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Ghostbusters The Video Game - hands on

As I stepped out of the Ecto-1 and stood on the steps of the New York Public Library alongside Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis (Bill Murray isn’t along for this particular call) listening to the team chatter, Ghostbusters’ Associate Producer Ryan French explained that my experimental proton pack was fully loaded for the purposes of this demo. In the final version of the game, where this is only the third mission, you’re not going to be quite so well equipped - so, I should enjoy this while it lasts.

Inside the library, I donned a pair of goggles and checked the PKE meter - a panel with flashing lights and a pair of retractable antennae that work like a divining rod - revealing a trail of ghostly residue that led to a huge reading room. As I entered, I noticed the other Ghostbusters lined up along a raised walkway at the sides of the room, setting off my internal boss fight alarm. But before triggering it, I played around with the Slime Blower, one of the four configurations for my experimental proton pack. Remember the snot gun in Unreal Tournament? Well, this is nothing like that - this is what the snot gun should have been. The first shot attaches a green string of slime to a wall, and the second shot attaches the other end. The result is a drippy mucousy rubber band between two points.

The other Ghostbusters waited patiently while I messed around and tried the usual physics antics: pulling two chandeliers toward each other, stringing up a chair in a multi-stranded slime web, crisscrossing the entire room with slime... there’s an unfortunate limit to the strand length, but that didn’t stop me from effectively coating the room in slime. If there were ghosts in here, I could even have tethered them to something. I finally gave in to Aykroyd and Hudson’s urges to meet them at the front of the room, and ghostly shenanigans ensued. With a violent bang and a crash and a roomful of splintered shelves and tables, a book golem appeared. He’s exactly what you’d expect: a shambling monster formed from books, with a library lamp for a head.

I reconfigured my proton pack as a dark matter generator; the shotgun-style blast stripped the golem of his books (shredding all the nearby furniture in the process). I eventually switched to the basic proton beam, where the alt-fire bosun dart packed a wallop but maxed out my heat level, which required a cooldown period. It’s the equivalent of reloading a gun, and you can press a button to bleed off heat as it builds up. After an extended clobbering, a few shots to the brightly glowing lamp finished off the book golem. You’re shelved! In the history section! (I should probably leave the witty dialogue to Aykroyd and Ramis, who wrote both movies and teamed up again to write the game.)

Then it was on to the main event - hunting for the librarian ghost who was so elusive in the original movie. This time, we brought more firepower. We descended into the basement, where a haunted maze of shelves closed in around us. Just as one of the other Ghostbusters discovered some librarian ghost backstory, some shelves shifted and Aykroyd and I were closed in a room with a pair of traditional slimer-type ghosts. Here’s where it got a little crazy. The concept behind busting a non-corporeal ghost is that you use various beams to weaken it, then you grab it in a wrangling beam to knock it around and drag it into your trap. It’s not unlike a fishing game, in that you have to “set the hook” and then reel in your catch. I hadn’t played the tutorial mission and the HUD wasn’t complete in this build, but after much yanking, jerking, and general thrashing around, I finally bagged my first pair of ghosts. Naturally, the room was all but destroyed in the process.

To prove that it works, French showed off a Times Square mission where the Ecto-1 creeps down a chaotic New York street toward the rampaging Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. French snapped up ghosts left and right, tossing them into the trap on the roof of Ecto-1, deftly swapping beam types and generally cleaning up the streets. You’ll get to strap on the Proton Pack later this year and see how you fare, probably sometime around a certain ghostly holiday.

Aug 4, 2008

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