Crispy Gamer

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

There's a moment in the original "Ghostbusters" that really encapsulates the anarchic slacker spirit of the hit comedy. Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler are on their first paying gig, hired to clear out an apparition plaguing the Sedgewick hotel. They've cornered the translucent green specter (the precursor to Slimer of cartoon fame and Hi-C Ecto Cooler shame) in the building's grand ballroom and are about to put their experimental ghost containment technology to the test. Venkman, played with lackadaisical cool by Bill Murray, stops for a moment as the trio shove tables aside and indulges in a little conspicuous consumption. He grabs a tablecloth and jerks it out from under the immaculately arranged place setting. "And the flowers are still standing!" he intones as glasses, china and silver clatter to the floor. "I've always wanted to do that," Murray says. Who hasn't?

The urge to trash stuff is a natural one, and one of the undercurrents of "Ghostbusters" -- a detail that made the flick just a little punk -- is one of havoc. I'd never really considered the movie's tendency towards the destructive until seeing a preview of Terminal Reality's Ghostbusters: The Video Game. It only took a second of seeing one of the khaki-clad Ghostbusters unleash a plasma stream across the New York Public Library reading room for everything to click. Library tables shatter into splinters of wood. Books, lamps and chairs explode in every direction, clattering in chaotic piles. And then, just to show how robust Ghostbusters: The Video Game's engine is, our virtual tour guide drops a couple of cars into the vast hall. The vehicles crash to the ground, crushing tables and causing more mayhem. The fun with physics isn't over. The on-screen Ghostbuster holsters his proton gun and whips out a device that shoots streams of living slime. Remember that evil pink goo from "Ghostbusters II"? This new prototype weapon (one of many that players will be using in Ghostbusters: The Video Game) shoots long, snot-like streams of the stuff. These "slime tethers" contract when deployed. Our virtual paranormal expert fires one end of the goop at the high ceiling of the library. The other end latches onto the wrecked car, which is then slowly lifted into the air.

That's when the dots started to connect. Remember those nasty Barnacles from the Half-Life games -- the way their tentacles could would grab objects and pull them up towards their disgusting maws? The slime tethers and the wanton proton beam destruction are to Ghostbusters: The Video Game what Gordon Freeman's gravity gun was to Half-Life 2. Cue the angelic choirs, the clouds parting, and the beam of heavenly light that shines down on all of the little children from on high. Sure "Ghostbusters" was about catching ghosts. A zillion crappy and not-so-crappy games from the NES onwards made that clear. But, as we already established, "Ghostbusters" was also about f***ing shit up, and Ghostbusters: The Video Game looks like it's in the unique position to make it happen.

Our preview takes us out of the library and into an office building, where flesh-and-blood monsters assail the crew. As proton beams rip through drafting tables and plate glass windows, we're told that the game will keep track of damage and deduct these losses from the player's bill. Bummer. In the game, a continuation of the movies' plot lines as scripted by Dan Aykroyd, it's 1991 and the Ghostbusters' business has been appropriated by the city of New York and is now a public utility. As such they're under the thumb of bureaucratic jerk-wad Walter Peck. Players will take the role of a fifth Ghostbuster -- a redshirt, nobody hired by the team -- to test Dr. Spengler's experimental (and highly dangerous) new equipment. The new doodads all come with properly geeky labels affixed. The boson dart. Dark matter generator. Good stuff. You can tell that Aykroyd -- a self-proclaimed paranormal nut -- has been pouring heart and soul into the story and setting. He's treating the game as the third "Ghostbusters" movie. Terminal Reality and Vivendi are tapping as much of the original talent as they can. Already Harold Ramis and Aykroyd have recorded voices. Nearly all of the original actors are on board except for Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis. In one of the game's more finished scenes I notice the soundtrack -- the same lighthearted score composed by film legend Elmer Bernstein. We're told that among the original movie assets Terminal Reality was provided when they started making the game, they found unused music cues composed by Bernstein. Stuff we've never heard before from a dead movie music legend will be finding new life in the game. Amid all of the destruction, Ghostbusters: The Video Game also happens to be preserving a tiny bit of movie history.

For the folks keeping score at home, there's also a Wii version of the game in the works. It'll follow the same plot, but won't feature all the next-generation bells and whistles that the version for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC games will boast. Instead players will get to use the Wii's motion-sensing tech to chuck ghost traps, aim the proton beam, and reel in captured ghosts like you're playing a bass fishing game or Luigi's Mansion. Also unique to the Wii game (and the PlayStation 2 game that spawns from it) will be multiplayer games. Players will be able to play the entire game cooperatively using split-screen. There's even a DS version of the game in the works. It's said to have a retro look and play more like old 8-bit incarnations of the Ghostbusters games. All versions of Ghostbusters: The Video Game are due to be released in October of this year.

This preview was based on an unfinished build of the game as seen at Sierra's Spring Event.