It’s been a while since we first busted ghosts in VR, but this time around veteran VR studio nDreams and Sony Pictures Virtual Reality are serving up an at-home co-op game for Quest and PSVR 2 that will finally let you strap on a proton pack and go head-to-floating-head with a good variety of belligerent specters. Check out our review below to see if it’s worth getting the whole squad involved.
Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord Details:
Available On: Quest, PSVR 2
Release Date: October 26th, 2023
Price: $35 (Standard), $55 (Full Containment Edition)
Publisher: Sony Pictures Virtual Reality (SPVR)
Reviewed on: Quest 2
Here’s the breakdown: you’re busting ghosts in San Francisco (as you do) and the Ghost Lord shows up to wreak havoc on the city. Work your way through a bunch of random missions and periodically report back to HQ for a few drips of the game’s narrative, presented via a TV screen where you’ll learn what happened to some obviously evil billionaire type who totally isn’t an evil Ghoul King, Specter Sovereign, Poltergeist Potentate, or anything of the sort. Ok, so it’s pretty clear the narrative isn’t the star of the show here, as it really only sets the scene for casual drop-in, drop-out co-op matches, which last anywhere from 10-15 minutes each.
Of course, you can go it alone in offline mode with the help of the game’s admittedly competent AI, or team up with friends or strangers for more fun and firepower. That said, you really should consider banding together with a few buddies (from two to four players) and tackling it all the way through together.
It feels very much in the same vein as After the Fall (2021), which we called “VR’s best stab at Left 4 Dead,” although I think there’s an argument to be made for keeping pace with your friends in the game as you all earn successive upgrades, letting you form a real team that makes the most of each upgrade path. That feels more like Ghostbuster’s intended sweet spot, as opposed to randomly dropping in with whoever’s online, quietly grinding missions for money and maxing all upgrade paths indiscriminately, and then beating the titular Ghost Lord a bunch of times. There is some competition in there to get more points, but in the end it’s really a team effort.
Although I compare it to After the Fall, this isn’t really the same sort of horde-based shooter, because frankly the proton pack isn’t really a gun. There’s also no ammo pickups and no loot to pick up besides some random ecto goo that gives you the ability to upgrade stuff later, such as unique weapon attachments for things like single-use shotguns blasts and short-lived turrets. You can fire your proton stream continuously if you want, and then lasso the poor ghosties forever too—provided you learn how to properly operate the thing. More on that below.
The game also doesn’t really expect you to fail that much either since anyone in your party can always revive you once you’re down with a simple high five. Instead, your main focus is earning cash by completing missions which are placed across seven massive and circuitous maps, each of which allow you to play a random mix of four mission styles: Exorcism, On the Clock, Giga Trap Retrieval, and Harvester. In order, it’s basically a wave mode with the same mini-boss, a timed wave mode, a bomb escort mission, and a wave mode with light puzzle elements.
The big question I always ask myself in these sorts of random mission-driven games is whether both the action and upgrades will be enough to bring me back for more on a consistent basis. I felt the game doled out an okay assortment of both, although it all feels like it’s missing an overall structural direction to keep me engaged in the long-term. You only get three missions to choose from at a time, which are then shuffled randomly again once you’re back at HQ, making it difficult to get a sense of how you’re progressing, save a computer screen that really doesn’t do a great job of making you feel like you’re moving toward an actual goal besides “DONE”.
Despite the increasing mix of standard baddies as you move through to 100 percent completion, which means you’ve beaten 42 missions, about halfway through things start to feel a little samey. There just aren’t enough mini-bosses, and it just isn’t clear how long it will take to get to the main boss; you just have to keep playing random missions until the game decides you’ve had enough and can actually move forward.
That said, I generally liked the assortment of regular enemies, although I wish there were a greater variety of mini-bosses to provide a bump in difficulty beyond just having ‘more of everything all at once’. Normal enemies include a conventional assortment of ranged and melee types, with smaller types usually zapped into oblivion with a few seconds of the standard blast from the proton pack. The larger, more often ranged types require not only a constant blast from your proton pack, but also need to be lassoed into your handy dandy trap.
Melee types are typically smaller and weaker, and are mostly just annoying to deal with as you go in for the real ghosts worth nabbing in any given level.
Here’s how lassoing works, which is key to dispatching larger, more deadly ghosts: a shield bar on the right of ghosts depletes with a standard blast, while the health bar on the left indicates how much the enemy needs to be jerked around with your proton-lasso in order beat it unconscious and then drag it into your trap, which gobbles it up automatically. Wear out the specter, shoot out your trap nearby, and let the wonders of technology do the rest. This is actually pretty satisfying as a VR specific thing, as you wildly follow the ghost as he helplessly flails around looking for a hiding place to recover health. Springing the trap with your left hand and shooting the proton pack with the right is about as Ghosbusters as you can get.
About an hour into playing, I also figured out I could just point my proton stream at the floor to spam the game’s most important tool: the boson dart,which is basically just a big blast that keeps your proton pack from overheating and being inoperable for a bit. Activating the boson dart didn’t feel intuitive at first—something I chalk up to some pretty aggressive pop-up messages in the early game that made it personally difficult for me to concentrate on the task at hand. I ended up just jogging through whatever was asked of me in the tutorial so I could figure it out later in my own time. Really. Pop-ups are so big and offputting.
I digress. Using the boson dart is actually pretty simple, although easy to ignore at the beginning since you don’t really need it until you meet the game’s main mini-boss, the Bruiser. Simply mash a button right before your proton stream overheats to activate a powerful blast that knocks ghosts down a bar or two on their health meter.
Once you get a handle on each enemy type, you start to see colored variants that have slightly different powers. Whatever the case, I found that strategy really only boiled down to constantly strafing around the map, keeping the trigger down, and blasting boson darts until everything—regardless of ability—was toast. Avoid shit flying at you and don’t stand in one spot too long. Everything else is gravy.
Protip: If you like playing random missions every once in a while, and aren’t really concerned about getting to the final boss, you can probably just invest your cash in all of the upgrade pathways just to see what’s out there. If you’re looking for more focused playsessions though, it’s probably better to pick one specific upgrade style and max it out from the onset.
Once all is said and done in a mission, and all of the ghosts are trapped or otherwise zapped to dust, your only choice is to keep playing random missions, or maybe the single-player mixed reality mini-game, Mini-Puft Mayhem, which is a fun little boss battle against a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It’s worth a few minutes of your time, if anything just to see a giant marshmallow rip the ceiling off your house, but not integral to the rest of the game.
Again, if there were any such game, Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord would definitely be the one you and a few other friends would buy and exclusively play together—not because you really need a bunch of active communication to play, but that the game is pretty random enough without having a good buddy by your side to give you a reason to drop back in, and keep grinding until you get to the massive Ghost Lord battle.
Is Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord perfect? No. It has enough variety and fun, provided you’re with a good group of people. Playing alone is the worst-case scenario though, and probably isn’t advisable if you don’t want to hit a wall halfway through when missions start to be a little bit a trudge. Still, it’s actually a pretty solid basis for what could be some interesting DLC, which I hope will help minimize some of the weaker points I mentioned above. So don’t get me wrong: Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord is basically a fun and well-made game that just lacks a little bit of scaffolding and boss variety to be a real winner.
One thing it definitely has out of the gate though is looks. Even with the humble Quest 2, the game is pretty dang awesome looking. It has a swath of dense and richly decorated set pieces, and character animations are expressive, feeling straight out of a cartoon. Ok, so there’s no Slimer, but there are Slimer-adjacent characters that mostly do the job.
It’s more than looks though. You’d be surprised how many VR multiplayer games there are out there that really don’t understand that players instinctually want to interact with other people naturally, like, say, handing something to someone without having to throw it on the ground first, or being able to give them a high five for a job well done. That’s all here and then some. Playing in co-op mode, Road to VR’s Ben Lang stepped into something of a mine in the form of a Stay Pufft mini-marshmallow bag that explodes the little buggers everywhere when you get close, rendering your equipment inoperable until you pluck away the pests.
He still had three on his proton pack still jumping around and squeaking about. My first instinct was right. Just grab the little suckers and toss them away like picking lice from a fellow chimp! Or crush him with an iron fist and hear revel in their tiny, diabetic lamentations.
A small-ish sore spot is the games avatars, each of which only have three unlockable looks a piece, with no individual customization as such. I would have also liked to see a more customizable HQ, which would make hosting a game much more immersive since you could show off trophies or decorations to your friends when you invite them for matches.
As a veteran VR studio, nDreams knows the score. Offer everything, including snap-turn, quick turn, smooth turn, teleportation. The list is below. It has it all. The only advisory I’d give is the game naturally makes you strafe a good deal, so if you’re particularly susceptible to motion sickness, experiment with the game’s variable blinders to make this less jarring.
‘Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord’ Comfort Settings – October 6th, 2023
Swappable movement hand
English, Chinese (Simplified & Traditional) French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish
Two hands required
Real crouch required
Adjustable player height
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