Why are movie tie in video games universally rubbish? Well it’s pretty obvious when you think about it. Every other video game starts as an idea, a spark in someone’s mind that gets that person excited enough to devote years of their lives to making them, whereas a movie tie in is a vehicle to make more money off someone else’s idea. Often pushed to do this in a short space of time, it’s no surprise so many of them come out badly.
With that in mind, it’s pleasantly surprising to find that Fireforge, developers of the new Ghostbusters game, have absolutely nailed it with the first level of the game. The rebooted Ghostbusters are busting something out of town, leaving a new team to look after New York. They’re a sassy bunch – bonus points for letting me play as a big bearded ginger guy – rendered in an art style rather like the old Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and all fully voiced, though there is only one CGI cut scene at the start.
Each level takes the same format, as you wind your way through the location, viewed from an isometric perspective, and hunt the ghosts. With local co-op, up to four players can join in, each Ghostbuster having a proton pack as standard, as well as a specific weapon and grenade. The grenades can stun and shock ghosts and you can combine their effects to really slow the ghosts down.
Some ghosts appear as you wander round, while others have to be located by waving the PK meter around and scanning for slimey markings. The small ghosts, which can take the form of zombies, books, and haunted candles, can be dispatched by sinply shooting them, but the larger enemies need to be softened up with some bullets before being trapped using the proton beams. Wrestling a ghost around with the proton pack is a highlight of the game, with the controller juddering around as you fight the ghost, pushing back and forth as you wear its health down before slamming it in to a ghost trap via a button mashing mini game.
Earlier levels can be cleared in fifteen minutes, but the later levels set on the ship are much larger and offer more paths to explore, and consequently can take much longer to finish. It’s not a particularly long game though, and the whole thing can easily be completed in around seven hours.
Fighting ghosts, many of which are borrowed from the new film, and locating strange devices (also from the film) reward you with Ecto, an XP system that can upgrade your health, speed, and weapons. There’s not much more to it, though. Weapons upgrades simply make them a little more powerful, rather than give you new ones, and levelling up you character doesn’t do anything other than make the number beside them bigger.
The graphics are cute and polished, although there’s little in the way of fancy visual effects, and the sound is similarly well done with the unmistakable thrum of proton beams blending with cheeky one liners and the screams of the undead. That said, some of the sound effects do seem to have been lifted from Team Fortress 2.
The problem is that once you have played the first level, you’ve seen everything in the game. Every level is the same trudge through corridors until you reach a larger area to fight a bigger ghost, with the same ghosts repeated over and over again each level. There’s no plot, no cutscenes to enjoy, no character arcs, just identical levels to wander through until you finish the game with the same, once amusing now tiresome, one liners repeated.
Even when then game does try to do something a little different, by adding a shield to one of the boss characters, you don’t need to do anything special, just shoot it. Every boss is just a big bullet sponge that can be beaten by running around in circles, and the health system is totally pointless as once it reaches zero your team mates can revive you straight back to full health. There is no variation to the gameplay over the whole tiresome campaign, which cheekily offers you “remixed” levels to go back and play, not that you would ever want to.
The one saving grace is that Ghostbusters is dull rather than boring. Played in short bursts, a level or two at a time, it’s still rather fun, even more so when you have some friends in tow. Parents with young children who fancy a break from endless LEGO titles may also consider a look at Ghostsbusters, but for everyone else, I recommended you hunt down the far superior Ghostbusters: The Video Game from 2009.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4