Review – Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed
Upon booting up Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, I was sadly reminded of the “Ghost Corps” logo, a shoddy initiative by Sony Pictures to turn the Ghostbusters franchise into a heavily exploitable multimedia empire. It’s safe to say that, so far, this hasn’t garnered the results that Sony was expecting. Two movies, one of them drowned in unnecessary controversy and the other relying way too much on nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, and that one terrible Activision game were all that had been released so far since the creation of the Ghost Corps brand. Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed might actually be the best Ghostbusters product in years, largely by default. It’s… okay. It’s alright for a few minutes, it will put a small smile on fans’ faces, but that’s about it.
The name Illfonic basically tells everything you need to know about Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed‘s gameplay loop. This is an asymmetrical multiplayer game, with four players being Ghostbusters hunting down a sole ghost controlled by a fifth player, with all the gadgets one would expect: proton packs, particle throwers, PKE meters, ghost traps, the whole shebang. While the Ghostbusters are trying to bust a ghost, the fifth player’s main objective is to haunt an enclosed arena, scaring residents by possessing furniture, damaging surroundings, throwing slime at them, and so on.
The whole ghost busting process goes as follows: you need to get rid of a ghost’s ability to respawn, first and foremost. There are three “ghost rifts” located in the map, which act as an extra life for the ghost player in case they get caught. If you deplete the ghost’s means to respawn for a final time (respawning also consumes one rift), it will lose the game upon a next capture. The ghost’s objective is to reach a 100% haunt rate in the level and then survive for an additional minute.
In theory, a fantastic concept. The hardest thing to do in an asymmetrical game like this is to make every single role worth playing. This is what made Illfonic’s Predator game so interesting in my opinion. You weren’t just running away from a monster like in Dead By Daylight or Dragon Ball: The Breakers. It was a truly balanced experience where a group of four marines was able to get rid of a Predator with good teamwork. The same is possible in Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. Busting ghosts can be fun if you’re paired with experienced players. It’s an atrocious borefest otherwise, however.
This is a massive problem with Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. It’s a truly unbalanced game. The ghost player is hindered by a terrible stamina meter, which is depleted incredibly quickly, and heinous cooldown times for its special attacks. You basically need to run away from the Ghostbusters as much as possible, as you’re really underpowered, making the act of playing as the asymmetrical character something undesirable.
The Ghostbusters are hindered by some bizarre controls, namely the fact you cannot deploy a ghost trap while trying to tether a ghost with the particle thrower. You will rarely be able to deal with a ghost on your own as a result. You’ll need to throw the trap near the ghost, pray for the player to be really slow with their reflexes, then start the tether process, hoping for your crappy proton pack to keep its cool before it’s too late. The game basically forces you to be a third wheel on someone else’s team at first, as your initial equipment is terrible, both in terms of cooldown and strength. It feels demotivating as a result
The only way to level up is by playing multiple rounds of the aforementioned gameplay loop. It wouldn’t be so annoying if it wasn’t for the game’s sheer lack of content. There are a mere five levels available as of the writing of this review. It’s just not enough. I was able to see everything the game had to offer, both as a Ghostbuster and as a ghost, in about two hours. There isn’t enough to grasp your attention for long.
Not even the fact that Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson reprise their roles in the game’s main hub world, with lots of well-voiced interactions between them and the player, lighten things up that much. They are amusing at first, and able to touch some heartstrings if you’re a fan of the source material, but then you’ll realize these small cutscenes are what the game is trying to sell as a “story mode”. You can’t help but feel disappointed at that. You aren’t able to play as them, so they just act as nostalgia bait mentors of sorts. Weird-looking mentors at that, with Dan Aykroyd’s character looking like a bootleg plastic action figure of himself.
I’m keeping my hopes up for the best, however. I do feel like Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is easily salvageable. An update or two featuring some tweaks to its overall balancing, as well as a handful of new maps, would be able to make this game a lot more enjoyable. It’s not even that ugly to look at, and it sounds great. As it stands, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a great idea for an asymmetrical multiplayer experience, a potentially fun co-op time with friends, hampered by questionable design choices and a severe lack of content. You’ll see everything the game has to offer in an hour or so.
It might not be the prettiest game out there, and Dan Aykroyd looks like a bootleg action figure of himself, but it’s charming and colorful. The framerate is also solid.
The ghost controls are weird and you feel somewhat underpowered when compared to the Ghostbusters themselves. The Ghostbusters’ controls fare better, but there are annoying design decisions I cannot ignore.
Licensed Ghostbusters music, Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd reprising their roles… it’s all great. The in-game soundtrack is decent as well, and the other voice actors deliver a decent, though unexciting job.
Fun Factor: 6.0
The core gameplay loop is, in theory, excellent, but Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is hampered by poor balancing, the aforementioned less-than-ideal controls, and a severe lack of content. You’ll see everything the game has to offer in an hour, maybe less.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S.
A copy of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed was provided by the publisher.