We pick up a proton pack and throw out a trap to catch a glimpse of IllFonic’s ‘Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed’ in our preview of the new multiplayer experience.
In hindsight, it’s actually quite surprising we hadn’t seen an asymmetrical multiplayer Ghostbusters game before now. The format feels right for the license.
IllFonic has spent the past few years honing its multiplayer chops, learning from mistakes, and getting a better idea of what’s needed from a modern asymmetrical experience. In Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, it now has perhaps the perfect template for it.
Having taken on cult two 80s icons in Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th: The Game) and The Predator (Predator: Hunting Grounds), where the lone aggressor is largely more powerful than the team of prey, IllFonic looks for something of a role reversal with Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. The ghost has tricks up its nonexistent sleeves, but the Ghostbusters? Well, they have proton packs.
IllFonic’s Ghostbusters takes up the legendary mantle after the events of Ghostbusters Afterlife, and focuses on a brand new set of Busters, namely…you and your friends. Four player characters will enter one of several maps to deal with the local spectral pest, who can also be controlled by another player.
The footage I saw, both from the perspective of the Ghostbusters and the ghost, was set in a museum. IllFonic developers explained the way the game plays out as the footage played. The ghost’s aim is to cause enough havoc that the area gets increasingly haunted and panics the local populace. To that end, it can set up destructive rifts, possess objects to taunt the Ghostbusters (a bit of Prop Hunt effectively thrown into the mix), throw ectoplasm about to slow them down, and generally mess the place up. The bigger the ghost’s lead, the more the map changes. The Ghostbusters, meanwhile, must use their PKE meters to pursue the spirit, flushing it out with proton streams, and eventually, hopefully, trapping it.
Right out the gate, IlFonic was quick to note there will be a newfound flexibility to its latest game’s multiplayer setup. A more accessible asymmetrical experience in keeping with the more universal appeal of the Ghostbusters franchise. Not ready for online play? Bots will take over any roles you want. Not confident at a certain kind of playstyle? There are rewards for all kinds of actions. There’s even cross-gen and cross-platform play. The play is peppered with second chances that try to prevent a quick washout. The emphasis is clearly on fun, not elitism, and that’s pretty refreshing. It’s even aiming to be a cross-generation, cross-play game to ensure it has the widest possible pool of players united.
Before getting into the action though, Illfonic is out to make you feel the Ghostbusters experience. The game’s hub is the iconic fire station HQ, and you can wander around it with friends, practice your skills, and chat with the likes of Winston and Ray about the spooky goings-on around the world. When you’re ready to tool up, the loading screen sees Ecto-1 barreling towards your next destination. By handing the player their own unique Ghostbuster, IllFonic makes it a more personal experience than if it were just the usual faces again.
On the ghost side of things, there are various different types, so hopefully, there will be a type of ghost that suits everyone’s playstyle. Going into a match, players on the Ghostbusters side won’t know what kind of ghost they’ll be up against, so despite the odds being slightly against them, the ghost player does have some strategic advantage. At present, there are no plans to allow for a switch in ghost type mid-match if things aren’t working quite right, but IllFonic hasn’t ruled it out.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the various other multiplayer horror games currently, or soon to be, swimming in the pool. Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Evil Dead: The Game, Dead By Daylight, Back 4 Blood, World War Z. all bring their own ideas, but what can Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed bring to carve a sizable niche in the market?
I’d say, from what I’ve seen and heard, the two key factors are the license itself and the open and accessible all-ages approach. A horror-themed game you can play with your kids where no one gets killed and the spookiness is the fun kind. I’m sure some will scoff at a kid-focused horror game, but we really don’t have enough of them, let alone ones with a cooperative and competitive side.
If IllFonic can deliver on strong servers, a good gameplay balance, and the aforementioned accessibility, then the ceiling is very high indeed for Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is due to hit Q4 2022 on PC for Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed Preview impressions from an Alpha build.