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Joystiq hands-on: Ghostbusters (PS3/360/Wii)


click to enlarge (Xbox 360)
We had no doubt going into our first hands-on with Ghostbusters: The Video Game that developers Terminal Reality (PS3/PC/360) and Red Fly (Wii) are delivering pure, off-the-chart fan service. We were concerned with one thing: Is this game going to be any fun to play?

Terminal Reality is well aware that thousands of gamers have never seen the original movie or its (shudder) sequel, so the prospect of tromping around with a pack of middle-aged men in goofy getups might not be a major selling point. Funny jokes, ghosts, wild weapons, and blowing up everything you can see? That's compelling for anyone.

Gallery: Ghostbusters (360) | 5 Photos

From the admittedly small slice of the "next-gen" build of the game we got our hands on, we have to say that the fan service has been matched with what feels like a strong third-person action game with some fun ideas. There are still moments when it feels a tad by-the-books, but in its stand-out moments, it really ... stands out.

The fan service has been matched with what feels like a strong third-person action game

Running through the demo level looking for ghosts was reminiscent of many other action games. Only it looked and sounded just like Ghostbusters – as in we can't believe how well they've nailed it. The moment of truth, though, was what every fan of the films and cartoons has wanted to do for real since they first saw Peter Venkman and the bunch do it: let rip with a Proton Pack.

The destruction these things cause as their proton beams hit everything in the environment boggles the mind. (It also costs the city in repair bills, so it's best to keep the wanton blasting to a minimum.) But as neat as it is, we could definitely see this weapon getting boring over the course of several hours (the dev pointed out that they were used for less than five minutes on-screen in the first film). Fortunately (or unfortunately) we were a new recruit to the GB team – a special weapons handler deigned expendable enough to test out the latest Proton Pack upgrades.

click to enlarge (Xbox 360)
Slime-throwing, freeze-blasts, zero point energy bursts? Our pack was ... packed. Unfortunately, the library level's length only allowed for brief uses of these new weapons, and we're still unsure how/if they'll add to the game. The basic proton accelerator was our weapon du jour, and we used it to both blow away objects brought to life by spirits and capture the ghouls themselves.

The degree of destruction caused by the proton packs boggles the mind.

The former were enemies made up of ... books. A few concentrated bursts and they were ... burnt books. (Still not sure how to feel about that.) We took on a much larger "Book Golem," which introduced us two a couple of concepts: the capture beam and enemy "keystone" pieces. By weakening the golem enough, we could target its glowing headpiece and send out a capture pulse, essentially grabbing it. From there, it was a matter of "tugging" on the beam to rip out the keystone piece and break up the golem.

Ghosts are captured in a similar way. They're weakened, then captured in the beam, then a trap is deployed and – with or without the aid of the A.I. Ghostbusters, although it's easier with them – you slam them around 'til they stop being frisky, position them right over the trap, and they're toast.

Our demo ended with a battle against the iconic librarian apparition from the first film, who ... wasn't happy about us taking a certain book. This mini-boss threw up a few obstacles to her eventual capture, but was actually pretty simple to nab. Doing so gave us a brief peek into the ghost realm, before we were escorted to the Wii build.

click to enlarge (Wii)

At this point, our pick for the best-playing version goes to the Wii, hands down.

The Wii version, as we've noted in the past, has adopted a stylized cartoon look, and we liked it. We played through the library level yet again, with some changes here and there. One example was an invisible walkway that appeared to be a "leap of faith," unless we equipped our PKE goggles, in which case we could see it with ease.

Using the Wii Remote to control the proton stream was far and away the most exciting aspect of the Wii version. It was precise and simply felt right. So did deploying a ghost trap by swinging the Nunchuk in a bowling motion. The PS3 version uses motion controls as well (they're optional) for capturing ghosts, but they were nowhere near as satisfying.

Gallery: Ghostbusters (Wii) | 14 Photos

We came away from our demo with some conclusions, questions, and concerns.
At this point, our pick for the best-playing version goes to the Wii, hands-down. The PS3/360 build obviously looked far better, but capturing ghosts felt too hit-or-miss, to the point of being somewhat frustrating. Will this be tuned? Probably. Will our biggest concerns – whether the new weapons will be put to good use, and will the levels / combat be more varied than what we saw – be addressed?

Luckily, both teams have a good deal of time before the June 2009 ship date to tighten things up. The fan service is rock-solid, but the gameplay has yet to fully materialize.

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