Ghost Rider - PSP - Review

Deal with the devil and you will most definitely get burned. This is a lesson stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze learns the hard way in Marvel Comic’s Ghost Rider series. The comic book chronicles the fate that befalls Johnny after he is cheated of his soul by the tricky devil Mephisto and his curse to forever become the supernatural hero called Ghost Rider. It’s an interesting story that Hollywood (and actor Nicolas Cage) wanted to bring to the big screen and has finally done so. This, of course, means that a game will also follow and it does in the form of Ghost Rider for the PSP. Sadly, even with a cool character this game doesn’t burn as brightly as the Rider’s flaming skull.

 

The story, penned by comic book scribes Garth Ennis (of “The Punisher” fame) and Jimmy Palmiotti, the game recalls the very moment Mephisto drops Johnny Blaze a visit to collect on the deal that was made. You see, Johnny made a pact with the devil when his legendary stunt racer father was diagnosed with cancer but the deal went sour because his father died of an unrelated cause. Now Mephisto wants Johnny to become his Spirit of Vengeance and do his bidding as hell’s bounty hunter. He is to become the Ghost Rider, a demon in leather who rides a motorcycle from the underworld, and his first task is to stop Blackheart from sparking the apocalypse. The twist here is that Blackheart is Mephisto’s rebellious son and daddy doesn’t like junior’s plan to destroy the world of the living.

While the story is a modern retelling (meaning it’s original), the game makes no real connection to the movie itself so don’t expect to see or hear the stars from the film like Nicolas Cage, Sam Eliot or Eva Mendez. In fact, just about the only one that bares a striking resemblance to their film counterpart is Mephisto who looks a lot like Peter Fonda in the comic book-styled panels that make up the cutscenes. There’s no footage from the movie either, unless you count the production stills you get to unlock in the Extras. As a matter of fact, a big chunk of the game takes place in hell as the Ghost Rider attempts to escape the underworld the hard way.

Almost immediately, gamers will notice that the game “borrows” elements from both God of War and Devil May Cry. Well, borrows might not be the right word seeing as the similarities between these games and Ghost Rider are far too similar when it comes to the combat.  Much like God of War’s Kratos, the Rider swings a chain as his weapon of choice and the way he uses it is extremely familiar as well. The Ghost Rider can jump and swing and perform a number of combos as well as perform a Kratos-styled finishing move (with flashing button icon as well). Much like Dante from Capcom’s Devil May Cry, Ghost Rider uses a projectile weapon (in this case it’s a shotgun) as a secondary weapon. Like both games that inspired it, there are collectible orbs used to upgrade the character’s skills.

 

What separates Ghost Rider from the rest of the bunch are the Hell-Cycle levels. It is here that the Rider puts his riding skills to work as you hop on the chopper and race to the next point. While it’s admittedly cool to race across stretches of road, battling enemies that get in your way, the controls play a role in making each cycle level feel awkward. Speaking of the controls, while the on-foot battles come off rather good, the game lacks a variety of moves that make both Kratos and Dante so much fun to play. The game also tosses in similar demons to battle, which makes combat all the more repetitive and dull. Sure the boss battles add a refreshing change but the rest of the game is just way too dull to be much fun for very long.

At least there’s some multiplayer action found in this game that comes in the form of a racing game (called Challenge Mode) with three different game modes like Vengeance Race, Eliminator and Survivor. You can race against three friends using Ad Hoc connectivity and even if a friend doesn’t own a copy the game does support Game Sharing. The modes are actually somewhat fun in a Twisted Metal sort of way seeing as you race against other characters like Blade and Vengeance and there are power ups scattered throughout the racecourse. Eliminator, for example, eliminates the racer who comes in last for each lap while Survivor counts the last racer still living as the winner.

 

The graphics aren’t very good as well and this is a disappointment seeing as the main character has a flaming skull head. Ghost Rider looks Ok, actually, seeing as he looks better than the large number of demon clones you’ll be fighting. As for the backgrounds, the look a bit better only the textures aren’t as smooth or as detailed as they could have been. As for the sound, the game’s music is replayed often and with very little diversity. Even the sound effects are recycled often in the game so you’ll be glad the voice acting is decent. The actors do a good job during the cutscenes and the actor who voices the Caretaker does a good job of trying to sound like Sam Eliot.

While it borrows elements from some great PS2 action games, Ghost Rider for the PSP is nothing more than a bland, repetitive action game that does not do the Spirit of Vengeance justice.  Sure, Ghost Rider is a really cool comic book character and yes the Hell-Cycle is just plain awesome but the game fails to capture all the things that make him such an appealing character. As a fan of the Marvel character, I can’t recommend this game to anyone so count this one as another movie tie-in game that just isn’t any good.

Review Scoring Details for Ghost Rider

Gameplay: 4.2
God of War and Devil May Cry will pop to mind when you play the game, only there is very little to explore throughout the game and the action feels less exciting than the games that inspired it. You can upgrade Ghost Rider but he essentially fights the same way and the Hell-Cycle levels just feel awkward thanks to the control scheme.

Graphics: 5.5
As far as the graphics are concerned, the backgrounds look pretty good despite the muddy textures and the visual effects are actually pretty decent. It would have been great if there was more variety to the demons you’ll face and Ghost Rider doesn’t look as cool as he should look considering he has a flaming skull for a head.

Sound: 4.0
The game’s running soundtrack is recycled and used throughout the game so expect to hear the same score from start to finish. The sound effects do the trick and the voice acting is acceptable but there’s nothing that really stands out.

Difficulty: Medium
You will go up against some of Mephisto’s nastiest demons throughout the game as well as some bosses but the real challenge will come from the awful controls and the almost impossible Skull Challenges. Oh, and the Hell-Cycle is in serious need of a tune up.

Concept: 5.0
The retelling on how Johnny Blaze became Ghost Rider is handled rather briskly and for those expecting to a real sense of connection with the Ghost Rider movie will be disappointed. The Hell-Cycle levels aren’t as fun as it could have been but at least the game tosses in a multiplayer mode and loads of unlockable goodies.

Multiplayer: 4.5
Racing against Blackheart, Vengeance and even the Daywalker named Blade in a motorcycle race from hell sounds cool and it is … for a very limited time. Up to four players can join you in a race that takes you through courses like the rooftop of the Daily Bugle or the Avenger’s headquarters. The good news is that the game runs smoothly and a friend doesn’t even have to own a copy. The bad news is that the controls kill all the fun.

Overall: 4.5
It’s sad to see a game based on such a cool Marvel comic character turn out as bad as Ghost Rider does on the PSP. While it does steal from some truly spectacular action games, somehow the action really doesn’t take off in this repetitive, bland action game. Even if you’re a fan of the comic, do yourself a favor and stay away from this one.

Below Average

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