Ghostbusters Preview (PC)

Anyone with even a slight modicum of knowledge regarding movie to game adaptations will know never to get their hopes up. When we heard that a game of one of our all time favourite movies was being turned into a videogame, mixed feelings of excitement and apprehension washed over us. Would the game be able to do such a licence justice and more importantly will developer Terminal Reality be able to get the look, feel and humour of the movies right? The first screenshots arrived making early indications positive, yet the announcement that the main storyline wouldn’t be playable as a co-operative experience was instantly a cause for concern. To be honest, it still is our chief concern about Ghostbusters The Video Game, seeming like a huge oversight and a missed opportunity to us. The Ghostbusters IP is perfectly tailored to a multiplayer experience and the reasons for deciding against local co-op are somewhat unconvincing. If a game like Gears of War can incorporate an accomplished co-op mode and an effective story involving four characters, then why can’t this do the same?

Still, there’s a lot to like about Terminal Reality’s game with all of the movie talent on board and their accompanying likenesses perfectly represented. There are online only multiplayer modes including a function to build your own campaign playlist playing as the core Ghostbusters team or the single-player mode’s rookie. In the main single-player campaign you play as the team’s newest recruit who has been hired to test out Egon’s latest equipment. As such you get to experiment with a whole host of new spirit capturing inventions exclusive to the game although you’re cast as a mute, blank character with no personality whatsoever. The developer’s reasoning for this is straightforward enough - they didn’t want to introduce a new character into a speaking role and upset the perfect comedy dynamic between the Ghostbusters team. Speaking of which, Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) and Dan Aykroyd (Ray Stanz) volunteered for scripting duties on the game inking over 400 pages of directions, ideas and dialogue specifically for the video game. Best of all though, the entire central cast return, lending not only their likenesses but their voices too and the results aren’t half bad.

The showdown with Slimer in the Sedgwick Hotel looks ace.
Here the guys are capturing a Slimer in the ‘Slime Dunk’ multiplayer mode. Grab Slimer and dunk him into the trap. Easy.

Set two years after the events of Ghostbusters II (1989), the story is being kept mostly under wraps with your rookie Experimental Equipment Technician joining the group to take on an entire army of malevolent supernatural threats. Authenticity is the watchword for Ghostbusters The Video Game, seeing the return of Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Vigo the Carpathian all in an ostensibly justifiable and logical fashion. Every facet of the game is impeccably presented, with fantastic visuals, fully destructible environments and elaborate effects all making for a convincingly faithful representation of the hit movies.

Given a presentation by Terminal Reality’s Drew Haworth and Brendan Goss (see our interview for more), we got a chance to see Slimer terrorising the Sedgwick Hotel, the ensuing chaos splashed all over the screen when Ray, Egon, Peter, Winston and the rookie attempt to capture the mischievous rampaging snot globule. Proton streams sear lines onto the wall, tear through furniture, splintering wood and setting fabrics alight. There’s clearly been a marked effort by the Texan developer to create a totally interactive game world; one later level had a spirit passing through mirrors, which you can smash, to close off his ability to drift between plains. During this section, we also got to see a couple of the unique devices you’ll get to test out. First of these was the Slime Sprayer, a gun that’s fairly self-explanatory in that it dispenses viscous showers of green goo, but it can also deploy a string of slime that you can tether to any enemy or object opening up all kinds of opportunities for physics-based mayhem. There’s a full physics engine that enables you to manipulate items and wrangle ghosts using your slime tether or proton stream. Just remember never to cross the streams.

You can’t knock Ghostbusters’ visual fidelity. It looks quite lovely.
We know it’s shameless, but how could we resist not putting in a picture of us shaking hands with the man behind that theme song, Mr. Ray Parker Jr.

The second technological advancement to be demonstrated is the Shock Blast, a shotgun-like function that can be used to stun apparitions, allowing you to then capture them in your stream and trap them. Once you manage to draw a spirit into your proton stream you have full control over it with the analogue stick. Trying to escape the whole time, the hyperactive ghost requires a deft finger to adjust your movement to ensure it stays put. Pulling the left trigger enables you to slam the ghost into the ground to temporarily weaken and stun it before you guide it into the trap for the final satisfying capture. Alternatively, you can use your slam move to stylishly dunk it straight into the trap. You also have your PKE meter acting as a handy directional device if you get lost, so you’re never left hanging around scratching your head wondering what to do next. As such there’s always a nice sense of purpose and propulsion to the narrative making for immediate, fast-paced action.

As apprehending ghosts makes up the majority of the gameplay, it’s comforting to know that the game is totally intuitive to play, utilising a standard third-person control scheme that’s immediately accessible. Going hands-on with a brief demo leading up to a showdown with Stay Puft (which is where the demo teasingly ends), we fought our way through demonic marshmallow minions getting a feel for the game and the core mechanics. It’s surprisingly smooth and playable and left us wanting much more. Sadly, the demo was far too short and didn’t really allow us to see as much of the game as we’d have liked. All we need now is to see more of the game, as our brief hands-on taster just wasn‘t enough to really get a tangible indication of how the final product will turn out.

You finally get the chance to put away that nasty old lady ghost from the first movie.
Terminal Reality apparently employs something called ‘Golem-tech’ to build the book monsters. Fascinating, right?

Currently, there are still some placeholder animations and lip-sync issues to be rectified, so we’ve not had the chance to look at a finished version as yet. Nevertheless, Ghostbusters is looking like it will effortlessly provide a fantastic single-player experience. As for that multiplayer though, we’re still feeling stung by the lack of co-op to welcome the touted online modes, leaving us only with a bitter taste in the mouth imagining what could (and should) have been. There’re a wealth of online multiplayer options to play with including full VOIP support, 12 maps, two co-operative modes (instant action and customisable campaign mode), leaderboards and a bestiary of captured ghosts to compile. Despite all of this, the online support only caters for two players rather than the full team of four you’d have expected. Imagine a Horde type mode a la Gears of War 2 fighting waves of ghosts as the complete team of four. We also still find it very difficult to accept the exclusion of local multiplayer: this of all movie licences was surely tailor-made for split-screen. Regardless of our misgivings, this does have the tools and the talent, but will it save the day? Stay tuned.

Ghostbusters The Video Game is slated for a Summer 2009 release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC and coincides with the release of the shiny 25th Anniversary Blu-ray of the first movie. Yeah!

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