Ghostbusters First Look
Sierra and Terminal Reality spook us with the upcoming Ghostbusters game.
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The upcoming Ghostbusters game from Sierra and developer Terminal Reality is a sequel of sorts to the beloved movie franchise that starred Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as ghost hunters. The game is set in 1991--a few years after Ghostbusters II--and is being written by Akroyd and Ramis, which should guarantee a respectable dose of fan service. Reps from Terminal Reality were on hand at Sierra's recent press event to show us various tech demos and a short gameplay sequence, which were all designed to give us an idea of what to expect from the game.
Before hopping into the demos, TR reps walked us through a general overview of the game. The story finds the four main characters living a pretty respectable life as busters of ghosts, now that they've been officially sanctioned by the city. You take the role of a new recruit to the organization and join the team members as they investigate a dramatic spike in paranormal activity that's tied to their old enemy, Gozer. Specifics of the story weren't easy to come by, although it was noted that you'll see many of the familiar faces from the series in the game, most of which are being voiced by the original cast. From the sound of it, everyone except Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver has signed on to reprise their roles.
When the top-level stuff was over and done with, our demoers moved on to a series of demos to show off what Terminal Reality is aiming to put in the game. Ghostbusters is using the next generation of TR's Infernal engine, which allows for all manner of cool stuff to happen on the fly. The first demo showed off physics interactions with a ton of boxes that dropped into the middle of the room. Once they had all dropped, our demoer moved the character--decked out in full Ghostbusters gear--through them and even knocked them around with his proton stream. The gravity in the room then changed, which caused the glut of objects to hit the sides of the room at odd angles. Our demoer noted that physics are set to play a large part in the gameplay because of the various supernatural forces you have to deal with, but one of the team's goals is to ensure that they don't get in the way of having fun.
The next demo focused on environments and destruction and followed our ghostbuster as he made his way inside the New York Public Library. Before popping into the familiar locale, our demoer showed off the exterior area, which had crowds as well as Ecto 1, the Ghostbusters' slightly ramshackle ride. The city street and the masses of folks moving around had some self-shadowing, which looked promising. When the demo moved inside the library, a lighting buzz word was tossed around--"radiosity"--as we checked out the various shafts of light coming through the windows. A bit deeper in, we got a look at the reading room, which had been stuffed full with 2,000 objects, according to our demoer. There was also some rag-doll demoing, but once you've seen one body flail about randomly when dropped, you get the picture. The more interesting showcase for the rag-doll physics was with the slime tether gadget, which is used to rope bodies and objects together and suspend them in odd places.
The tether and many other cool new enhancements to the proton pack are the latest inventions from resident brainiac Egon, who has spent years crafting new gear for the team. In an amusing twist, you, as the rookie, are essentially a guinea pig for the new gear. The tour of the library moved to the basement where TR showed off water and general debris, which could strangely become menacing at times. Some innocuous books would morph into large ghosts, which required some blasting to sort out. The tail end of the demo showed off a sequence where Slimer, the lovable green ghost from the films, had to be snagged. We were told that in the final game you'll be able to knock the ghosts around to stun them for easier trapping. The PS3 will support motion control for that in a method that sounds like the capture method seen in Folklore.
Once all the tech demos were over, we got a look at a more traditional gameplay demo that saw the new blood running with Ray Stantz (Akroyd) as they faced off against a resurrected Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The sequence showed off a variety of different gameplay elements as the two made their way to the top of a high-rise. You'll rely on the PK scanner, an analyzer that some will remember from the films. The scanner lets you track ghosts, which makes it easy to flush them out and capture them. Before you can capture them, you'll need to smack them around with your proton beam, but this time out, you have a few other options, such as a dark-matter generator, a stasis beam, and the aforementioned slime tether. The standard proton beam has now been enhanced to fire off a powerful pulse to help knock around ghosts when you're in battle. This will give the game a more action-oriented run-and-gun feel. All told, you'll have four main weapons, each with primary and secondary firing modes, and roughly eight pieces of equipment to help you in your struggles.
Further on in the demo, the duo was attacked by demonic bits of Stay Puft, which required some blasting. Later in the level, the duo faced random inanimate objects that were possessed by ghosts. The journey through the building and up to the roof included a few flashy moments showing the Marshmallow Man going by windows and causing trouble for the adventurers. The climax, when the duo reached the roof, included a fight against assorted teleporting ghosts and the deadly fluffy menace. The level showed off interactive cinematics as Stantz and the new recruit made their way up a stairwell, and it featured an interesting take on the heads-up display. Basically, the game doesn't have life bars or the standard readouts that you'd expect in a game. All the information you need is laid out on your proton pack, with your health and weapon displays showing up as meters that are always visible to you. The unique display method seemed to work out well in the demo we saw.
As for the assorted ghosts you'll be facing, Tobin's Spirit Guide, the essential reference book from the films, will be central to helping you keep track of the spectral masses. While some of the ghosts you'll face will be in the book, you'll also come across ghosts not in the book and will add to it in a Pokemon-esque twist. There will apparently be more than 40 ghosts in the game to catalog. Besides the single-player game, Ghostbusters is slated to include a multiplayer mode with competitive and cooperative modes. Last but not least, for anyone pining away at home, reps on hand also confirmed that the game would use the classic Ray Parker Junior theme song from the films.
Based on what we saw, Ghostbusters left us cautiously optimistic. There's neat tech on display to be sure, and the gameplay is certainly interesting. We're curious to see how everything works together in the final game. More importantly, we're super anxious to see how the story comes across. A strong narrative and humor will be key to giving the game the personality it will need to live up to its name. Look for more on Ghostbusters in the months to come with its release on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, and DS.
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