Ghostbusters games are generally met with an air of mild scepticism. Despite there being some very pleasing entries in the franchise, there have been equally as many disappointments. As you’ll learn from this Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed review, this latest title is thankfully one of the former. That’s not to say there aren’t some significant issues, however.
The game depicts a time after the original two movies. Stantz owns his curios shop while Zeddemore is funding a new generation of ‘busters. Set at the original firehouse, with the original car in place, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is most definitely aware of the need for fanservice.
In fact, the Firehouse is a very accurate recreation of that seen in the original movies. Because of this, and numerous other winks and nods, Ghostbusters fans will likely adore Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. Possibly more so than even New Ghostbusters II for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Widely considered to be one of the best Ghostbusters videogame releases, even more than 30 years since its release, this classic may well have met it’s match in Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. That’s a bold claim, for sure. Yet, as this Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed review will inform you, it’s a justified one.
The game’s story of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed unfurls itself in an unusual way. While being a multiplayer-centric game, the player will learn more about the happenings through progression in a number of different ways. There’s a small amount of exposition through the world itself – numerous different ghosts will be met as players continue to push their way through the story’s acts, for example – but most of the plot development will be delivered through cutscenes. These occur at predetermined points in your progress, regardless of whether you’re playing online or solo.
The game begins with an initial tutorial. Here, the player will learn all the basics. This includes meeting the core characters, customising your avatar and, of course, how to bust ghosts. It’s a simple but enjoyable segue into something much deeper, and Chit Hot would certainly recommend you don’t skip it.
Once you’ve completed the tutorial you’re off into live matches, either solo, with friends or through matchmaking. The core principle is that of a 4 vs. 1 scenario, wherein four players form the Ghostbusters team and one player acts as the ghost. One the hero team, you’ll play from first-person perspective as you attempt to hunt the ghost with use of your PKE Meter, Proton Pack and numerous other familiar gadgets. It’s essentially an elaborate game of hide-and-seek, and one which remains fun for many hours.
The ghost experience, however, is less engrossing. Similar to Evil Dead: The Game, yet there is significantly less depth than in Sabre Interactive’s acclaimed multiplayer experience. In order to win you must frighten civilians in the area, however the actual execution of this seems very binary. It’s not a case of targeting the NPCs and enacting scares around them, but rather simply activating a number of spooks in a single space to speed up a meter. You have a number of moves to hinder the ‘busters when they find you, which vary depending on which ghost character you’re playing as. The ghost can possess items but will almost always be too quickly discovered to make it worthwhile.
As you continue through the game you’ll unlock additional ghosts to play as which vary things up a bit. However, on the hero side there’s simply avatar customisation options and weaponry improvements. Sadly, it’s a very basic system of unlocking once hitting a specific level. There’s no progression trees or even choice; it’s simply ‘hit level X, get a new add-on’. It’s highly likely you’ll lose interest in the system very quickly.
Sadly, as of the time of writing this review, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is plagued by significant connection issues. Though matchmaking is near-perfect, playing with friends is a troubling affair indeed. In Chit Hot’s scenario, the lead player was on an Xbox Series X, while two further players where on an Xbox Series S. These later players were constantly booted after each match, having to rejoin immediately from the main menu. When testing the set-up further, additional players on Xbox One simply weren’t able to play at all. It’s quite possible these issues may be fixed prior to launch – or soon thereafter – however there’s been no confirmation of a day one patch thus far.
These hopefully soon-to-be-rectified issues aside, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed remains a hugely enjoyable multiplayer experience. It’s hard to see the game having the same endurance as Evil Dead: The Game without significant longevity alterations, but what is here is fun to player with friends. Playing solo is also enjoyable, but notably less so. Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is an easy recommendation for quick Halloween thrills. However, whether you’ll still be playing it well into November greatly depends on what comes next.
Disclaimer: Illfonic provided multiple copies of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed to Chit Hot to allow for the game to be reviewed in all game modes. Thanks to Illfonic for the support!