As a remaster, this game more often feels like a re-release, yet Ghostbusters: The Video Game still succeeds the most at making bustin’ still feel good. Just be sure to call Epic for trouble.
Genre: Action, 3rd Person Shooter
Developer: Saber Interactive
& Terminal Reality
Publisher: Mad Dog Games
Release date: 04 October, 2019
Ghostbusters has gone through a series of various highs and lows for what is essentially a comedy about pest control for the paranormal. Whether this brand has involved films or videogames, there has always been many behind-the-scenes complications and a few missteps with the franchise. Of these infamous obstacles, the pursuit of the next official film installment, Ghostbusters 3, has long been thought of as an impossibility due to the whims of fate, especially with the passing of Harold Ramis. For many avid fans, however, including the developers at Saber Interactive and Terminal Reality, Ghostbusters the Videogame has long been declared as the official Ghostbusters 3.
Although all this information may not appear relevant for the remastered release, the story behind the development of Ghostbusters the Videogame is one almost as strenuous as the development for the Ghostbusters 3 film. Instead of regurgitating that information, you would have a greater appreciation if you read this article by Venture Beat about the remaster’s development. This information doesn’t change how the game looks or plays, nor does it excuse its many faults, but it does give you a better understanding for the affection behind what remains a rather simplistic game.
After finally completing the game for myself, I am more inclined to echo the previous sentiments by referring to this game as Ghostbusters 3. Not only does this title avoid mixing up this game with the last Ghostbusters videogame—which the press kits have hilarious mixed up—but it also avoids any confusion with the Ghostbusters movie reboot. More importantly, this game embodies that closure with the original in one last adventure with the cast—for the better and for the worse. It’s unfortunate, however, that the Epic Store almost ruined it all for me.
I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost–I Am Afraid of the Epic Store
Before you think this section is all going to be, “Epic Store bad,” let me start by saying that I went into this game wanting to make bygones be Egons if the game would function properly. Even with that simple goal, there were so many issues playing this game on two computers that it resulted in me having to replay the remaster two more times from the beginning. Technically, I had played the first two hours of the game four times in all because I also wanted to compare the remaster to the original version, which you can still buy and play from the Amazon “DRM-Free” storefront. (The description is a lie because that version has SecuROM.) Overall, the curse with Ghostbusters also seemed to have haunted me that it almost resulted in my rage quit from this game.
Having said all of this information, I do want to point out that I have watched other people share their thoughts on the game and no one else seems to have had similar issues. The situation could be that I had really, really awful luck with this game, but by the third time I had lost my progress I had almost given up any hope—and some of these faults were the result of the Epic Store’s lacking feature set. If these issues were merely the result of user error or my low-end system, then I would be willing to accept these issues; however, even on a computer running the game at 4K, the game crashed again and I lost my previously saved data. Needless to say, especially with the omission of an official game forum to find this kind of feedback, you should run this game at your own risk.
Before we continue onwards, it would be helpful to illustrate in chronological order what exactly happened. The first time I played the game resulted into a game-breaking bug for the Library stage that wouldn’t load the next level. There were technical issues beforehand such as the cutscenes not syncing up properly as well as the intro cinematics not having any audio, which last time I had checked was a problem only recently addressed for console versions, but none impeded my ability to play the game. The error message was about “D3D11 failed to allocate texture” and the bottom message stated, “This is an unofficial build for October 10, 2019” (I was playing the game on October 16.)
To be fair, when I tried playing the old version on the first computer, I had a similar issue, which I believe is the result of having to load so many individual textures because that stage has more modeled debris than the others. The second error message, however, led me to believe that I somehow downloaded the wrong build. After failing to improve the matter with in-game options, I had to search online through Steam and elsewhere for any similar problems, and I came across a Reddit post with an email from the developers and a Google Drive link to what was stated to be a more stable build. The file itself was simply an older .EXE file with the same name, and when I launched the game there were no immediate problems until I had loaded the level.
Instead of crashing to the desktop, the game was playing in the background, yet the entire screen was pitch black. This result led me to believe the problem had more to do with the computer I was playing on, but when I tried relaunching the game, I had another issue. Now the Epic Games launcher itself wouldn’t start the game; the error message, LS-0013, stated that the application couldn’t start, but this error code doesn’t exist on the Epic Support forums. The likely culprit is the fact that I replaced the .EXE file, which is what the developers in that Reddit post suggested, and you would think that removing that file and verifying the installation would solve it. However, there was nothing I could think of outside of reinstalling the game—which I did do, and no, the game still doesn’t launch on this computer—that would address the matter without launching the Epic Store on another computer.
Even with this migration solution, there were still problems affiliated with the Epic Store. Knowing that cloud saves were not available for every game on the platform, I expected that I would lose my entire progress. If I could have found my save files, then I would have made things easier for myself, but I couldn’t find where those files were located after checking My Documents, the Epic Games folders and the AppData locations. Sure enough, after reinstalling the game on the second computer, the game ran fine and all my progress was lost; at least I could now run the game at 4K rather than 720p, so I considered this a lesson of expecting the worse. Then the game crashed again much later into the Library level, and unlike a simple game crash this caused my computer to lock up and require a BIOS reboot because Windows Startup Repair wouldn’t work.
After spending an afternoon looking up how to resolve the matter, I was greeted with the fact that all my saved data was lost, so I had to replay the entire game again—this time I stayed at 720p because I wouldn’t take more risks with this game—and everything just worked. All of this mess was something I had to resolve on my own because I had reached out to Epic and the Ghostbusters the Videogame’s Twitter pages, but after nearly two weeks I have received no response. If I knew this problem was more so for Epic, then I would have submitted a support ticket instead.
The short summary of this whole situation: Am I happy I was able to finish the game? Yes. Are some of these problems my own fault? Yes. Does the game still not start-up on my first computer after completely wiping everything off of it? Yes. Would I have avoided so much needless trouble and lost time had I played this game on Steam? Absolutely.
Remastered? More like Re-released in 2019
You might expect after such an awful experience that the remaster wouldn’t be worth all the effort, but, after playing the original, I am happy to say the rest of the experience was an improvement. While calling this game a remaster is somewhat of a misnomer, there are obvious quality of life benefits most people will likely appreciate. (Also, why is this game being touted as an HD remake when the older game had an HD Gaming logo at the beginning?) Whether those changes are worth the higher price tag is something I will leave up to you.
First off, the most immediate change is that the game, overall, runs significantly better than before. Even on my low-end hardware, the game not only had a higher framerate compared to the original game, but it was also a much more stable experience. The only new menu option is the addition of anti-aliasing options, FXAA, which does make the game appear more blurry, and the only new environmental effects include some real-time reflections and additional bloom for lights. There is also the removal of a color filter during cutscenes, which can sometimes make the original look much better. Finally, you can increase the resolution quality to 4K whereas the old game limited you to 1080p; however, many models and textures throughout are of significantly low quality, even for the Xbox 360. Most of these textures are things meant to be in the background you’re not meant to notice, but the paper mache coffee cups and the triangular water effects will stand out if you stop to appreciate the environments. The result makes for an interesting mishmash of old and new technology.
However, those eye-candy effects are second to the many former troublesome technical problems. For Windows users, you won’t have to enable any compatibility settings and you won’t have to disconnect your controller in fear of crashing the program at the start. There are still numerous former bugs intact from before, especially with the AI scripts getting in your way, but those matters are likely the result of a second developer having to touch up the game as best as they can. Granted, there are new bugs like the audio cutting out for the logos at the start, but nothing that will significantly impact the experience. Finally, and what will be more important to long-time fans, there will be the addition of local and online cooperative multiplayer in the future, but I doubt recreating a horde mode from scratch is going to keep people playing this game for any significant amount of time. In spite of that outlook, it’s an admirable goal for Saber Interactive to preserve as much of this game as possible.
Despite these many blemishes, visual or technical, Ghostbusters 3 can still appear impressive at times thanks to how much the environments stand out by their art design and the overall usage of various colors. It’s no wonder why so many people hold this game in such high regard as a movie adaptation, but the gameplay itself is a firm reminder how much movie-tie-ins have changed over the years.
Just Because a Calendar Will Be Dated Doesn’t Mean It’s Always Wrong
Some people may take issue with the general statement that Ghostbusters 3 feels dated, but that sentiment is more so an observation than a pejorative description. Startropics on the NES is also a game that may appear dated to many modern gamers because the gameplay itself uses tank-controls for a top-down view, but the gameplay was designed around that limitation in mind to make the challenge fair. For a more apt comparison to movie adaptations, Alien: Isolation still remains one of the best modern film adaptations for games because it not only expands on its source material, but it also enhances previous Alien games by focusing on its unique AI. The AI there isn’t perfect nor prone to abuse by the player, but the execution makes the gameplay experience feel totally original and accurate to its film counterparts. That conclusion can be felt while playing Ghostbusters 3, but the difference here is that it’s all imitation rather than innovation.
For those of you who haven’t played the original release, Ghostbusters 3 is a third-person shooter wearing the Ghostbusters outfits and Proton Packs—and that statement is meant to be as praiseworthy as it is criticism. There are many genre conventions that Ghostbusters 3 tries to incorporate as seamlessly as possible with slight alterations to the standard four weapon categories (a main gun, a shotgun, a machine gun and a spray gun) and a stronger focus on squad-based gameplay when trapping ghosts. Thankfully, you will not always capture ghosts because the process of trapping them can become tedious (and destructive) over time; you will also fight various poltergeist manifestations that are weaker to other weapons. Overall, the gameplay itself is fairly linear, repetitive and simplistic—none of which are negatives on their own—but none of these factors keep this game from being a good time when you can get into it, which is one of the strongest qualities of this game.
While the original cast of Ghostbusters have always been nerds who are obsessive over minor details, the attention to detail throughout the gameplay makes an otherwise simple game feel more genuine. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dead Space was a source of inspiration behind the development of Ghostbusters 3 as the game tries to be as diegetic as possible. Now this term isn’t one I pulled out of my ass to sound smart; it’s a commonly accepted description of making in-game elements, particularly the UI, appear real to the player and to the in-game characters. Various gizmos, meters and animations of the Proton Pack give vital information to the player including health, energy levels and reload animations. When you combine these little details with the in-game usage of the PK-meter and the Ghostbusters’ other tools, the in-game blinders do a much better job of hiding how scripted of an experience this game can be.
However, as good as the illusion can appear to be at times, there are many flaws with the core gameplay that deserve scrutiny. The most obvious, especially on PC, is the mouse control itself. If you have played the original version, then the remaster does not address that issue from before, which is kind of difficult to ascertain as to why the controls feel sluggish. The Proton stream is unwieldy, destructive and difficult to not cross the streams, and I’m willing to equally blame the mouse acceleration as much as the likelihood that the developers stuck too much to the source material. The second major problem is the repetition of trapping ghosts, which involves a lengthy process of firing your weapon to weaken the target (and switching back to the Proton stream,) then slamming the ghost against the walls to weaken them before deploying a trap and holding them to finally capture them. Third, the dodging animation is very rigid and the environments are often too close together to properly avoid attacks. Finally, the biggest culprit of frustration is how many times the AI will get you killed during the boss fights, especially the last section of the game where a tornado will knock down two or three Ghostbusters in a fight that requires all of you to attack the same target.
If you are tolerant enough to withstand these many little problems that build up over time, then you can perhaps enjoy this game as the sequel we always wanted rather than the perfect game we always dreamed to play. For an adventure that lasts nearly six to seven hours, you will certainly get your mileage out of the campaign because Ghostbusters 3 sticks fairly close to the source material in terms of its gameplay and in its storytelling. That adherence is so integral to the experience that you might begin to realize why, if there was a more official release of Ghostbusters 3, the film wouldn’t stand up to modern expectations.
The Real, Underappreciated Fifth Ghostbuster, the Cameraman
Before we further discuss the story itself, it would be important to point out that I have watched the original Ghostbusters several times, but I’ve never watched the entirety of Ghostbusters 2. The simple reason was that everyone told me the sequel was okay by comparison. After watching the first film once, the film never wowed me much like other films; it was a solid comedy about a group of mundane people that mostly didn’t like one another solving extraordinary matters. Not exactly the greatest set-up for the best film of all time, but a decent enough foundation to make more enjoyable films if I ever wanted to watch a high-quality B-movie with some humor grounded in realism. Ghostbusters 3 will fulfill that goal alone if that is all you want out of the story, but that is all the plot will accomplish.
Even with my limited knowledge about the series, Ghostbusters 3 often feels too much like it requires the foundation of its previous entries in order to hold itself up. Now the story does account for the fact that scenes from previous films are mentioned—and sometimes replayed verbatim—in order to elicit some nostalgic callbacks. These include moments like fighting off the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man and other characters reliving or revisiting set pieces from both films. The most likely explanation harkens back to Terminal Reality having so much trouble getting this game off the ground, so they fell back on what was safe to ensure that the game would be successful. Again, none of these instances are bad nor are they out of place. If it wasn’t for the few instances of new witty banter or the many interesting paranormal designs, then this game would come across as less of an adaptation and more so a regurgitation of the films.
The biggest problem with Ghostbuster 3’s story, however, is one aspect that doesn’t translate so well into videogames: the humor. You might expect I am referring to hearing the same one-liners over and over again, especially if you die and you have to reload a checkpoint. You might also point out the fact that the run-time of each film is under two hours whereas the game is three times as long. Or you could bring up the fact that the scenes are as funny the second time around. Each of these issues could be easily fixed with some extra care or voice-overs, but there is one problem you wouldn’t normally consider in a comedies that doesn’t have as simple of a solution, the camera itself.
Many jokes from the films work so well because the camera accentuates the one-liners, and the editor plays a more important role in putting each scene together. In a videogame, however, players are in control of the camera, and they can oftentimes be distracted by the smallest details. For one example, if you compare the “He Slimed Me” scene from the movie to the videogame, the latter doesn’t carry that same comedic reaction because you are simply running to Venkman who is left all slimed up on the ground rather than seeing his reaction at Slimer running towards him. There is also the simple fact that because the camera is not being focused on a particular person or situation, the player is not giving it the same attention as if it was a cutscene. Perhaps this explanation may illustrate why many of the cutscenes made me chuckle more so than constant banter between the Ghostbusters, but if you have too many cutscenes then you may bore players who would rather play than watch. There’s not one simple solution to this problem without some catch, so perhaps this explanation can illustrate how the dry, realistic comedy lost its luster with me over time.
In the game’s defense, there are sequences that do manage to give control to the player, which does accentuate the comedy on display. One such example is when the player destroys the Bar Mitzvah while trying to capture Slimer. If you compare this sequence from the game to the film, the player is still recreating the exact scene from the film, but because the player is causing the destruction, which is reflected in the in-game cinematic, the banter comes across much stronger. Perhaps if future Ghostbusters games incorporated more of the in-game mechanics into the comedy itself, then more of these sequences would better execute the punchlines much like the cameraman during post-production.
That’s all pure speculation at this point, but that aspect would definitely make the game more of a proper adaptation of the films. What is undeniable is that if you simply want more Ghostbusters, then Ghostbusters 3 will be more than satisfactory in giving you what you desire. When the adventure is over, however, it still will leave you wanting something more, which is what I would hope may happen after giving this game a second chance to find a wider audience.
Verdict: Something Strange, Something Good; Who Are You Going to Call?
As easy as it is to understand why so many people enjoyed this game, if you haven’t already played Ghostbusters 3 until now, then the hype and the expectations set by others may exceed the merits of what remains a relatively simple game. After completing this game, you can clearly tell that everyone involved enjoyed making this game despite whatever setbacks may have resulted from this project. Even amongst the few movie-tie-ins that remain, Ghostbusters 3 is something special that rarely ever gets created nowadays much like when it was first released. Hopefully, if the opportunity for another game arises out of its former grave, then Saber Interactive will be the first to get the call.