An Hour With… Ghostbusters

By Alec Meer on June 30th, 2009 at 11:16 pm.

There’s something strange in the PC neighbourhood of this johnny-come-lately movie adaptation, and it don’t look good. The surely vital co-op mode the consoles enjoyed has been axed entirely from the PC port, and the European version delayed by nearly half a year. Yes, it’s true. These men have no dicks. Nonetheless, I took a very quick look at the US version to get some sense of whether it’ll be worth the wait for Euro-folk…

Killed! By candlesticks! I don’t remember any Ghostbusters being a) killed b) killed by haunted wax and brass in the movies, but that’s where the game most deviates from the celluloid inspirations it otherwise pays so much lip service to.

It’s why this was such an odd property to turn into a game, regardless of the 20 year time-gap. While they might regularly bring New York to the brink of apocalypse, Venkman et al didn’t get into a whole lot of life-threatening situations themselves. They just stumbled haphazardly between ineptitude and absurd good fortune, and everything worked out okay in the end. In a videogame, though – there has to be death. There has to be game over. There are, it seems, very few ways around that if a developer wants to retain a meaningful level of challenge. It’s usually either that or a bloody countdown timer and waypoints.

Game over really doesn’t suit Ghostbusters, alas. The whole idea of the films were that these were guys who would always somehow survive failure, that real peril barely even touched them. Imagine if Egon died. Hell, even imagine if Rick Moranis died. It’d upset the whole film entirely.

I must, of course, nod back at the title of this piece. I’ve only played it for an hour: this isn’t a review. There’s every chance the hard-stop fails I encountered towards the end of that hour aren’t all that regular later on. My hourish did, though, involve a couple such game-overs, and eventually ground to a frustrated halt when I was killed by the same horde of candles six times over, which drained away any inclination I had to lend the game any more of my free time.

Before that, I’d grinned – though not laughed out loud – pretty regularly at the dialogue, a returning Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd clearly very comfortable in their old boiler suits, and a companionable blend of wry, silly, bitchy and chummy. Even my character, a pleasingly mute, goon-faced new recruit, seemed to fit in well. I’d admired the look of the thing – not super high-tech, but colourful and characterful, and definitely Ghostbusters. I’d enjoyed the casual carnage I could unleash with the agreeably out-of-control proton packs- trashing sofas, carving flaming graffiti into the walls, atomising priceless porcelain… A ticker top-left of the screen kept count of what I was costing the city in insurance bills, and trying to push this as high as possible proved a gloriously pointless, but hugely satisfying mini-game in itself.

What I hadn’t enjoyed, sadly, was the character movement – Gears of War meets milkfloat – or the combat. Proton packs are a good time, but taking down ghosts seemed a bit of a grind – zap ‘em a bit, then switch to a kind of physics laser to bash ‘em into walls and floors, then throw a trap, then struggle to hold them over that trap until it sucks ‘em in. Classic Ghostbusting. Except it felt horrible – intangible and vague, a chore rather than a joy. And you don’t even get to triumphantly close the trap yourself; unbelievable.

I would imagine it feels an awful lot better on gamepad or on console, the thing rumbling away crazily and evoking trying to contain an angry, flailing ghost. DIdn’t feel satisfying on keyboard and mouse at all, sadly. The ghosts seemed too powerful, too – repeatedly knocking me and my famous fellows off our feet (requiring revival by another ‘buster), bombarding us with thrown furniture and ectoplasmic projectiles… Again, I don’t know what the alternative is, but being thumped to death just seemed at odds with the cheery, anarchic tone of Ghostbusters. And if it was like this in the early stages, I shuddered to think what later bosses could be like.

I dug the vibe, but not the practicalities. The straw that broke my faltering back was being sent off on my own – no famous-faced chums for moral support, or to revive me if I got knocked down. If I failed, game over.

I failed, repeatedly, at the same scripted fight. Killed by a swarm of candlesticks. Candlesticks! Given more time, maybe I’d have better mastered the apparently imprecise dodge manoeuvre or ill-explained use of cover. But I dunno – and hour into the game and I’m being killed by candlesticks? That’s not the kind of busting that makes me feel good. If you’re going to kill me, at least kill me with something epic.

It’s not that I’m afraid of no game – I’m simply an impatient gamer when it comes to pop, action fare like this. I want instant gratification and Ghostbusterian posturing, not punishing hoop-jumping. I could beat those candles, I have no doubt, but I don’t want to have another go at it because I’m not enjoying the experience. And that’s an important distinction anyone readying a tiresome “you’re just crap at games” comment may fail to grasp. Perhaps, though, I should restart at a low difficulty rather than an intermediate one.

Though I look forward to the inevitable youtube video that chops out all the fighting and running around corridors, leaving us with a semi-official and, going on this, very entertaining Ghostbusters 3, right now I don’t want to cross any more streams myself. I am curious to see how it evolves, but I’ve really had enough of the candlesticks.

And I didn’t even get to meet Winston yet.

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67 Comments »

  1. Nighthood says:

    I have to say, it’s a heck of a lot more fun if you play it on easy. Oh, and stick with it, it only gets better.

  2. Nafe says:

    “I would imagine it feels an awful lot better on gamepad”

    It really doesn’t, in fact it becomes more of a chore to grind down the ghosts health because it’s more difficult to keep the proton stream on them. It is a pretty dull game – not sure I thought much of the story/voice acting either, though I might be in the minority on that one.

  3. Cigol says:

    The bit you got stuck at is the same bit I gave up on as well – but once you get past that you’ll forgive it. It’s the same as COD4 and its painful ferris wheel level, and not indicative of the game as a whole.

  4. Paul_M says:

    I guess it wasn’t scary then? No freaky librarian/Viggo moments?

  5. Misnomer says:

    You guys need to play it all the way through. It is a good quality adventure game with a couple of small issues. I had two instances where the AI got stuck and I had to either reload or move enemies over to the AI character. That’s it for technical issues.

    The physics engine is pretty decent (though one moment where an errant table whacked Peter on the head during a cutscene provided for some unscripted laughs) and most of the game plays like a combination of HL2 and Bioshock. The story does not try to be as serious as either of those though and the writing is clever if you pay attention. Some great easter eggs to find too.

    My only complaint about the game is that I would like to see the MP element on PC since I think the CO-OP would be spectacular.

  6. qrter says:

    I feel they’ve made it too complicated, in a way. I had the same experience with the ‘combat’ – the wrangling of ghosts with the proton beams, the maneauvering over the traps.. I can’t just zap a ghost, I have to keep an eye on a meter, I have to keep an eye on which way the ghost is moving, I have to keep an eye on where I dropped the trap (which always seemed really hard to do because I didn’t have any feeling of depth, how far away the ghost and the trap actually where into the room), etc.

    And when you then have a couple of ghosts to ‘bust’, it does feel more like a chore than just fun.

    Even the money counter thing starts to annoy, it’s as if someone is constantly saying “you’re doing it WRONG!” while that should be the last thing on your mind.

    The voice acting is okay, there’s a lot of trouble with timing between the lines, it seems, a lot of lines just sort of.. hang there. It very much sounds like people who recorded their parts seperately stuck together afterwards, kind of stilted.

  7. Neil says:

    Ironically enough, Egon does die in one episode of the Real Ghostbusters. It’s called “Egon’s Ghost.” Was very disturbing when I saw it as a kid, because I only saw the part where he got “killed,” and then I had to turn it off because my mom came home and I wasn’t supposed to be watching TV.

    Oh, and this entry seemed more like whining than anything else. It sounds like you spent more time trying to rationalize your dislike of the game and putting it in words than you did actually playing the game.

  8. Alec Meer says:

    I’m sorry, I’ll be more positive about negative experiences next time.

  9. Ginger Yellow says:

    David Ellis has argued that the best way to enjoy the game is just to swallow your pride and play it on casual. That way you can enjoy the story/dialogue without having to worry about dying all the time. I’m still waiting on my 360 import, but that’s my plan.

  10. Deadjim says:

    I Imported this for my XBOX360 and so have not had the same feelings of intangability when fighting the ghosts and trapping them. I love this game and after seeing it get a measly 75% in the latest PCG and this disheartening hours worth of commentary I feel rather, well, disheartened.

    It keeps fairly true to the films as a whole and for me and my friends who also imported it it’s fun which after all is why I play games.

    I agree with Nighthood though it is so much more fun on Easy.

  11. Misnomer says:

    Something tells me he never played far enough to get to the other weapons worked into your pack. There are some more gun like ones too. I always liked the classic Proton stream best, but the other parts were nice for variety.

  12. Deadpan says:

    Okay, so I bought this on Steam. I’ve been playing on Normal and this game gets fucking BRUTAL at some points. But I’m a glutton for punishment sometimes.

    So… a couple things to point out.
    Your pack gets upgraded. You’ll get 9 updates in total, two at a time as you progress. You’ll get them just before you need to use them, and you’ll learn to switch between them as you go through the game.

    As you play you’ll be able to buy upgrades to your weapon functionality. Extra power, less recharge, better heat absorbtion, etc.

    Bugs… I haven’t seen any. Not a one. Well, sometimes Egon will chicken out and only follow after I clear a hallway, the pussy.

    Story, it’s the same kind of superthreat like in the first two. It’s all about Gozer and the crap his [redacted] is stirring up.

    Acting: Acting is all good. It’s not always rippingly hilarious, but I didn’t find the movies were rediculous laugh-fests either.

    Tips:
    - It helps adjust your mouse sensetivity.
    - You don’t need the scanner until it tells you.
    - You’re pack won’t explode and kill you, so don’t worry.
    - Yes, you are the FNG. Yes, you get in more peril than the others because YOUR THE FNG.
    - Ignore warnings abut ‘above you’ and ‘behind you’, as far as I can tell, they’re talking to someone else.

    There you go.
    I only paid $30 for it for the PC build because… well, I’m a cheap bastard that doesn’t want to buy a console :D
    I don’t really miss multiplayer, but I guess I wouldn’t mind some L4D-style matchmaking.

    You can go ahead and spellcheck this and stick it in place if your girlyman “it’s too hard” review, Alec.

  13. John Walker says:

    Misnomer – was that “something” the bit where Alec said he’d played it for an hour? : )

  14. tapanister says:

    Man, one one hand, it’s Bill Murray(‘s face). The guy’s a legend – he even bagged Scarlett Johanson (in a movie anyway). On the other hand…. It’s a movie license.

    Sorry Bill.

  15. tapanister says:

    BTW, nice avatar John. Those dinosaurs are sure partying like it’s 1999 right today, though.

  16. Howl says:

    I don’t really understand that philosophy of ‘put it on easy and enjoy the non-interactive bits’. My partner is a non-gamer and he wishes more games were less interactive and had more linear scripted sequences. I keep pointing out that that’s called ‘watching a movie’ and that movies are much better at it than games.

    For me this whole thing would hinge on the ‘trapping a ghost’ activity and if that was made fun and challenging to the point where I could do it out of context and still find it an absolute riot, then they can go and add the expensive voice acting and crap on top.

  17. frymaster says:

    “painful ferris wheel level”

    actually I quite enjoyed that, other than making the hit itself (I was too impatient the first few times)

    the bit at the ferris wheel itself was fairly easy (my main problem was I kept expecting a horde of mutant pigs to come around the corner)

  18. frymaster says:

    “painful ferris wheel level”

    actually I quite enjoyed that, other than making the hit itself (I was too impatient the first few times)

    the bit at the ferris wheel itself was fairly easy (my main problem was I kept expecting a horde of mutant pigs to come around the corner)

  19. Angel Dust says:

    I think the whole ‘put it on easy’ tack is so you can enjoy the interactive bits as well as the cutscenes. You can enjoy the thrill of capturing ghosts etc without the tedium of quite unbalanced difficulty.

  20. Snuffy (the Evil) says:

    I tried reading the opening paragraph to the show’s tune. It didn’t work out very well.

  21. Bildo says:

    Proton packs are a good time, but taking down ghosts seemed a bit of a grind – zap ‘em a bit, then switch to a kind of physics laser to bash ‘em into walls and floors, then throw a trap, then struggle to hold them over that trap until it sucks ‘em in. Classic Ghostbusting. Except it felt horrible – intangible and vague, a chore rather than a joy.

    I’ll agree the KB/M wasnt as good for wrangling the ghosts, but I would still say it was VERY exciting and exhilarating. Not much of a grind at all. If there was one way to catch a ghost it’s this way. I just wish they didn’t add all those loony other features on the proton pack besides the slime. Never used em’.

  22. Simon says:

    I also found this game sadly tiresome and uninteresting. I thought there must be something wrong with me since everyone was seemed to be enjoying it. Glad to see I have a kindred spirit in my indifference.

  23. Zacqary Adam Green says:

    I made the mistake of starting my game on Intermediate as well. The candles are beatable after 47 times, yes. Unfortunately, there are several more moments like that that appear later in the game, especially the “stone cherubs” sequence near the end. That one is impassible and I doubt I’ll finish the game because of it; almost insulting considering how close I was.

    Of course, I could have restarted the game on Easy back at the candlestick sequence, but I too was an hour into the game, and didn’t want to have to replay it. Because you can’t lower the difficulty mid-game, which is probably a felony in some Pacific Island nations.

  24. bansama says:

    See, this is why I tend to play games on easy when all I really want to do is enjoy the atmosphere and story. After that, I push the difficulty up a level or two once I’ve seen the story.

    On the easy level there was only one point so far where death is really possible and that’s only if you get wedged between a door way a bunch of killer books.

    And on easy at least, this game is a lot of fun. I haven’t enjoyed a game like this for a very long time, most usually tend to fail terribly when it comes to comedy, but this one is spot on; I’d even go so far to say that the story of this game is far better than the second movie.

  25. Schadenfreude says:

    @Deadpan: Seconded. I was gonna post the same thing, more or less.

    Yes, the game does get pretty tough a couple of times (the candlesticks were a laugh, though, and I’m no 1337 g4m0r or anything), but Jesus, at last there’s ONE game out there that poses some fucking challenge for, in this gaming-with-little-training-wheels era of today.

    Also, if you didn’t shed a big fat tear of nostalgia in that scene when the music started and the car got into the hq in the intro FMV, you have no soul, man =(

  26. TheSombreroKid says:

    i think what a lot of people are missing is that the game isn’t difficult, it’s tedious meaning alec could get past the bit he was on if he’d given it another go, he just had no incentive, an experience all to familiar to me, i died for the first time later about an hour after the bit alec was at, but i just wasn’t enjoying the experience, luigis mansion this is not.

  27. TheSombreroKid says:

    ohh and i don’t apreciate the cut scenes being 640×480 blur ‘o’ vision shit, that might fly on the consoles, but on pc they should be in HD.

  28. Adrian says:

    iDK if the linear gameplay gets better after level one because i never finished level one. this was all due to one fact…. no anti- alaising option at all! i mean i can totally live with no aa but not in this game because the proton pack always takes up like 1/3 of your screen and it looks SO BAD it hurts my eyes! oh n at first glance u don’t even realize how low polygon everything is except the faces 0_o no aa totally killed this for me

  29. Jayteh says:

    Has anyone played the multiplayer? Is it actually worth going from PC to console?

  30. Andy says:

    Still looking forward to this, even with candlesticks. Seems strange something as frustrating as that didn’t get caught during testing!

    But for me, anything to do with Mr Akroyd is worth a look in my opinion.

    Sounds like quite a few differing opinions, I just hope it isn’t faboys vs non-fanboys. I’d probably fall into the former category!

  31. l1ddl3monkey says:

    If there’s somethin’ strange,
    in your neighbourhood
    Who you gonna call?
    Previously dead mid-80′s comedy franchise that no one under 20 even remembers.

    Stop with the 80′s revival; I remember the 80′s and they were shit.

  32. mrmelons says:

    @l1ddl3monkey

    *clap clap clap*

  33. alset says:

    @Jayteh
    My understanding is that only the Wii has coop. The other consoles only have some kind of minigame multiplayer modes that aren’t worth it.

  34. Ginger Yellow says:

    “s, the game does get pretty tough a couple of times (the candlesticks were a laugh, though, and I’m no 1337 g4m0r or anything), but Jesus, at last there’s ONE game out there that poses some fucking challenge for, in this gaming-with-little-training-wheels era of today.”

    I’m all for games with challenge (OK, maybe not as much as some people) but this isn’t Bionic Commando Rearmed. It’s a licensed Ghostbusters game with new writing and most of the original cast. Hardly anybody’s buying or playing it for the sheer joy of the game mechanics.

  35. Guernican says:

    Don’t the candlesticks just run at you en masse down a long straight corridor?

    It’s an average shooter at best. But as a Ghostbusters experience, I rather liked it.

  36. ZIGS says:

    This game would be much better if the freaking mouse behaved properly and not like a gamepad thumbstick

  37. Okami says:


    Previously dead mid-80’s comedy franchise that no one under 20 even remembers.

    People under 20 don’t count.

  38. Ginger Yellow says:

    “Previously dead mid-80’s comedy franchise that no one under 20 even remembers. ”

    If this is actually true, they’re really missing out. The original Ghostbusters is a truly fantastic film. I’d not rewatched it since my childhood until about 5 or 6 years ago, thinking of it as a kid’s film. Actually, it’s really quite filthy, and utterly hilarious. I’ve since seen it at least half a dozen times if not more.

  39. kvertiber says:

    It would not be half as bad if you could just try again whenever the candlesticks kill you. But no-o-o! You have to wait through a load screen (a long load screen, mind you) and then walk down the same hallway TWICE and scan that first candlestick with your scanner. It’s even worse than an unskippable cutscene placed after a savepoint.

  40. clive dunn says:

    Anybody played it on very hard yet?

  41. mikee20 says:

    Indeed the candlesticks part is a huge spike. Was the same for me. but i did two things: 1) replace the game executable; i read on a forum that the sequence there was bugged and the fix was to replace the original game executable with a updated one.
    And 2) killed candle sticks before they would come to life.
    Overall a fun, challenging yet rewarding experience.

    PS: Once you get the hang of it (after you pull it off yourself a couple of times, the tutorial is 5HT!!), and the “Slam Dunk” upgrade, ghost trapping becomes a hobby :)

  42. Deadjim says:

    Tried playin it on hard, gave up when I got to Azetlor in the Library…Freaking impossible and Ray and Egon are no help to you at all as I was constatly playing medic!

  43. subedii says:

    Whilst the PC is missing all multiplayer options, it’s only the Wii version that got co-op. The 360 / PS3 versions just got a competitive multiplayer mode or two (can’t remember the names of the modes, but they didn’t really look all that interesting). I don’t really mind that omission. Coop would probably have been nice, but in fairness only the Wii got that.

  44. Stem says:

    Pretty much identical to my experience with the game.

  45. Piispa says:

    Let me guess, you’re using the crack by Vitality? They messed something around which resulted some of the lesser monsters to become waaaaay much stronger than they should be even on very hard, thus making the scenes with hordes of them near impossible.

    So either switch your crack or don’t use one at all and try again. The game is brilliant!

  46. Sam says:

    Yep. This is a bit of a test on who’s playing a legit copy and who’s playing one they downloaded off BitTorrent, because the most common one on BitTorrent has near-invulnerable candlesticks that don’t show up in the purchased game.

    (There is a fix for it, though.)

  47. Mentalepsy says:

    Any comments on how exactly the wrangling / trapping controls work on mouse and keyboard? The videos make it look pretty clearly gamepad-focused. I’ve been afraid of it turning out like The Punisher – the interrogation controls were extremely frustrating with a mouse.

  48. Jim Rossignol says:

    I found the candlesticks annoying on the retail version of the game too tbh. But I didn’t have too much trouble with the ghost-catching on mouse keyboard. The harder enemies are the marshmallow dog swarm things.

  49. Piispa says:

    Jim: “The harder enemies are the marshmallow dog swarm things.”

    Bolt ‘em! The secondary fire of the basic proto-gun fries those buggers like it’s.. well, whatever is your local holiday where they fry stuff. No sweat, really.

    Personally I find the hardest stuff to be when multiple ghosts attack at once while half the team is somewhere else getting coffee or some shit.

  50. JonFitt says:

    I had a really fun time with it. I ha huge problems getting it working, and there were huge performance spikes, but it’s a testament to the game that I persisted.
    The writing was good, and I found the procedure to trap ghosts satisfying with its multiple steps.
    There were a few hard parts (not candlesticks for me) but overall on medium it was just slightly challenging (and I’m no l33t gamer.