Before the 2016 reboot and the upcoming film that’s set to arrive next year, developer Terminal Reality gave the world the unofficial Ghostbusters 3 with the release of Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Featuring the voice and likenesses of the iconic team of paranormal investigators and with a story penned by Dan Akyroyd and the late, great Harold Ramis, Ghostbusters: The Video Game gave die-hard fans of the franchise the reunion they were wanting for years. Seemingly jumping over countless legal hurdles, publisher Saber Interactive has turned off the power and released Ghostbusters: The Video Game from its last-generation containment unit with a remaster of the 2009 game.
Over ten years later, Ghostbusters: The Video Game still manages to be a respectable extension of the franchise due in large part to the participation of the film’s cast, but frustrating design choices cause the game to be a relic of its time that hasn’t aged gracefully.
Set two years after Ghostbusters II, a massive spike in supernatural activity has ghosts once again reemerging to haunt locations from the Ghostbusters’ past. With the help of a new rookie team member, hired to be a test subject for the team’s experimental and dangerous devices, the Ghostbusters get back to cleaning up the town while uncovering what this all has to do with the long deceased cultist, Ivo Shandor.
Due in large part to the participation of the film’s cast, Ghostbusters: The Video Game, even all these later, will sure to delight longtime fans of the film. While the brief campaign can feel most like a greatest hits of the series as you’ll be visiting many familiar locations from the film like the Sedgewick Hotel and the New York Public Library, the story manages to provide meaningful back story to the material by diving into the origins of things like the Gray Lady – the first ghost that Peter, Ray and Egon ever saw – and the mood slime used by Vigo the Carpathian. It’s also impossible not to have a smile on your face between missions when you get to explore the Ghostbusters firehouse headquarters, sliding down the pole, watching the slime infused toaster dance and even talking to Vigo, voiced once again by Max von Sydow, or hearing familiar ques from the score of the movies.
It’s disappointing that you don’t get to play as one of your favorite Ghostbusters, but that decisions wisely allow you to be with actors like Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Harold Ramis and Dan Akyroyd as they bounce off of one another. The only issue is that despite having the entire team with you most of the time, there are hardly any moments that stand out like they do in the movies. It’s not an issue with the performance of the actors or with the script written for the game, it’s just hard to recreate the spirit of the film in a medium like video games that leaves little room for improvisation.
Playing like a lot of games of its time, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a linear, third-person shooter with the twist being you get to wear the iconic Proton Pack. The game manages to get a lot of mileage out of wrangling ghosts, and it rarely gets boring. Starting out you’ll have access to the particle thrower where you’ll learn the craft of wearing down ghosts and sucking them into the trap. After a brief tutorial in the firehouse, you’ll wrap your head around the mechanics quickly while also learning to read your status on the Proton Pack.
Similar to a game like EA’s Dead Space, Ghostbusters: The Video Game eliminates a HUD in favor of having your health and “ammo counter” – you have to vent your equipment to keep it from overheating – that frees up a lot of screen real estate, allowing you to take in the digital environment recreations the original team at Terminal Reality created. As you cycle between your four different pieces of equipment or reload, you’ll also see subtle changes to your Proton Pack like slight color and visual changes like a slime meter or antenna protruding from the top.
As you’re the Rookie charged with testing new equipment, you’re given a whole new set of tools to play around with. Though they feel like familiar shooter tropes, they have a Ghostbusters spin on them that help differentiate this game from other games of its type. You have a freeze ray that slows down ghosts with an alternate fire mode that you can use to shatter them, while another feels like the bullseye weapon from Insomniac’s Resistance where you can tag ghosts and unleash a flurry of rapid fire shots. By using your googles and PKE meter, you can scan ghosts for their weaknesses so you’re given incentive to constantly switch between your different load outs. A lot of the stages are made up of very strict linear corridors, but you can hunt for collectibles to scan within levels that provide valuable currency to upgrade your gear. Ghostbusters: The Video Game has one of the smallest upgrade trees found in a video game though, and you’ll easily complete the game with all the upgrades and thousands of dollars to spare.
Perhaps the most fun tool in your ghost busting arsenal is the upgraded slime blower first seen in Ghostbusters II. Not only can be used offensively, but in one of the most memorable stages where you cross over to the Ghostworld, you’ll use it to create tethers to create platforms. This is used in a few other puzzles throughout the game, but you’re never really given the chance to figure out anything on your own as one of your teammates will always chime in to tell you exactly what you need to do.
Upon its original release, Ghostbusters: The Video Game had a multiplayer mode divorced from the main campaign, that has been axed for the remaster, and no way to play with a friend in the campaign. So what this means for the 2019 update is that you’re all on your own. It’s unfortunate that you can’t bring a friend along for the ride as the computer controlled Ghostbusters you’re strapped with must have ectoplasm between their ears. You spend far too much time having to revive your teammates as they’re constantly falling in battle, especially during boss fights. You also can’t take that many hits before you’re knocked down yourself, and once you fall, you have to rely on the others to pick you up. Prepared to see a lot of “mission failed” screens after you get hit by an enemy and have all of your partners die trying to get to you. This happens far too much throughout the game, and it really kills what is otherwise an enjoyable third-person shooter.
This remaster won’t wow you in the way that others this generation have, but it does a respectable job of up-scaling the assets to modern machines. It’s also not without a few problems too. During the opening cut-scene, the disc was spinning especially loud in the PlayStation 4 and the video was excessively stuttering. At first this was thought to be the problem of the hardware this was being played on – an original PlayStation 4 that has been in service since not long after launch – but others came forward on social media stating they had a similar problem. During a cinema late in the game, the video also failed to load on screen even though the audio and sub-titles did.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered is a gift in a lot of respects as you don’t see licensed games like this make a comeback, and at a budget price no less. It’s just too bad that despite all the love that went into making the game, from getting the actors to the Easter Eggs that nod at the film, that the game’s problematic AI keep it from being as good as it could be. Hardcore Ghostbusters fans might be able to overlook this, but everyone else might consider playing on easy, else you’ll be more of a controller buster than a Ghostbuster.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered
- Features a story written by those responsible for the films and the return of the original cast
- Playing around with the Proton Pack and other ghost busting weapons
- Budget price
- No multiplayer modes
- Frustratingly dim-witted AI
- A few technical hiccups