Ghost Rider Preview (PS2)

After making the journey from cult comic hero to major movie, The Ghost Rider’s now coming to consoles. And he’s planning to do some serious damage.

Welcome to Hell

On-foot sections are packed with atmosphere

Despite coinciding with the release of the Nicholas Cage motion picture, British developers Climax have set the PS2 and PSP games after the events portrayed in the film. Not only does this save you from controlling a digitised Cage, but it also allows for a storyline from comic writers Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti.

The game begins after stuntman Johnny Blaze has sold his soul in an attempt to save his dying step father. In return, he’s transformed into a leather-clad, chain-wielding skeleton with a flaming skull.

But the main purpose of the game is to let you wreak as much damage as possible on the various villains you encounter, including Mephisto, the demon who originally tricked Blaze. From the start you’re given a variety of ways to destroy with your chain, as well as the hellfire shotgun. The gun is powered by the Spirit Gauge, which can also propel Ghost Rider into a rage mode with boosts his speed and power.

There aren’t many easy battles in the game

Flaming chopper is the only way to travel

Certain enemies will only be defeated once you’ve matched their level on the Vengeance Bar, which is increased by varying your attacks and avoiding being struck yourself. You can also power up by collecting Demon Charge from fallen foes, which allows you to perform Ghost Rider’s penance stare, which makes an enemy experience all the pain and suffering they’ve ever caused. If that isn’t enough, collecting the souls of vanquished demons allows you to buy new combos, new attributes, and a whole host of special extras, including ‘making of’ movies, and issues of the actual comic book. And there’s another famous comic creation unlocked by completing the game.

Upgrades can also be applied to the flaming motorcycle which propels you through the riding section of the game. In addition to the chain and the bike’s projectile missiles, Ghost Rider can also jump over, and slide under, obstacles, using his bike to mow down enemies as he rides.

Graphically, the game is impressive, with athletic grace throughout the fighting, and special moves executed with special effects and slow motion. And battling through hell is suitably oppressive and epic, particularly as you see one of the more formidable enemies make their entrance.

The only niggle comes with the fixed camera and control system. Although the fixed camera does allow for a handy roll move on the right analogue stick to avoid enemies, it also means you can be hit by missiles from unseen enemies out of sight of the camera. Or find yourself running in circles, trying to find the bad guys. Luckily any aggravation is soon released by the cathartic process of battering another selection of underworld inhabitants.

The PSP version features shorter levels and time limits, but also an exclusive four player combat-orientated race game, with ten characters and five tracks.

The bike even makes a good plane

There’s never a shortage of bad guys

Ghost Rider might not offer anything revolutionary when it comes to game play, but what it does, it does well and with enthusiasm. It should appear to fans and non-fans of the comic and film, and, on consoles at least, Johnny Blaze can only be damned by faint praise.