There have been so many great licensed games that the stigma attached to them can sometimes feel undeserved. After all, it’s not a death sentence to be labeled a “movie game” anymore. Especially when studios have proven that when given the time to create something good they can make a game like Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Then a game like Ghostbusters is released and the stigma is reaffirmed even if it doesn’t have to be like this.
Despite being released at the same time as the highly anticipated reboot, Ghostbusters doesn’t star the film’s powerful heroines. Instead the characters played by Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, et al. have been replaced with four nameless characters. At first, I was hopeful and thought that by replacing established characters with new ones, this meant that the developer could have free reign to do something compelling with them. That isn’t the case, as each of them has no personality or character arc.
Instead the four generic characters just exist to run around locations and shoot at the supernatural. That would be fine provided the gameplay is compelling enough to stand on its own, but the shooting doesn’t hold up its end of the stick here. Ghostbusters plays like the most generic twin stick shooter possible, players simply aim the right stick at ghosts until they disappear (or switch to a special gun in order to capture important baddies) and occasionally tap the right bumper in order to make sure their gun doesn’t overheat. That’s not just the basics, it’s the bulk of the gameplay.
Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Bad
There’s some additional mechanics, but they all feel really tacked on. Each character has their own type of rechargeable grenade with a different effect (such as a slime bomb or flashbang), but there is never any incentive to actually use them. I never ran into an enemy that I had to stun with a grenade first since every enemy is a generic bullet sponge. There’s no variety to force players off of the right trigger for a moment, and the gameplay is just dull.
While the gameplay is boring, it would be serviceable in an interestingly designed game. Sadly, that game isn’t Ghostbusters as it features some of the worst level design I’ve seen in a game. Levels are gigantic sprawling labyrinths that don’t offer the player any sense of direction (although players can hold down the circle button in order to know where to go). Every room looks the same, and there isn’t enough interesting content to see for five minutes, let alone the 30 these levels last.
Each area in the game is capped off with a boss fight, which often teases something potentially interesting but fails to deliver. One boss (pictured above) actually creates a force field of ghosts for the player to deal with, but yet again there isn’t strategy needed to defeat him. I simply had to shoot at the enemies, and it ultimately wasn’t any different from a normal battle. It’s anticlimatic, and it doesn’t feel worth the half hour buildup.
Ultimately, Ghostbusters fails to inspire the player to do anything. The combat is boring since the enemies are as generic as possible. The levels are repetitive and are so long that the gameplay feels like a chore. There isn’t a single good thing I can say about this game other than that Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters theme song plays in the menus so at least I was humming along with that when I was in the menus dreading the fact that I had to play more of this game.
To hammer home how unpolished Ghostbusters is, and how little care was put into the product, the game has some of the worst accessibility options I’ve seen in a modern release. Subtitles don’t work for the opening cutscene that establishes what little story the game has, and a ton of dialogue in-game isn’t transcribed. There’s also hilariously tiny text that even I, a 24 year old with good eyesight, couldn’t read easily and the controls aren’t customizable. It’s gross to see Activision releasing a product like this and not making sure that gamers with disabilities can get the full experience.
Ghostbusters PS4 Review – Stop Calling (PS4)
Lemme Tell You Something
There’s something very disheartening about seeing Ghostbusters release shortly after Furi did. Both games are in the same genre and took rapidly different approaches. The downloadable indie game featured a ton of fresh ideas and new concepts for the genre, while the Activision published game has no heart to it and feels like a retread from the first minute onward. No risks were taken, and the most generic mass appeal-able game was made instead.
I feel bad for the kids that will see the new film and ask for this game since they want to relive the adventure they just saw on the big screen. Little boys and girls won’t get anything worthwhile out of this, and they don’t even get to see their new heroes in it (although, it’s probably for the best that they didn’t tarnish these characters here). What a sad waste of a great license, and a disappointment for those that will be looking for another way to enjoy the series.
Even as someone who doesn’t have a deep affinity for Ghostbusters, I can’t help but feel that the license deserves a better game than this. It captures none of the camaraderie or the imagination that’s seen in the films. There’s no personality here, and gamers are left with a $50 twin stick shooter that doesn’t have a single interesting idea in it. Play Furi, Nuclear Throne, or Enter the Gungeon instead. There’s absolutely nothing here worth your time, especially if you “ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”
Review code for Ghostbusters provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.