When this game was first announced as in production, Dan Aykroyd was quoted saying "this is essentially the third movie." What he didn't tell us is it's essentially the third movie... Co-starring you! If you consider yourself a Ghostbuster fan of any caliber you owe it to yourself to play this game. The music is authentic, the voices are authentic, the set pieces are all authentic, and the Bill Murray-isms are authentic. What it all culminates to is a fanboy's wet dream in the form of a faux-third person shooter (or buster).

To think for awhile that the game almost was lost in the Vivendi buy out. To make a long story short, Activision acquired the company and stated that only five of their existing franchises would continue production, Ghostbusters was not among them. Thankfully video game company fossil, Atari, swept in to take publishing rights (taking a break from making DBZ and Godzilla games), and saw the game to it's release on June 16, 2009. The developers, Terminal Reality, were responsible for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game and bringing the Ghostbusters world to life once again. They were also the geniuses behind the video game likeness of the proton pack, a device for weakening and tethering ghosts, that acts and feels as if they copy pasted it straight from the films.

To the unfamiliar, the Ghostbusters themselves consist of three para-psychologists from New York, Ray, Peter, and Egon (who are later joined by a fourth member, Winston), whom, after their ghostbusting fund is severed by their University employers, decide to open up shop in a converted firehouse as 'professional' ghost exterminators. I'm going to save myself some time right now by saying, if you haven't watched at least the first film, do so immediately. The movie depicts 'ghosts' as colourful caricatures that balance on the tightrope of cartoonish and downright horrifying. The favoured method to rid the haunted of the haunters is to blast the spirits with a proton beam and trap them in one of the amply named 'ghost traps'. This mechanic lends itself perfectly to some chaotic gameplay, all that's missing is some sarcastically dry quips and paragraphs of techno babble... oh wait the game has that too!

The player assumes the roll of the '5th' ghostbuster, an unnamed rookie who will remain nameless at the behest of Ray stating, "they don't want to get too attached, should any of their nuclear gadgetry malfunction." It's been 2 years since the events of Ghostbusters 2 and it's business as usual. The famous firehouse headquarters is fully explorable in between missions and functions as a sort of lobby with missions beginning and ending at the iconic ghostbuster conveyance, the Ecto-1. A small gripe here is that there are optional cut-scenes to witness during these lobby segments that are missed if you save and quit before starting the next mission (you load the save at mission start rather than back in the lobby). As I mentioned the game is played in third person the majority of the time, with the viewpoint switching into first person while using certain equipment like the P.K.E. meter.

I'll keep from detailing the plot too much as it's worth experiencing first hand, but let's just say it's standard ghostbusters fare with some series staples making guest appearances, including the gigantic Stay Puft Marshmellow Man. I've heard some other reviewers complain that these reappearances are wrestled into the plot for the reason of pure fan service, to these reviewers I say... could you have more missed the point of this entire game? During your 8+ hours with the campaign you will find yourself in many settings from yesteryear including wandering New York Public Library, wading through the river of slime, exploring museums, hotels, the streets of NYC, and even a light romp through hell. The attention to detail in some of the levels is incredible, especially those that were backdrops in previous movies. Now moving on to the good stuff, busting ghosts.

On any given mission, a few, if not all of your fellow Ghostbusters will follow you into the fray. Each buster, including yourself are outfitted with a proton pack on their respective characters back that doubles as a HUD. It displays what weapon you have equipped as well as your health. The proton pack functions as your lone defense against the badies you'll encounter, but thanks to plot specific upgrades, you'll find you need little else. Other equipment includes the aforementioned P.K.E. meter and paragoggles, used to track ghosts and see hidden 'clues', and upgraded ghost traps that allow for slam-dunk trapping (exactly what it sounds like). While the Ecto-1 is featured driving along beside you in a couple missions you are never able to drive it.

Your main 'weapon' the proton stream is used for weakening and wrangling ghosts. Not unlike pokemon, you must weaken an enemy before dragging and capturing it in a ghost trap set by either you or one of your AI buddies. This damage then capture strategy works fine at first, but later incarnations of evil need some extra fire power. As the game progresses you'll get beams that can more easily described as 'shot gun', 'flamethrower (slime-thrower?)', and 'grenade launcher'. While the science behind how this is possible is subject of many debates, it functions as a plot device and varies the gameplay enough to prevent deviation and giving the Ghostbusters items they aren't usually equipped with. Certain upgrades, like the slime tether, are used both for some light puzzle solving and wrenching ghosts into traps. What I can't accurately describe in text is how god damn kickass it feels to lasso a ghost and drag it kicking and screaming into a trap. While using the 'capture stream' you can also whip your enemies around, slamming them into walls and furniture to give you the advantage needed to finish them off. This is where an important tip from the movie comes into play, "Don't cross the streams." Doing so would cause a complete photonic reversal, IE you will do damage to yourself and the fellow ghostbuster you crossed streams with. This is very hard to avoid during some of the larger skirmishes, so expect to be yelled at A LOT!

Speaking of damage, the game employs the ever-not-so-popular-in-my-eyes auto-health recovery system. Simply suck your thumb in the corner for awhile and all your wounds heal themselves. Should you become incapacitated you must wait for one of your fellow Ghostbusters to revive you. While recovery in this case is instantaneous, don't rely on the AI to be able to get to you in time, as they will usually get knocked out themselves in transit. Speaking of the AI getting knocked out, they will, and often. You'll find that the rookie moonlights as a medic as you'll be constantly expected to revive fallen comrades. While ally incompetence can at times border on the ridiculous it's not as bad as say in Army of Two or Gears of War.

As I mentioned in the beginning, music and voice acting are spot on. While some of the jokes fall flat they're at least being delivered by the original actors. The character likenesses themselves are great, though lip syncing is sometimes noticeably off (in case that really bothers you, bigger picture, people!), the production value on the game shines through. Though it hasn't been 100% confirmed whether or not Aykoryd and Ramis actually wrote the script themselves, what has been confirmed is Ghostbusters 3 is going to happen. Until then we at least have this incredible love letter to GB fans to tide us over. This game looks like ghostbusters, it feels like ghostbusters, and it sounds like ghostbusters. It doesn't take a Sumerian shape-shifting god to see that this game is one of the best movie licensed video games of all time.

If someone asks if you're a God, you say YES!

Written January 16, 2010

(Played and completed both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game, finished my first play-through in one 8 hour sitting.)