E3 2009: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Ghostbusters: The Video Game has a lot of interest behind it both for nostalgic and industry drama reasons, but now that the game is finished and about to be released into the world, it’s time to cast a critical eye at the completed product. Did Terminal Reality and Atari capture lightning in a bottle? I braved the wild masses lining up to try God of War III and Uncharted 2 near the meager Ghostbusters kiosk in the Sony booth at E3’s West Hall last week to find out.

We’ll be hearing a lot more about the story points and character touches later in a full review, but today I’d like to emphasize the actual gameplay. During my time with the game I explored the Sedgewick Hotel in search of the escaped Slimer, wandering hallways and corridors while tracking the little spud with a PKE Meter. The meter allows players to follow invisible trails of paranormal activity, discover hidden items, and generally keep from marching aimlessly in the wrong direction. Eventually I found Slimer at someone’s room service tray in mid-gorge and unleashed a proton stream at him. Ghosts feature a green “life meter” (no gag intended) that ticks down when hit with a proton stream. Eventually this meter will deplete and turn red, meaning that it’s time to lock-on with a capture stream, throw out a ghost trap, and finish the job.

In Slimer’s case, he would fly away and vanish into a object or through a wall after being spooked, meaning that after a few shots I had to take out the PKE Meter and track him to his latest hiding spot. I eventually tracked him to the hotel’s grand ballroom where a Bar Mitzvah reception was about to begin, so of course that meant I needed to completely trash the room while trying to snag the target. After guiding Slimer into the trap, I was ambushed by a ghostly fisherman – Papa Sargassi – who caused a spectral ocean to flood the hotel. I then had to track Sargassi through the muck, shoot at him, and continue onward until I was able to trap him.

Sandwiched between all of this tracking and trapping are appearances from the original four Ghostbusters as they instruct the new rookie character (e.g. you, the player) on what to do. They also banter amongst themselves, offering criticisms and comments that tie back into the events from the two Ghostbusters films. For instance, Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman is reluctant to pursue Slimer in the hotel by himself, as the last time he did so he wound up on the ground and covered in slime. There are many of these little touches and gags throughout the levels that I played and I wouldn’t dare spoil them for you. Half the fun of the dialog comes from hearing it spoken by the original cast of the films.

I enjoyed every sequence that I played and if the rest of the game holds to this level of quality, we’ll finally have the grand Ghostbusters video game that fans have been waiting and hoping for since 1984. I came away from the kiosk impressed, entertained, and all smiles which, in the end, is what I’m really looking for when I play a video game. Ghostbusters safely passes the smile test, so that’s one goal achieved for it already.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game reaches stores in North America on June 16, 2009, but if you’re eager for more information about the game right now, then don’t miss a special E3 episode of the Kombo Breaker podcast in which we discuss the game extensively with Terminal Reality senior artist Glenn Gamble.