As a kid of the 1980s and 1990s, I grew up consuming cult media. I played the classics, read trashy comics, and surely enough, watched movies like Back to the Future, Jaws, E.T, Indiana Jones, and of course, Ghostbusters ad nauseum. The Ghostbusters in particular was a franchises that most stuck to me because it was just about everywhere a six year old was at that time, be it in school with all the merchandising, at home with VHS, the The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and of course, with toys. A lot of toys. For a few years, it was hard not to bump into them when walking into my room.
But for some reason, the franchise never quite hit it off in videogame form. I never really played the NES version that is so maligned by the retro community like The Angry Videogame Nerd, nor have I come across the coveted Europe-only port of Ghostbusters II, so I never really got to play as any of my four virtual supernatural hunters in any way up until Terminal Reality’s Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 title Ghostbusters: The Video Game released in 2009. Wow, has it been ten years since that game was released? I’m old!
Ghostbusters: The Video Game hit all the notes that a license-based game could do, and against all odds, it was surprisingly good, especially for a die-hard fan like myself. With a script penned by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the original writers of the story for both of the Ghostbusters movies, the game was a love letter to fans, bringing back many of the characters and locations of the movies in a way that an actual sequel wouldn’t quite do justice. I have a lot of fond memories of playing through the story and enjoying it, but the part of that game that I really had a blast with back then was the multiplayer.
Yes, Ghostbusters: The Video Game had a robust multiplayer focused on cooperative missions that up to four players could join forces in and bust some ghosts together. I must have spent over three hundred hours playing online with friends and strangers alike. It didn’t help that I was hopelessly into trophy/achievement hunting at the time and that one of them that was tied to completing all of the online challenges in the game was broken, so I kept playing for months with the hope of finally getting it. Never did, but I actually enjoyed every moment, frustrations with faulty programming aside.
So when word popped up that Saber Interactive would be delivering a remaster of this game, I was instantly hit by nostalgia thanks to the idea of going back and playing more of the multiplayer, but that feeling was cut back just as quickly when I learned that the online portion wouldn’t be available at release. It’s quite annoying to think that one of the best features in the game isn’t playable at the moment. Even without it, though, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is still fun, although some of its gameplay elements probably haven’t aged very well. That, added to the fact that this remaster isn’t as polished as other similar re-releases.
The game picks up a few years after the events of the second movie, after the Ghostbusters saved New York City once again, and have since acquired a sponsorship from the mayor’s office. As the newest member of the crew, simply named Rookie, while you’re learning the ins and outs of being a ‘buster, all hell breaks loose in the city when yet another evil entity breaks free, waking up all sorts of paranormal stuff that only the Ghostbusters can deal with. You’ll visit a number of movie locations along the way, like the NY Public Library and even the Sedgewick Hotel, all the while capturing ghosts and destroying both private and public property under the familiar tunes of the movies.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game plays like a third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War, and you have access to their trademark Proton Pack, along with other new weapons, like my favorite, the Tether goo, with which you can slingshot ghosts straight into the trap. Catching them with your beams and throwing them into a trap is quite a show, and the game does a fantastic job capturing the feel of actually having to wrangle and tire them out before they submit, by slamming the poor things around until their health bar turns red. Other aspects of being a Ghostbuster are also portrayed very well in the game, like having to use a
PKE meter and goggles in order to scan the environment for clues and entities, and the general chatter among the team members, along with having to pick them back up when they’re knocked down by ghosts.
In fact, another part of the game that hit it out of the park back in 2009 is how most of the original cast was brought back in to record voice acting, reprising their roles and adding a lot of authenticity to Ghostbusters: The Video Game. The four Ghostbusters got back behind the mics, including Harold Ramis, who has since passed away and is lovingly remembered in the Remaster, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, and a sleepy Bill Murray. Even Annie Potts, William Atherton and Brian Murray came back to reprise their roles as the peppery Janine, smarmy Walter Peck, and NY’s mayor, respectively. They went all out to make this game feel like an authentic Ghostbusters sequel, and it certainly shows. Even their firehouse was faithfully recreated, and you can even walk around and interact with it in between missions, an added bonus that’s really cool to mess with. The only bit that disappointed me as a fan was not being able to drive the Ecto-1, but we get the next best thing, using it as a mobile trap in one of the game’s most chaotic levels where you fight the Stay Puft marshmallow man in Times Square.
The story portion of the game is fun enough to play through, and the computer-controlled Ghostbusters are smart enough to keep themselves alive quite well, as well as running back to you when you fall down, but the overall gameplay might not feel as tight as it once did ten years ago. Ghost attacks are a little hard to read and avoid, and the general lack of checkpoints in certain difficult spots in the game, especially the ones where you are by yourself, might annoy you a bit since the Rookie can’t take a lot of hits before going down for the count. There are plenty of spots in the game where the difficulty ramps up quite a lot, but it’s still a fun campaign to get through, and it goes without mentioning that fans of the franchise are sure to get even more of a kick playing it. There’s so much fan service in this game, but it’s to be expected.
It’s such a shame that the remaster doesn’t have the amount of polish that it could’ve had. Sure, the resolution has been bumped up to match current HD displays, but it doesn’t seem like textures have gotten much of an improvement, resulting in uneven, blurry visuals at spots. Character models look sharp, though, and thanks to some good — for 2009 — facial models, everyone looks as close to their 1980s counterparts as they can, and voice-wise, they sound pretty darn like they did back then. The loss of Ramis five years ago is a dire reminder that the cast is getting up there in age, so it’s a good thing that this project came around when it did and was so successful in bringing back the talent for one last gig.
This would’ve been a whole other story if the incredible multiplayer from the original version was present at launch, and I hope it’ll come around eventually. According to Saber, they chose not to include it due to some technical issues that should be resolved at some point. As it stands, for anyone remotely interested in Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters The Video Game Remastered is still a fun romp to play through, gameplay and port issues aside.