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Critical Reception: Atari/Terminal Reality's Ghostbusters

This week's Critical Reception examines online reaction to Terminal Reality's Ghostbusters game, which reviews describe as "amusing third-person action-adventure with... loads of personality."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Terminal Reality's video game adaptation of Ghostbusters, which reviews describe as an "amusing third-person action-adventure with some clever mechanics and loads of personality." Ghostbusters currently earns a score of 78 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Play Magazine's Steve Haske rates Ghostbusters at 8.5 out of 10, noting that the title captures much of what made the film franchise so appealing. "For a lot of us, Ghostbusters isn't just a game," he explains. "It's a realization of a childhood dream, and one that we played out countless times with plastic ghost traps, PKE readers and other Spengler-created equipment when we were kids. The dev team seems to be have been well aware of this fact (my guess is mostly from personal experience) and kept it in mind throughout the game's development cycle." Haske continues: "In any case, that they have given us a quality Ghostbusters game, let alone a new Aykroyd/Ramis penned 'sequel' to Ghostbusters II complete with nearly all of the principal cast, is a minor miracle." Haske finds that the game's decision to put the player in the role of a nameless rookie Ghostbuster works well in the context of gameplay. "I had my doubts about the rookie," he admits. "Why the hell would anyone want to play some new kid over the original four? Not to worry: the new cadet remains nameless (Venkman says they shouldn't get too attached for liability purposes) aside from the team's amusingly never-ending supply of nicknames for him, and doesn't utter a word from start to finish." "Hundreds of hours of tweaking, testing and sheer love for the series have obviously gone into making this one, and the result is the best damn Ghostbusters game ever seen," Haske concludes. "Even without a celluloid counterpart, this is a new benchmark for movie games." David Ellis at 1UP.com gives Ghostbusters a grade of B+. "How does Ghostbusters fare in the transition from film franchise to a modern day third-person shooter?" he asks. "Basically, the story fits in perfectly with the tone of the original movies, and the voice acting from the original cast (featuring Dan Aykroyd's best work since Driving Miss Daisy) is fantastic." Ellis believes that the game's narrative ultimately falls short of its source material, however. "The game does an admirable job of giving the player a taste of what it takes to be a Ghostbuster," he notes, "but the technology isn't quite there to deliver a Hollywood-quality story in a videogame." Its gameplay also proves to be awkward initially, but quickly becomes intuitive. "The basic mechanic of weakening, slamming and trapping ghosts is a bit cumbersome at first," Ellis warns, "but after upgrading the proton beam a few times, which allows you to trap much faster, I found myself taking out unruly spirits in no time. The basic combat system in the game is quite fun, and as the experimental weapons specialist, you get access to several other weapons to augment the basic proton beam." "The gameplay is fun, but it's the constant barrage of one-liners from familiar characters that constantly put a smile on my face -- this game absolutely revels in its fan service," Ellis praises. "But on the whole, the visual storytelling in this game just doesn't do the writing and voice performances justice, which is my biggest criticism. The uncanny valley-inspired character models actually look fine during the game, but their mannequinlike performances in cut-scenes detract from the overall quality of the story." GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd scores Ghostbusters at 7.5 out of 10. "It's good," he begins. "If you're a fan of Ghostbusters (and maybe even Ghostbusters 2), that's all you needed to know, so you can go out and grab your copy without worrying that you'll have to tread through bad game mechanics just to get a few good laughs. "If for some reason you're a newcomer to the franchise, that's OK too. Ghostbusters The Video Game is a humorous and amusing third-person action-adventure with some clever mechanics and loads of personality." VanOrd finds Ghostbusters' gameplay to be solid, if slightly repetitive. "For the most part, you'll be doing the same things throughout the game, which can get a bit tedious in time," he says. "The tedium is compounded some by the game's medium-paced tempo; your default movement speed is slow, and there are a few too many chunks during which you aren't trapping any ghosts." "Yet while the action itself doesn't offer a lot of variety," VanOrd continues, "the diverse environments, occasional puzzles, and wide array of enemy designs will keep you involved. Besides, trapping an enemy is so gratifying (again, think of bagging a humongous trout) that it's easy to look past the repetition." The game's teammate revival mechanic also brings down the experience at points. "You can take only a few hits before you're knocked out, at which point you have to wait for an AI teammate to revive you," VanOrd explains. "During a few scenarios, you'll be spending more time rushing around reviving downed team members than you will trapping ghosts, so between revivals, waiting for someone to revive you, and getting knocked over, there are a few moments when you don't feel like you're playing the game as much as you're trying to earn the right to do so." Overall, however, VanOrd feels that Ghostbusters is an enjoyable experience. "Ghostbusters The Video Game has some drawbacks, but those sour notes can't spoil a game that, by and large, tickles the funny bone and hits all the notes a Ghostbusters game should," he notes in conclusion. "If you're a fan of the films, or just like a little bit of supernatural fun, there's no need to glance about furtively when picking up your copy."

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