Hot on the heels of the highly contested Ghostbusters reboot from Paul Feig comes Activision’s latest arcade style offering to expand what is becoming an entire Ghostbusters universe. While I’d love to get into various reasons why the movie is a greatly enjoyable one to see, I’m instead required to talk about the video game of the same name. Spoilers: it’s not so enjoyable.
What’s It About?
Ghostbusters takes the simple premise of catching ghosts and boils it down to an even simpler premise. You shoot some ghosts for ecto points. You catch others for more ecto points. You do it again. And again. And again. Meanwhile, you are bombarded with Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters theme song, horrible dialogue, and something resembling a story between cookie cutter levels.
There are the occasional lines that tie the game into the movie, which makes the movie slightly required viewing for additional context. Ultimately, the game doesn’t try to do much else with it other than have you capture a ghost, so it doesn’t really matter. And ultimately, that’s what the game is really about: nothing that really matters. It’s not that the game is having an existential crisis. It’s just that you might when playing.
Why Should I Care?
If you can get past the premise, then what you have is a very simplistic shooter with a three-quarters top-down camera, similar to a real-time strategy game. Ghostbusters’ design takes a lot of inspiration from the Extreme Ghostbusters series but with a far more 2016 look, which actually isn’t all too bad. The artwork was solid for title slides, but the in-game graphics are lower-end and the ghosts take an even bigger beating than from proton streams. Their design isn’t anything great. It speaks to the overall bland spirit of the game and I haven’t even mentioned the starring cast yet.
The character selection page screams ANYONE CAN BE A… That’s supposed to really mean anyone can be a Ghostbuster (though I can hear the “Umm, ACTUALLY…” coming from a YouTube comment). In the reality of this game, it means that anyone can be one of the four horribly generic characters. Each has their own stereotypical look and powers to boot. Let’s break them down, bullet-point style!
- Blonde DudeBro: He’s the most well rounded, skill-wise, and comes packing the proton rifle because MANLINESS.
- Smart Racially Diverse Woman: She’s the speedier of the group and packs the biggest damage via her proton shotgun. She says big words with SASS.
- Wannabe Jillian Holtzmann: She’s also well rounded with her skills but GUESS WHAT she comes in at a lower level than Blonde DudeBro. But, bro, she’s rockin’ two pistols because she’s a knockoff Jillian Holtzmann from the movie.
- Short Bearded Gimli: Your prototypical heavy gunner that somehow doesn’t say HEAVYYYY every time he fires.
I suppose this all means they are meant to be Xtreme and sassy but it comes through as stiff and horribly unoriginal. They’ll shout lines such as “In your face, ghoul-friend!” (which, ughh) at various points throughout mindlessly shooting ghosts. That’s between long hallways with nothing but the occasional chair to blast or health pack to pick up. There’s a lot of dead space (don’t kill me for that) in levels that makes it a chore to get through any level. That’s a sort of inherent problem with an arcade-style shooter like this and the subject matter. Ghostbusters should capture more a comedic spookiness to it and you can get that in a fully-developed world with an up close camera. Nothing translates well here, so you just end up with a mindless shooter.
You can do things like upgrade your characters, unlock new skins, and combine skills to earn more ecto points. But you can’t change between characters mid-level. Grenades don’t appear to do anything other than stun ghosts which doesn’t make sense for most considering you are killing (?) them rather than catching them. You can have up to four people playing at once, locally, but you should only really do so if you absolutely love Ghostbusters, or are mad at some people and want to expose them to this.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
Often, when I write my reviews and come to this question, I try to come up with some smartass response for either a yes or no, but I mostly keep it simple because some humor can’t translate well. I’ll keep it even simpler here: no.
I’d have loved to literally just end the review with a no, but I’m fairly certain that wouldn’t make it through our editing process. Ultimately, Ghostbusters just proves to be an uninspired shooter than seems to take the role of “required video game for a big summer release”. There’s not even meat in the game to prove valuable for either a comprehensive arcade game or a solid little game to kill some time with. Unless you’re a massive Ghostbusters fan who can blindly disregard quality, it’s hard to recommend this game to anyone. The scariest thing about this? Someone wants you to pay $50. That’s actually funnier than anything in the original movie.