Ghostbusters The Video Game - PS2 - Review
When you think about it, the Ghostbusters franchise seems tailor-made for a video-game adaptation. It’s a favorite movie for a lot of people, especially guys in their twenties, and that includes a lot of gamers. Not only that, but consider how many video-game concepts are built right in to the premise: a team of colorful characters (a party of adventurers, if you will) travel to various creepy locations and use technologically-advanced weaponry to fight a ghastly assortment of monsters and spirits, all in the hopes of saving the world from ultimate evil. So it’s no surprise that the game version has been heavily anticipated since its announcement. And while the PS2 version doesn’t have the impressive next-gen technology of the PS3/360 version or the tactile controls of the Wii edition, it proves to be an entertaining romp in its own right.
The game is set to serve as the third installment of the story, taking place over the Thanksgiving weekend of 1991. It’s been two years since the Ghostbusters saved New York from Vigo the Carpathian, and they now work directly for the city (because, as Ray puts it, “A ghost-free New York is a tourist-friendly New York”). Right about the time they hire a new experimental weapons tester (that’s you), a massive wave of psychic energy rocks the city, which seems to have emanated from a museum exhibit about Gozer (the Sumerian god they defeated at the end of the original movie). Of course our nuclear-accelerator-carrying heroes are duty-bound to investigate, which leads them to once again be all that stands between humanity and supernatural disaster.
That’s the plot in a nutshell. An easier way to describe the game’s story, though, would be to say that they (“they” being Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis, stars and writers of the original film, back for the game in both capacities) crammed as much fan service into the script as possible, giving players the chance to live through some of the films’ most memorable moments. Whether you’re chasing Slimer through the halls of the Sedgewick Hotel (culminating in a final showdown in a fancy dining room, just like in the film), blasting it out with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, or hunting the librarian ghost deep in the bowels of the New York Public Library, the game is like a Ghostbusters fan’s dream come true.
There’s even a quick reference to the Sedgewick maid the guys terrified in the first film.
Apparently she got a restraining order against them.
The game itself is a fairly standard third-person shooter. As you explore each stage, you’ll use your Ghostbusting tools, namely your PKE meter, to search out any supernatural phenomena in the area. Usually, this means ghosts, though you also find supernatural objects and spiritual residue (aka slime). Once you’ve discovered some spirits (or been attacked by them) the combat portion of the game begins.
Combat’s broken into three sections, described in the game as “zap ‘em, cap ‘em, and trap ‘em”. First you’ll “zap” ghosts by draining their energy meter with your weapons. You have a few extra weapons beyond just the standard proton stream (you are the experimental equipment tester, after all), most of which replicate weapons you’d expect to see in a shooter – the spread attack of the dark matter generator is remarkably like firing a shotgun, for instance. Once their energy hits zero your proton beam becomes a capture stream, which initiates a mini-game: arrows appear above, below, and to each side of the ghost, and when the ghost tries to escape your stream the corresponding arrow will light up. Pressing the button quickly slams the ghost in that direction, and after a few slams you’re ready to trap ‘em. A quick button press throws out the trap, and then it’s just a matter of maneuvering them over the trap long enough to suck them in.
Your capture stream encases the ghost in an energy net, so you can move them around at will.
That’s the basic ghostbusting experience in a nutshell, and believe me, you’ll get plenty used to it by the time you finish the game. While some enemies can be destroyed by simply blasting them, the vast majority make you go through this three-step process to defeat them. While the simple combat mechanics are reasonably fun, combat feels pared down compared to the other consoles’ versions. You can still scorch up the walls and blow up environmental objects with your proton pack, but the destruction feels severely limited by the PS2’s capabilities. Also, reducing the slam mechanic to a game of Simon removes much of the tactile sensation that you’re wrestling a spirit that’s trying desperately to escape.
If you’re a completionist, you can also attempt to collect all the pages of Tobin’s Spirit Guide, which are hidden throughout each stage. While finding them all isn’t necessary, they do give you further details on all the creatures and phenomena you encounter, fighting tips and weaknesses for the monsters and ghosts you’ll face in each stage, and even some backstory on the ghosts – who they were in life and what circumstances led to their demise.
Instead of trying to replicate the almost photo-realistic characters and visuals of the 360 and PS3 editions, the PS2 version follows the Wii’s example by using an exaggerated cartoony art style. The Ghostbusters look like stylized versions of the actors who played them for the most part, though Ray looks less like Dan Akroyd from the 1980s and more like his pudgier modern-day self. The effects are still reasonably impressive, and while the environmental destruction isn’t quite as explosive as its next-gen big brother, firing a proton pack still lights up the screen with impressive colors and effects.
When everybody’s proton stream is in action at once it looks just as chaotic and powerful as in the films.
The game’s audio deserves special mention. Almost all of the major actors from the films have reprised their roles here (William Atherton even returns, for the first time since the original film, as the sleazy Walter Peck) and all have delivered impressive performances. Though Bill Murray’s portrayal of Pete Venkman is more over-the-top than he played it in the films, this matches the new cartoon art style nicely. The audio designers have also done a fabulous job at reproducing the distinctive sounds of the Ghostbusters high-tech equipment. Firing up a proton pack and blasting out a proton stream is all the more satisfying because it sounds just like it should. Even the musical score is brought over directly from the films (with some new material added), so rest assured the game sounds like Ghostbusters through and through.
The PS2 edition of Ghostbusters: the Video Game might be the shortest, most simplified version of those released for home consoles, but it’s still a fun lighthearted romp through a fictional universe known and loved by nearly everyone. It’s not the definitive edition, but if the PS2 is your system of choice, it’s packed with enough action and references to the films to keep any Ghostbusters fan happy.
Exploring each creepy level and blasting it out with the ghosts you find there is always a good time. The ghost-wrangling mechanics aren’t quite as fun in this version as on the other systems, but it’s still a great way to pretend you’re a part of the supernatural elimination team.
The cartoon art style plays to the PS2’s strengths, with recognizable characters and large and detailed environments. The weapon effects are impressive and colorful, and the ghosts steal the show with fluid animations and unique, memorable designs.
The game’s audio is the real stand-out technical element. The voice acting is top-notch from everybody, the music is instantly recognizable and fitting for every scene, and the sound effects bring the weapons to life every time you fire one.
You can choose between three difficulty levels, so the game’s possible for players of any skill level. You’re also eased into the mechanics gently, so you’re able to get a feel for catching ghosts before the really difficult battles start.
Ghostbusters translates so outstandingly to a third-person shooter than in hindsight it’s hard to believe someone didn’t think of it sooner. With Ghostbusters nostalgia stronger than ever as the film celebrates its 25th anniversary, there’s never been a better time to zip up the jumpsuit and bust some ghosts.
While this might not be the absolute best version of the Ghostbusters video game, it’s still a heck of a lot of fun. PS2 owners with a taste for wrangling spooks, specters, and ghosts shouldn’t hesitate to pick this one up.