With long-awaited sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife set for release on November 12 this year, there’s no better time to check out Manhattan’s very own local haunts with Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Released in 2009, the action-adventure third-person shooter (or third-person proton blaster) allows the player to relive all their favorite scenes from Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II, with a story that celebrates everything that’s come before it while also serving as an honest threequel, offering up new enemies and more lore, and at the same time neatly tying things back to the first film (and the sequel too). But it’s been 12 years since it was released, so is Ghostbusters: The Video Game still worth playing in 2021? Let’s find out…
Set in 1991, Ghostbusters: The Video Game follows on from the first two movies and returns to the original Ghostbusters locations throughout Manhattan. This time, the ‘Gozer Exhibit’ at the Museum of Natural History unleashes a ‘supernatural shockwave’ that generates supernatural activity throughout the city, while also releasing the likes of Slimer and the Librarian Ghost from the Ecto-Containment Unit, along with some never-before-seen ghouls, and by other means bringing Mr StayPuft back too.
Long dead Gozerian cult leader Ivo Shandor is at the center of the paranormal activity this time around. Though mentioned only briefly in the original film, he is the main antagonist in the game, hellbent on summoning Gozer, which in turn brings about other spooks and specters. This forces the Ghostbusters to hire you – to help fight the undead and uncover secrets about the first two movies, including the real purpose behind iconic locations such as the New York Public Library and Dana Barrett’s apartment building.
You might be surprised to learn that all of the original Ghostbusters actors return to lend their voices and facial likenesses to their respective characters. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis made their official third comeback in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, reprising their roles as Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore and Egon Spengler, respectively. To no surprise, this was a huge hit with fans, and makes for an almost seamless transition for a film-to-game adaptation.
It’s a seamless element of the game too: everything about the characters feels natural - the performances, voices and looks. Other returning actors are Annie Potts and William Atherton, who played Janine Melnitz and Walter Peck in the films. Unfortunately, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver didn’t return as Dana Barrett and Louis Tully, but we can at least expect to see Weaver in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, along with many other original cast members, and some original villains too. And here’s to hoping that Jason Reitman has managed to convince Moranis to reprise his role as the worst keymaster in the world.
While you can’t play any of the original four Ghostbusters, you do play a Ghostbuster. Yours is dubbed “Rookie” because he’s new to the team, but as he doesn’t speak, you’ll have to fill in the gaps as you bust ghosts across the city. And the Rookie can do everything the others can do: operate a Proton Pack, use Ecto Goggles to analyze ectoplasm and search for spooks using a PKE Meter, along with other ghostbusting equipment (unfortunately you can’t ride the Ecto-1, though it does play a big role early on in the game).
Fortunately, not being able to play the original Ghostbusters doesn’t impact the quality or entertainment value of this game. As you’re always in the company of Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore, you’re constantly in the heart of their dynamic. Your character might be a man of few words, but the other guys make countless exchanges throughout the game: there’s Ray’s infectious enthusiasm; Spengler’s one-note psychobabble, Zeddemore’s rationale reasoning and Venkman’s usual sleaze.
Officially, there is only one Ghostbusters: The Video Game. There are of course other Ghostbusters titles, though all of them underwhelming, such as Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, but there have been no sequels to the game in question. Upon release, the game was available for Windows, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and Xbox 360 versions. The Nintendo DS and Wii versions of the game had many notable differences, including the gameplay, story and overall look.
A remastered version of the game was also released in 2019, ten years after the original came out. This is available for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. With longer gameplay and enhanced graphics, the remastered edition doesn’t offer much in the way of a step up from the original 2009 game, but if you’re going to invest in either one, then the most polished version is always a no-brainer. Either way, it’s essentially the same game in nicer packaging.
Unless the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife states otherwise, then yes – Ghostbusters: The Video Game is, in fact, canon to the first two movies. After all, the original cast reprised their roles, the story is an organic continuation, the script was developed from one intended for a third film, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis helped write that very same script, and Aykroyd himself has since confirmed that the game is indeed canon. In fact, the character Rookie has even since appeared in the Ghostbusters IDW comic book series.
With all that said, Ghostbusters: Afterlife also serves as a continuation of the first two films, so it’s possible that the new film might ignore the events of the game. However, there are clues in the trailer that suggest the film’s plot might have borrowed elements from the game. For starters, ‘Shandor Mining Co.’ can be seen, while familiar villains seem to be making a return (StayPuft, Terror Dogs and maybe even the Librarian, judging by that stack of books in the trailer), just like in the game, indicating that Shandor – and perhaps Gozer – are also set to make a comeback.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game was a financial and critical success, and has gone on to become a beloved addition to the franchise, having long since served as the unofficial – or perhaps official - threequel to the first two films. It even looks and feels like a Ghostbusters film, from everything down to the score, the setting, the story and, of course, the performances by the original cast and beyond, all the while expanding massively on the mythology firmly established in the first two films. It's also handles the films' balance of comedy and horror really well; sometimes it's hilarious, and other times, it's unsettling.
And then there’s the gameplay – being able to ‘cross the streams’, wrangle ghosts, kick out traps, investigate ectoplasm with your equipment, explore the firehouse, slide down the pole, admire dancing toasters and revisit iconic locations such as the New York Public Library and Segdewick Hotel, really places you in the boots of a Ghostbuster. And as for the attention to detail – your pack overheating, losing income after causing damage to lavish hotel hallways and conversing with Vigo the Carpathian in the firehouse – only enhances that experience.
Even 12 years after its initial release Ghostbusters: The Video Game gets a well-deserved 10/10.