Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Review (PS5) – Spook Central

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is the latest entry in the licensed asymmetrical games genre. This time, its four ghostbusters versus one ghost. Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is made with a love and affection for the source material, but where it stumbles is keeping players invested in the constant loop of ghost busting and ghost haunting.

1984’s Ghostbusters is lightning in a bottle. It’s funny, it’s scary, and it makes ghostbusting look like the coolest job ever. Like any successful movie, Ghostbusters spawned sequels, TV shows, too much merchandise, and video games.

The track record of Ghostbusters game is spotty. For every Ghostbusters: The Video Game, there’s a Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime or Ghostbusters for the PS4. Most of them are about as fun as getting slimed by a ghost.

With the rise of licensed asymmetrical multiplayer games, developer Illfonic saw fit to give Ghostbusters the asymmetrical treatment with Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. A 4 v 1 game, Spirits Unleashed puts players in the shoes of ghostbusters whose job is to clean New York of its spooks, specters, and ghosts.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is out now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, and PC.


Story – Back in Business

Set after Ghostbusters Afterlife, you play as an unnamed protagonist who applies to work for Ghostbusters. Under the guidance of Winston Zeddmore and his assistant Phoebe, you catch ghosts and use the funds to research new gear. In between jobs, the new hire leans more about the ghost world by visiting with former ghostbuster Ray Stantz.

Unlike other asymmetrical games, Spirits Unleashed has an actual story. It’s a simple plot, but the writing and performances hold your interest as you catch ghost after ghost.

Winston acts as both the owner of the franchise and mentor to the new ghostbusters.

Winston acts as both the owner of the Ghostbusters franchise and mentor to the new ghostbusters.

Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson reprise their respective roles as Ray and Winston. They may be older, but they haven’t lost a beat. There’s a clear love and respect for the source material with loads of nods and Easter eggs peppered throughout the game.

The game expands upon ideas touched upon in the movies, like the ghost world. Because you play as the ghosts, you explore their world and interact with the malevolent forces in charge of them. With a Ghostbusters Afterlife sequel on the way, it’ll be interesting to see if it utilizes any of this game’s plot points.

Gameplay – If There’s a Steady Paycheck, I’ll Believe Anything You Say

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a multiplayer-focused experience. As the ghostbusters, you use your gadgets to find and destroy rifts and bust the ghost. As the ghost, you use your powers to scare people and prevent the humans from finding the rifts.

Like other asymmetrical games, playing online is essential. While you can play the game solo, with bots filling in, you’re missing out on an important aspect: teamwork.

Playing as the ghostbusters requires cooperation. Going alone makes it less likely you’ll find the rifts and more likely you’ll botch the job. It’s satisfying when everyone’s working together to find the rifts and catch the ghost.

Keeping civilians calm makes it less likely for them to flee the building.

Keeping civilians calm makes it less likely for them to flee the building.

Being the ghost requires a more methodical approach. Charging around trying to slime everything gets you bagged and tagged. Possessing objects, scaring civilians, and hiding the rifts betters the chances of winning the match.

The mechanics are easy grasp, but hard to master. Taking the time to read the tips and play the tutorials makes the difference between a successful busting and a failed busting. Likewise, managing your abilities and staying hidden improves your odds of haunting a level.

We Have the Tools, We Have the Talent

The ghostbusters use the classic proton pack, PKE meter, and trap to catch ghosts. Completing jobs and optional contracts nets XP, which levels you up and unlocks new equipment like grapple hooks and ghost mines. Using each device unlocks extra attachments like increased blaster focus, faster cooldown speeds, or reduced trapping time. It’s important to mix and match upgrades because each one has its strengths and weaknesses.

The PKE meter is essential for finding ghosts and rifts.

The PKE meter is essential for finding ghosts and rifts.

Catching ghosts requires weakening them, wrangling them, then dragging them into the nearest trap. Wrangling ghosts is like reeling in fish, if you aren’t pulling in the direction opposite they’re going, the ghost breaks free. Take too long to catch a ghost, and the trap’s battery runs dry.

The firehouse acts as a hub. Here, you accept missions, customize your gear, as well as your character. The character creation is surprisingly robust. There’s a large assortment of outfits and features to unlock that’ll make your ghostbuster look as professional or as goofy as possible.

Pesky Poltergeists

The best to way to describe the ghost gameplay is that it’s like playing a supernatural game of hide and seek. Your goal is to raise the building’s haunt level to 100 percent. You do this by frightening civilians and sliming everything in sight.

Ghosts have various abilities like spawning minions and a devastating area of effect attack. Abilities have a cooldown, so you need to manage your abilities, not to mention be mindful of where the rifts are if you must make a quick escape.

As a ghost, your objective is simple: scare people, but don't scare them to death.

As a ghost, your objective is simple: scare people, but don’t scare them to death.

Because this is geared towards all ages, you don’t kill your opponents. Attacking ghostbusters downs them until they can pick themselves up or be revived. If you’re feeling crafty, you can try sabotaging their equipment when they are vulnerable.

Successful hauntings net XP, which unlocks new ghosts and abilities. Like the firehouse, the ghost world acts a hub where you can swap out ghosts and hone your moves before the next match.

Back Off Man, I’m a Scientist

For an asymmetrical multiplayer game, Spirits Unleashed feels balanced. I never felt one faction was stronger than the other. They have their advantages and disadvantages, and which side wins boils down to player skill.

It’s exhilarating when the clock starts ticking and you have a short window of time to trap the ghost. Conversely, hopping in and out of objects while you avoid proton blasts is quite the rush.

The game's customization gives you plenty of freedom when it comes to designing your ideal ghostbuster.

The game’s customization gives you plenty of freedom when it comes to designing your ideal ghostbuster.

New content unlocks at a steady pace, so there’s always something to look forward to after leveling up. It’s great to see the end screen tallies that detail who got the most wrangles or calmed down the most civilians. While being a ghostbuster emphasizes cooperation, there’s a slight competitive nature to the action.

When everything clicks, the game is fun. However, the premise feels one-note once you realize how shallow the gameplay loop is.

Yes, It’s True, This Game Is Repetitive

Asymmetrical games live or die on their replay value. If the gameplay loop isn’t satisfying, there isn’t much of a reason to keep playing. While Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed offers plenty of rewards for busting and haunting, it all wears thin after a while.

At first, it’s thrilling when you don the proton pack for the first time, but when you repeat this task on the same few maps over and over, it becomes boring. Even playing as the ghost loses its luster once you learn the layout of each map and remember where the key locations are.

Ray Stantz is the know-it-all when it comes to the supernatural.

Ray Stantz is the know-it-all when it comes to the supernatural.

The game never evolves beyond its formula of “bust ghosts, watch a cut-scene, bust more ghosts, watch another cut-scene.” It needed more content like extra modes or maps to spice up the action.

Illfonic promises to support the game with regular updates and free DLC, but unless you are a hardcore, proton pack wearing Ghostbusters fan, your mileage may vary when it comes to your enjoyment of this game.

Graphics and Sound – That’s a Different Look for You, Isn’t It?

The game’s graphics and art direction are a nice blend of stylized and realistic, and it fits the Saturday morning cartoon nature of this game. The firehouse is peppered with all sorts of Easter eggs and the passing traffic outside reminds you you’re a little apple inside the big apple that is New York.

I played the PS5 version and while I did encounter some bugs, it was never anything game-breaking like losing all my save data. Joining matches is easy and the crossplay feature means you’re never short on players. I played the game at launch and compared to Illfonic’s previous efforts, this was a smooth experience.

Minions serve to distract the ghostbusters from completing their objectives.

Minions serve to distract the ghostbusters from completing their objectives.

The audio features some good voice acting, especially from Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, and the music draws heavy inspiration from Elmer Bernstein’s work on the first movie. It wouldn’t be a Ghostbusters product if it also didn’t include the iconic Ray Parker Jr. song.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a code provided by stridepr.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed has its heart in the right place. It looks, feels, and sounds like Ghostbusters, and with some friends, you can relive the days of playing pretend Ghostbusters. However, it doesn't do much with its gameplay formula beyond the bare minimum. It's great in short bursts, but wears thin after several matches.
  • Respect for the source material
  • Unique but accessible gameplay
  • Solid presentation
  • Deep upgrade and leveling system
  • Repetitive with a capital R
  • Lack of extra modes and maps

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