With the Ghostbusters film reboot now in theaters, it’s no surprise that Activision has chosen to publish a new game based on the license around the same time. When games developed based on existing properties are announced, the gaming community is always concerned it will turn into a cash grab tie-in. The now defunct developer Terminal Reality struck gold with the 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game, but this game follows suite of the egregious four-player cooperative title Sanctum of Slime. Don’t even bother asking yourself “who you gonna call?” as the answer is clear; you should hang up the phone, and let the specters take you to a better place.
Although released at the same time as the new film, Ghostbusters is set after the events of the movie. With the actual Ghostbusters are venturing outside of New York City for a ghost catching road trip, players are left with four colorful, stylish, and nameless recruits. As a four-player cooperative twin-stick shooter, each of the characters carries a unique weapon, grenade type, and the iconic proton pack. Yes, you read that correctly, you’ll be using a traditional shooter weapons such as, a mini-gun, dual pistols, a shotgun, and an assault rifle loaded with dark matter to punish ghosts ad nauseam. Grenades allow for team combo attacks if someone else finishes the target off while under the grenade's effect. Most of them just slow down the swarms of flaming skulls, flying books and ghouls that make a beeline towards your direction in impressive numbers.
The game will take you through different locales across New York City. Each area has a couple of stages, along with a remixed level once you complete the story. You’ll battle ghosts across a graveyard, an abandoned ship, a dilapidated asylum and more. In each of the game's ten stages, you’ll essentially see the same enemy types that attack in similar patterns in every single room and every single stage. Ghost come in either large or small varieties, with the smaller ones making up most of the foes you’ll come across. Every couple of rooms, you’ll come across larger ones that require you to use the Ghostbusters signature proton packs to trap them. It’s very formulaic, and you’ll be following the same pattern for the entirety of the game.
I enjoyed the game’s colorful and clean looking environment visuals. Even the four main character designs are serviceable, albeit slightly over the top. Of course, the game ruins the experience by reusing the same rooms and empty hallways regularly. The characters toss cringe-worthy one-liners freely. If I ever hear another ghost pun again, I think I might die.
Scattered throughout each stage are hidden collectibles, but after completing a single stage, it became apparent where and when you will find them. Just like the combat mechanics, the setup for the collectibles doesn’t change across any of the game’s stages. Using your P.K.E meter, you scan the area until an arrow appears on the ground granting access to a previously sectioned off room. You’ll encounter one or multiple ghosts that require to be trapped guarding the collectible.
Ghostbusters overstays its welcome, even though it only has ten stages. Stages are overly long, with some taking upwards of 45 minutes or more to finish, even without trying to collect everything. Worse, the environments are full of empty rooms and areas with absolutely nothing for the player to do besides run through until you reach the next gated off room full of evil spirits. Whether you are playing alone or with friends, all four Ghostbusters will always be on-screen (unless the AI is in control). The AI can’t keep up with human players. Numerous occasions I have had to restart a level due to the AI getting stuck behind orange cones or just falling so far behind that they were never seen from again. The character with the mini-gun would sometimes teleport around corners, but I never saw any of the remaining cast do anything of the sort. Speaking of multiplayer, this twin-stick shooter allows for three friends to jump in and join you at any point during a level. However, it only has local multiplayer, and doesn’t feature any online components. For a full retail release with a $50 price tag, this should be unforgivable.
It’s quite clear from the way the game mechanics work that Ghostbusters take a lot of inspiration from other action role-playing games on the market. Most of the game’s systems feel half-baked, lacking finish touches or any true RPG elements. The second half of the game features tougher enemies with visual effects and additional area of effect attacks, but these "elite" type of enemies could have been so much more. Besides the flying books and flaming skulls that fly in either a square, a circle or a straight line, other specters tend to bunch up in a line as if offering themselves to players. They also have trouble navigating around corners. It's almost impossible to fail any stage as well. If a character is downed, the game features an instant revive option from any other remaining characters. You'll even revive with 100% of your health. Heck, I died on purpose a bunch of times, just to get my health back.
The upgrade system allows for increased weapon stats and improved character movement speed. Characters are slow and are clunky to control, so putting the maximum number of points into movement speed first is a must. You can improve the damage output for your main weapon as well as the proton pack, but it still didn't make the proton pack variable to use outside of when you are attempting to trap tougher ghosts. Sadly, AI controlled characters don’t keep experience or levels earned, forcing you to play as each character to level them up.
Ghostbusters is a massive missed opportunity and a huge setback for the franchise. The game won’t appeal to fans of twin-stick shooters or fans of Ghostbusters. Boring is the single most appropriate word to describe the game. Playing through the game from start to finish was a chore and a test of patience. Marcus is our resident Ghostbusters fanatic, and even he grudgingly could only stand to play through a single level.
Note: The Ghostbusters review is based on a digital PS4 copy of the game, provided by Activision.