NextGen Take - Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed

Ghosting your friends has never been more fun



By Paul Hunter

Illfonic is a seasoned veteran of asymmetrical multiplayer games, having previously created Friday the 13th: The Game and Predator: Hunting Grounds. Now they're back with their greatest effort yet: Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, out now on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, plus PC.

I can hardly think of a media property that would work better employing an asymmetrical multiplayer setup than Ghostbusters. It's the dream scenario for fans: hunt apparitions as a member of a four-person Ghostbusters team, or for the first time ever, flip the script and become the ghost to haunt various locations around New York City. Strap on your Proton Pack and let's begin Ghostbuster new recruit orientation, here are three things I liked about the game...and one I didn't.

Liked: Being a Buster

Illfonic has really nailed the excitement of being a Ghostbuster and kicking ectoplast butt. The missions, called Jobs in-game, have your four-person Ghostbuster team visit one of five locations around New York to zap and trap ghosts haunting the places. Jobs range from cleaning out paranormal activity at the local Rock Island Prison to busting ghosts at the swanky Hudson Canyon Lodge to containing the Whitestone Museum before it becomes a slimed-up mess. I liked the variety in the maps, which offer unique layouts that require change-ups in your playstyle and have plenty of eye-catching visual elements—like all the interesting animal exhibits in the museum.

During missions your objective is simple, but challenging to complete: uncover and destroy three ethereal rifts, which act as respawn points for the enemy ghost, then team up and capture the ghost in your trap. To find the rifts you'll need to use the Ghostbusters' signature P.K.E. Meter to track down haunted objects, destroy them to reveal the rift, and then blast the rifts with your Particle Thrower to eliminate them. It takes quite a while to drain a rift's health, so you have to stay alert for potential attacks from the enemy ghost, including gooping you and your team with slime or disabling your Proton Pack entirely. If the ghost happens to incapacitate your team, they can even scoop up the rift to hide it in another object elsewhere on the map.

Another, more challenging route you can take is playing a dangerous game of hide and seek with the ghost with the aim of blasting it into your deployable Ghost Trap. This method of clearing out the ghost menace is best done as a team since you'll need to work together to locate ghosts, tether them with your ion stream, and then pull them into your trap. Ghosts can rather quickly break free from your steam so that's why you need your teammates to rush in and deploy a Ghost Trap and focus their own stream blasts on the ghost. If you successfully nab the ghost it'll destroy one of the level's three rifts, effectively reducing one of the ghost's respawn points.

From the moment a job starts a countdown timer begins showing how 'haunted' the level has become, determined, in part, by how effective the ghost is at spooking up the place. A big risk in each mission is the NPC civilians that can enter a Scared state that contributes quite a bit towards the map's overall haunted percentage. You can help alleviate the situation by spending a few seconds calming down the civilians—an intriguing mechanic but ultimately isn't interesting as it drags down the game's pace. I typically avoided calming civilians until the haunted meter surpassed 75% since it's way more fun hunting for ghosts and rifts. If a spirit manages to fully haunt a location, you're given just over a minute to frantically find and trap it, otherwise, you'll lose the match.

I really enjoyed playing as a Ghostbuster as it relies heavily on teamwork and co-ordination, which is perfect since I tend to prefer co-op online multiplayer games. You really get a great sense of actually being a Ghostbuster through the various gadgets you have, like the Particle Thrower, Proton Pack, P.K.E. Meter and Ghost Trap. What's cool, too, is as you level up your character to 50 you'll gradually unlock new and typically more powerful versions of your gear items. So it's a game that does a nice job growing with you as your skills and experience increase.

During missions, there are side tasks you can do as well, which generally increases your character's XP rewards. You can collect spores, moulds and fungus offering bonus XP, or go on the hunt for the map's single new clipping that offers a substantial XP boost. You can also activate side hustles, essentially the game's version of challenges, which task you with random activities like trapping X number of ghosts or stunning X number of ghosts with your P.K.E. Pulse. It's a bit disappointing that you can only activate one side hustle challenge at a time, probably a decision made by the dev team to extend the game's replayability despite it being less rewarding for the players. Spirits Unleashed being a games as a service also has Weekly and Daily challenges for additional chances to claim some bonus XP.

Liked: Being the Ghost

Being an asymmetrical multiplayer game, you can, of course, decide busting isn't your thing and become the ghost. I had a tremendous amount of fun learning and mastering the ghost, which plays totally differently than the Ghostbusters.

Your main job as the ghost is to use all the tools in your arsenal to terrorize the map until it reaches 100% haunted, at which point if you can survive another minute or so you'll win the match. There are lots of different ways to increase the level's haunt meter, such as scaring the daylights out of NPC civilians. You can do this by haunting objects near the civilian, unleashing minions to make them panic or generally slime up the place with your ectoplasm. Each room also can get haunted if you hang out in them long enough without getting detected by the Ghostbusters patrolling the map.

There are a bunch of ways to impede the Ghostbusters' hunting as well, including sliming them to reduce their mobility, sneaking up behind them and sabotaging their Proton Packs, sending minions to attack them and unleashing your devastating but long cooldown Ultimate ability. One such Ultimate, and the first you'll get to experiment with, is the Slimenado which hurls a massive amount of slime around to help you get out of sticky situations.

Playing as the ghost is a totally different experience that's very focused on stealth and causing mischief all over the map. In order to avoid detection as a ghost you can possess interactive objects littered all around the arena, from teddy bears and teacups to chairs, cleaning buckets and more. Hiding also allows you to recuperate energy, which is used to unleash the various special abilities at your disposal. You also control the ghost from a third-person perspective compared to your Ghostbuster that's entirely in first-person.

What's cool is that there are five different ghost types you can unlock—Ectoplast, Ghouly, Basher, Howler, and Poltergeist—that all possess different strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Ghoulies have terrifying aggression and cause extra fear while Howlers use sound to distract and confuse the Busters and have stronger control over minions. Within each ghost type, there are several variations you can unlock that have different visual looks and special abilities. Usually, with asymmetrical multiplayer games, I tend to heavily favour playing as one side or the other, but Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed does an amazing job at making both the Busters and the ghosts equally thrilling to play as.

Liked: Original Voice Actors

I was excited to discover that not only does Spirits Unleashed have its centrepiece multiplayer mode, but it also features a multi-chapter story set after the events of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. In it, Raymond "Ray" Stantz opens up an occult bookstore right next to the Ghostbusters' firehouse headquarters, operated by Winston Zeddemore.

The group begins recruiting a new generation of rookies to become Ghostbusters, and shortly after Ray finally tracks down and purchases an ancient occult book known as the Spirit Guide written by John Tobin. A series of events quickly unfold and the new team of Ghostbusters is faced with a powerful new force known as "The Nameless". You'll spend the rest of the campaign figuring out how to contain this dangerous new spiritual threat.

The story, overall, is not mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination but is it decent and a nice addition. What is awesome though is the game features the likenesses and voices of Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore and Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stantz. As a huge fan of this franchise, you really can't enough of this incredible duo, and their performances in the game are excellently done.

Didn't Like: Limited Content

I've already poured a couple dozen hours into Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed and I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience so far. But, with only five maps and one match type, the core gameplay loop does get repetitive. Illfonic has said that future updates will come to the game, so hopefully, we get more maps, more match types, more cosmetics and more ghosts to play as. I'm trying to be a bit lenient since GaaS are meant to receive periodic content updates, however, I still wish there was greater variety out of the gate.

While I haven't reached level 100 just yet (getting there!). It does seem like you can respec your Buster and Ghost, dropping their level and gear levels down to one and rewarding you with legendary gear. I'd be fine with my character's levels dropping back to one, but it's somewhat disappointing your gear reverts back to your starting set. I had a lot of fun unlocking better gear and quite honestly I'm not sure it's worth losing all my gear levels just to grab a legendary hat or pair of sneakers. So yeah, the gameplay is extremely fun but unfortunately, the end game, as it stands now, is lacking.

The Verdict

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed delivers on its promise of fulfilling your ultimate Buster ghost-zapping fantasy. In a neat twist, you can also play as the ghost to cause mischief and slime everything in sight—something I didn't know I wanted but now can't get enough of. It's too bad the launch content is minimal, but that should change once Illfonic's promised updates hit. Anyone who's ever wanted to bust ghosts with their buddies in an authentic Ghostbusters experience will surely love this frighteningly great multiplayer game.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great


Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: IllFonic
Publisher: IllFonic
Genre: First-person Shooter
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)


A key was provided by the publisher.