Spirits Unleashed is a modest bust experience
Ever since I was a kid playing David Crane’s original game. Ghostbusters game on my Commodore 64, I believed that Ghostbusters it’s a property that’s perfect for video games. You have great characters, you have cool gadgets, you have spirits from another world that threaten New York and the world with apocalyptic destruction. And who will get save the day and be heroes? A couple of grubby guys with a working cheeky look. So for decades it has been a little painful for me to see other franchises like star Wars get a bonanza of games, many of which are great, while Ghostbusters largely overshadowed, except for the occasional disappointing, forgettable game. Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashedcoming out next week from IllFonic, not the best Ghostbusters the game I’ve been waiting for all this time. However, it has its own modest charms and I hope it will be the forerunner of a new wave of games that do cool and interesting things with Ghostbusters license.
IllFonic (providing Kotaku with the code for this game) is the studio behind asymmetrical multiplayer games. Predator: Hunting Grounds as well as Friday the 13thamong other things and Spirits on the loose exactly in this spirit. Up to four players dress up as ghost hunters while another player (or artificial intelligence) haunts one of five playable locations as a ghost, specter, or ghost. Hunters use classic ghost hunting gear to hunt down and trap the ghost, while the ghost can do things like hide in normal objects, unleash weak but nasty little ghost minions, and of course, slime people. If the ghost frightens enough civilians and causes enough harm overall to fill the “ghost” gauge, it wins. The Ghostbusters want to catch him before that happens.
So, first about the positive. Spirits on the loose made a good first impression of it Ghostbusters A fan, immediately sending me to the gang’s iconic fire station, which is meticulously recreated and fully researched. It also puts Winston Zeddemore (voiced by actor Ernie Hudson, who played him in the films) front and center, just like last year’s film. Ghostbusters: Afterlife stopped and Winston reopened the old New York location. The fact that Winston appears prominently here is a bit like a course correction for some of the early Ghostbusters games that I loved but that often left out Winston entirely and acted like the Ghostbusters were just three white guys. (Well, I wonder why.)
One of the first things you do is create your own “buster” and the customization options are solid. My heart goes entirely to Spengler, Stanz, Venkman and Zeddemore, but it was also great to see a lot of mixed, multi-racial Ghostbusters teams during my time in the game. And branded equipment of ghost hunters, perhaps, has never been used so effectively in the game. Your trusty PKE meter will help you hunt down those pesky ghosts, as well as ghostly rifts, essentially spawn points that give the ghost a few extra lives. Ghosts start at three, and by destroying the rifts, you deprive the ghost of these additional respawns. Traps, of course, are needed to catch ghosts. But the proton packs are outstanding. The chaotic beam of multi-colored energy that shoots out when you start shooting looks as wild and out of control as it does in the movies, and like the film crew in the movies, it means you’re almost certain to do some serious property damage in your efforts. fight the ghost. This is part of the fun.
As for the rest – well, listen, it’s hard to talk about such a game as Spirits on the loose pre-release when opportunities to play with other people are limited. Kotaku was provided with a few codes, but our attempts to connect with each other via crossplay often ended up disconnecting, so I didn’t really get the full, proper experience of playing with teammates, which I think would be essential to the experience. To effectively capture a ghost, hunters often have to coordinate things such as who will hold the ghost in the proton pack with a “tether” – this is best done with multiple traps – while someone else ejects and opens their trap. The mechanics are clearly designed to encourage and even require communication in order for it to actually work. The good people at IllFonic have also made themselves available for multiplayer sessions, a gesture I appreciate, but I prefer my experience to be as authentic as possible rather than playing with people who have a vested interest in the success of the game. I will definitely try the game again as soon as it is released and ideally the crossplay feature and network stability will improve.
Of course you can play Spirits on the loose alone as a “buster” or ghost, with other roles filled by bots. However, I can’t recommend it for singleplayer in its current state. I have often been overwhelmed by how utterly ineffective my bot-controlled comrades were. They didn’t seem to have a sense of teamwork or what might be useful in a given situation, and they didn’t have the ability to give them commands or suggestions like “I could use a trap here!”
Bot AI may improve in the coming weeks and months after release, and if so, this improvement would definitely be welcome. Although, even if so, it cannot be denied that, in principle, Spirits on the loose designed as a multiplayer game that encourages communication. So if you are thinking of playing it, I would recommend that you think about the people you want to play it with.
Also, control your expectations. This is a modest game. At $40 to match, this is a low-key, casual multiplayer game that can be fun for the whole family, but won’t break your socks either. Of course, there’s a story that develops as you play matches and earn XP, unlocking upgrades for your gear and new cosmetic options for your “buster” (including some nice homages to the great animated series). Real Ghostbusters), but once you’ve played a few matches, you sort of get everything.
And no matter how accurately all of the Ghostbusters gear is recreated, the act of actually catching ghosts often feels chaotic in a negative way. I often just threw my trap in the general direction of the ghost, tried to coax the ghost into taking a position above it and hoped I’d be lucky and that it wouldn’t trigger a mega-slime attack that would incapacitate my character for a few seconds while covering my screen dirt. Perhaps when playing with friends, the process may seem more coordinated, skillful and satisfying. I look forward to learning soon.
On the computer screen in the firehouse, a reference to the classic David Crane game I mentioned. taken straight from the opening chant. You have to be level 20 to use the computer, which I thought meant that the classic Activision game could become a playable easter egg in Spirits on the looseso I excitedly dialed 20 to find out. Alas no, the computer just gives you access to new goals and objectives that you can complete to earn more XP and other rewards. It’s good, of course. David Crane’s game still exists and I can still play it if I want to. But it says something Spirits on the loose that after playing it for a bit, I was more excited about being able to play a different, much older game within this one than I was about playing the game itself. Spirits on the loose conveys superficial details correctly, but I’m not sure it has the depth I’m looking for in a really great, hypothetical Ghostbusters the game I’ve been dreaming about for almost 40 years. We hope this is just a spooky sign that even spookier things are ahead of us.