by Dan Lenois
reviewed on PC
There’s Something You Don’t See Every Day…
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed pits four players, taking the role of ghostbusters, against a singular player-controlled ghost. Each team has their own set of objectives. The ghostbusting team will attempt to simultaneously locate the ghost, while also concurrently attempting to locate spectral rifts, which effectively serve as spawn points for the ghost, and destroy them. If the ghostbusters manage to capture the ghost, the ghost will respawn at one of the remaining spectral rifts, which will then be destroyed. This caps the maximum number of lives for the ghost at three.
The ebb and flow of each match is somewhat curious. The game currently offers five playable maps that the player can freely choose between when queuing up for online matchmaking. These include: Whitestone Museum, Hudson Canyon Lodge, Rock Island Prison, Clock Tower Brewery & Pub, and RMS Artemisia. Needless to say, the total size of the map pool here is excessively small, which when combined with the game's progression system, can often make the experience unnecessarily repetitive at times.
The art design of each map is fairly detailed and visually pleasing, and provides players a decent amount of variety. That said, the absence of any outdoor maps is extremely noticeable. Since the Ghostbusters films have demonstrated that busting ghosts isn’t exclusively an indoor profession, it’s not a matter of the IP holding the developers back, but rather just a curious developmental choice.
Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back…
Progression in Spirits Unleashed can be something of a double-beamed nuclear accelerator, just as likely to enhance the in-game experience of veterans as it likely will significantly damage that of newcomers. There doesn't seem to be any apparent skill or rank-based matchmaking present in the matchmaking queue system present here. Additionally, the game's leveling system, which rewards longterm players by unlocking upgraded weapons and devices, makes it so players willing to grind can quickly unlock said upgrades that make it far more difficult for the ghost to escape being caught, such as reduced cooldowns and more accurate particle beams for the ghostbusters, or more powerful ghost trapping devices.
The concern here is that if, a year from now, a new player ends up in a match, as the ghost, and is facing off against a team of level 30+ ghostbusters, they might as well quit the match before it even starts, rather than play things out to their inevitable conclusion. The playstyle of each playable ghost isn't very well defined. Similar to Evolve, Turtle Rock Studios' failed 4v1 asymmetrical PVP game, here the ghost and the ghostbusters often seem incentivized to confront one another in an exclusively roundabout way, which seems contradictory to the nature of ghostbusting.
Ghostbusters end up spending the majority of the match calming panicking civilians, collecting mold and mushrooms for XP, and destroying spectral rifts. Ghosts roam around trying to panic as many civilians as possible, while simultaneously managing their limited stamina. This creates a stop-go-stop-go metagame, where everyone ends up doing anything but what was actually shown in the Ghostbusters films: Hunting ghosts, with the ghost trying to escape and/or incapacitate the Ghostbusters. As a formula, it can be fun enough, but it never fully feels like Ghostbusters.
Back off, man. I’m a scientist…
Spirits Unleashed contains its own story campaign, of sorts, which in theory should appeal to those seeking a more conventional narrative experience. However, it’s delivered in the most haphazard and insufferably grind-filled way possible. The only way to proceed further into the story is by grinding public matches with human players and/or bots, until the game arbitrarily decides you've committed enough hours, and rewards you with yet another 60-second cutscene. This singular element is easily the worst sin that the game commits, and what makes it worse is that this system seems functionally broken at present. At one point during this review, I had played almost four consecutive hours, and was still told I needed to play more matches to proceed further in the campaign. This issue remained present until I later restarted the game, at which point the text disappeared, and the game finally allowed me to progress.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a game that obviously tries hard to provide something for everyone, but by casting such a wide net, it never fully manages to capture the classic niche energy of the Ghostbusters IP. As a game, it’s remarkably solid, but ultimately fall short of its full out-of-this-world potential.
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Superb art design, Faithful to source material, Fun, chaotic multiplayer
Lots of game balance issues, Limited map pool size, Terrible story progression