Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ray, Egon, Peter and Winston? You Guys Disappointed Me Most Of All

By Kirk Hamilton

It's easy to sit around and talk about favorite games of the year.  There were a lot of great games that came out, and some truly astounding moments of gameplay.  But this year, more than any before it, featured a couple of really notable disappointments, games that I purchased feeling all but certain that I would enjoy them, only to realize that I'd made a grave mistake.  One in particular stood out as the biggest heartbreaker of the bunch.

Yep, my biggest letdown of 2009 was Ghostbusters: The Video Game. (Which, can we take a moment to reflect on the lameitude of that title?  Were they going for retro or something, with the "video?" Jeez.)

Like many folks my age, as a kid I was obsessed with all things Busting-related. And I know, you're thinking, "Me too!"  But I ask you - did you ever make a proton pack out of boxes, wooden dowels, and duct tape?  Were you on a first-name basis with the librarian because you so frequently came by the library to do some busting?  Oh, you were?  Um... well then... yeah, maybe you do get where I'm coming from.

GB:TVG had so much going for it - a script written by Ramis and Ackroyd. The entire voice cast returning for the game.  A really cool-sounding ghost-trapping mechanic. The return of Gozer the Gozerian. Man, it all sounded so good. When I heard that Terminal Reality was getting liquidated and that the game might not be published, I mourned.  When I heard that it had been picked up again, I rejoiced.

And so it finally launched, and I saw that it got middling reviews, most folks writing that it was mainly for hardcore GB fans, and that the game itself wasn't that great.  But I figured it'd be worth it to play through the game, see a new Ghostbusters story, and trap some full-roaming vapors.

Unfortunately, the game was so frustrating, muddled, cheap and hectic that I didn't make it past the third chapter.  I would have said it would take a lot to make me give up on an authentic Ghostbusters game, and it did. A lot of bad design decisions. By the third time the game made me fight a really annoying ghost, then put me in a room with three of them, I could tell it wasn't going to get any more fun or less frustrating.

And the worst thing of all? The particle throwers sound totally wussy and lack any oomph.  Can you imagine?  Oomph-less particle throwers!! Tearing shit down with an unlicensed nuclear accellerator sounds a very certain way, and that way is deafening. The particle throwers in GB:TVG sound more like a blender on medium. Big failure, guys.

But damned if it couldn't have actually been a good game. With more testing, dificulty tweaking and improved teammate AI, GB:TVG could have actually been fun and perhaps even unique, sort of like BassMaster meets Gears of War.  Instaed, Atari shipped a frustrating, glitchy mess of bad AI and cheap deaths, half-heartedly voice-acted and staged in the dark, scary end of the Uncanny Valley.

My ten-year-old self weeps.