Ghostbusters: The Video Game Updated Hands-On
We came, we saw, we played a new level of Terminal Reality's new ghostbusting adventure.
Spengler. Stantz. Zeddemore. Venkman. And you. Welcome to your new job as the fifth Ghostbuster in Atari's upcoming video game adaption of the hit '80s movie series, Ghostbusters: The Video Game. The publisher, who acquired publishing rights to the game after it was sold off by Activision, showed off the latest build of the game at a recent press event. It was the first time we'd seen the game since E3, and, based on our time with the game, it seems like developers at Terminal Reality (and Red Fly Studio, which is handling the Wii version) have been keeping their heads down and focused on the ghosts, despite the game's publishing turmoil.
Unofficially billed by producers as the "third Ghostbusters movie," Ghostbusters: The Video Game is set two years after Ghostbusters II and finds the four original Ghostbusters in pretty good standing with New York City and its citizens. However, because catching ghosts isn't cheap, the city government decides to bring in some oversight to the 'busters operation in the form of Walter Peck, the quartet's bureaucratic nemesis in the original movie. Peck will be in charge of Ghostbusters oversight, constantly keeping the heroes aware of the ever-increasing costs of doing their particular form of business.
Atari was showing off both the 360 and Wii versions of Ghostbusters, and each version of the game featured a slightly different take on the same level. In the level, the Ghostbusters are in the familiar setting of the New York Public Library, investigating the elderly paranormal librarian (who happens to be the first ghost encountered in the original movie). Just as in the movie, it's only a matter of time before the ghost's calm demeanor turns ugly in a big way.
Before the librarian blew her top, however, we got chance to check out the basics of gameplay and combat. Ghostbusters is a third-person action game, with a camera that sits just over the shoulder of your character, giving you a view not just of the action happening in front of you, but also your proton pack, the nuclear-powered high-tech gizmo that serves as your weapons arsenal. As in the movies, the proton pack is used to fire a stream of energy with which you can wrangle rogue ghosts into a trap. The proton pack in the games is more flexible than the one used in the film, and you'll be able to upgrade your pack as you make your way through the game. These different weapon types include a stasis stream that you can use to freeze a ghost, or a shock blast you can use to defeat them. Your proton pack will also clue you in to your character's remaining health and other vital information.
You'll need to make full use of the proton pack in Ghostbusters because in addition to trapping ghosts, you'll also be fighting enemies as you make your way through the levels. As we made our way through the library level, we fought several spirits that took on physical presence by forming makeshift bodies with the many books scattered on shelves; a quick blast of the proton pack was all it took to bring them down.
Destroying ghosts is fun but your main goal in the game will be trapping certain spirits that are causing trouble. In the both the 360/PS3 and the Wii version, you'll first need to capture your ghost in the stream emanating from your proton pack. You can also stun the ghosts once they're caught by slamming them to the ground. The mechanics for trapping ghosts differes depending on the version you're playing. In the 360/PS3 game, you'll use a combination of the analog sticks and the triggers; over on the Wii, things get a bit more complicated. Aiming the stream is as simple as pointing your Wii Remote--but once a ghost is caught, an arrow will appear on either side of the aiming reticule, indicating which way you need to move the remote to wrangle your ghostly target. It took us several tries to get it right, and while it might get easier with practice, we wouldn't mind if the developer went back and re-examined this aspect of the controls.
Controls are the big differentiator between the 360/PS3 versions of Ghostbusters and the Wii game, but it isn't the only difference. Unlike the 360/PS3 game, which is going for an exaggerated realism, the Wii version has a more cartoonish presentation, with stylized characters and slightly less menacing-looking monsters. Even though both games cover largely the same territory in terms of levels and dialogue, the Wii game is obviously being aimed at a younger crowd. Both versions will also feature the impressive damage effects, where seemingly every wall, column, or piece of furniture you blast with your proton pack will suffer accordingly.
With full involvement from the original cast members Dan Akroyd (The Blues Brothers, Earth vs. the Spider), Bill Murray Lost in Translation, Garfield: The Movie, Ernie Hudson (Oz, Best of the Best: Without Warning), and Harold Ramis (Stripes, Orange County), there's little doubt that this game has the Ghostbusters cred. What remains to be seen is if the game makes busting ghosts as much fun as it seemed in the original movies. We'll know when the game makes its release in 2009, just in time to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the original movie.
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