I’ve got a bit of a history with Ghostbusters, the film by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray.
I was working in film marketing and PR at the time, wrestling a startup towards commercial viability. The cinema-release was staggered across some months, in various Australian locations, and I must have sat down and seen the film, in the cinemas, at least 60 or 70 times as a result.
The 1980s were a pretty good era for films that didn’t take themselves too seriously, and the film resonated rather strongly with audiences of the time. Off a 30 million dollar budget in 1984, the film raked in an easy 290 million dollars in cinemas, and another 132 million in rentals, never mind network syndication later on, DVD sales and all of that. The second film, Ghostbusters II, while considered by some to be something of a disappointment, still managed to do almost as well.
After more than 20 years, there’s talk of a third film – a changing-of-the-guard piece, with strong hopes of landing Eliza Dushku (Buffy/Angel/Dollhouse/etc) in a major role – but in the meantime, Aykroyd and Ramis have put together a new part to the story, in the form of a video game, developed in conjunction with Terminal Reality.
From the very start of the game – if you liked Ghostbusters – it’s quite a treat. A delicious blend of video game and movie, right down to the opening titles. The music is familiar and evocative, and it should be, it’s the original music. The original three Ghostbusters, are written and voiced by Aykroyd, Ramis, and Murray, and the witty byplay is as funny and sharp as ever.
The vocal talents of Ernie Hudson (who played Winston Zeddemore in the films) and Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz), are also in evidence and add considerably to the overall feel. Even the delightful William Atherton (Walter Peck) gets a look in, and there’s a starring voice spot by Alyssa Milano.
You, on the other hand, are the new kid, known only as “Rookie”, “Cadet”, or “Newbie” (“No, no names. I don’t want to get attached”) – in fact that’s what the nametag on your uniform says: “ROOKIE”. In place of the rigorously designed training program that Stantz and Spengler had designed, you get to train on-the-job because big things are going down.
Plus, you get to use all the experimental gear that can cause burns, electric shock, and massive explosions if it goes wrong. Most of that is strapped to your back and belt. What fun!
The game is linear, and the graphics are just fine. If you’re using some older nVdia drivers, you’ll want to update to the latest. I had older drivers installed so that I could play through Mass Effect again, and they just caused the Ghostbusters game to hang. A quick update of drivers, and Ghostbusters is in fine form, though I’ll probably have to downgrade again if I want any more quality time with Mass Effect.
Keyboard/Mouse users, you’ll probably want to turn the mouse sensitivity down under the Control Options. It’s a cross-platform release, and the default sensitivity settings seem to be too high for mouse users, leaving you turning sudden 180s when you move the mouse excitedly.
As the game progresses, you can spend some of your earned cash on equipment upgrades, and you’ll be introduced to a whole host of new toys and features, all of which, I might remind you, are strapped to your body, and are experimental and dangerous.
The game features three levels of difficulty, including a ‘casual’ mode for folks like me with little in the way of reflexes. The game is played from a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective (except when you’re using the PKE meter and goggles, in which case it’s first-person), with very little in the way of a user-interface. The couple gauges you want to keep a track of are visible on your proton pack, and the less immediate stuff is now available via your PKE meter (which doubles as PDA).
The game uses checkpoints to save, rather than allowing you to save the game manually. That’s a definite black mark. However, I’ve found that just quitting the game whenever I feel ready to leave the keyboard, doesn’t seem to leave much lost ground when I return.
But is it fun?
If you liked Ghostbusters, hell yes, this game will give you the nostalgic happies.
It’s linear, like a film, there’s all sorts of spooky and cursed stuff to scan or collect, the writing is sharp and witty, the graphics do the whole ensemble justice – with those twisty proton streams, leaving scorch marks across walls, and blowing the merry heck out of any ordinary furniture that might get in their way.
The progression of the plot is generally keyed to your proximity to people or places, so if things aren’t progressing, just move around a bit. If you’re supposed to be accompanying one of other team-members, make sure that’s the right one you’re following. At various times you’ll be with one or more of the team, though there are instances where you’ll be working alone.
The opening half-hour rhymes very well with events from the films, and you’ll see some familiar spooks and familiar places, and the reasons for seeing them again are woven into the story and the gameplay.
Turn the music and effects volume down, grab yourself some headphones, and crank the master volume right up. The byplay between characters is lively and not to be missed (though subtitles are available if you need them).
The game is not perfect by any means, but if Ghostbusters raises a smile when you switch on your TV and it’s on, then you’ll get the big happy grins from this game.