Aren't you glad you're not in charge of developing the new Ghostbusters game? (Unless you are, in which case: Hi, and Good Luck.) Imagine the pressure of producing the tie-in for such an iconic movie. Everything from the theme tune to the one-liners to the cast to the car is fondly remembered by millions. Get it wrong, and the entire internet will accuse you of curling one out in the mouth of its childhood. But that's nothing when your biggest potential critic is the Hollywood megastar who thought up the whole thing in the first place.
"Dan Aykroyd really is Ray Stantz in real life," says executive producer Brendan Goss. "You start talking about Ghostbusters and his eyes light up. He's talking a thousand miles an hour, going into the equipment and the story and everything else... It's infectious, and it makes all of us want to make the game better. Not just because you want to impress Dan, but because you don't want to disappoint him."
One of the game's major selling points is that Aykroyd has been involved from the start. He even wrote the script and storyline, which is set in 1991 - two years after all the nonsense with the painting and the baby in the second film. Although the main cast members have provided voiceovers and likenesses, you play a previously unknown character who's been hired to try out experimental new equipment.
During Eurogamer's playtest at Atari's London HQ, it becomes clear that story is a huge part of the Ghostbusters game experience. Cut-scenes are lengthy and numerous, but most importantly, they're funny. The lines aren't wacky quips written by the man whose main job is to draw hands but who once did a hilarious stand-up routine at the office party about the boss's cat; they're proper jokes, and they suit the characters we all know and love from the films.
The one-liners come thick and fast in-game, too. Often, before you can move on to the next area, there's a pause while the Ghostbusters have a chat, doing a bit of plot exposition and exchanging witty banter. The script is good enough to make these instances a treat if you're a fan of the movies. More impatient types or people who don't think Bill Murray is all that hilarious might find them a bit frustrating, but they should probably be playing something else anyway.
The game is visually impressive, especially when it comes to character design. The Ghostbusters don't just look and sound like their real-life counterparts, they move around and gesticulate like them; Murray's casual swagger, for example, is instantly recognisable.
There's a huge amount of detail to the characters' outfits, and particularly to the proton packs. These intricate messes of blinking lights and curling wires act as the HUD, indicating your character's health and the like. Each time you fire a boson dart there's a quick animation as it's loaded out of the base of the pack, the kind of detail that's more commonly seen in high-quality shooters than your average movie tie-in.
In fact, at its core, Ghostbusters is a shooter without guns. There's a Gears of War feel to the controls even though your main weapon fires a proton stream. Ammo is unlimited, but if your proton pack overheats an alarm sounds, the control pad starts to vibrate and you won't be able to fire. This means you have to press one of the shoulder buttons regularly to vent it, just as you would reload in a regular shooter.
In the build I played the pack started overheating every single time I fired a boson dart, setting off the alarm and requiring a button press. It proved a bit annoying, particularly when under attack from multiple enemies at once. Here's hoping you'll be able to fire at least a couple of darts in a row in the finished game.
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