When I heard Illfonic was making a 4v1 game based on the Ghostbusters franchise, I was a little skeptical. I mean, how can you capture that Ghostbusters movie feel while also making compelling (and fun) gameplay? It had to have been a balancing act, but I feel like Illfonic has mostly pulled it off, though it does feel a little light on content.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a 4v1 asymmetrical multiplayer game where four players take on the role of the Ghostbusters, and one player takes on the role of a ghost haunting one of five locations. As the Ghostbuster you’ll use your gadgets to track, find, and attempt to capture the ghost, destroying its respawn rifts along the way. As the ghost, your job is to haunt the building and scare off patrons. When the building is completely haunted you have a chance to win. But if the ghost loses all of its respawn rifts and is captured, the Ghostbusters win.
As the Ghostbusters, your goal is to find the ghost and wrangle it with your proton packs, ultimately capturing it. If you manage to capture the ghost, it can still escape! There are three rifts hidden through each map, and as long as there’s a rift standing, the ghost can respawn. However, respawning also destroys the rift—so if you aggressively hunt the ghost, you can end the level after capturing it three times to close each of its rifts, and a fourth and final time while it’s riftless.
As a ghost, your goal is to haunt the building, scare off people, and generally subvert the Ghostbusters’ effort to stop you. While some ghosts can go head-to-head with a Ghostbuster or two (especially the Basher) a full four Ghostbusters can easily tether and trap you. As the ghost, you can break tether, and even break out of a trap as its pulling you in. If you want to be extra annoying, you can even close and steal the trap. Additionally, if the Ghostbusters find one of your rifts you can take the rift and hide it into a different object—making them search for it all over again. You can also cause all sorts of little annoyances that will help slow down the Ghostbusters, like closing and stealing traps, sabotaging Proton Packs, and more.
It’s important that the Proton Pack feels good, and I’m impressed with how Illfonic managed to make it actually feel like you’re wrangling a spirit at the end of an energy beam. Throwing traps is an important skill to have, because sometimes a perfectly thrown trap can mean the difference between capturing the ghost and it slipping out of your tether again. You are armed with your trusty PKE meter, too, but I found that tracking the ghost and its rifts with a PKE meter really depends on the type of ghost you’re playing against, because if a ghost doesn’t try to stay hidden it’s pretty easy to find—you just have to look for its trail of slime and other telltale signs of the ghost, like haunted objects. The PKE meter is great for sending out a burst of EM energy, stunning ghosts and destroying haunted objects.
Each match of Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is pretty short, with most ending in under 10 minutes, and rarely going over 12. This is the perfect match length because it makes you want to keep jumping in for “just one more round.” It also helps that each map is perfectly sized for hunting: not too big that you run for minutes without action, but not too small that it’s impossible to hide in as the ghost.
While there is gear and ghost progression in Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, I actually thought it went a little too fast. I was able to unlock most everything the game had in under 12 hours of gameplay. As the Ghostbusters, you unlock cosmetics as your account level goes up, but you unlock better equipment as you use each set of gear. If you want to get a better trap, for instance, you have to have successes in wrangling the ghost into your trap.
To unlock different ghosts, you just have to play the game as they unlock every 10 account levels. However, each ghost has three variants, which you unlock through playing as that specific ghost. That goes the same for its cosmetics, which unlock the more you play as any specific ghost.
There are five different ghosts you can play as, each with their own stats and ultimates. Some ghosts are better at haunting the building, while others are better at scaring off people—both of which increase the haunt level. Some ghosts can fight the Busters, while with others it is best to always avoid them. While each ghost has their own strengths and weaknesses, none really have a completely unique playstyle. But their differences are enough to make them interesting to both play as, and against.
One of the things that really surprised me about Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is how family friendly it manages to be, while also being compelling and fun. Even my friend, who is all about gritty realism and gore, played Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed without a complaint. It’s not exactly a scary game, but visually it borders on Pixar and realism. But ghosts don’t actually kill people—just scare off patrons, or “slime” Ghostbusters, incapacitating them for a while.
As you play the game and increase your player level, you’ll unlock new story beats. Yes, that’s right: there’s actually a narrative as you progress and increase in account level. Your progress in the story has no effect on the world or the gameplay, but it does add a nice bit of flavor for the Ghostbuster fans .
As much as I love Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed for the week or so I’ve been playing it, I really worry about its longevity. I’ve only played Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed for only about a dozen hours (according to the Epic Game Store’s tracker) and I’ve unlocked almost everything in the game. While I was intentionally trying to level up my account as fast as possible to see everything the game had to offer, I was still able to finish the task surprisingly fast.
The one thing that I’m most impressed with Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is just how much it feels like a Ghostbusters product. In fact, everything from its character interactions with the environment to its musical cues. This is a rare game where IP marries with gameplay wonderfully. I’m just worried since it feels a bit light on content for now. However, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is great fun, and manages to even be family friendly.
An Epic Games Store key was provided to us for this review