REVIEW: Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed: Busting Real Good

Ghostbusters fans have had a rough ride over the years with a few good game releases, followed by a number of mediocre ones. And while the 2009 Ghostbusters game remains the spiritual continuation of the two classic movies, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed from IllFonic is an interesting approach to continuing the legacy of Ghostbusters for a new generation. Yet, it still manages to respect the old-school fans by giving a warm-hearted reverence to the franchise as a whole.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a first-person shooter that puts you in the Ghostbusters suit, wielding your own proton pack and ghost-catching equipment. The game’s story takes place after the events of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but none of the characters from that movie make an appearance, nor are they mentioned. Ray and Winston are here, played by their original actors Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson respectively. The two of them guide players as they take on jobs busting ghosts and solving a mystery that unfolds over the course of the game.

The charm of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is teaming up with three other players to bust ghosts in different locations. Anyone who grew up a Ghostbusters fan will know this is what everyone always wanted. You get to fire a proton pack, throw a trap to catch a ghost, use the P.K.E. meter to scan nearby areas and unlock new equipment to bust even more ghosts you encounter. It’s everything and more for Ghostbusters fans in the best way, both online with friends and offline solo.

The fan service is on full display here too. From collecting mold samples as Egon mentioned in the first movie, to collecting newspaper clippings of ghost sightings and discovering haunted artifacts for Ray. It’s a joy to see things like this. The story of the game progresses in Acts while you complete jobs online and offline. It’s not as interesting as playing single-player levels through a given story, but the approach falls in line with what would be going on for the Ghostbusters as the plot moves along.

And let’s not forget the firehouse with the Ecto-1. Being able to explore and move around the Ghostbusters firehouse at will is a great thing, even though what you do there is fairly limited. Luckily, you’re able to walk through and see every nook and cranny of the firehouse, including the containment unit where busted ghosts are deposited. Too bad we don’t get to drive the Ecto-1 as well. All of this sounds like a dream for any fan, but not everything is perfect.

There are some notable omissions that can’t be ignored. At no point in the game do you see Venkman, even though he is mentioned a few times during the game’s story. At the same time, Egon is obviously not present. Although, the ability to collect fungi is a very nice homage to the character and the late Harold Ramis who played him in the movies. There’s also no mention or appearance by Janine, the Ghostbusters secretary from the movies. So if you were hoping for any sort of cameo or mention of her, you’re going to be disappointed.

Luckily, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed makes up for some of this by mixing things up and allowing players to play as the ghosts. In the online multiplayer modes, players can take control of a ghost and haunt a location. This can be fun as you possess objects, scare nearby patrons, and even sabotage the Ghostbusters’ equipment while evading them. Playing as a ghost is a very different experience from being a Ghostbuster. It’s you against four other people in asymmetrical multiplayer action. Sliming players who venture off alone with your ghost attacks can be very funny and bring out your devious side.

But this also brings up one of the biggest problems with Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, and that’s balance. Ghost players have a far easier time scoring victories and evading capture against Ghostbuster players. While the Ghostbusters need to heavily rely on teamwork to catch a ghost, they also have to worry about multiple objectives in order to score a victory. Ghosts on the other hand need to bring up the haunting meter within the area, by haunting objects and scaring bystanders. How the game is balanced at launch, can lead to very one-sided and unbalanced games. Ghosts will probably earn more victories over Ghostbusters.

Ghosts are able to break out of the lock-ups from a proton pack very easily, especially if its only one or two Ghostbusters locking onto a target. Ghosts also have a very easy time damaging players with their attacks, as well as running away while regaining energy very fast. Ghostbuster players can stun ghosts using the P.K.E. meter shockwave, and other equipment to slow them down, but they will still have a significantly difficult time getting control of a situation. It’s not impossible, but still very difficult compared to what the ghosts have to do. With a few tweaks on both sides, multiplayer matches can feel fair to both Ghostbusters and the ghost players alike.

As far as being a successful take on the franchise, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed does a lot of things right. It definitely can benefit from some updates to the online multiplayer, especially on the ghost mechanics. If you wanted to see a well-done rendition of Ghostbusters in video game form, this is definitely a win. It may not be the greatest Ghostbusters game, but rest assured this game definitely came, saw, and kicked some ass.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed

Game title: Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed

  • 8/10
    Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed - 8/10
8/10

Summary

The game is good but has a few issues that stand out and impact the overall experience. With a few tweaks or future updates, things can be even better. There’s a lot of fan service and fun nods for long-time Ghostbusters fans, but a few interesting new additions everyone will appreciate.

Jakejames Lugo

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