Many ‘80s movies and cartoons – the kind still embedded in pop culture today – were ripe for video game adaptations. But due to publisher greed, tight deadlines and consoles being in their infancy it sometimes took years, even decades, for the perfect tie-in to finally surface.
Konami managed to do The Simpsons, TMNT and Marvel’s X-Men proud with their range of arcade scrolling brawlers. Other franchises weren’t so lucky – Ghostbusters fans had to wait until 2009’s dully titled Ghostbusters: The Video Game to finally receive a definitive experience.
Ten years on, it’s definitely showing its age. Nevertheless, it remains a fun, if only mildly diverting, ride, with emphasis on the word ‘ride’ – even in 2009 it didn’t compare favourably to other action shooters on the market such as Halo 3, Uncharted 2 and Gears of War 2. The shooting mechanics are messy, there’s no cover system, and the AI isn’t up to much. It’s more of a colourful rollercoaster, embarking on a tour of the Ghostbusters’ universe with all the authentic sights and sounds, including voice acting from the cast. It’s even possible to spend downtime exploring the HQ.
You play as a nameless, silent, recruit brought in to test new equipment. This premise allows for new non-cantonal beams and particle throwers to play around with, including a slime tether used for a handful of simple physics-based puzzles.
For the most part, you simply follow behind Ray, Peter, Winston and Egon while they lead the way, occasionally helping them off the ground and using the PKE meter (in first-person) to track down ghosts, which in turns commences the next series of events. An elongated battle, usually. Ghosts must be weakened by slamming them into the ground, before finally coaxing them into a trap. Think along the lines of a fishing mini-game, complete with analogue stick wrestling. Scanning spooks with the PKE meter will also reveal their weak spots, giving the chance to become more adept along the way.
There’s a slight issue with the pacing which feels more problematic now. It begins in a bombastic fashion, introducing the cast, outlining the plot, and explaining the mechanics in quick succession, using good old Slimer as an easy target and the infamous Sedgewick Hotel as a backdrop. You’re then whisked off to immediately confront Stay Puft in Times Square, making you wonder where the story is heading. If they’re bringing the big guns out this early, what’s left to come? The answer is nothing that can rival the first couple of hours.
More familiar locations follow, eventually leading to a final set of missions which are a bit of a slog, recycling enemy types and ideas. There’s also a ridiculous difficulty spike to contend with, which hasn’t been rectified here despite requiring only minor alterations. It entails yourself and Ray trying to solve a puzzle while being bombarded with kamikaze stone angels. If Ray goes down why attempting to revive you – and trust us, he will – then it’s back to the checkpoint. The inexplicably long loading times make this section all the more aggravating.
Thankfully, this remaster shines in other areas. The increased resolution and sturdier frame rate do it proud, with the character models still managing to impress. It’s evident original developers Terminal Reality spent a lot of time perfecting the likenesses. The Proton Packs are loaded with detail and Ecto-1 looks the part, too. Again, time was clearly spent ensuring authenticity.
The in-game menus – including the upgrade screen – look a little dated, however, and the ragdoll physics now look plain silly. The same goes for the fully destroyable environments – after one or two ghostly encounters rooms are reduced to rubble, ergo full of wobbly clutter. It’s easy to forget that destructible environments were once a selling point. The level of destruction created is at least tied to two achievements, so it isn’t entirely unnecessary.
Speaking of achievements, the list remains intact – nothing has changed. This is par for the course of the whole experience, sadly. No nips or tucks, gameplay improvements or new content. In fact, there’s less content – it has shipped without the multiplayer mode, which Saber Interactive promises will be coming in an update. That’ll explain the £25 price tag, then.
At times we even wondered who this is aimed at – Ghostbuster diehards likely already own the 2009 original, the Xbox 360 version of which is backwards compatible on Xbox One. Hopefully, the MP mode will reinstate the cancelled maps, so there is at least a sprinkling of new content here in the future.
Despite its numerous shortcomings, you’re still in for a good time here. The visuals are easy on the eyes, the script remains humorous, and it delivers an experience that’s never been rivalled in term of authenticity. The only major issue that holds it back is that it’s rather straightforward. By gently guiding you from one scene to the next, with Egon and company talking the helm and leading the charge, it often feels as if you’re a passenger rather than a participant.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered invites you to come for the ride, take in the familiar sights, and laugh at the jokes. This may seem like an enticing set-up, especially for newcomers, but all while we were wondering what could’ve been with a tad more effort.