NYCC 09: Hands-On Preview of Ghostbusters

Being a child of the 80s, I was very excited to get to the Atari booth and get my hands on the controller to play Ghostbusters. The game, which we played on the Xbox 360, looked great but it was gameplay elements that really made this game stand out on the show floor.

The game places you in the role of a new, fifth Ghostbuster who is thrust into the job during paranormal events which occur two years after the events of the second film. Being the rookie, you will be tasked with carrying experimental equipment that Egon and Co. deem too dangerous for everyone to use so you will often be using equipment at least one level ahead of the rest of the team. That team aspect is taken a bit further than simply testing equipment. Players will be able to help downed teammates as well as having themselves saved by the rest of the Ghostbusters when they are downed by the onslaught of paranormal bad guys. This means no being a hero. Sticking with your team and working together is the key.

During the level we played, we faced a couple of different types of ghostly enemies and getting to some of those bad guys is more than waiting for a monster closet to trigger. Using the PKE Meter, players will have to sniff out bad guys and, upon finding their location, sometimes destroy their hiding places so that they will show themselves. While some enemies are physical creatures, like the marshmallow dogs we fought during the demo, and can simply be killed like run-of-the-mill video game bad guys (although the puff of marshmallow goo, which covers your character if too close, is a bit unique), other, non-physical enemies will have to be wrangled using the proton pack’s streams (which you should be careful not to cross), worn down and pulled into traps that the player or teammate AI can throw out.

In the game’s story, capturing ghosts, and destorying property to find them, will earn (or cost) you money under a new anti-ghost platform that the new mayor of New York City ran and won upon. This money system will allow players to upgrade to new equipment faster by endowing Egon with more funds to do research.

The demo also featured two encounters with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who returns via a plot device that was not revealed to us during the demo. Slimer is also back in a storyline that was written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd.

The controls of the game were extremely well done and may be amongst the best in a third person shooter. There is much more to the game other than simply the gun play. The cat and mouse of finding ghosts in big, beautifully rendered environments and the on-the-fly strategy of either dividing and conquering or ganging up upon groups of enemies which must be trapped add a lot of depth to the game. The genuinely funny dialogue, which could easily be in a third film and is voiced by the original cast, also adds to the experience.

If this beautiful demo with great gameplay is what we are seeing four months from release, I can’t wait for the final product which hits retail shelves June 16, 2009.