***I consider myself a casual gamer, as opposed to a die-hard. So when I pick up a new game, it’s because I’ve got a genuine interest in it, despite my novice gaming skills. Join me now as I navigate the latest Ghostbusters video game for the PS4, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed!***
By Rob Siebert
For yours truly, the gold standard in Ghostbusters video gaming was set in 2009 with Ghostbusters: The Video Game. And not just because most of the original cast was involved. The mechanics of the game were solid, and fun to work at and master. To this day, I enjoy going back and playing through it. So, fair or not, that’s the largely the standard by which I was judging Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed.
Granted, for my money Spirits Unleashed had a lot going for it coming in. The first-person shooter approach gave the initial impression that it would offer a similar experience to the 2009 game. We had Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson offering their vocal talents. It seemed to pick up where Ghostbusters: Afterlife left off, which offered a certain satisfaction. Graphically, the game looked at least on par with it’s predecessor. The ability to customize and play as your own Ghostbuster, a feature which the 2009 game did not have, was another plus. We were also told we’d be able to play as a ghost, which was certainly something new.
I’ll reiterate that I’m not a die-hard gamer. But I am a die-hard ghosthead. So my hopes were high coming into Spirits Unleashed…
The game kicks off with the player in Ray Stantz’s bookstore, which has apparently moved right next to the Ghostbusters firehouse. Ray gives a rah-rah speech about becoming a Ghostbuster, and you’re then sent inside the firehouse to create your avatar.
I generally don’t put a whole lot of thought or effort into create-a-character modes. I’m happy if the character just generally looks like me, which in the end is what I did for myself (shown below). But for those who want to get into nitty gritty details, those options are there. Players can change up eye shapes, facial hair thickness, body type. And yes, gender and skin color as well. As much as I love Ghostbusters: The Video Game, the Rookie character, another white male, did players no favors from a diversity standpoint.
One minor disappointment: You can’t customize your uniform’s name tag with your name. Instead you get a bunch of nickname tags. Kinda sucks, as I was looking forward to seeing “Siebert” on a Ghostbuster uniform.
From the get-go, it’s clear why Ernie Hudson is billed above Dan Aykroyd in the opening credits to this game. Winston Zeddemore is all over the opening moments of Spirits Unleashed. But that’s not altogether uncalled for, as he’s now the big executive in charge at the Ghostbusters organization. (His exact title, if he even has one, is unknown.) And, just like in real life, he looks like he’s barely aged a day.
We meet a character named Catt (at left above), who acts as the Ghostbusters’ operations manager. She meets the player in the adjoining alley and we set up for target practice, strapping on a proton pack for the first time. I was relieved to see that a lot of the basic mechanics from Ghostbusters: The Video Game were left intact. You use the R2 button to throw your stream, you vent the pack as needed, you throw the trap and drag the ghost into it, etc. They didn’t fix something that wasn’t broken. I appreciate that very, very much.
Tutorial: Whitestone Museum of Nature and Science
After the team’s tech guy, Eddy, guides you on how to use the PKE Meter, you’re sent into your first job: A haunting at the Whitestone Museum of Nature and Science. It’s not a real job, mind you. It’s a demo on how to catch a ghost in the field. But it gives you a sense of how the game actually works now that you’ve got a handle on your basic equipment.
In the grand tradition of simplistic ghost names like Slimer and Muncher, your first bust’s name is Blobby (shown above). Blobby is essentially a counterfeit Slimer. He douses you with slime and attacks you. But other than that he’s designed to be a pretty simple capture. At least in theory…
One thing you’ll notice is a percentage bar at the top of your screen labeled “Building Haunt.” I’m assuming if that bar fills up completely you lose the game. It makes sense, and adds a sense of urgency to things.
There were a coupe of equipment growing pains. I found the proton pack needs to be vented much more regularly than in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, which obviously puts a limit on how long you can fire your proton stream. The ghost trap also has battery life, which means you can’t simply leave it open as you try and wrangle the ghost.
On the plus side, you get to interact with the civilians in the building, calming them down if/when they see the ghost. There’s not much to it, as you just hold down a button. But it’s a nice “practical” detail they put in there.
I admit, Blobby was tough for me. Balancing venting the pack, watching the trap battery, and wrangling the ghost is a challenge. I had to corner him a few times, deploy the trap, then work to wrestle him inside. I got slimed more than once, too. Apparently slime is more than a simple nuisance in Spirits Unleashed, as too much of it incapacitates your character. I can appreciate that.
But ultimately, I did catch the little pink menace. After the tutorial you’re taken back to the firehouse to empty your ghost trap, explore, talk to the other characters, etc. I opted to jump back into the action pretty quick, though. You’re given several mission/job options, which you can either select or have the game pick one for you at random. I opted to randomize things, and I ended up…back at the museum. Oops.
But as it turned out, I wasn’t going back alone. The game put me with three other automated Ghostbusters (shown above), one of whom looked severely underdressed for the job (far right). Like my character, they didn’t have real names. I’d later find out they were named Lima, Primo,and Corn Dog. How one gets the name Corn Dog I don’t even want to know.
But names notwithstanding, it was time to heat ’em up!
TO BE CONTINUED…
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