I won’t claim to be one of the most enthusiastic fans of IllFonic’s work. I had quite a lot of fun with Friday the 13th in my time, but I avoided last year’s Predator: Hunting Grounds by a wide margin after the overwhelming reviews, and in general I have my reservations about the asymmetrical multiplayer genre. At least in the case of the game adaptation of Friday the 13th, it is much more fun for me to play as a “bad guy”, which also influenced my expectations from the presentation of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed.
Even their game loop stands and falls on asymmetric multiplayer. Four players take on the roles of the titular Ghostbusters, with the fifth playing as a ghost. In the case of the demo at Gamescom, for a purple blob that can cover the hunter with a layer of slime and significantly complicate their efforts to lure him into a trap or destroy portals where he can revive if caught. His task is to escape until he scares all passers-by who have no idea about souls.
The developers have assured me that this blob will of course not be the only specter available in the full game, just as the nameless tamer is not the only playable character. By playing, you will unlock not only cosmetic modifications for your heroes, but also playable monsters or story films at the iconic fire station, where you will also have the opportunity to chat with the heroes of the original film. Ray and Winston are voiced by their actual actors, which is a nice touch.
In the fire station, you will also gradually find new equipment and inventions that will make it easier for you to catch paranormal threats. For example, an attraction hook that facilitates orientation and movement on the map.
At Gamescom, I was shown two maps – a natural history museum and a brewery. The locations are quite large and work a lot with verticality, which is an advantage in the long run that gives you a lot of options to tactic on both sides.
In my case, playing against the authors of the game naturally made it a little more complicated, because I saw the maps for the first time, I was totally lost in them, and especially when playing as a tamer, I had to do something to at least manage to stick to the heels of my teammates and be where some action is happening .
I could only dream of some strategizing and overtaking from the other side, but there is certainly room for it – most rooms have several exits, so there will definitely be no shortage of the desired encirclement and chase.
Waiting tactics in this case is not very effective, because you lose valuable time, or percentages in the progress indicator, or scare visitors. The creators themselves do not hide the fact that they rely on certain unpredictability: It is never clear how the clash will actually turn out. You can set a trap better than yourself, but your proton beam weapon slowly overheats during the fight, until you end up accidentally crossing lasers with a colleague, and the ghost narrowly escapes thanks to it – and before you can knock yourself out of the bloody encounter, three other undead are frightened.
In addition, the monster can hide in practically any object on the map and move around it in its form. There is an abundance of objects that can be possessed, from lamps to boxes to a vacuum cleaner. Tamers do have a detector, but ghosts can give false clues, so you’re never quite sure if you’re trying to overpower that possessed table over there, or if it’s just… just a table, while the ghost makes a long nose at you from the opposite display case.
In the half-hour demo, I struggled a bit with the controls and with my ignorance of the floor plan of the individual locations, but Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed still managed to be exciting as hell at times. The moment the ghost scares all visitors, a “sudden death” countdown begins, with the tamers having the last hundred seconds to catch it. Which is exactly what happened when I played as the slimy bugger.
The tactic of hiding and playing innocent trash worked for me for the first minute, but the last forty seconds degenerated into a comical chase where I almost got caught twice – but in the end I covered the three developers in a majestic tornado with a layer of purple slime so big that every reptile was envious, and she just reveled in their helpless expressions. And if they just let me win so I could have more fun at their stand, so be it!
Unfortunately, they only supported my theory that playing as a rogue will be much more fun than a tamer in this case as well. But that may depend more on whether you are more of a soloist or enjoy teamwork. In any case, I had a surprisingly good time despite my initial skepticism, and I believe that the Ghostbusters game can offer enough fun for quite a few gaming sessions, especially for a pre-formed group of friends.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed releases on October 18, 2022 for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and Xbox One.
Source: Games by games.tiscali.cz.
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