If the last two decades taught us anything, it’s that nostalgia sells. Wringing our collective childhoods dry whenever the idea bucket runs dry is a pretty popular tactic. With Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered, we’re getting to the stage of remastering a property which was a bit of a nostalgia grab in the first place. Originally released around 2009, many fans consider it to be the unofficial Ghostbusters 3 that we never got. Whether that vision still holds up today is another question entirely.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered puts you in the shoes of the team’s new recruit. Set two years after the last movie, you and the other Ghostbusters must go around New York in the Echo 1 saving people from the horrors of the spirit world. You get a tour of locations from both movies as well as the chance to take on some of the team’s famous ghostly opponents. As you can probably tell, Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered has planted its flag firmly in the nostalgia-bait territory. Hoping to capitalize on fans’ enjoyment of the original source material to drive their desire to play.
The nostalgia drenched approach to storytelling has some benefits and some drawbacks. On the one hand, if you’re a huge fan of the movies, there’s very little the gameplay could do wrong to stop you from playing. On the other hand, if you have only a passing interest in the movies, the fanservice on display probably won’t appeal to you. Thankfully, whether you’re a diehard fan or just a casual observer, the narrative does a decent job of sounding and feeling a lot like an actual Ghostbusters movie. The fact that Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis helped doctor the script probably has a lot to do with that.
Featuring third-person shooter gameplay, Ghostbusters swaps out the typical rifles for proton packs. As a new recruit, you use experimental weapons such as the slime gun to weaken ghosts and wrangle them into a trap. You also have to disperse ghosts who are too weak to be captured. For each ghost dealt with, you make money that you spend on equipment upgrades. You’re constantly testing out new proton packs and slowly building up a small arsenal of attachments.
There’s the classic proton beam which comes with a grenade-like shot. The slime gun offers a slime tether mode to tie two points, or enemies, together. You have the ‘slow’ gun which also fires like a shotgun. Finally, you unlock a machine-gun-esque gadget towards the end of the game. Of all of these special gun modes, it’s really the final one that feels redundant. Most of them have uses both in and out of combat. The freeze gun is your best option for taking on swarming enemies, the slime tether is used to solve numerous puzzles and the proton beam can be used to move objects around. The final gun is strong against certain enemies, but other than that there’s no reason to use it.
Regardless of each enemy’s particular weaknesses combat tends to go the same way throughout Ghostbusters. You wear an enemy down, throw out a trap, then lasso them into the trap until they’re captured. Then repeat that a few hundred more times and you’re done. This does get a little repetitive, especially by the end. Luckily, it’s not the only thing that you spend your time doing. Collectables, puzzles and boss segments litter the levels and help to break up the constant ghost-catching.
Throughout the campaign, you’re usually accompanied by some of the Ghostbusters and this is the point where the gameplay starts to break down. Your companion’s AI is absolutely terrible, by both modern standards and the standards of 2009. Even on medium difficulty, they drop like flies at the merest hint of enemy attacks. For the most part, this is annoying but not fatal to progress. However, when you get into a boss fight or any section that heavily relies on your companions, this constant running around the battlefield to revive them becomes an exercise in overt frustration.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered also seems to suffer from a psychotic compulsion to prevent players from figuring out things on their own. If you spend longer than half a second on a puzzle, the companion characters will repeatedly shout the answer at you. At least once during gameplay, I was actually performing the solution to a puzzle but was taking a long time due to the fiddly task. That didn’t stop the four present Ghostbusters from shouting the same three lines of dialogue, telling me what to do, over and over again.
The combat also does have its problems in general. On the medium difficulty, it’s super easy to suddenly lose all of your health in one go. There are several types of swarming flying enemies who will suddenly turn and rush at you or an ally. If you’re not ready to dodge then you will almost certainly go down. The badly designed sections of gameplay only really crop up a couple of times, but they’re so frustrating that they can go on forever. In one instance a boss relies on having your companions conscious to distract him, which is never good. The other broken instance of gameplay occurs right at the end and involves using slime tethers to fling enemies into an obstacle. The issue here is actually more to do with the random direction that slime tethers seem to fling things.
Overall, Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered is still a good game. Even as someone who never played the original and has only a passing interest in the franchise I ended up mostly enjoying myself. Aside from the terrible AI and the two majorly broken segments of gameplay it literally feels like playing a Ghostbusters movie. If you’re not obsessed with squeezing everything out of it I recommend playing on casual difficulty, since the AI is less of an issue in this case. No matter how you play it, it’s easy to see why the game was so popular when it first came out, even if it hasn’t aged entirely gracefully.
TechRaptor reviewed Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered on Xbox One with a copy provided by the developer.