More than a decade ago now the iconic Ghostbusters movie franchise got what creator, writer, and star Dan Aykroyd dubbed its third entry in video game form. Set in 1991, two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2, the original PS3 release was widely considered to be somewhat of a diamond in the rough. These ten years later the same rings true; Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered remains fun in its own right and a particular treat for established franchise fans.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Unlike most licensed games of the period, which were often pushed out early as advertising vehicles for big-screen counterparts, this canon continuation of the mainline Ghostbusters narrative was lavished with a high degree of care and attention. It features the likenesses and voice talent of all four of the main cast in addition to a couple of returning supporting parts, providing an immediately authentic feel that coupled with detailed renditions of explorable movie locations is potently nostalgic.
While we all love the warm glow of nostalgia, alone it doesn’t make for an inherently good product by any stretch of the imagination. While Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis were able to author the game with about the same degree of comedic verve as the two films they penned together, the original developers at ill-fated studio Terminal Reality didn’t always hold up their end of the bargain.
Players assume the uninteresting role of a mute new recruit, thrust into a life of busting ghosts around New York City alongside the original crew when things quickly go awry. In essence, this provides a roadmap on which the game’s eight linear stages are laid out for players to embark on a straight shot through. In today’s climate, this confined structure actually feels somewhat refreshing; there’s little room for padding when you’re always in the bosom of the main narrative, which isn’t the case with many unfocused modern titles and their abundant busywork.
I Ain’t ‘Fraid of No Ghost
As a result, Ghostbusters: The Video Game does only take in the region of six to eight hours to complete, but, thankfully, that puts proceedings to bed just before they get overly repetitive. Though the game does feature infrequent instances of physics-based puzzling, the focal point is most definitely on the unique brand of capture-based combat and that can be to a fault.
Anybody familiar with the popular Luigi’s Mansion franchise from Nintendo will feel right at home while wrangling wayward spirits, only in place of a “Poltergust” you’ve got the honest-to-goodness hardware that it was almost certainly based upon. Proton Pack on back, you’ll fire various forms of focused energy at ghosts in order to weaken them for capture, then throw a trap on the ground and reel them into it by utilizing mechanics not dissimilar to a fishing game. It’s a three-step process referred to as “zap, cap, and trap” that starts out as something uniquely interesting but ends up needlessly dragging out battles once the novelty passes.
Early in the game, as you slowly seek out specters with the standard-issue PKE Meter, Ghostbusters can be surprisingly unnerving and ultimately encountering its apparitions comes as an effective relief of tension. As the game progresses, however, with the exception of a thoroughly enjoyable set-piece level in which the Stay Puft marshmallow man rampages around Manhattan, the pivot towards full-scale ghost warfare feels misguided.
Different ghosts have different weaknesses, discernible by scanning them, which initially makes for a rewarding implementation of tactical play. You’ll need to switch between fire modes on the fly and simultaneously take care to prevent your Proton Pack from overheating, all the while bouncing between multiple targets. As the game elects to continuously ratchet up the degree of challenge, however, its cumbersome weapon switching and dodge controls tag team with brainless A.I. teammates to ensure that it’s hard to stay competitive.
A couple of upsides moving forward are that more conventional cannon fodder is introduced so that you don’t always need to wrestle enemies into traps, and also that you can safely skip encounters where the opportunity presents itself. You’ll be sacrificing some cash in the process, but you’re likely to have that in abundance regardless as a little over halfway through the game it’s possible to fully upgrade your loadout. Low upgrade pricing is certainly an odd decision, as the otherwise engaging feel of player progression dissipates entirely from that point onwards.
We Have the Tools, We Have the Talent
The combat situation is a real shame considering that mechanically most everything works great, yet many of the battles are so poorly conceived that it feels as though they’re intentionally playing to notable weaknesses rather than strengths. In spite of this, the game’s audiovisuals do an admirable job of elevating the overall presentation in order to help keep things engaging throughout—especially for existing Ghostbusters fans.
A lot of music is pulled directly from the timeless movie soundtracks, which shouldn’t fail to plaster a smile on your face, while any original numbers are so authentic as to be indistinguishable. It’s upbeat—just like the enthusiastic voice performances—and as a result, the perfect soundtrack to accompany your carefree destruction of property as the Ghostbusters continue their trend of causing widespread carnage without facing significant repercussions.
On that note, you can sow absolute mayhem within the game’s environments, breaking and displacing tons of physics-based objects while searing flaming scorch marks into surrounding walls. Even now its mildly impressive, but back when the game was released in 2009, this level of interactivity would’ve been top-shelf.
Visually the game was never best in class, having launched in the same year as the likes of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 2, though its dedication to the source material carried it then and continues to now. Jarring transitions from the muddy, blurry, untouched cutscenes into gameplay makes it immediately apparent how much more vibrant the remaster is and how a raw boost in resolution alone serves to smooth many of the rough edges. This is undoubtedly the definitive way to experience the story—sadly, that is all you can experience with the online survival mode having been axed—but don’t let that fool you into expecting modern graphics or even an entirely solid frame rate.
Cross the Streams
With new movie project Ghostbusters 2020 currently in the works, there’s renewed interest in the property and this remastered effort isn’t a bad means of discovering what all the hubbub is about. It’s a lively interactive realization of the beloved franchise, imbued with the generous helping of likable personality required to make it so. What’s perhaps most impressive is that this continues to come across even as a deluge of drawn-out combat encounters start to wear thin.
Any fan of the franchise will enjoy it for its authenticity, references, behind-the-scenes insights, and the opportunity to finally see what happens next as they accompany the original crew on another mad caper overflowing with ‘buster banter straight from the creators themselves. Those unfamiliar should still have a good time, owing to the generally strong gameplay mechanics (despite some botched implementation), atmospheric moments, and set-piece encounters that together comprise a campaign refreshing in its straightforward linearity.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.