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February 2023

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: IllFonic
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2022


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PC/Xbox Series X Review - 'Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed'

by Adam Pavlacka on Jan. 10, 2023 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a 4v1 hunt-or-haunt, supernaturally charged, asymmetrical multiplayer game.

As a long-time Ghostbusters fan, I had a blast playing Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. The team at IllFonic has done a fantastic job of turning the fantasy of proton packs, PKE meters, and catching a ghost in a trap into a video game reality. Unfortunately, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is also a somewhat shallow experience, and it can suffer from technical issues.

The concept behind Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is simple enough. Ray and Winston (Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, respectively, reprising their roles from the films) teamed up, bought the old firehouse, and are training a new generation of Ghostbusters recruits to follow in their footsteps. You're the rookie, and after a short tutorial, you're quickly thrown into the thick of things to bust some ghosts.

Story-wise, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed isn't crazy, but it's enough to keep fans engaged. Well, it would if the story scenes weren't plagued with lip sync and sound effect issues. Some sounds would play. Others randomly wouldn't. It's the kind of basic functionality that really shouldn't have an issue.

Another odd misstep involves the tutorial. The first time you start, the game walks you through a tutorial on how to play. I had paused my game after finishing half the tutorial but before running through my first mission. When I came back, the Xbox had disconnected from online, and the game considered the tutorial done, with no way to reset it or replay it. I had to start up a new profile just to redo the tutorial.

The good news is that the gameplay is solid. Working with a team of three other players, your goal is to capture a ghost that's haunting a specific location. You need to use all the tools at your disposal, including a PKE meter to track the ghost and its minions, a proton pack and particle thrower to grab hold of a ghost, and a ghost trap to safely contain the ectoplasmic beasties.

Although the specific designs have been tweaked for the game (including a number of upgrade options), all of the equipment works as expected. Once you've tracked down a ghost, you need to zap it with a particle beam for a few seconds to contain it and then maneuver it over an open trap. When playing against bots or newer players, it's easy enough to solo a ghost, but when fighting an experienced opponent, the Ghostbusters need to work as a team. Sometimes you'll need more than one particle stream to hold a ghost, while another Ghostbuster will have to get a trap into place.

In addition to capturing the ghost, the Ghostbusters also have the option to track down and eliminate three ghost rifts on each level. The rifts are high-energy portals that serve as extra lives for the ghost. Catching a ghost consumes a rift. If you destroy the rifts before going after the ghost, you only have to catch it once.

It's not a good idea to get too focused on the rifts because scared civilians work in the ghost's favor. While the ghost will work to scare civilians and make them run out of the building (giving you less time to catch it), the Ghostbusters can talk to civilians and calm them down. Keeping civilians calm slows down the haunt.

Balancing all of the different aspects as a Ghostbuster does require teamwork, but if you happen to be playing as the ghost, you get to do all of it solo. There are five different ghosts, each with their own abilities and general play style, but they all share the same basics. The goal is to fully haunt a location before the Ghostbusters can capture you. As a ghost, you have a basic scare attack, a minion attack, a slime attack, and a special attack.

Each attack costs energy, which can be recharged by possessing an object to hide in, so a lot of the combat comes down to tactics and strategy. Do you try to attack the Ghostbusters head-on? Do you focus on scaring civilians? Do you separate the group and try to disable them individually? Do you try to catch them all with your special?

How you play as the ghost depends as much on your play style as it does on those who are trying to catch you. Outsmarting the bots is straightforward enough, but playing against other players is where the game shines. As a ghost, I could also hear the voice chat from the Ghostbuster players, which was oddly satisfying when I was hiding and they were trying to find me.

With multiplayer being the core of the game, it's great that Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed supports cross-play across all supported platforms. During my matches, I played with (and against) players on PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles. From a gameplay standpoint, it didn't matter. From a friend and party standpoint, there's no easy way to find a specific friend on another platform.

For the review, I played on both console and PC, but when I tried to partner up with another writer (one of us on PC, the other on Xbox), there was no obvious way for either of us to add each other to the party. On the PC side, you can generate a friend code and share it with other PC players, but on the Xbox, there is no friend code option. In short, if you want to play with friends, make sure you all get the game on the same platform.

Outside of the core gameplay loop, there isn't much to Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. You unlock cosmetic items as you progress in experience, and there is a small amount of lore revealed through found newspaper clippings, but that's it. None of the five locations are from the films, so you're not busting up the Sedgewick ballroom or running around Vigo's museum.

Ray's bookstore and the firehouse serve as the main hub for the game, and I had fun exploring them both, but I wished that there was more to do or interact with. For example, Eddy's lab would've been a perfect place for story content about Egon's old experiments. The basement in the firehouse has a ghost containment unit that you can empty a trap into, but it doesn't serve any game purpose. It's just an animation.

As a game, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is far from perfect. There are only five maps to play on, there are random bugs that needs resolving, and the limited friend system can make it frustrating to connect with players on another platform. Despite all of this, the core gameplay loop is undeniably fun, whether you're playing on a team of Ghostbusters or going solo as a ghost.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed may not be perfect, but as a Ghostbusters fan, I'm really enjoying it. If you're not a fan of the franchise, there are better multiplayer options out there, but for the Ghostbusters faithful, it's a blast.

Score: 6.5/10

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