When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, you know who to call. At least, you would if you lived in the fictional version of New York City in which the Ghostbusters do business. Decades may have passed since the group last busted a ghost, but the iconic characters will live on forever, as will the ever so catchy theme song, which is a Halloween staple.
Things also seem to point towards Ghostbusters III finally happening, after many years of trouble.
Back in the mid-2000s, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Raimis failed to get a Ghostbusters III script off the ground, partially because Bill Murray wasn’t interested in being a part of it. Around the same time, Terminal Velocity and Sony decided to forge ahead on a video game after seeing an impressive tech demo that a company — that didn’t hold the rights to the property — had released. The actors ended up joining that product, and assisted with the development of what would end up being known as Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Hell, they even got all four.
At the time, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was a sort of consolation prize. While it didn’t seem like a third movie was going to happen, at least we got the game, which took place after the original two celluloid classics. I could be wrong, but I remember the game being touted as a sort of interactive Ghostbusters III, which made it a must play for any fan of the series, especially the hardcore ones.
When it released back in June 2009, the game received generally positive praise and seemed to do pretty well. I wasn’t sure of what to expect, so instead of spending the close to $90 that it would’ve cost to purchase the game, I rented it from my neighbourhood video store and played through it over the course of a borrowed week. Like my friends, who also gave it a shot, I enjoyed the game and came away generally impressed. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than most licensed efforts, and the story really helped its cause. So, too, did the actors’ involvement, because they gave it an air of authenticity. The end result was something that actually kind of felt like a Ghostbusters movie.
Fast-forward to today, and we’re more than ten years removed from the original release date. The current console generation is coming to an end, and looking back it’s easy to see that it relied on a mix of the old and the new. As development times (and costs) increased, developers looked to remasters and remakes in order to help increase their profit margins. Of course, they also aided in making older properties popular again, which was the case with Activision’s Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled.
The latest in a long line of similarly updated re-releases has turned out to be none other than Terminal Velocity’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered, which comes to us by way of Saber Interactive and Mad Dog Games.
Set during Thanksgiving of 1991 (which places it a couple of years after the events of Ghostbusters II), this supernaturally fueled experience begins with the four main members training their new Rookie. It’s this standard, white male protagonist who we take control of throughout what is an average, if not a bit brief, campaign. He doesn’t say a lot, nor does he have a lot of personality, so it’s up to the cast of the films to drive the narrative, make us laugh and that type of thing. Thankfully, they do a pretty good job, as the writing is solid and above average, especially in comparison to other licensed efforts.
The campaign takes place over the course of several stages, which explore environments like Times Square, the New York City public library and the Sedgewick Hotel. Along the way, players will face off against the familiar (Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man), as well as new types of enemies, such as marshmallow ghost dogs, opera singer ghosts and ghastly gargoyles. This is done in a third-person shooter set-up, wherein the player must weaken enemies before killing or trapping them.
Along the way, the Rookie gains access to new types of streams, meaning that there’s more than just the traditional Proton Pack stream available for use. One slows enemies down, while another tethers them. It’s also possible to slam foes left to right, right to left or up and down, which becomes helpful whenever a ghost is unruly. Slamming can also be a major aide when it comes to trapping something, because — through a purchasable upgrade — the Rookie can unlock the ability to slam ghosts into traps.
While this all sounds good on paper, the end result isn’t spectacular, and doesn’t hold up as well after ten years. The gameplay feels basic, the controls are cumbersome at times, and the entire experience ends up seeming more dated than expected. This isn’t helped by missions where you’re swarmed by enemies, and almost spend more time running from one downed ally to another, in order to try to revive them before you, yourself, are knocked down too. There’s an achievement and trophy for reviving more than 20 allies, and it wasn’t hard to unlock that within the first couple of levels.
I also encountered a bug wherein I was unable to slam a ghost during the tutorial. My partner kept yelling at me to do so, and the indicator told me what buttons to press, but it just wouldn’t work. It wasn’t until I reloaded the last checkpoint before it actually started working as intended.
There are some showpieces to be found, like a pretty neat boss battle against Stay Puft, where the Rookie is dangling over the side of a building. The story is also pretty entertaining, and still holds up alright. It’s the core gameplay that doesn’t feel all that fresh, or end up being terribly enjoyable, ten years later. Maybe I would’ve felt differently if I hadn’t played this before, but who knows.
A big reason as to why things feel so dated is that Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered simply hasn’t aged well. Another is the fact that the remastering seems to have been rushed and kind of half-assed, in order to capitalize on potential income from its sales. As someone who’s played a lot of these over the course of the last several years, I can’t help but be disappointed and consider this one of the least impressive of the bunch. A solid enough game still resides within, but it wasn’t given a lot of love and care.
Before moving on, I should also mention that the story — which we already noted takes place during Thanksgiving of 1991 — sends the Ghostbusters throughout New York City, and to an offshore island, after an energy wave stirs up paranormal activity. Its origins? Well, they seem to reside in the Gozer exhibit. Where else?
Although I haven’t been playing the most graphically impressive games as of late, Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered was still kind of a shock. It looks pretty rough, and the term muddy seems to describe it better than most. This is especially true of the dark Times Square stage, where it was hard to even see downed allies from afar. I don’t remember the game looking too bad last generation, but it’s been more than ten years since then, and it doesn’t seem like a lot was done to pretty this thing up since then. The gameplay is also a bit sluggish, and the frame rate isn’t perfect.
That said, the cinematic cutscenes do look like they were given some love. More than the rest of the experience at least. They — along with the story they coney — are the best part of this experience, and the main reason why you should play it if you have not.
For the most part, the audio is fine. The actors do a good job portraying their characters, as one would expect them to, and the whole thing does kind of play out like an interactive Ghostbusters movie. That said, there’s some odd static in some of the audio, particularly when the ‘Busters are introduced to a female doctor inside of a Times Square skyscraper.
In the end, this is a somewhat disappointing re-release. After ten years, Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered feels more dated than I would’ve expected it to, but part of that is because its remaster wasn’t given enough time or care. It’s too bad, because the game has been solid from the get-go, and was at least once the only real Ghostbusters III we could look to. That said, if you haven’t played this campaign before it’s still worth doing so, even if the update isn’t all that glamorous or impressive.
This review is based on the Xbox One (X) version of the game, which we were provided with.
- The game, itself, is still decent
- Was once a kind of Ghostbusters III, and plays that way
- The main cast all contributed
- Rough and dated
- Has some bugs
- Doesn't feel like much of an upgrade or update