruit, the titular Ghostbusters find themselves facing off Ivo Shandor, who seeks to merge the Ghostworld with the real world.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered is a third-person shooter, of sorts, in which the player takes control of an unnamed new Ghostbusters (generally referred to simply as “Rookie” or some variation). The Rookie is given the…honour?…of lugging around the Ghostbusters’ new experimental tech, doing all the team’s heavy lifting, and generally being sent in to investigate disturbances first to reduce the risks faced by the team. As you might expect, given the nature of the franchise, your primary goal is to use the Ghostbusters’ patented Proton Pack to fire a stream of nuclear-charged protonic energy at various ghosts, whittling their health down until they are ready to be trapped in a small mechanical box.
When ensnaring a ghost, you have to keep an eye on the steadily rising bar on your Proton Pack; if you simply hold down the R trigger with reckless abandon, your Proton Pack will overheat and you’ll be left vulnerable while you wait for it to recharge. Therefore, it’s advisable to press the R button to vent the pack and keep your Proton Stream going strong; basically, it’s like a reload function in a shooter. Once the ghost is worn down and in your Proton Stream, you can slam it to weaken it further or force it into a trap but you need to be careful that you don’t cross your stream with those of the other Ghostbusters as you’ll get blown on your ass. Once you successfully trap the ghost, you’ll earn in-game currency that is used to buy new upgrades for your Proton Pack to make catching and trapping ghosts slightly easier. I say “slightly” because the main issue with trapping ghosts is that the game doesn’t have an auto-lock on or any kind of lock-on feature, basically meaning your Proton Stream goes flying all over the place and can be extremely difficult to aim and keep trained on a ghost, especially as the fly around the game’s locations.
When you’re not trapping ghosts, you’re tasked with exploring your surroundings, many of which are extremely faithful recreations from the first Ghostbusters movie. You can do this in third-person mode, where you’re able to sprint and blast at a whole host of destructible items, or switch to a first-person mode, equipping both the Psychokinetic Energy Meter (P.K.E. Meter) and the Ecto Goggles in the process. In this mode, you’ll scan your environment; when the P.K.E. Meter turns red, a ghost is nearby and you can hold the R trigger to scan it and learn its weaknesses to aid you. When the meter turns blue, it means you’re close to one of the game’s many Cursed Artefacts, which can be collected to add bonus items to the Ghostbusters’ firehouse and earn you a couple of Achievements. This mode is very similar to the forced first-person perspective of Resident Evil: Revelations (Capcom, 2012) or the detective vision from the Batman: Arkham series (Various, 2009 to present) in that, since it’s your only real indication of where you need to go thanks to the game lacking a traditional map, you’ll be spending a great deal of your time either in scan mode or flipping in and out of it to scan every ghost you encounter. Personally, I feel the developers could have incorporated the P.K.E. Meter function into the game’s heads-up display, placing it in the bottom left corner and having it light up whenever something of interest was near so that you spend more of your time in third-person mode but, once you’ve scanned everything you need to scan and know where you need to go, you’ll probably not be switching to this mode in future playthroughs.
The Rookie is portrayed as fairly clumsy in the game’s charming cutscenes but, in-game, he’s generally quite competent; his health is measured on the side of the Proton Pack and, whenever you start to take too much damage, the screen will flash and turn red, so it’s best to use the B button to awkwardly hop out of harm’s way or find some cover until your health replenishes. If you or any of your Ghostbuster allies take too much damage, you’ll need to be revived or revive them yourself, respectively; if you’re all incapacitated, the mission is failed and you’ll have to reload your last checkpoint. There are a couple of drawbacks to this: one quite crucial one is the your character can sometimes be incapacitated in just one or two hits, leaving you at the mercy of your computer-controlled allies, and another is that there is never an onscreen indicator of when the game is auto-saving so, when you die, you could be sent all the way back to the start of the mission or you could be sent back to right outside the last door you entered. It’s also doubly frustrating that the game has such long loading screens; considering this version is supposed to be optimised for the Xbox One, I don’t expect to be sitting there for a minute or two while the game struggles to load up my last checkpoint.
When you’re not busting ghosts, exploring your environment, or scanning your surroundings, you’re tasked with solving a few rudimentary puzzles. Generally, these are as simple as crossing a room and activating a switch but, often, some kind of obstruction will require the use of your Proton Pack and other attachments to clear the way, such as moving an electrified wire out of water, clearing slime or vines, activating a winch, or yanking open doors with your slime tether. The game can be a bit obtuse with telling you exactly what you need to do, though; there’s a part in the sewer where you need to clear out the black slime so you can proceed further and there’s literally nothing to tell you to use your slime tether on the weights next to the gate. Later, when on Shandor’s Island, I was faced with a locked door; Egon Spengler (Ramis) helpfully said something like “Do what I do!” but all he was doing was standing still. I am not ashamed to admit that it took me a good couple of minutes to spot the seemingly-obvious stairs that led down to the hedge maze, and the solution to this puzzle, below.
The main appeal of Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered is that it is chock full of attention to detail, little Easter Eggs, and call-backs to all the best and most beloved moments of the first movie. For me, though, this is a double-edged sword as, while the game clearly acknowledges and takes place after the second movie, everything about the game is geared towards it being more of a Ghostbusters 1.5 or a “real” Ghostbusters II as the characters are all modelled after their appearances in the first movie (despite looking different in the second), the music is all ripped straight from the first movie’s fantastic soundtrack, and very little of the game revolves around any of the fallout of the second movie beyond the inclusion of slime. It almost feels like the developers should have simply had the opening mission of the game be a flashback to the events of the first movie and then just presented the rest of the game as taking place between the two films or in place of the second as, while the game’s narrative just about line up, it’s clearly more geared towards paying homage to the first, more popular movie.
Graphics and Sound:
Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered is a bit of a mixed bag: on the one hand, the game’s locations, ghosts, bosses, and in-game models look amazing but, on the other, the game’s pre-rendered cutscenes (and even those that use the in-game models) leave a lot to be desired.
In its first mission, the game takes the team back to the Sedgewick Hotel from the first movie, which is recreated in stunning detail. Here, you’ll explore these familiar surroundings and then engage in an extremely faithful recreation of the Ghostbusters’ first encounter with Slimer before heading out into Times Square, making your way up a building, and battling the reborn Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Another mission takes you make to the New York Public Library to settle up with the Librarian Ghost from the first film and, between missions, you’ll get to freely wander around the Ghostbusters’ firehouse. All of these familiar locations are recreated in meticulous detail, ripped straight from the first movie, and really make it feel as though you are playing a true Ghostbusters videogame.
The game then expands upon its locations considerably, transporting the team to the Lovecraftian Ghostworld, where spirits and spectres roam freely, a nightmarish version of Central Park, dilapidated cemeteries, a suitably Gothic and haunted island, and even a hellish version of the ghost dimension. While many of these locations are quite linear (you can explore but, more often than not, you’ll just run into a dead end), they are full of little details, lighting effects, and Easter Eggs to find and things to do. Almost everything is destructible, for one thing, and you can interact with certain elements (water fountains, the exhibits in the museum, and others), though, at the same time, environments can feel a little bland and restrictive. The in-game models are pretty much spot-on, though, especially for the ghosts and the Ghostbusters themselves. Despite the faithful recreation of the returning actors, though, the models can end up looking a little bit like action figures; they’re a bit stiff, their eyes tend to get washed out or swallowed up by their faces, and the cutscenes are often a little out of synch.
There’s also a marked difference in quality between the pre-rendered cutscenes and the in-game cutscenes, which is to be expected but, again, I expect more from a remastered version of a videogame. The game’s soundtrack, though, is fantastic; every track is a familiar tune (or heavily based upon tracks) from the first movie (again, no love for the sequel in this regard), which only adds to the immersive experience. The four main actors return to voice their characters and it is amazing to hear them all bantering and bouncing off of one another in true Ghostbusters fashion. It’s just a shame, then, that the game includes this weird glitch where the in-game audio and spoken dialogue will cut out when you wander too far from the group; this kind of makes sense as you’ve moved out of earshot but it can also happen if you stand still and simply rotate the camera and, most embarrassingly of all, often happens mid-way through an in-game cutscene. I also couldn’t help but notice that Bill Murray’s reading of some of his lines felt far less natural as he over- or under-emphasised certain words and generally came across as a complete inept moron, even more so than his character, Peter Venkman, is generally portrayed.
Enemies and Bosses:
Given that you’re placed in the shoes of a rookie Ghostbuster, you’ll be spending the majority of your time tracking down and busting ghosts of all shapes and sizes. Your first mission is to recapture Slimer but, from there, you’ll also hunt down all kinds of other spooks, all of them rendered in the same semi-translucent style presented in the movies. Sometimes, you’ll also have to contend with possessed items, such as candlesticks, coffins, and tombstones, which will spring to life and scurry after you and are immune to your traditional Proton Stream.
These minions can’t be trapped and must be dealt with using the other attachments you get to your Proton Pack, meaning they’re far more annoying as enemies as they’ll swarm around you, throwing projectiles your way, and generally keep respawning until you seal off the portal that birthed them. Some ghosts also have the ability to possess nearby non-playable characters or even your fellow Ghostbusters, meaning you’ll have to hose them down with your Mood Slime before you can capture the offending ghosts. Others bring massive statues and suits of armour to life or transform the environment to suit their needs but one thing most of them have in common is that you’ll need to switch to different attachments to whittle them down and they are slippery devils that force you to run around in circles getting pummelled by projectiles and attacks, constantly reviving your teammates or being.
Easily one of the worst enemies in the entire game are the kamikaze cherubs you encounter late into the graveyard mission; these little bastards not only shoot at you with flaming arrows, they also fly at you head-first and explode, dealing massive damage. If that wasn’t enough, you also have to contend with a never-ending slew of possessed gravestones, Ray Stantz being all but useless as a partner character, and the fact that the only way to clear this area is to slam or slime tether the cherubs into a gate. This kind of frustration really brings Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered down; it’s just so inconsistent as one minute you’ll be having a whale of a time busting ghosts and, the next, you’ll be beaten to a pulp in seconds over and over and forced to sit through those long-ass loading screens. This inconsistency is translated into the game’s boss battles as well; after making short work of Slimer and a ghostly fisherman, you’ll do battle with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and, honestly, the little Marshmallow Minions he spawns throughout the preceding mission are more of a threat than he is! You simply hang from a tether, clear away his minions, and then zap him in the face enough times to turn him into marshmallow mush once more.
The next mission sees you settling the score with the Librarian Ghost, who surrounds herself with a shield to drag the fight out a bit but is nothing compared to Azetlor! This demonic entity is comprised of books and is initially protected by its mask, which you must shoot your Mood Slime at for what feels like an eternity. Once the mask is finally removed, you’ll probably fail the mission almost immediately as Azetlor makes mincemeat out of you and your team mates. Apparently, you’re supposed to dodge into the portals scattered throughout the arena to avoid Azetlor’s attacks and ignore reviving the other Ghostbusters but this never worked for me as, when you enter a portal, you exit it with the controls slightly janky so if you press up on the analogue stick you just jump back through the portal again! Seriously, the boss battle was the most annoying and challenging boss in the entire game, including the game’s final bosses!
Later, you’ll have to chase the Spider Witch around her lair; after dealing enough damage to her, she disappears and you have to desperately follow your P.K.E. Meter to find her before she replenishes too much of her health, making this battle more of a chore than anything. You’ll also encounter a giant Sloar chained up in a dungeon-like sewer, which you must bait into attacking you so you can damage the glowing weak spot on its head. When you reach the finale of the game, you’ll battle against Ivo Shandor himself in a two-stage boss battle. In the first, he has possessed the New York City Mayor and is protecting himself with a green energy shield. You’ll be constantly reviving your team mates as they are either pummelled into submission by the skulls that home in on them (and you) or instantly incapacitated by Shandor’s whirlwinds but, if you blast away at Shandor’s shield with your Mason Collider, he’ll activate four nearby pillars to regenerate his health. Blast each of these in turn and the battle will end, making the most difficult part about this boss simply having enough Ghostbusters alive to see the mission through.
Shandor then assumes a far more demonic form, that of the “Architect”, an enormous Satanic being that forcibly drags you all back to the Ghostworld in a final encounter that is laughably easy compared to some of the bosses and enemies you’ve battled up until that point. Seriously, I had to revive my team mates the least in this battle and never once had to be revived; you simply keep your distance, blasting at Shandor with Boson Darts and, when he moves to the centre of the arena to regenerate, blow up the pillars. Wash, rinse, repeat, and he’s done in no time at all.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you progress through the story, you’ll be gifted with additions to your base Proton Pack; you start out with the basic Proton Stream, which can whittle away a ghost’s health, ensnare them, and slam them to help trap them, but soon gain access to additional components. The first are the Boson Darts, highly concentrated bursts of protonic energy that are great for clearing out large swarms of enemies and dealing heavy damage, though you can only use them a couple of times before your Proton Pack overheats. Next, you get equipped with the Dark Matter Generator, which allows you to blast at enemies with a shotgun-like Shock Blast or freeze ghosts in place with the Stasis Stream, both of which can be handy for crowd control and giving you time to regenerate health.
After this, you’ll get access to the Slime Blower, a smaller, heavily modified version of the ones seen in Ghostbusters II. This allows you to clear caustic black slime from the environment, reduces certain enemies to mush, and allows you to attach slime tethers to objects and ghosts. Unfortunately, the lack of a lock-on feature makes using the slime tether in this latter fashion more frustrating than helpful and it is, by far, the feature I used the least. Finally, you upgrade to the Composite Particle System, which allows you to use the Mason Collider for a rapid-fire function similar to a machine gun. You can also use the Overload Pulse to have your shots home in on a specific target, both of which can be useful for rapidly wearing down ghosts for the capture. While you never get to drive the Ecto-1b (that honour is, awkwardly, generally left to Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), my second favourite Ghostbuster after Ray), it does feature a few times in the story mode and is, at one point, equipped with the Super Slammer Trap that allows you to instantly trap ghosts once they’re lured over to the car. Otherwise, you’ll be using your own trap to grab the ghoulies and earn cash to spend on upgrading each of the features of your Proton Pack to reduce overheating, speed up the trapping process, and other improvements that marginally improve the experience.
As you progress, you’ll unlock each story chapter to replay on one of the game’s three different difficulty settings. This is crucial to revisiting areas and finding any Artefacts you missed, scanning and recording every ghost in the game, and earning all of the game’s Achievements. While you can replay from each mission’s checkpoints, the upgrades you’ve purchased don’t carry over and you can’t take features like the Slime Blower back to the first mission, for example, somewhat limiting the game’s replayability. You’ll also unlock the game’s cutscenes to view in the game’s “Extras” menu but that’s pretty much it; you don’t unlock any additional characters or costumes, there’s no post-game content, and even the multiplayer aspect from the original version has been excised from this remaster! Apparently, all of these features (and more) were apparently planned for the game and a multiplayer component was supposed to be released shortly after the remaster’s launch but, as of this writing, it’s not happened.
Soon into playing Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered, I suspected what it was that kept me from keeping the game in my PlayStation 3 library back in the day. While it looks and sounds fantastic and really feels like an authentic Ghostbusters experience, the game is just so damn inconsistent; it looks great and can be really fun to play, running smoothly and featuring some great vocal work from everyone involved who isn’t Bill Murray but then wham! Suddenly you’re faced with an obtuse puzzle, lost in maze-like corridors, or battling enemies and bosses than can one-shot you and your team with cheap, difficult to avoid attacks. Honestly, it really stinks that the developers couldn’t at least release the game with couch co-op; the game begs for it, seeing as you’re running around with the other Ghostbusters the entire time, so a split screen multiplayer would have only increased the game’s appeal. Plus, not adding anything new to the game for this remaster is a real disappointment; the only thing that’s been changed is that the graphics have a bit more polish and that’s it. We could have gotten new skins or costumes, maybe even some extra Achievements or gameplay modes but, instead, we’re left with a slightly better looking version of the base game that really doesn’t deserve being bought at full price. It’s great to see all the guys back together and to experience a version of what Aykroyd and the late, great Ramis had planned for Ghostbusters III but, as a complete package, Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered fails far more than it succeeds and is recommended only really for hardcore Ghostbusters fans.
What did you think of Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered? Did you play the original version; if so, which console did you play it for and how do you think this remaster holds up compared to the original? Which Ghostbuster is your favourite? Which Ghostbusters videogame do you have fond, or bad, memories of? Do you think I am being too harsh on Bill Murray? Are you looking forward to the new Ghostbusters movie? Whatever you think about Ghostbusters, drop a comment below.
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