| SCEE Cambridge
| The Good
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
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.