Good Ghostbusters games, like good Ghostbuster movies, are few and far between. In fact, it could be said that the only real standout Ghostbusters game is the 2009 title – Ghostbusters The Video Game. It was that which acted – at the time – as a third movie, with the original cast voicing the characters they played in the original movie. This game received a very bare bones remaster in 2019 that bafflingly removed the online cooperative play, which was a highlight of the original release.
Flash forward to now and we receive the title we are here to look at today – Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. From developers Illfonic who also made Friday the 13th: The Game and Predator Hunting Grounds, Ghostbusters Spirits Unleashed promises to bring back co-op ghostbusting fun for four players online. Ghostbusters is a beloved franchise, is Spirits Unleashed finally going to bring the care and attention that has been missing for so long?
The story of the game kicks off from the end of Ghostbusters Afterlife where Winston purchases the old firehouse. Now, whether or not the story in Spirits Unleashed is canon to the movies remains to be seen, yet as a new recruit you first must learn the ropes by studying the equipment and how to play the missions.
A rather nice touch here is that the original cast, minus the sadly deceased Harold Ramis and the great Bill Murray, have returned to voice the characters. Lending some authenticity to the game, hearing Ray and Winston speak is a treat. Greg Miller from Kinda Funny also voices a character, as well as Rahul Kohli who plays Tobin’s Spirit Guide rather comically.
During the tutorial you are introduced to the firehouse and all of the characters within. Each of them can be spoken to and some give upgrades to equipment or extra story lore. Being able to use the fireman’s pole at the station is definitely a highlight for fans and seeing Echo 1 parked at the front brings a smile to your face. Learning to play the game is well explained and simple to get to grips with.
Your equipment will come as no surprise to long standing Ghostbuster fans: PKE meters detect the ghosts, the proton pack blasts them and there’s a ghost trap for capturing. There are additional pieces of equipment to obtain such as the grappling hook you receive first that allows traversal to higher places in each of the levels. Using the pack and PKE meter feels really good and upgrades can assist in various ways to make busting easier.
Playing the missions as a Ghostbuster is simple – enter the area, find the ghost, trap the ghost. Of course along the way the ghost will be trying to set all sorts of traps to prevent being captured. On the other side of gameplay, entering the ghost realm via Ray’s Occult Bookstore will enable players to take control of a ghost whose job it is to fully haunt locations and evade being captured.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed plays out in a first person perspective unless you are playing as a ghost; this works rather nicely although having a third person option would be nice as a Ghostbuster, allowing you to see all those customisations you can apply to the avatar in game. The unlockable items such as suits, hairstyles and colour options are vast in quantity and really let you personalise your character.
Inside each mission there are side objectives to tick off for extra XP. Challenges such as busting a ghost by yourself, or collecting a set amount of a certain object are quite fun to work through. Sadly – as we write – the unlocks and pieces of new equipment aren’t very varied and are far too easily obtained. The nice Easter eggs throughout and mentions of characters and events do make up for this somewhat, although the collectibles are easily mopped up quickly.
With the stylings of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed being cartoon-like, the old cartoon The Real Ghostbusters comes to mind. These happy chunky wholesome looking characters really look like they are plucked from that version. Even better, for the most part, you can make your avatar look like the guys from The Real Ghostbusters; a selling point for Ghostbusters fans.
Going back to discuss the story, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed’s plot, while a decent attempt, fails to bring much new depth to the franchise. However, as I said, the story could have had a lot more depth to it. I would gladly play a follow-up game that included a single player story with the multiplayer section separately.
Now we need to talk about the downside – the content. Outside of the missions playing as a Ghostbuster or a ghost, the location variety is rather slim. Featuring a rather poor five maps, seeing all of them in under an hour is entirely possible. Normally DLC is a way for developers to make an extra bit of bank, but Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed could truly do with some. Thankfully more maps have been confirmed by Illfonic, set to release through 2023.
Playing the game solo can thankfully be done for players who may not have friends to squad up with. Playing solo will pair you with others online and fill the squad with AI when no other players are available. However, being given the option to play a multiplayer game in the single player, is always a nice option.
Adding in extra maps and perhaps even extra characters to play as could elevate this experience. As fun as Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is to play with a few friends, I can’t see the player base remaining if the levels available aren’t expanded on. Even a new mode or two added to spice things up would be a huge boost for the game. High scores in levels will only go so far when game modes are limited and occasionally matches are filled with AI due to a lack of players already.
An easy game to recommend for fans of Ghostbusters that are looking for a chill ghostbusting experience, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is less likely to appeal to single players; the fun dries up pretty quickly as repetition kicks in. Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is, however, a fantastic template for the developers to build upon, throwing in more DLC or even a sequel. Sadly the novelty wears off with the currently limited maps, and so we’ll need to see if the planned expansions are able to make this a more varied experience.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is on the Xbox Store
- Nice art style
- Simple to play
- Fun when you have a squad
- A bit thin on content
- Matches can finish quickly
- Solo players will get bored
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Illfonic
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 18 October 2022
- Launch price from - £33.49