Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: February 13, 2007
The old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but nobody said anything about breaking something that works perfectly well. There have been many imitation games over the years — just think about all the different cart racers that took after the original Super Mario Kart. Unfortunately, Ghost Rider seems to fall in line as one of those games that makes you think, "Wow, have I played this before?"
Ghost Rider has a pretty straightforward storyline. Johnny Blaze's girlfriend, Roxanne, is in trouble, so you need to slaughter a whole slew of demons to eventually save her. With the back of the box claming an "all-new story from comic master minds, Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti," I kind of expected something with more depth, but I think this "save the princess" story has already been told one time too many.
When you are in Hell fighting demons, Johnny has his trusty chain and shotgun ready for battle. You press Square and Triangle to perform light and heavy attacks, X button to jump, and, once an enemy is stunned, Circle to grab and do a finishing move. When light and heavy attacks are pressed in different sequences, you can execute combos and various attacks. What you will quickly learn is that this combat system is eerily similar to God of War's fighting style. In fact, I even pressed the sequence that would have made Kratos slam down his chain on the ground, and Johnny Blaze did the exact same move. Also, to dodge roll, you use the right thumbstick, just like in God of War. Oh, but the similarities don't stop there.
Once you defeat enemies, they release souls which you collect to buy upgrades in order to receive new moves, get more life, or to make your Hell Cycle stronger. These souls can also be used to purchase comics and movies. Of course, this is very similar to the enemies in God of War releasing the red orbs, which you used to upgrade your attacks. Also, as you perform different combos, your Vengeance Bar will fill up, resulting in more souls being collected while defeating enemies.
As you engage in battle, your Spirit Gauge fills up, and this will prove to be extremely useful in combat. Pressing R2 fires Johnny's shotgun and will use up one bar of the spirit gauge. However, if you press L1, you'll perform Retribution. You have to have at least four bars to use it, but it puts Ghost Rider into a God of War-esque Rage mode. He can move faster, attack for more damage, and enemies can't make him flinch. Also, you can grab any enemy to execute the Penance Stare, but it will use up the rest of your Spirit Gauge. It seems that this won't be a problem, though, because throughout the game it takes next to no time to fill up your Spirit Gauge. It really makes the repetitive fighting even that much duller.
Lastly, you have the Link Charge, which fills up after killing tons of baddies. As soon as it is full, you can press L2 to perform a surrounding attack that hits all enemies nearby. Once again, this takes no time to fill up, which makes Ghost Rider that much easier.
When you are not fighting demons on foot, you will be riding your Hell Cycle back and forth. While on the Hell Cycle, you can attack left and right with your chain using Square and Triangle, and fire projectiles with Circle. There will obstacles in your path, so you will need to jump or slide under barriers; each track is also littered with demons that are perfect fodder for collecting souls. Unfortunately, the bike levels seem like good ideas, but are so poorly executed that they seem like simple transitions between stages, rather than stages in and of themselves. Additionally, the bike has extremely meager handling and is just frustrating to steer.
The graphics in Ghost Rider are not that bad for a licensed game, but it is the sound that really suffers. All of the sound effects for the enemies seem like reused bits from movies — I'm pretty sure one of the enemies sounded like a dinosaur straight from Jurassic Park. In addition, the voice-overs during the cut scenes don't sound professional, and, for some reason, are at a lower volume than the rest of the game. I had to turn up the television just to hear dialogue for a story that wasn't that great in the first place.
While Ghost Rider is a short game — shoot for seven hours at the most — it seems the developers packed in enough extras to try and keep you busy. You can unlock comics and movies (which won't take you very long, given the pace at which you collect souls), and once you beat the game, you can unlock new playable characters. But before you can do that, you need to have the tolerance to play through the entire game first.
With that said, it seems Ghost Rider has borrowed many elements from God of War, but not enough to even consider it a good game. It only focuses on combat, with absolutely no puzzles in the game to make you think. The game just goes from demon hoard to cycling to demon hoard to cycling and so on, until you beat the game. It may have had some potential, but there is nothing to break up the monotony in Ghost Rider.
Sadly, even hardcore Ghost Rider fans will be immensely disappointed because after about a half hour of gameplay, you've experienced all there is to the game. With not enough depth, Ghost Rider is nothing but a quick and inexpensive way to feed off the hype of the movie.
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