This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Ghostbusters: The Video Game.
A game based upon a film that was good, written by the same writers of the film that was good, with the same characters from the film that was good, being played by the same actors from the film that was good and with gameplay finger-quotes "inspired" by that of a game which was good (sort of; if you like that sort of thing). So, you can see how Ghostbusters: The Game would make sense on paper, but then, paper is a flimsy thing that goes see-through when you rub grease on it. And it's more than possible for the end result to be a whole shittier than the sum of its parts. Still, I can understand the appeal of voicing a version of yourself from around twenty years ago from before your hair greyed and your tackle stopped working, even if the Ghostbusters have apparently been called out to the "haunted valley" a few too many times since last we saw them, if you see what I mean.
A couple of years on from the last movie, the Ghostbusters are still making ends meet in the city with the shortest memory in the world and have hired a new trainee (that's you) who is a mute because they obviously like hearing themselves talk so fucking much. The Ghostbusters' quest is to firstly save the city of ingrates from an ancient evil and secondly, come up with various contrived reasons to revisit as many characters and locations from the movies as they feel they can get away with.
If, like everyone who doesn't have blunt objects lodged in their brains, you thought Ghostbusters II was dreadful, you'll be gratified to hear that the decline since the first movie has remained constant. All the colour and lovability of the characters has been worn down like an old boiled sweet and you can almost hear a doped-up sitcom audience guffawing at the cringe-worthy humour and cheering every time anyone walks in the room. That's what I always hate about revivals of really old franchises; the creators are always just a little bit too much in love with the subject matter. That's why everyone in the new Doctor Who spends all the time alternating between sucking the Doctor's balls and asking for more.
One large giveaway that this is a game born out of Hollywood is that the action looks impressive, but you can barely tell what the fuck's going on. The appearance of the photon blast is faithfully recreated, i.e., it fills half the screen with glowing white particle effects and a large portion of what remains is occupied by your fat, stupid, Gears of War jacket potato head. And bear in mind that up to four NPCs are all going to be firing their own lasers at the same time and you've got a visual equivalent of hiding in the back of a speeding fireworks truck in the middle of the nuclear holocaust.
Fortunately, this is entirely compensated by the combat being extremely natural and intuit-HAH! HAH!, as if. The ghost trapping process stringently follows the canon, because Ghostbusters is nothing if not eager to jerk off. First you throw lasers at them until their unreasonably long health bars fall off, then you swing them country-style around the room with your tethering laser that controls like the Half-Life 2 gravity gun if it was stuck up the arse of an excitable dog. Then you calm them down by smacking them therapeutically against the walls and floor a few times, then finally hold them over a trap for long enough to suck them in. This has to be done for every single ghost, and when there are a lot of them around, you basically roll the fucking dice as to whether you can through this whole process without being blindsided by your victim's mates. Or even by the victim themselves because what with all the laser-impaired vision, it's hard to see them telegraph their attacks. And when you're trying to do the dodge move, you have to wait a second or two for the signal to reach your avatar's doughy brains. So basically, your entire body is one big, greasy blindside. Oh yes, and you mustn't cross the streams. Of course, it's hard not to when everyone is aiming for the same fast-moving target, but I guess we're still too busy jerking off the movies to worry about that.
You could argue that there's no need to help to trap an enemy that your allies are already trapping and then perhaps I could go and make a cup of tea and read the paper while they finish the game for me. Yeah, on that subject, if the torturous writing and voice acting don't dissolve any affection you ever had for the Ghostbusters, the A.I. will seal the deal. I can see I'm not the only one who has trouble making out what's going on in the combat, because those smart-arses get knocked over more often than a Subbuteo player mouthing off to his pimp, and just like in Gears of War will need to be resurrected by an ally. So, on top of all the aforesaid combat blindsiding issues, I have to break off the fight every now and again to do the retard round-up. It's like keeping plates spinning in the middle of a mosh pit and the plates won't shut the fuck up! Also, they always throw out traps as soon as I do and we end up both tethering the ghost and fighting over whose trap it gets to go in. Geez guys, it's only a game, you don't have to be such jerks about it.
This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened. People or properties more commonly associated with famous movies, books, birthday card messages, et cetera; decide to grace the video game industry with their presence and everyone's all like, "Oooh! Show us how it's done, great sensei, because we've honestly just been guessing up until now!" It belies not only the endless disrespect video games receive, but also gaming's collective self-esteem problem. If something worked as a movie, then that qualifies as it to work as a sequence of amusing lights and sounds that hold the average scumbag's jaw slack for around two hours. Whereas a video game has to stand up to about ten hours of unpleasable nerds like me turning over every rock looking for stuff to complain about.
My point is, asking a film maker to make a game is like asking a sausage maker to suck off a pig; you can sort of see the logical connection there, but it's a completely different skill set and the effort will just leave a bad taste in someone's mouth.
- Bustin' makes me feel good: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I kind of liked Extreme Ghostbusters, replacing the main characters with the Burger King Kids Club held a strange kind of appeal for me
- Yes, it's true, this man has no dick