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Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2 - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
This could have been so, so much worse. Not just any video-game movie tie-in, it's a pseudo sequel to one of the biggest and most beloved Hollywood blockbusters of the eighties. Twenty-five years later, there's little reason bar an anniversary Blu-ray release and stirrings of a new sequel for Ghostbusters: The Video Game to exist, and this could have easily been just another dodgy exercise in milking nostalgia. Play the Ray Parker Jnr hit a few times, throw in a few phrases like ‘He slimed me', drag whatever actors you can afford back for an afternoon's worth of stilted dialogue, and you can still charge £40 for the lot. After all, isn't that what so many of today's licensed games seem to do?
Well, Ghostbusters: The Video Game takes a different direction, and while it's not an unqualified success, there's no doubt that that direction is the right one, and that it should be a model of how to do licensed games in future. In terms of gameplay it's not as polished as The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, but it's been made under similar principles: get the original talent involved, respect the property and try to produce something that has the feel of the film but works in its own right. Ghostbusters does all this stuff very well indeed.
Set in 1991, some seven years after the events in the original movie and two years after Ghostbusters II, Ghostbusters: The Video Game picks up with you as a rookie recruit joining the existing ghost-busting team of Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore to tackle a new wave of paranormal activity in New York. Amazingly, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson all reprise their roles, while Ackroyd and Ramis are actually credited with the script. It shows. These are the characters you know and love, in situations that ring true. And they're not solving puzzles or blasting their way through the legions of hell - they're trading quips, crossing lines and busting ghosts.
The tone is practically note perfect, veering between sharp humour, spectacular action and scares with the same wild confidence that characterised the first movie. This is a Ghostbusters you can recognise, and the vocal performances aren't being phoned in (see just about every other movie license that's not Riddick) but delivered with something like enthusiasm. For all the years that have gone by, these characters still feel right; Venkman the lazy, would-be womanizing joker, Stantz the puppy-dog spook obsessive, Spengler the jargon-spouting uber-geek. The game even squeezes in performances from Annie Potz (Janine Melnitz) and William Atherton (Walter ‘dickless' Peck). How many other licensed games go to that sort of trouble?
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