Ghosthunter Hands-On Impressions

We go hands-on with this upcoming ghost-hunting game for the PS2.

At the PlayStation Experience 2003 in London, we were able to get some hands-on time with the early levels of Ghosthunter, a third-person horror-themed action game. In the game, you play as a smart-mouthed homicide cop named Lazarus Jones, who, after investigating reports of ghosts at an abandoned high school, somehow ends up merging with a ghost himself. While Jones doesn't seem to suffer any serious damage at the beginning of the game, this event gives him the ability to see other ghosts and battle them with a special gun he carries or fight them with a ricocheting grenade item that weakens and eventually captures injured ghosts. Unfortunately, his female partner somehow ends up merging with a ghost too--and she doesn't fare quite as well as Jones. She's missing, and it's up to him to find her and solve the mystery behind a rash of supernatural happenings that have been reported in the area.

The game begins with an exceedingly brief tutorial, in which Jones walks into the station and sees the soft-spoken training computer, which automatically begins explaining the game's control scheme. The impatient Jones gets rather ticked off and gives the computer a five-count to shut up. Between each count, the computer describes how to move, run, and shoot, and just before Jones loses it, a huge monster bursts into the room and serves as the combat tutorial. The R1 button locks in on your enemies as you fire on them, and the R2 button causes Jones to hurl the grenade, which damages and eventually captures monsters.

Much of the early level we played took place in and around a broken-down, abandoned building in which light was extremely scarce, so the level's color palettes mostly consisted of dreary browns and grays, reminiscent of Resident Evil Zero for the GameCube and Silent Hill 2. As we ran through the dark hallways, an abandoned latrine, and finally a darkened living room, we came upon a hapless woman who had been merged with a ghost. During a brief cutscene, she rose from her seat, only to fall to her knees and open her mouth in horror--as she did, a ghost climbed out of her throat and eventually absorbed her entire body. We were then forced to defend ourselves. The ghost continually hurled glowing blobs of energy at us, then darted quickly to the side. The ghost was able to pass right through Jones' body, and each time it did, Jones' vision would distort so that the dark room turned a blurry white, while Jones and the surrounding furniture turned black, similar to the way film negatives for photographs look when viewed in low light.

Ghosthunter is currently in development at Sony Europe and is scheduled for release later this year.

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