I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like Ghostbusters. I mean, what is there not to like? We have four goofy guys whose job it is to run around with corny one-liners while wearing CWU-27p flight suits zapping ghouls all day. At the mere mention of the title, there’s always someone willing to risk it all and start singing, “If there’s somethin’ strange in the neighborhood, Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” The movies were undoubtedly one of many great things to come out of the 80s but unfortunately, in my opinion, things went a little downhill after Ghostbusters II and the animated series.
This shift is why it was a delight to see the 2009 action-adventure game based on Ghostbusters now receive a remaster. Like the original, we see cast members, Bill Murray, Dan Akyroyd, the late Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson make a return with the unmistakable voice of Annie Potts as the receptionist. As nostalgic as it was to hear and see the cast again and fire off the Proton Pack, the faults in this remaster, unfortunately, overrule most of the positives.
You begin your ghostbusting adventures at the iconic firehouse HQ where you’re introduced as “the new guy,” a character unrelated to the original cast. To be perfectly honest, my unnamed character looked weird – my facial animations are funky, at best. Not much has changed from the original customization-less the original title this is based on. There is zero customization options and no ability to change your character; I was stuck with my avatar’s ugly mug all game. You also have the personality of a rock to match your lifeless expression as you have no dialogue whatsoever, adding an abnormal vacuum of character as the rest of the team talks.
When it comes to remasters, it’s clear when developers make it a point to go above and beyond. That isn’t the case with developer Saber Interactive. For instance, inside the firehouse HQ, I spotted Peter Venkman playing an arcade machine in the back. I excitedly skipped over to join him. Unfortunately, like the original title, I couldn’t play a game on it – I just stood there like a plank pretending to. A silly little mini-game right here would have been a lovely touch to implement in this remaster instead of mindlessly pressing buttons and listening to some retro gameplay music.
Ghostbusters is essentially a third-person shooter, so the movement of my character was something I was eager to examine in this remaster. To my surprise, the control scheme was fluid and easy to navigate – it didn’t feel clunky or sticky as I moved from place to place. What did feel clunky was when we were all together as a team in a small area and I’d end up bashing against Ray or finding myself in a compromising situation with Egon in the corner of a room in the New York Public Library. Apparently, no-one has heard of personal space.
One of the main things that made Ghostbusters: The Video Game great for its time was the HUD design. So many games (especially in the 2000’s) litter the screen with bits and bobs that overwhelm your experience. In this remaster, we see the same system implemented – the HUD is neatly tucked away behind the press of a button that you can dip into when you need to upgrade certain items from your Proton Pack as well as information on gear you collect along the way. This holds up really well in 2019 by giving the player a cleaner visionary screen experience and I’m glad the developers have kept this particular system in place.
Your Proton Pack also lets you know if it’s overheating from you being too trigger happy by turning red and sounding an alarm allowing you to press a button to cool it down. You’ll also be able to upgrade the firing modes later in the game to give you that added boost to bring down a ghost more easily than before.
Another classic Ghostbusters gadget is the PKE meter that allows you to read the air for any paranormal activity, secret doorways, and cursed artifacts. I’ve always found this tool a lot of fun, and in the remaster nothing has changed in terms of good old fashioned ghost hunting. One element I did find tricky was the act of scanning a ghost just before I trapped it to get information on it. I found, in my experience, it just didn’t read as quickly as I wanted it to occasionally leaving me with no data on who I just zapped.
Catching a ghost is as dull of an experience as it was in the original version of the game. The aim position is pretty hit or miss leaving you having destroyed half the room while racking up a huge bill. When you finally succeed in getting a hit marker on the ghoul, you then have to lasso the bugger using the slime blowers from Ghostbusters II to bring it into the awaiting trap. It all sounds quite exciting on paper, but when carried out in an actual gameplay sequence, it was an unfulfilling event that got repetitive and extremely boring quickly.
You could also use this lasso effect with items that were blocking your way. For example, if a chair or a table is obstructing you from getting into the next room as you’re on the scent of your next ghost, by using the slime blower, you simply move it out of the way – high tier stuff, eh? Other than that and wrangling a ghost, it serves no other purpose.
One gigantic issue for me throughout Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered was that even on modern consoles it froze several times, which issued a frustrating restart. In one area of the lobby at the Sedgewick Hotel, the game completely choked – the entire team stood there lifeless, except for me. It was a bizarre bug that saw me being able to walk around my inanimate teammates. Of course, I took this negative and turned it into a fun positive by shooting off my Proton Pack at them and destroying pretty much everything in the hotel lobby racking up a huge bill – I also may have written a few obscene things on the walls and carpets, but that’s another story.
I’ve always been a fan of the cheese in Ghostbusters with its silly one-liners, but I feel like a lot of the wisecracks haven’t aged well at all, or maybe I’m just older now. Either way, it provided so many eye-rolling moments I think I almost lost my vision at one point. Not that I was particularly offended by anything that was said, but some of the quips that came from the lips of Peter Venkman (aka Bill Murray) were now quite cringe-worthy and awkward. As much as I’m a fan of cheesy 80’s lines, whether they are in video games or movies, I felt that it drew me out of the narrative, for example: when the team talks about the Opera lady ghost they meet at Times Square and Venkman references being a “chubby chaser,” as well as many more painful eye-rollingly bad puns.
The highlight of my entire Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered gameplay was finally meeting the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I didn’t let the fact that the game shut down and needed yet another restart just before its grand entrance affect me. I’ve always been equally caught between being terrified and feeling sorry for the Marshmallow Man, and this feeling didn’t go away as I tried to prevent him from climbing to the top of a building by spraying him with everything I had from my Proton Pack, watching his white, puffy coating burn. This then made me want to eat marshmallows badly.
With this being a remaster, you’d expect great things visually, but in essence, the resolution and textures aren’t up to spec, despite there being a ton of room for improvement. For the most part, the frame rate was steady and I had no real issues to speak off. The lack of multiplayer, which in the original was surprisingly well-received, has not been revived this time around, which is a shame. Due to the linear and basic gameplay, this could have been an excellent opportunity for the developers to add in an element of thrill and relive some multiplayer memories, at the very least.
Fans of the original Ghostbusters: The Video Game will probably enjoy this, even if it’s just for a trip down memory lane and to see the cast again and visit some iconic locations. But due to its repetitive combat, insufferable artificial intelligence, and dull gameplay, I would advise first-time players to maybe pick up something else if you’re looking for an enjoyable and fulfilling third-person shooter.
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