Ghostbusters: The Video Game Updated Hands-On

If Bill Murray were in more games, this world would be a better place.

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Ghostbusters: The Video Game is the closest thing to a third movie that series fans are likely to see for at least a few years. For anyone not familiar with the progress of games as a storytelling medium, that's an awfully sobering thought. But it's not until you sit down with the game, hear the core cast members like Bill Murray reprising their roles, and chuckle at the script penned by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd that you realize any gap between a third film and this game isn't actually that wide.

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That's what we found out with our latest, most extensive hands-on time with Ghostbusters to date. With the game due out for release next month, we've been given the opportunity to play from the very beginning of the game on through the third major mission. The story takes place two years after the second film. Manhattan has developed another case of the haunting undead, and you'll be fighting them as the newest member of the Ghostbusters crew. Your character is an unnamed, voiceless fellow who serves more as a vessel for you to engage in the action rather than the story. Your lack of any real identity is explained in a pretty clever way when Venkman refuses to bother learning your name after "what happened to the last guy."

You're given a crash course in ghostbusting when Slimer makes a sudden escape from the team's firehouse headquarters. Chasing him down, you're introduced to the basic three-step process of catching ghosts: Zap 'em, cap 'em, and trap 'em. You wear them down with your blast stream by holding the right trigger, and then once their energy level drops enough, the proton pack will automatically switch over to a capture stream, which holds them in place rather than weakening them. From there, you can have fun and slam them all around as though you had them lassoed. But in order to finish the job, you have to throw out a ghost trap and lure them over it with the capture beam to safely seal them away.

Adding a little challenge is the fact that firing a stream for too long will overheat your pack and cause it to short-circuit, which you obviously want to avoid. To do that, you need to hit a button to vent your pack before the little red gauge on your pack gets maxed out (typical heads-up-display elements such as this one are shown on your pack, a la Dead Space). You're given more options for dropping the hammer on ghosts as you unlock new abilities down the road. Some of the ones we achieved in the first three missions were the boson dart, which fires supercharged bursts of energy like a rifle; the shock blast, which sprays a number of dark-matter particles like a shotgun; and the stasis stream, which temporarily freezes ghosts in place.

A familiar roster of faces and voices return for the game, including Bill Murray.
A familiar roster of faces and voices return for the game, including Bill Murray.

After that brief intro at the firehouse, the team is whisked off to take care of ghosts at Hotel Sedgewick, a five-star accommodation for the city's upper crust, which was shown early in the first film. The mission starts off at a fairly slow pace as you and Venkman (voiced by Bill Murray) walk through the building's ornate hallways looking for spirits, but things quickly grow out of control when the ghosts show themselves and lead you on a cat and mouse chase through the kitchen and ballrooms. We particularly enjoyed this sequence for the opportunity to hear Murray's witty dialogue at extended length, which blended well with the action as he sarcastically quipped his way through situations most would consider terrifying.

Later in the level, things take a slight twist toward BioShock territory when a fisherman ghost turns an entire floor into a flooded, undersea wasteland. The water effects here were pretty neat, but it also made the area somewhat difficult to explore. With no map or radar, getting lost was a somewhat frequent occurrence in most of the Hotel level, but it was much less of an issue in the next level: Times Square. Here, wide-open space was the order of the day as we chased after the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It began on the streets of a Times Square littered with destroyed taxis, moved into an office building, and then turned into a rooftop battle. The objective was to keep the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from crawling up the side of the building while we dangled off the side.

After this, it was back to the firehouse for a little plot exposition about the Ghostbusters' troublesome relationship with the local government. The voice acting during these long sequences is particularly well done, and each character bears a solid resemblance to his circa-1980s self. Following that, it was off to the library--a level that the team visited at the beginning of the first film and one that we've previously covered in fair detail.

A Stay Puft boss battle caps off the Times Square chapter.
A Stay Puft boss battle caps off the Times Square chapter.

After going through these first few missions, we were surprised by how much the original film's sense of humor has been preserved in this new format. If there's one thing that remains to be seen, it's how long the relatively simple process of catching ghosts can hold your interest over the full duration of the game. We'll have the answer to that question for you when our review arrives near the June 16 release.

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