Featuring full cross-platform play, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed just launched for PlayStation, Xbox and PC. We playtested it on a PlayStation 5 and on PC.
If there was ever a great natural fit for an asymmetrical multiplayer game, it’s Ghostbusters. It comes with a built-in team of four, has all of its “don’t cross the beams” stuff right there in the source material, and is a beloved IP with popular characters. Developer IllFonic’s no stranger to the formula either, so we had been looking forward to seeing how Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed would turn out – and what the ghost part of the equation would play like.
Part of that was due to IllFonic’s previous work on characters like Jason Voorhees and the Predator – both essentially near-unstoppable bad guys, whereas ghosts are agile but don’t possess the same kind of stopping power and are more easily stopped in their tracks with the equipment that the Ghostbusters are bringing to the fight.
Narratively, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is set some time after what happened in Ghostbusters Afterlife, so you’re (sadly) not playing with the original cast but a set of new recruits. And while the game was designed around online play, you can also choose to play with bots – which can also serve as your training grounds.
Playing as the ghost (against a team of four Ghostbusters), you have to try and cause so much mayhem that the people living there go into a panicked state. And while you can’t take out the Ghostbusters, you can make things hard on them by slowing them down with ectoplasm, but your main goal will be to haunt the environment you’re in – moving and/or possessing objects to freak out the people who spot your handiwork.
If you’re successful, you’ll notice that the map will get more and more covered in slime, and people will rush to get out of there. But while it’s tempting to go crazy and slime up the place as soon as a round starts, it also pays to be stealthy, getting things done before the Ghostbusters ever notice you and start hunting you.
If you’re playing as part of a team of Ghostbusters, you’ll use your special spectral (PKE) meters to look for the spirit form. You can make things easier by closing three spectral rifts, but catching your opponent will mean hitting it with your proton streams in order to trap it and win the round. You can also try to stop civilians from fleeing the scene by calming them down, but if they’re already panicking you’re usually not off to a great start.
Because proton packs overload, cooperation between Ghostbusters is important if you want to prevent losing a ghost you’ve found. For this reason, it helps to play with at least one or two friends rather than strangers or bots. We found Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed to be more newcomer-friendly than other games in the genre though, as it’s harder to wander around and spread out as long as you’re sticking to the core objective – mostly because you visually see where the ghost has been active.
It’s also a more family-friendly take on the genre than Jason or the Predator, and there’s something for those who are nostalgic about the classic films from the 1980s as well. Your in-game hub is the famous old fire department HQ, and Ray Stanz has his occult shop right next door. Winston’s also around, you can play around with the containment unit and the music even taps into the movies’ soundtracks. And while it doesn’t set the asymmetrical multiplayer genre alight with new ideas, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed features more narrative elements than previous IllFonic games did and is a great match for the Halloween season.