Game Review: Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed

This is a slightly late Halloween game review. I did want to cover this game for Halloween, but I got my review code a bit too late. Developed and published by IllFonic, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed (to the surprise of nobody) is a game based on the Ghostbusters film franchise. But, of course, one always has to ask the big question when it comes to busting ghosts, does it make you feel good?

“Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a fun, multiplayer game perfect for all skill levels. Four proton pack wielding Ghostbusters attempt to catch a Ghost haunting unique locations in asymmetrical multiplayer battles (online or offline). As players progress, they will unlock cosmetics and upgrades for both Ghostbusters and Ghosts to evolve their gameplay experiences.”

Before I do get into the nitty-gritty of this one. My original plan was to do a co-op review with my pal Badger over at Stoffel Presents. Especially as Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed¬†features co-op cross-platform play. I really wanted to try out how well it worked. Alas, that plan didn’t come to fruition as I had some connectivity issues. First, I had to link my Xbox account with an Epic Games one. I did, got a confirmation email and everything was fine, my accounts were linked and the Epic Games site told me as much too. So, I was set to indulge in some co-op cross-platform ghostbusting action. However, when it came to linking my account in the game itself… not so good.

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When I did try linking my account in-game to Epic’s online service, I just got the above screen asking me, very politely, to ‘please wait’. So I did, I ‘please waited’ for about five minutes or so and nothing. I decided that I would ‘please wait’ some more, just in case. Anyway, 20-odd minutes later, the game was still asking me to ‘please wait’. I hard reset my Xbox, double-checked that my account was linked via the Epic Games website and tried connecting again, I got the same thing. I eventually got annoyed and gave up. The game just would not link to Epic’s (not so epic) online service and let me play cross-platform. Ergo, my idea of doing a co-op cross-platform review ended in failure.

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Anyway, with that explanation out of the way, allow me to tell you what Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is all about. Taking place directly where the after-credits scene of Ghostbusters: Afterlife ended, with Winston Zeddemore returning the iconic Ecto-1 to the equally iconic firehouse HQ and possibly setting up a sequel. Well, this is that sequel… kind of. I say ‘kind of’ because we all know that a proper film sequel is on the way, codenamed Firehouse, the film is set to be released in December next year. This game is a ‘what if’ scenario that works as a sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife but most definitely will not be part of the narrative of the next film.

Spirits Unleashed is one of those 4 vs 1, asymmetrical multiplayer titles. You know, the likes of this year’s Evil Dead: The Game, Dead by Daylight or yeah, even IllFonic’s own (and ultimately doomed) Friday the 13th: The Game. Four people team up to take out the single enemy. In this case, that is four Ghostbusters vs a ghost. Playing a the ghost, you have to try to haunt the map before the Ghostbusters catch you. You can possess items and furniture, scare NPCs and even slime the GBs themselves. If you can haunt the map to 100% before being caught, then you win.

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Of course, any Ghostbusters fan wants to play as one of the GBs and not a ghost. Here, the gameplay has you chasing and catching ghosts, closing rifts and such. Really, in terms of the gameplay mechanics, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. This is a very typical 4 vs 1, asymmetrical multiplayer game with little to draw you in. There’s an unlockable upgrade system where the more you use your ghostbusting equipment, you’ll unlock new add-ons. Level up and unlock new cosmetics for your customisable GB character.

You get five maps to play on and none of them are from anything movie related. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it does show that there is a world outside of the films. But you just know that the devs will be releasing DLC further down the line with more movie-centric maps. There’s only one gameplay mode too, catching the ghost or avoiding being caught when playing as the ghost. There really is not a great deal of game here. Mind you, I’m not really sure what else you can do with a multi-player Ghostbusters game.

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IllFonic has done a fantastic job of bringing the Ghostbusters lore and franchise to the game. There’s fan service everywhere. Nods and references littered throughout the game and it even has Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson reprising their classic characters. Just walking around the HQ, you get a great sense of being a ghostbuster and sliding down the fireman pole is never going to get tiresome. Plus, you can collect a variety of spores moulds and fungus found around the maps, Egon would be proud. But, the game itself is just very, very ‘meh’. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it just kind of exists and never does anything to separate itself from the slew of other 4 vs 1, asymmetrical titles on the market. Well, there is one thing that it does differently.

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Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed has an actual story to follow. You know, like a singleplayer driven game, only in a multiplayer game. The downside is that to advance the story, you just have to keep replaying the same five maps and doing the same thing over and over and over again. You can even play the game in single-player and have the rest of the GBs controlled by AI… really, really stupid AI. Honestly, it all get’s tedious very quickly as there is zero variation. The graphics look low-quality and ‘plastic’, especially on the character models. But sound-wise, the game (no pun) hits all the right notes. The Ghostbusters theme, the incidental spooky music and the sound of the proton packs firing up. It’s all very satisfying to the ears of any Ghostbusters fan.

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Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed comes in at around ¬£34 and that is a bit too expensive for me. Really, this feels like something that would be thrown into a bigger and more interesting game as a bonus and not a standalone title. Just going back to the original release of Ghostbusters: The Video Game from 2009. You had a solid single-player story to play through and it came with a multi-player mode as an extra. That is what this game feels like, a bonus that should be part of a bigger game. I can’t recommend this one, but I can’t really damn it either. It’s just okay and lacks any real depth of variation. You’ll soon get bored of those five (fairly small) maps. Does busting make you feel good? Not really, more a case that it makes you feel a bit indifferent. Perhaps waiting to see if you can grab it in a sale in a couple of months would be best?

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The search for a truly great Ghostbusters game continues as nobody has got it right yet. And yes, I am including Ghostbusters: The Video Game in that too. It was good, but samey. Do you know what a really great Ghostbusters game needs? A business-sim angle. That was what the original film was about, setting up a new business. The original game from 1984 understood this had some light business management mixed in with all of the busting of ghosts, it was just limited by the technology of the day. Imagine a new Ghostbusters game where you did have to worry about profit and loss, spending money on R&D, etc. Think of Bullfrog’s classic Syndicate but with Ghostbusters and with you managing a global Ghostbusters corporation while busting ghosts.