Ghostbusters Review — Soulless Ghost Busting
Ghostbusters is a game that does very little to hide its repetitive nature. The combat isn’t satisfying, the ghosts you fight have a manufactured layout, the locations you visit blend together, and nothing in the game justifies its current $50 price tag.
Taking place after the events of the 2016 film, you take on the role of four rookie Ghostbusters in New York who are called upon to help out various citizens with their paranormal issues. During the course of what little story is present, you are introduced to an overarching threat that also helps tie the game closely to the movie. However it goes nowhere and never tries to entertain or tell you much more than, “There’s a ghost over there, go get it.”
Holing up the gameplay of Ghostbusters are light RPG mechanics and basic combat. Neither take the concept very far however. With the RPG mechanics, you get a leveling system that only serves to power up your character through unlockable points and icons. These icons represent the base level of your character, from weapon damage, overall health, and cooldown time.
None of them introduce new abilities for your character, and each individual Ghostbuster must be upgraded separately. This means when playing solo the game does not auto level or allot certain amount of experience points to the other characters. Instead if you want to level up each person you have to do so by grinding levels.
Grinding could have been bearable if the main gameplay was compelling and entertaining. However, Ghostbuster’s combat is neither of those. As an isometric top-down shooter you will be running through hallways and rooms that are never organized or presented in an interesting way.
After the first five minutes of traveling through an area you will most likely have seen all it has to offer, but be forced to complete another fifteen minutes on average. Throughout the levels are ghosts for you to shoot and defeat — however there are very few variations of ghosts, and there isn’t a lot to differentiate between them.
On top of that, none of the gunplay feels very good. Whether playing with a shotgun or mini-gun, all you do is spew out colorful light gems that slowly whittle away the health of the enemy in front of you. Grenades recharge but have little effect, even when you dedicate some skill points to them. Each equipment item is tied to its character, so you can’t even mix and match weapons and grenades to try and find a mix that works best. Swapping between characters only takes place before a level starts, and I would have greatly preferred the option to freely swap between them when playing solo.
The AI for your partners can be horrendous. During a boss fight I was knocked out and waited longer than thirty seconds for my companions to revive me. However, because I had triggered the boss to the state in which you can rodeo it into submission, they only moved back and forth between me and the ghost. When playing solo, you perform most of the heavy lifting in combat — you can’t rely on the other characters to hold their own. While its better to play with actual people, this isn’t a game you want to subject any of your friends to.
Every now and then an elite ghost will appear and you will have to capture them by engaging your alternate weapon, the proton wand. Once you have attached your stream to the ghost you guide the right stick to match the on-screen prompt, slam the ghost, and then mash X in order to gain a bonus. Sometimes the ghost is an elite version of one you have fought before, more often its appears to just be randomly picked.
You repeat this throughout ten levels, each broken up between a different visual style. You have a haunted mansion, a graveyard, an asylum, a ghost ship, the underground, and limbo. Before each level you have a small “briefing” during which a citizen of New York will call you up and attempt to entertain the player with humor. None of it works very well, as each character is just some caricature that’s lazy and disappears forever after delivering what lines of dialogue they were given.
The Ghostbusters themselves are boring, showcasing no character and no personality beyond the images you see during loading screens. Often their own dialogue is drowned out by what is happening on screen, though given what I have heard come from their mouths, you aren’t really missing anything good.
Visually the game is serviceable in that it doesn’t look ugly. It comes across as a 3D rendering of the animation you see at the beginning and end of the game, though the character models lack the energy shown in those. It all begins to blend together, despite the contrast of bright purple, blue, and red ghosts with the brown and grey of the landscape. The score also relies way to heavily on the Ray Parker Jr. song, as it is on infinite repeat during any menu screen.
Nothing redeems Ghostbusters from coming across as an overly priced tie-in to the movie’s release in theaters. If you thought bad licensed games were a thing of the past, you thought wrong. Though the game is only bad in the sense of how boring it is to play, if commits the worst gaming sin of being mediocre. It’s not good enough that you enjoy playing it, and it’s not bad enough that you can enjoy its awfulness. Instead its smack in the middle and totally passable because of it.