When you think of 2008 and what it means for gaming, titles such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Fallout 3 are sure to spring to mind.
However, you are wrong. This year is all about the Ghostbusters.
Yes, after nearly 20 years of silence, Sierra and Terminal Reality are blowing the dust off of the Sony Pictures franchise and bringing Ghostbusters: The Video Game to the PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 this fall.
Basically acting as the third movie, the Ghostbusters game sets you in 1991 and puts you in the black boots and gray jumpsuit of the team's newest recruit, who has basically been hired so that Egon and Ray have someone to test their new gear on. Shortly after your induction into the hallowed halls, Slimer escapes from the containment unit and heads back to his old stomping grounds of the Sedgewick Hotel. The boys respond, bag the spook, and find that the PKE meter is still squawking.
Sadly, that's about all the story goods we could cajole out of Terminal Reality as the developers gave us a hands-off demo at a recent Sierra event. Instead of having the entire plot spoiled for us, we were treated to gameplay on the Xbox 360 and a tech demo on the PlayStation 3, and both had their fair share of wow moments.
Over on the gameplay side, the team's mission began with Ray and the recruit stepping off the elevator inside Gamble Architecture. The Ghostbusters are on the trail of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, and the search has brought them to the building. The task seemed to be set in the early stages of the game because as Ray and the recruit walked among drawing desks, potted plants and other office clich?s, Dr. Stantz piped up that the kid should whip out the PKE Meter and check for readings. The developer playing tapped a button, and the view switched from the traditional over-the-shoulder POV to a FPS frame with the PKE Meter centered in it.
As the recruit moved around the workspace, the PKE Meter chirped with activity and the on-screen bars went from green to red as more paranormal energy was discovered -- don't worry, the meter's folding antennas moved, too. In this instance, the discovery led to some marshmallow goblins dropping through a glass skylight, but beyond this tutorial, monitoring the meter will help you find all of the hidden ghosts to add to Tobin's Spirit guide.
Back to the marshmallow men. Basically dingleberries from Stay Puft, the medicine ball-sized bad guys attacked the two 'busters until the good guys blasted' em to death. Ghostbusters: The Video Game will feature enemies that can be zapped out of existence as well as your typical specters that need to be trapped and contained. Ray didn't seem too impressed with these ghouls.
Aside from the fact that years and years of nostalgia were springing to life before our eyes, the first thing we noticed in Ghostbusters was the coolness of collateral damage. As Ray and the recruit made their way through the architectural firm, proton beams sliced desks in half, blew up planters and took chucks out of pillars. When a marshmallow nasty dodged a beam and the blue and orange blast hit the wall, it carved out a blackened trench with little bits of fire inside. Over time, the fire died out, but the trenches remained -- even when the Ghostbusters went to another room and then doubled backed to the warzone.
That sense of power isn't limited to inanimate objects. After busting some of the lower level foes, we jogged down a hallway and Ray took in the stunning vista that is the New York City skyline.
Then, the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man burst on the scene and blew out the windows
The Ghostbusters threw up some glancing proton blasts to the big guy's face, but other than carving smoldering marshmallow trenches, the blasts didn't do much. Ray and the rookie pressed on, Stay Puft smashed through a wall and tried to grab a lovely young lady, and the boys had to barbeque his hand, which left marshmallow goop all over the floor and walls. Then, the duo ran into Venkman in the hallway -- bummer, Bill Murray's tracks were being recorded the week after the demo -- and hightailed it to the roof with Stay Puft busting holes in the staircase walls the entire time.
Controlling the action breaks down as we expected. The shoulder buttons control your weapon, the face buttons dictate traps and PKE wrangling, and the D-pad lets you select the mode your pack is running in -- more on that in a second. Although we weren't the ones in control, it all seemed to come together simply enough.
Once on the rooftop, we got to see our first generic ghosts -- y'know, not Slimer, not the librarian -- in action. A set of construction workers who died in the creation of the building, the ghouls looked reminiscent of Ghostbusters 2's Scoleri brothers. They wore hard hats and work clothes, but their features were exaggerated to make them look a bit cartoonish and they had no legs.
The ghouls flew around the roof, slimed the guys, dodged proton beams and possessed air conditioning units that they would then fly into the Ghostbusters. Higher caliber foes will require at least two proton packs to corral, but these guys were bush league and the recruit could snag them with his stream and slam them into the ground (an enemy-stunning move that will be crucial to success) on his own. A teammate would throw a trap, and the phantom was boxed.
The ghosts and marshmallow children would continue to come, but the big moment would come when the Stay Puft threw his arm over the side of the roof, pulled himself up, and sat face to face with the team. Of course, the boys just blasted Stay Puft in the pie hole, his cheeks began to melt, his face grimaced, he raised an arm to block the blows, and the big man fell from sight.
Apparently, the money you earn by completing these missions will be used to get the latest tech from Egon so you and the boys can really break some skulls. Although the Ghostbusters are all about teamwork, there won't be a co-op story mode for you and your friends to dive into. However, there will be an online multiplayer mode so that you can try to bust more ghosts than your opponent in a given timeframe.
Up next for us was the aforementioned PS3 tech demo. If you haven't been following IGN's coverage of this title, you might have missed that Terminal Reality has actually built the tools for this game from the ground up. Besides a solid 30 frames-per-second run rate and 1080p visuals, this means that developers are able to do pretty much whatever they can dream of.
To kick things off, the team took us outside the firehouse and dropped a bunch of people on the street -- and we mean a lot. Apparently, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is going to feature a pretty big parade in New York, and the sidewalks have to be packed with crowds. Rather than go the route of having some dumb AI on the sidelines or -- worse -- motionless set pieces, the studio made it so the NPs would have their own logic and be able to show up by the boatload. Outside the firehouse, the team set up the recruit's perspective so that we could see down two sections of street. On that asphalt was about 1,000 characters walking around and doing their thing. If they were about to walk into each other, one of the characters would change his or her path to accommodate.
Next, we were deposited outside the New York Public Library complete with its creepy stone lion statues. In the building's foyer is polished marble with intricate detail pulled from reference photos, but it was in inside the reading room where Peter knocked on the table to get Egon's attention that Terminal Reality decided to play.
At first, the team simply tore apart the long wooden tables to show that its Infernal Engine recognized where the structure was damaged and collapsed at that point. Then, the team dropped in about 50 rag dolls that each landed a different way depending on what they hit and were kicked up into the air when a proton beam tore apart their seat. Next, some cars were tossed into the mix.
Now, a lot of attention has been paid to the proton pack in IGN's previous coverage of Ghostbusters, and that's because it's so damn important. With the POV pretty much always behind the recruit, you're going to get all of your HUD information from the back of his pack. A red meter on the upper left will let you know how close to overheating your weapon is, those four blinking lights on the packs lower circle will jet out to cool the device down, and you'll be able to choose from four different modes of fire -- proton, electron, neutron and slime -- and each will have two types of shots as well as a different look for the pack. You already know what a proton attack looks like, but the electron choice brings up a little antenna on the pack that sparks with yellow energy and allows you to fire that golden power while the neutron attack has the pack glow with this ominous deep blue color and then fire off dark energy.
When it comes to slime, you're either blowing it like Ghostbusters 2 or using the tether mode to solve puzzles and gum up baddies. Back in our tech demo, the Terminal Reality guys switched the pack to slime mode, shot a goopy line at a rag doll, continued the line to another rag doll, and then fired the final burst at the ceiling. The two people connected went up with the slime and suddenly you had two bodies suspended from the ceiling like a piece of fly tape.
One of the reasons the team was so motivated to create their own engine was because they couldn't find another one that recognized mass/weight in the physics equation. To demonstrate, the developers tethered two cars to the ceiling of the library, and you could see the slime stretch and react to the massive weight of the cars compared to the people.
Bugs are gross.From there, the team went into the depths of the library, blasted a beast made of books and pretty much called it a day.
Sadly -- no matter how much you wish for it -- no one can keep you in a sleep-state until Ghostbusters: The Video Game is released this fall, but you can keep checking IGN for all the latest when it comes to the world of videogame paranormal investigations and eliminations.