It is never pretty to see something that I have always held in such high regard taken out the back door and roughly handled. It does nothing but rile me rotten when I witness that which I adore being twisted and punched until it appears all out of perspective and ugly beyond all recognition. This feeling strikes even harder when you hold whatever it is next to its original and words begin to fail you, how could an object so wildly unique become so far removed from its source? As a franchise, Ghostbusters isn’t quite there yet, but a small part of me fears for its legacy, whilst another thinks that it deserves everything that is coming its way.
When looking back along the strange history of everything since the first two Ghostbusters films, all the signs point to the fact that Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime was to be such an obvious failure. In fact it is a testament to the strength of the original movies that their wonderful charm has survived reasonably intact after a good part of three decades. Though several television shows and twelve video game titles later it was probably no doubt inevitable that someone was to produce such an abhorrent abortion as the aforementioned Sanctum of Slime sooner or later, and this now is a title that finally seems to have brought some shame to the Ghostbusters brand.
No game before SoS has made me play through levels so unimaginative and unfair and made me feel so cheated and underappreciated that I have wanted to physically scratch its digital data from my PS3’s hard drive. This title is not just a disappointment because it tears at beloved memories of what made the movies great events to watch but also because it tears away at what we know makes a great game.
It has only been around two years since we had the last Ghostbusters title on our shelves, a release that couldn’t be more juxtaposed when compared with G:SoS. Back then we were lucky enough to have a full console release, produced in part by the original cast members of its celluloid equivalent. This time around, just a few years later, only the Ghostbusters name survives and instead SoS is a title that is doing its honest best to disassociate its self from anything that might of made previous games a success. Even the original characters that were always full of wit and presence are shockingly quick to show no enthusiasm for anything that is happening in SoS at all, instead they force four new ‘rookies’ to play out the thirteen chapters of the title. All worrying signs for this new Ghostbusters outing.
Whereas in both of the Ghostbusters films the plots were brilliant weaves of ghost stories and humour that allowed rhythmic and solid progressions to glorious and impulsive set pieces, somehow SoS has been able to create a story that is so dour and predictable that it bears no resemblance to what made the franchise what it is. That is not to say that they didn’t try, but jokes often fail to hit the mark and the story of an evil lord rising again after a zillion years is far from original. It doesn’t help either that the way that the story is delivered, through comic book storyboards, is so cumbersome and derogatory. Characters appear like slits of fat and the waves of text that appear across the poor animation tend to rip any heart out of the narrative. The fact that developer Behaviour has included a trophy that can only be attained by not skipping a single cut scene shows how much faith they had in their disastrous attempts at a cohesive storyline.
Technically there is not much wrong with G:SoS , Behaviour Interactive has at least developed a game that performs its functions correctly and looks ok. When I wanted to start a game everything flowed simply and jumping into the first location was a breeze, which is the way it should be. It doesn’t look like a bad game either, with on screen characters animated well and environments suitably malleable by both the effects of the destructive hoards of ghosts and by the Proton Gun. Controls are simple as well, which makes early ‘bustin’ a pleasure. Only two buttons are ever really called into use during play and the anologue sticks are reserved only for controlling your character and for aiming the direction of the Proton Gun. As I said, technically this part of G:SoS all works fine, and getting to grips with the busting weapon of choice does ‘feel good’. What ever Behaviour does that is a reasonable success though just feels like it is all gaming by numbers. Even the gameplay is so simple in its design that there is nothing much that is bad about it but it is just the same idea recycled over and over again and there is nothing here that warrants much attention.
On screen with you all the time is your three rookie counterparts who are more than happy to be replaced with local or online players should you get lonely playing on your own. At the moment there is a strong online community, because if there is one thing that SoS does do well is that it encourages you to seek out online play. This won’t be out of curiosity though but necessity as you’ll soon realise that the artificial intelligence of your fellow work mates is so downright moronic that if they shared a brain cell it would die of loneliness. This means that pretty soon into SoS you’ll be looking for someone else to fill their boots. Sure the ridiculous nature of the single player gameplay is somewhat laughable now, but at the time it is so frustrating that you almost wish for death to strike you down rather than try and play through another level. A.I characters are essential to your success but they are also invisible to your cause. In fact they are almost too helpful at times, wandering blindly into trouble without a care for their own safety. Also the enemies don’t seem to notice them either, so all their attention will be focussed on you and you alone, making certain sections actually impossible to complete without pleading for external help. It surprises me that a game and franchise so heavily reliant on companionship and communication gives you A.I that is so utterly puerile and punitive to your experience that literally no part of the single player campaign is any fun at all, let alone playable.
Even when I got to play with others online to try and circumnavigate some of this terrible design I was only greeted with the same repetitive play in the same overused locations. This was only made slightly less frustrating because someone else who had a gun actually knew which end of their body they had to breathe out of. Multiplayer does make things a little better, but if increased screen tearing and slow down are better things to be hoping for then you know it is just time to give up.
G:SoS really does try to be a better game. However, whenever it thinks it is achieving anything of any remote importance is only really achieving an ounce of that which I would expect from a game with such a strong heritage. A child losing at Connect Four achieves more in the long run than this game ever will and my own brain feels cheapened by having played it. You’ll feel cheap when you get your first Proton Gun upgrade and it works more like a downgrade and you’ll feel cheap when halfway through the game you revisit all the same levels for a second time to develop a story that was nothing but a single celled amoeba in the first place.
There is part of me that wants to find something nice to say about G:SoS but I really don’t think there is anything gracious I could say to a title that is so achingly bad that it actually led me to believe that the developers where having a laugh at my expense. When G:SoS isn’t failing in one instance it has hardly the capacity to succeed at the next. The more things you begin to forgive the more glaring and painful mistakes will start to become clear. Never before has one title got me so angry, not only for producing what is a repetitive, boring and badly designed experience, but for taking a well loved franchise and making me feel like it is just fondling it’s genitals with gloves made of razor wire.
MLG Rating: 3/10
Platform: PSN/XBLA/PC Release Date: 30/03/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of four days on a PS3.