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Ghostbusters (2016) by Activision is available now on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Our Alan Stock is here to review the PS4 version for ComiConverse.
If there’s something strange, in the neighbourhood… don’t call these ghost-blusters.
Hot on the heels of the new Ghostbusters movie, this game plunges you into a funny, ghostly action adventure full of surprising moments and fun gameplay. Oh wait, sorry, I was getting mixed up with Nintendo classic, Luigi’s Mansion.
The new Ghostbusters game is awful.
Ghostbusters: A PS4 Review
Regardless of your thoughts about the new movie, don’t worry, because this game has almost nothing to do with either it or the original classics. Some locations and ghosts return from the movie, and of course you play as the Ghostbusters… well… actually… not really, because the girls are off on another mission and so your team is a bunch of new characters filling in for them.
The only characters you’ll recognise are some ghosts from the movie including a cameo from Slimer. But that’s ok, it doesn’t need the movie characters or story if the gameplay’s alright… oh dear.
So, how best to summarise my experience with Ghostbusters?
Perhaps some examples. After an hour in, I started to listening to podcasts whilst playing to keep me sane for the rest of the six hour campaign because the game was that boring and repetitive. Early in the game I discovered that it was possible to enter ghost-filled areas, leave the room in real life, and return to find my character still alive, and all the ghosts exterminated by my teammates. In other words, it was easier and probably better fun to literally do nothing than play. I also discovered I could run past many enemies in the game and skip fighting them altogether, because running past them was actually more enjoyable than fighting them. Another helpful discovery – charging into suicidal exploding enemies and taking the damage to mop them up was more efficient and fun than actually shooting them. I also experienced some wonderful bugs, like the many times I was forced to restart 30 minute levels when my team refused to revive me – or the fatal game crash that shouldn’t have even get through testing. Maybe now you’re starting to get a picture of the quality of this title.
With no story to speak of apart from a character intro and pre-mission phone calls, it is worth pointing out the new characters aren’t awful, we just get no background on them. The front end comic book art style is fine, the voice acting’s decent and writing passable, there’s even a few witty comments in there, although they get repeated too much. The Ghostbusters theme loops on repeat in the menus, generic spooky music fills the levels. Graphics are mediocre. So, with the barebones presentation out the way, let’s talk about the “gameplay”.
Ghostbusters is a top down, co-op shooter. Up to three friends can join you, though they won’t be your friends for long if you force them to play this game. But have no fear, there’s no team gameplay elements to miss, and in lieu of mates, the other characters are controlled by AI. Extra brains aren’t required anyway, because you won’t be doing anything in this game except blasting ghosts. In fact, you could take the basic gameplay and apply it to any genre, it’s just that in this case your squad’s wearing Ghostbusters uniforms and firing energy blasts instead of bullets.
You’ll run around locations such as graveyards, mansions and abandoned subways, all of which are huge and endlessly repetitive. For each graphical template it’s just the same copy-and-paste rooms and corridors in different arrangements. It all looks the same, so turning on the objective guide line is a necessity. There’s no interactivity or variety in the environment to experience, aside from killing ghosts to unlock doors, shooting the odd bit of furniture, and occasionally whipping out an ESP monitor. This unveils hidden runes to open doors or uncovers bonuses, but no exploration is needed as it’s always obvious when to use it.
The gameplay consists of shooting an endless succession of ghosts. Targeting is tricky and frustrating, you can only fire forwards so you can’t dodge an enemy and shoot it at the same time. Accuracy is also poor – a lock-on system or even the ability to reverse and shoot is sorely missed. Larger spooks are tiresome bullet sponges LINK and bosses are tedious, taking ages to defeat. After weakening big ghosts you can tether them with your proton wand (err) , counteracting their movements until they’re tired enough to throw out the ghost trap and capture them – this is the only satisfying part of the combat. Although enemies have different attack types, it makes little difference to the gameplay until the game’s final areas, where to survive you’ll need to use the dodge action. For 90% of the game it’s sufficient to just run around holding down the Fire button. There’s no variation in the shooting and although you have a secondary grenade, it’s impossible to aim and ends up being entirely useless.
Each Ghostbuster has a different weapon and grenade type but the differences between them are marginal. You can swap your Ghostbuster between levels in single-player but there’s zero incentive to do so – because if you switch character the minor upgrades you’ve earned won’t transfer over. Your AI Ghostbuster buddies are so efficient in the early stages that they often don’t need your help to clear whole rooms. This changes when the game moves from utter boredom to abject frustration in the final stages, when later bosses spawn infinite ghosts with annoying knockdown and stun attacks. Your AI teammates just can’t handle this and require constant reviving (which fortunately is instantaneous). Until this point the team’s good at reviving you when you reach zero health (bugs aside). But because the reviving mechanic is so forgiving, there’s no risk of Game Over until the final stages, removing any sense of repercussion or consequence to your actions. It’s a legitimate tactic to simply stand still in front of ghosts, hold down Fire and just soak up damage until you die, safe in the knowledge that in seconds you’ll be revived with no penalty.
Regardless of Ghostbusters‘ numerous other issues, its biggest problem is sheer repetition. The first ten minutes of play is rinsed and repeated for the entirety of the six hour campaign – quickly becoming a mindless and boring slog with no depth and no variation. The shooting isn’t even fun, and that’s all you do. Better design decisions or balancing could have salvaged the shooter aspect of it, but even then, why are there no other elements from the movies to experience? Although its cathartic to tear a game like this apart and redeem the time spent playing it (I could have been even harsher!), I have to give a thought to the developers. From the credits, it’s clear it was a small team, probably working beyond their scope. Having worked in game development myself I know it’s not easy making a game – the blame probably lies with publisher Activision who shamelessly cashed in on the movie and required the title on a stupidly tight deadline. It seriously looks like they spotted a squad shooter early in its development and just wrapped a Ghostbusters dressing around it. But regardless of the reasons for this turgid excuse for a game, my obligation is to the players; and I can tell you this is honestly one of the most boring games I’ve ever played.
After an hour I desperately wanted to stop playing but unluckily for me it continued for another five.
It’s a travesty to the Ghostbusters name and possibly the worst licensed game of all time. To the containment unit!
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A mindless, turgid and tedious slog with horrible gameplay and zero depth. A travesty to the Ghostbusters name. Avoid at all costs!