Ghostbusters (2016) review

Game Info
Platform Win, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher Activision
Developer N/A
Release Date Jul 12, 2016

Excellent news for those who worry that the new Ghostbusters film will ruin their childhood: I can now conclusively say it's not going to happen. Now, I haven't seen the finished film, but I can say with absolute certainty that a wholly different Ghostbusters product is going to beat it to the proverbial punch, turning your childhood into a blasted wasteland, an unthinkable hellscape upon which no life will grow for a thousand years.

The game is simply called Ghostbusters, and despite the sadistic frequency with which it assaults you with Ray Parker Jr.'s opus, the bustin' contained within made me feel bad.

Very, very bad.

Eventually — and this will seem hard to believe once you've begun playing the game, but have faith — Ghostbusters will end

The new Ghostbusters movie features four very funny women as a crew of new ghostbusters. But before you get excited about spending time in the company of four talented comedians, I will burst your bubble: They're busy.

I mean to say the characters they play are too busy to participate in the game, but the actresses themselves could search their homes for misplaced socks and make better use of their time than having anything to do with this despicable adventure. Instead, you play as four new hires to the team who are not so much "characters" as rough jumbles of polygons and one-liners cobbled into grotesque simulacra of human beings. In case you are invested in such things, there are two woman-shaped beings and two that approximate human males.

ghostbusters 2016 review screen1

A pair of two-minute cinematics bookends the roughly six-hour game, and then something like 30 seconds of nonsensical banter is vomited by the team at the beginning of each of Ghostbusters' 10 stages. Once the levels begin, the JV busting squad barks nonsensically during combat about their desire to slam ghosts and their proficiency at said slamming.

I'm quantifying the exact amount of characterization in the game to a specific end: If, for you, the Ghostbusters brand has any association with humor or, indeed, any behavior that is recognizable as human, you are going to be sorely disappointed by this game. More accurately, it will make this commercial for Ghostbusters cereal look like a 4K Blu-ray transfer of the 1984 film by comparison.

Any fiber of its spirit still recognizable as a Ghostbusters-licensed property is ground to a fine, flavorless pulp used to fertilize the most gruelingly insipid dual-stick shooter I've ever played. In the first stage of Ghostbusters, you'll sluggishly circle strafe around ghosts with the left stick and shoot them by aiming the right stick and pulling the trigger. If it is a large ghost, you must then switch to your proton beam and weaken it further before hammering a button to capture it. In between busts, you can search for collectibles with your P.K.E. meter. Eventually — and this will seem hard to believe once you've begun playing the game, but have faith — it will end.

I hope you've found this brief strategy guide sufficiently compelling, because you will need to follow it for every single stage that follows. You will never do anything different than that. Ever. Ghostbusters is not dull. Doing your taxes is dull. This is a sadistically perfect prison of monotony from which no fun could ever escape.

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If you fall in combat, one of your fellow ghostbusters will rush to your side and return you to life. You will curse them, and think fondly on the moments you spent in the icy embrace of oblivion and the grim, too-brief respite it provided from having to play Ghostbusters.

If you have friends you'd like to alienate, you can ask up to three of them to join you. You'll want to do that for two reasons. One: It'll be smart to have someone by your side to buoy your spirits after the inevitable onset of Ghostbusters-induced depression. The second reason is only totally necessary because of how much of a sloppy mess this game is.

Busting ghosts earns experience that you can use to improve your character, and though the ghostbuster you play will earn the bulk of it due to the ineptitude of your AI partners, the others will earn a sizable chunk. Inexplicably though, characters that aren't under player control do not retain any of the experience they earn.

Put another way: If you sensibly focus on improving a single character, you will end the game with one ghostbuster who is appropriately equipped for the later enemies and three Level 1, perambulating, human-shaped ghost snacks.

The only remedies are to play with friends you're willing to lose or — and I swear this is real — hastily activating additional controllers moments before you beat each level's boss. The other "players" will idle as you finish the fight, but at least the team will continue to improve their skills in a reasonable fashion. It's an unfathomable design decision.

That's not to say I needed my team to increase their level to finish the game: I never wiped, never even really got close. But the other characters have different weapons and walking speeds that at least would have slightly broken up the monotony, had they not been so comically weak that switching to them would have been prohibitively difficult.

You could, of course, replay the levels you finished with different characters to keep their skills in line. But considering one crash that cost me 20 minutes of progress nearly sent me into a crying jag, I'd sooner throw my PS4 into a wood chipper and eat the ensuing game dust than spend one minute longer playing Ghostbusters than I have to.

But enough of the negatives. Let's talk about what Ghostbusters gets right.

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Slimer is in it.

Wrap Up:

Ghostbusters (2016) is a cynical bit of licensed drivel

Ghostbusters is a deplorable, cynical bit of licensed drivel that wouldn't be worth the $50 asking price if the instruction manual were printed on a $50 bill. I now find myself compelled to join the questionable mob calling for the Ghostbusters reboot to be canceled, but only because I think everything bearing the name should be quarantined, stuffed into a rocket and fired into the sun so that I never again have to risk thinking about this game.

Ghostbusters (2016) was reviewed using a retail PS4 copy purchased by Polygon. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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