Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
October 18, 2022
When supernatural hauntings take place, you call the Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since the main team took care of crises, and fresh blood is needed. That’s where you come in, as a new trainee looking to be the next generation of Ghostbusters.
The story of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is not a complex narrative. You are introduced to team veterans Winston Zeddermore and Ray Stanz, who give you an overview of the history of the Ghostbusters. New team members Casey and Eddy help you get used to your role and tell you what to do. As you would expect from a Ghostbusters narrative, an accident happens at Ghostbusters HQ and you need to solve it.
“…the narrative proceeds without you, and it ends as quickly as it begins.”
Completing the game’s story will only take around 2-3 hours, and you aren’t even directly involved in it. Your main goal is busting ghosts, which is enjoyable, but the disconnect from the story does make it feel like you are just an observer. Apart from a small participation event, the narrative proceeds without you, and it ends as quickly as it begins. It almost makes you wonder why a story was included at all. While it may not be the key focus of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, it is a shame to not utilise a narrative throughline to its full potential.
To try and supplant this, there are Side Hustles, which are objectives you can complete that get you different outfits. While not the worst idea, it doesn’t make the single-player experience better, and these objectives can be achieved just as easily in multiplayer.
Thankfully, the gameplay puts you in the shoes of a Ghostbuster immediately. Customising your appearance can be done at the nearby firehouse locker, which lets you choose your gender, outfit colour, voice, hairstyle, and hair colour. Most outfit styles and colours will be unavailable at the start, but you will gain more of them as you level up as a Ghostbuster. It’s great to be able to make an avatar of yourself or build your own Ghostbuster, as it truly feels like you are stepping into the role instead of another character.
You will be learning the ropes of the ghostbusting trade: exploring locations, tethering ghosts, and wrestling them into the trap. You play in a first-person view, and that helps to make you feel like you are an actual Ghostbuster. Just like the movies and TV shows, ghostbusting isn’t easy, and you get to feel the struggles firsthand.
Finding the ghost will be the most challenging part, as they can hide in objects and jump out when you least expect it. You can detect them with a PKE meter, but you still have to test your hunch by destroying objects. Once you find a ghost, you have to prepare your trap and drag a ghost into the trap before they break free. These actions are made in split seconds, and the ghost is relying on a moment of hesitation to break free.
You don’t have the luxury of playing around though, there’s a Building Haunt meter that shows how haunted a building gets. Once it reaches 100%, you have 90 seconds or less to hunt down the ghost before you fail the mission. The entire ordeal gets the adrenaline pumping and makes you determined to find the ghost. A sense of urgency directs your actions, immersing you in the experience as you hunt down the ghost before it’s too late.
If you are struggling to capture ghosts or your last mission was too difficult, you can upgrade your Ghostbusting equipment. New accessories are locked behind levels, forcing you to play if you want more upgrades. It’s a tedious slog, but each accessory upgrade adds some variety to the ghostbusting experience, granting bonuses such as equipment overheating less easily, or traps not automatically activating. These benefits do make ghostbusting easier, but it feels like the rewards aren’t worth the herculean patience needed to get them.
You will also get the chance to play as a ghost. You learn how to properly haunt locations, avoid Ghostbusters, and scare everyone enough to drive them out of the building. There are different ghost types, each with its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to scaring or fighting Ghostbusters. It’s a breath of fresh air from the ghostbusting experience, and it provides enough variety to either bust ghosts or terrify visitors depending on what you feel like doing.
While Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed can be a single-player experience, the focus is primarily on the multiplayer portion of the game. If you are trying to practice your skills or some of your friends are missing, you will have bots to fill in the gaps. If you are playing with bots, you can practice tactics with easier opponents before bringing it into an online setting. It also allows you to trial different equipment configurations and ghostly playstyles without the pressure of disappointing real-life players. It’s not a true practice mode, but it’s good enough to help you refine your ghostbusting/haunting skills while your friends aren’t around or no one’s online.
“When the ghost and Ghostbusters are controlled by skilful players, the thrill of the hunt increases tenfold.”
When the ghost and Ghostbusters are controlled by skilful players, the thrill of the hunt increases tenfold. The ghost tends to be more strategic and harder to find. Ghostbusters actually work well in teams and can coordinate their efforts. Not only is it fun to play with friends, but it’s an entirely different level of challenge. It’s a real thrill when the ghosts are actually using their advantages, or when Ghostbusters are putting pressure on the ghost. You could easily play hours and hours of games with your friends just running through the different scenarios, trying to get the better of each other.
If you are playing with others online, it may take some time to adjust to working with people you don’t know. But there’s plenty of time to coordinate, set up a line of communication, and work together to take down the ghost. There’s always something to do, and you never feel as if you are useless to the team if you can’t find the ghost.
The gameplay experience can quickly become stale if the game is played often. You have a few levels where you can play as a Ghostbuster/ghost, but there’s nothing special about each location. It’s just the same area with a different coat of paint, and it becomes painfully apparent as you try to improve your Ghostbusting equipment/get more varieties of ghosts. While the thrill of ghostbusting and haunting can be fun at first, you eventually hit a plateau where the experience can’t get any better. You can only ghostbust/haunt so many times before the experience becomes routine, and the game loses a majority of its appeal when that happens.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed relies heavily on the appeal of being a Ghostbuster and pushing yourself to be the best in the business. Being a Ghostbuster is exciting, and it’s fun to play as a ghost on the other side. But that excitement can wear off once you have unlocked everything, and you can only polish your skills for online matchmaking. Playing often is also a risk because once you reach a plateau and unlock all the cosmetic options, there aren’t more goals to achieve. Being a Ghostbuster and having the first-person view is a thrilling experience, but there’s not enough variety to keep you as a Ghostbuster for a long time.
- Immersive experience when being a Ghostbuster or ghost
- Multiplayer experience is fun with human friends
- Great challenge when ghosts and Ghostbusters play properly
- Repetitive environments and little variety in gameplay
- Bots are not intelligent allies or enemies
- Short story that feels unnecessary
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed succeeds when it suits you up as a Ghostbuster for the first time. You relish the thrill of capturing your first ghost and learning how to hunt them down. Playing as a ghost is equally fun, learning how to haunt and scare everyone out of the building. Unfortunately, playing this game by yourself will quickly become boring, as the single-player experience grows dull quickly. With friends or other players, the true fun of the game comes out. But even that will be short-lived if played too often, as a lack of variety and objectives to achieve will dull the fun.