Ghosthunter
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
SCEA
Developer
SCEE Cambridge
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Large levels
• Great balance between gunplay and puzzles
• Some really creepy areas and sound effects

The Bad

• Area pacing could be better
• Textures can be bland in areas

 
Grade
B+

One has to wonder whether SCEA (Sony's American branch) and SCEE (the European branch) are on speaking terms. Ghosthunter is not this first title to come out of Europe that SCEA didn't bother to release (Wipeout Fusion and Dropship both come to mind). Instead, Namco published this horror-themed shooter with very little fanfare except for some print ads and a few previews and reviews. I'd have to say that it's a shame as Ghosthunter proves to be a gem in the rough.

Players begin the game in the role of Lazarus Jones, a Detroit police officer sent with his partner to investigate an abandoned high school. Apparently, the school was the scene of a grisly set of murders some time ago and the police officer's arrival proves to be untimely. Jones finds some equipment in the basement and accidentally releases the ghosts trapped within. His partner is kidnapped and he's forced into recapturing the ghosts he's released by traveling to different locations.

While Ghosthunter is strong on the horror themes, it is in no way a survival horror comparable to the likes of Silent Hill or Siren where the player needs to run from enemies or scrape by on every piece of ammo possible. Ghosthunter plays more in the fashion of a third person shooter. While Jones starts with just a gun, he soon gets weaponry capable of aiding him in capturing ghosts. To do so, he needs to damage them with a variety of weapons ranging from a ghost-powered sniper rifle to grenade launcher to a shotgun. Some ghosts can be captured simply by damaging them enough while others can be captured with a "grenade" (think: the traps from Ghostbusters) that's thrown into the ghosts after they take enough damage. These ghosts drop health and energy powerups. The energy powerups are used to fuel both the special ghost-energy weapons and for special powers that Jones gains access to when he shifts to the Astral spirit form.

Early on in the game, Jones gains access to Astral, a female spirit that he can use when in certain magic circles. Astral can can float around but can't pass through walls on her own. As you capture enough of certain types of ghosts, Astral will gain certain abilities, like being able to become solid, charming howler ghosts and the ability to pass through certain portals. These abilities allow you to solve the puzzle elements of the game in which she becomes available. Outside of these portions, players are often involved in shoot-outs with armed ghosts or just trying to capture multiple ghosts at a time. Often, you'll just being working your way to a location to pick up an item to use later on, but there are more than a few puzzle based sections to help break up the action. Some may seem rather obvious, but more than a few will require you to think for yourself and even go looking for the solution. In one area, a caged girl spirit tells you that she wants to see stars in the sky. To do this, you must location a kaleidoscope attachment for the flashlight attachment to your rifle and then use that to convince her the stars are in the sky.

I would have to say that the balance between action and the multiple puzzle solving aspects is pretty well done. Rarely are you forced to drag on through excessive amounts of one to get to the other. On top of that, the boss fights prove to be fun without proving to be too hard. Often, if you just pay attention to what's going on, you'll be able to complete the boss battles without too much difficulty.

In the graphics department, Ghosthunter works well, but it tends to fall into the same category as your average game developed just for the PS2. The game features large levels that exhibit a good bit of draw distance and a lot of details. The textures tend to be good, if only a little blurry and uninspired at times. Some locations tend to look nice, while others are hidden in shadow to cover up the lack of detail. When it comes to effects, the ambient lighting is serviceable, at best. I've seen better in other titles, but it's not a detriment as a number of the ghosts look really good in execution. The character and ghost design feels a little stale, but I will say that some of the level and scenario designs can be downright creepy as hell when they want to be.

To that effect, there are some exceptional audio effects that really make some of the locations downright unnerving. There are a few sections that can be comparable to Silent Hill if it weren't for the neon-colored light hues. The soundtrack is pretty good without really leaving any memorable mark. The voicecast is pretty good, given the mood of the material and features a number of familiar voices, like Rob Paulsen (as Jones), Jane Hamilton and Joe Morton. Considering that the story is given to the player in small chunks, you'll find the voicework just perfect.

While there is a lot going well for Ghosthunter, there are some things that could have been better. First and foremost, there does seem to be some lack of direction from time to time. You can find yourself walking around, not sure what to do. This doesn't happen often enough to be a detriment, but it can be annoying when it happens. Along the same lines, I would say that some areas are, well, too big, making the pacing for the game drag out over the larger areas. Case in point is the swamp level where you basically have to work your way through the same house twice with different puzzles just to get to the pre-boss area.

Because this title got so little attention, you may have a hard time finding it. Or even knowing what your looking for. If you can nab it for a decent price, the action proves to be quite enjoyable, especially if you enjoy ghost-oriented action. Hell, every wannabe Ghostbuster should give this one a try just so they can yell out "Who ya gonna call?" every now and then.

- - Kinderfeld

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