When there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call? How about three of your friends? In Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, four players can team up as Ghostbusters against one player as said ghost. Illfonic previously developed asymmetrical horror games based on the Friday the 13th and Predator franchises. Ghostbusters is the latest property to get the IllFonic adaptation, with a dash of humor and more lighthearted scares this time around.
Game Name: Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: October 18th, 2022
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed ties into the existing franchise lore surprisingly well, picking up right where the movie Ghostbusters: Afterlife left off. If you have yet to watch the long-awaited sequel and don’t want spoilers, I suggest checking it out before playing Spirits Unleashed—or reading this. It’s a treat to hear two original cast members reprise their roles. Ernie Hudson returns as Winston Zeddemore, cleaning up the Firehouse, while Dan Ackroyd comes back as Ray Stantz, recruiting new Ghostbusters. That’s where you come into the story.
At the hub, consisting of the lovingly detailed firehouse Ghostbusters HQ and Ray’s Occult Bookshop, players can customize their Ghostbuster. The list of voice customization impressed me, with sixteen choices of various accents. A Ghostbuster with a deep Irish brogue? I love to hear it. But this level of vocal customization perhaps exists to offset the limited clothing customizations. You can change how zipped the ghostbuster suit is, what color it is, whether or not you have kneepads, and not too much else.
While Ghostbusters as a franchise isn’t known for its costume variation, it does serve up a few different gadgets. The proton pack enables the beam-firing particle thrower, which is a joy to use. The weapon is fittingly a bit unwieldy in a way that mimics its chaotic deployment in the films. The PKE meter acts primarily as ghostly radar but offers additional functions. The device’s wings extend if pointed towards paranormal activity, and the dots on the screen ascend or descend depending upon the kind of activity; a ghost or a rift. It can also momentarily stun ghosts with its blast. Finally, rechargeable ghost traps get deployed complete with the pedal to open and close them. Players can upgrade each device, though in doing so I didn’t notice much difference in performance.
In a match, Ghostbusters first use the PKE meter to find and close rifts. In a nice nod to the comedic aspect of the series, players have to calm down any bystanders who get spooked. This initially proved my favorite aspect a match, with gameplay and jokes going hand in hand. That is, until I heard the same five or so wisecracks repeatedly.
After that, things get a bit more serious. Players must locate the ghost with the PKE meter, wrangle it with the particle thrower, and encase it inside a ghost trap. Basically, it’s just like the movies. And the films seamlessly lend their ghost-busting rules to the game’s mechanics, with busting a ghost feeling just as challenging—and exhilarating—as it looks in the movies. And that never gets old.
As for playing as the ghost, players have to complete a few jobs as a Ghostbuster to receive that option. Here the game introduces the ghastly researcher J.H. Tobin, voiced by the delightful Rahul Kohli of The Haunting of Bly Manor, who teaches players haunting 101. The ghost arguably provides even more fun to play as than the busters, since it allows players to possess objects, create minions, and of course, slime people. That said, despite the fun factor, the game typically favors the Ghostbusters. In order to win as the ghost, players have to achieve a 100% haunt rating and then avoid a final section of getting trapped. Ghostbuster players just have to trap the ghost after destroying three rifts, and even then get a last chance for victory in that final Hail Mary section. Ghosts get an advantage when bots fill in for the busters, but crossplay otherwise makes matchmaking easy.
Matches last around ten minutes on average, and the five locations each have their own charms. The history museum has several large exhibit halls that make it easier to lock onto the ghost, while the tight confines of the ship and the prison up the busting challenge and allow the ghost more corners to hide behind. Each location has newspaper clippings that players can collect to learn more about the hauntings there.
Nevertheless, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed could benefit from either more variety or quantity. The gameplay remains the same in each location, so it would be nice to have either more maps or ones that have unique perks to them. Similarly, while the gameplay provides short bursts of fun with its quick and easy-to-learn matches, it tends to get repetitive. Even the Ghostbusters movies break up the ghost-catching formula with the Ecto-1 car chases and certain “boss level” encounters (looking at you, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man), so it’s a shame the game never draws inspiration from these.
Still, the core gameplay comes together pretty tightly, and the story beats keep things engaging. Personally, my favorite IllFonic title will still be the doomed Friday the 13th: The Game, due to the sheer number of mechanics and variations that players could exploit as Jason or against him. But people who found that game too complicated or unwieldy will likely appreciate the straightforward simplicity of Spirits Unleashed. Ghostbusters has always been a movie that looked fun to experience, and Spirits Unleashed delivers an authentic Ghostbusters experience, slime and all—working in tandem with fellow players to nab a spooky specter or absolutely sliming a player as said apparition proves ever so satisfying. What else can I say? Bustin’ makes me feel good.
Review Disclosure Statement: Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed was provided to us by IllFonic for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Review
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed serves up short, sharp shocks of supernatural asymmetrical play. It may prove a bit too simplistic for some, but the game will likely hand out more of a treat and less of a trick for longtime Ghostbusters fans.
- A semi-sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife
- Fantastic attention to detail in the design
- Satisfying and easy to learn gameplay
- Great voiceover from Ghostbusters veterans and newcomers
- A lack of variety across the board
- Slightly unbalanced
- Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed