Ghostbusters Spirits Unleashed review – Authentic scares let down by thin gameplay

ghostbusters spirits unleashed cover artillFonic

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed won’t reinvent the asymmetric multiplayer genre anytime soon. Its faithful attention to detail and the franchise’s charm, however, still makes bustin’ feel good.

The Ghostbusters franchise has had an interesting journey since its inception in 1984. Several beloved cartoons, toy lines, and movies have attempted to re-capture the magic.

With Ghostbusters: Afterlife successfully paving the way forward, developers illFonic have seized hold of the opportunity to rejuvenate the franchise’s gaming credibility. With Terminal Reality’s beloved 2009 effort officially ruled out of the canon, it’s time for a new generation of busters to keep New York City safe.

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Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed will please long-time fans with its impeccable atmosphere, but it may leave players looking for innovation on the sidelines.

Ghostbusters Spirits Unleashed: Key details

  • Developer: illFonic
  • Price: $39.99 USD / £34.99 GBP / $54.95 AUD
  • Release Date: October 18, 2022
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X and PC

Ghostbusters Spirits Unleashed trailer

The tools and the talent

Set after the events of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) and Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) have reunited to re-open the Ghostbusters firehouse. Bringing Ray’s Occult Books next door too, the duo is on the lookout for a new generation of busters. Winston and Ray (alongside new characters Cait and Eddy) have been tracking an increased amount of ghouls since Afterlife – with Ray tracking down the coveted Tobin’s Spirit Guide to aid them. Sadly, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) or Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) don’t make appearances, though.

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Enter yourself, the player, as a new recruit looking to make their mark. It’s here where Spirits Unleashed unveils one of its key surprises – it’s far more story driven than one initially might expect. The opening cutscene is a bonafide delight, as the firehouse is restored to its former glory as Ray Parker Jr’s infectious theme cascades over the whole affair. Spirits Unleashed story is introduced every so often, as you return to the Ghostbusters firehouse after each foray into a haunted location.

ghostbusters spirits unleashed character customizationillFonic
You’ll be able to create your own character, fit for zapping ghouls, and more.

But before you put on your Proton Pack, you’ll need to create your own unique buster and get to grips with the basics. Spirits Unleashed Ghostbuster customization is more robust than most titles in this genre. With a Saints Row-style slider system and various aesthetic options to unlock, it’s easy to sink a hefty chunk of your initial playtime here. Next, you’ll need the tools and the talent.

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Bestowed with your own Proton Pack, Ghost Trap, and P.K.E Metre, the game employs rudimentary tutorials to establish the basics. While this could have been easily explained away, the devs use this as a chance to encourage exploration. The firehouse is superbly recreated, with everything down to a box of twinkies (well, off-brand for legal reasons) awaiting their discovery. It’s a shame that Spirits Unleashed doesn’t weave in a chance to drive Ecto-1, but we’ll just admire its beauty instead.

ghostbusters spirits unleashed gear customizationillFonic
Gear customization allows you to finely tweak each aspect of your loadout.

Gear customization is even more decked out than character creation. Each and every aspect of your Proton Pack and Ghost Trap is interchangeable with unlockable attachments. It won’t give Modern Warfare’s Gunsmith a hard time but it’s certainly a welcome addition.

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There’s the motivation here, in tandem with daily challenges, to build the best possible equipment but each situation calls for renewed approach. That’s where your busters come in use.

Who you gonna call?

The core gameplay loop of Spirits Unleashed is taking ‘Jobs’ that will lead to the player one of the game’s five maps. To begin with, you’ll be forced to play as a Ghostbuster, before unlocking the role of the Ghost. Geared around 4v1 scenarios, it’s up to your team to use all their wits and gear to track down the frightening specter. Using the P.K.E Meter will guide toward possessed objects, which can reveal rifts or even the Ghost itself. Rifts are used by the Ghost to evade capture and they only have a limited few at their disposal.

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Once you’ve spotted the Ghost, using the Proton Pack unleashes that iconic noise – and yes, you can cross the streams. Tethering a Ghost isn’t an easy job, as twirling the analog stick in the opposite direction of your target is essential to keeping them in your grasp. If you’re confident that you can bag and tag them, deploying your trap and pulling them into it will seal the deal. Sounds easy enough, right?

ghostbusters spirits unleashed multiplayerillFonic
You can even collect spores, molds, and fungus within each job.

Not exactly. Playing as a Ghostbuster isn’t all glitz and glamour. You’ll often be slimed, spooked, and scared back to the firehouse on your first few calls to action. The Ghost’s objective, with the help of supernatural abilities, is to ensure a ‘Global Haunt’ on the map. This changes its decor drastically. Civilians can be haunted, causing their level of calmness to decrease before fleeing completely – hurting the Ghostbusters’ overall match score. It’s essentially a fast-paced game of Prop Hunt, with the thrills of Dead By Daylight or Evil Dead thrown in for good measure.

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Ghost gameplay is equally challenging as abilities require some mastery to enable their full potential. In our opinion, it is definitely more fun playing as a Ghostbuster. However, that isn’t to say Ghost gameplay isn’t without its charm. Possessing objects and seeing them parade around the environment always gets a laugh. Especially while you’re posing as a lamp and all four Ghostbusters helplessly try to discern the danger.

ghostbusters spirits unleashed firehouseillFonic
The story, while brief, will please fans of the franchise.

The atmosphere of the game is outstanding. Taking the ethos of Elmer Bernstein’s score works effortlessly here, as familiar motifs and new compositions paint the world with the franchise’s gleeful wonder. The dev’s brilliant sound design does some heavy lifting too, accurately portraying your weaponry and kit.

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As each player will cater their gear uniquely, this opens up places for experimentation as you refine your approach. Spirits Unleashed can be enjoyed alone (and offline) but its key strengths are tied to playing with friends. But how long can that last?

Longevity concerns could send the game into the afterlife

With only one gameplay mode and five maps to carry it out, the longevity of Spirits Unleashed could be its downfall. A lot of the fun is withheld behind the social experience, with might not be possible if your friends don’t want to fork out nearly £40 on a mode title. The glimmers of story content will appease hardcore fans, but with only around 25 minutes of cutscenes, it’s nothing that can’t be looked up on YouTube during your lunch break.

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The developers have confirmed that new maps and Ghosts will arrive in free DLC drops. However, a date has yet to be specified for them. If an array of new modes can be implemented, there might just be hope for the game’s future.

The Verdict – 6.5/10

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a pleasant addition to the pantheon, but its impression on players might be woefully short-lived. It’s a meticulous representation of Ghostbusters lore but thin gameplay options hold it back from its full potential.

Reviewed on PlayStation 5