A ton of fun with friends.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed

Off and on for about two weeks now, I and some friends have been hopping into Ghostbusters: Spirits Within, the latest asymmetrical 4v1 multiplayer game from IllFonic. Though I would have liked to have gotten this review up a good week ago now, life had other plans. I suppose that just means I’m extra confident in my assessment of the game after spending even more time playing it.

As a little background here, I would consider myself a decently big fan of Ghostbusters. I grew up watching the original films. I watched The Real Ghostbusters animated show. I had Ghostbusters’ toys, including some of those 3D View-Master reels of The Real Ghostbusters show. Sadly, while I would like to say that I kept up with the Ghostbusters since then, I really haven’t. I did not watch the 2016 Ghostbusters, nor did I watch Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It wasn’t for a lack of want, it’s more so the fact that I just don’t watch many movies in general these days. Hell, the last film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe I watched was Guardians of the Galaxy. I have literally over seven years of MCU films I need to catch up on as of right now and I’m expected to also watch Ghostbusters and all these other major films I haven’t seen yet?

I digress. The point I’m trying to make here is that my perception of the Ghostbusters is rooted in the 80s and early 90s. It was a part of my childhood. So along comes IllFonic, the development studio that brought us the well-received Friday the 13th: The Game. Sadly, with that game getting caught in a legal crossfire between others, it was ultimately shut down and IllFonic moved on to other projects. Still, it’s obvious that the studio retained a lot of what they learned from that project and applied it to Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed
There's a lot of character ​​​​​​customization

The first foray into Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed finds both Ray and Winston starting the Ghostbusters franchise back up in the old firehouse. As it is only these two returning to their roots, they went ahead and start the hiring process. That’s where you come in. The narrative opens with you as this fresh recruit that is thrown headfirst into the world of hunting ghosts. Interestingly, there is a large, overarching story contained in this largely multiplayer-focused game. Like, there is a surprising amount of dialogue when the story beats happen.

Problem is that these story beats only happen when you are playing the game solo. They also only trigger when you reach specific player levels through the course of normal play. This means if you are playing with a group and you cross a story trigger threshold, you won’t see whatever new cutscene there is until you leave the group and load into the game by yourself. If you want to keep playing afterwards, you then must rejoin the group you were with. It feels a little clumsy, especially for those that do want to see how the story plays out.

The key component to the game is taking your newly recruited Buster out to various locations around New York. It just so happens that ghosts are very much still haunting a handful of locations and it’s obviously up to the Ghostbusters to deal with them. Heading into these locations and being as discreet as possible, you and some pals (or A.I. controlled bots) will go up against a ghost running amok. The ghost, which you can also choose to play as if you so desire, has three “lives” to try to fully haunt a location. The Ghostbusters are obviously tasked with using their arsenal of ghost busting gear to take down the ghost before a location becomes totally haunted.

In Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, one player can choose to take on the role of a ghost while four others are the Ghostbusters themselves. As the ghost, you try to avoid being captured while haunting objects and scaring civilians. Should you be captured, you have a few additional chances to come back through hidden rifts located throughout the environment. While you cannot “kill” or fully eliminate any of the Ghostbusters, you can temporarily slow them down by sliming them, sabotaging them, or ensuring that they are kept busy trying to calm down civilians.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed
Learn the basics of haunting from Tobin's Spirit Guide

No matter whether you choose to play as the ghost or the Ghostbusters, you will have a good time. The best part is that if you do have a group of four others to play with, you can all join the same game and enable an option that will let the game randomly select one from the group to become the ghost in the next round. Both sides do come with a bit of a learning curve though as games can become very chaotic, very fast.

Rounds usually go as such: The Ghostbusters show up on the scene, split up, and start searching for the ghost and the ghost’s hidden rifts. Meanwhile, the ghost is busy haunting objects and scaring civilians to start increase the location’s total haunted factor. The ghost can also, if they want, attempt to slow down the hunt by the Ghostbusters by moving their rifts around, sliming the Ghostbusters, or even temporarily sabotaging their equipment. Once a Ghostbuster finds either the ghost or a rift, the proton beams start flying.

When taking on a ghost, it’s best not to be alone. It’s near impossible to wrangle a ghost by yourself and capture it in your ghost trap. That’s not to mention you cannot maintain a tether with your Proton Pack and throw out a trap at the same time. You can open an already thrown trap while using the Proton Pack, sure, but that’s it. Add on the fact that the packs can overheat with sustained use and ghost traps can run out of battery, and well, you can see how this gets a little complicated in a hurry. You really will need at least one other person with you to even have a chance at capturing a ghost.

Meanwhile, ghosts will fight against the pull of the Proton Pack beams in hopes that the packs overheat and give them a chance to get to freedom. Ghosts can also make use of some of their special abilities to cause a bit of mayhem. There are a handful of different ghost types, each with several variations and special abilities. The entire system isn’t the most in-depth or anything, but it’s just enough that you can quickly find a ghost type and variant you really like to play as.

The customization aspect for ghosts feels like a drop in the bucket when compared to the Ghostbuster customizations. You can upgrade and customize individual parts of different gear pieces, each with their own positives and negatives. I was honestly shocked at how many upgrades and part variations there were for the Ghostbusters’ equipment. Not only that, but Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed includes an in-depth character customization feature. You can modify a surprising number of features for your character’s face and body. You also have a ton of cosmetic options in the form of clothing, accessories, and color combinations for individual components. Given that character creation is one of the first things you do in the game, it made for a very warm first impression of the overall game. It showed a level of love and attention rarely seen in games like this.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed
Complete contracts and challenges for XP and cosmetic unlocks

“A level of love and attention” can honestly be applied to this entire game. There isn’t really any area where I can say, “Oh, IllFonic just phoned this in!” Quite the opposite in fact. The story was fun to experience, especially with the vocal talents of actors like Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd reprising their roles. Then you have Rahul Kohli bringing a voice and a bit of humorous personality to Tobin’s Spirit Guide.

The gameplay is super fun, especially when playing with friends. While it probably won’t consume your life, Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is one of those games where you can quickly hop into a few games and come away smiling. Aside from a couple of missteps with how the story is handled, I also wish that there were a few additional levels to bust some ghosts in. The game is only $39.99 (USD), so perhaps asking for a couple of more levels is a bit of a tall order. What you are given here is a lot of bang for your buck and one of the best ways to fulfil some of your childhood dreams.

Speaking of which, you can freely explore the firehouse, which is just super awesome if you have ever been a fan of the Ghostbusters. Some of the easter eggs tucked away here and there will probably make you geek out a bit, because I know I sure did. As one final note here: Yes, you can slide down the firepole in the firehouse. Oh! I also need to give another thumbs up to the character creator in the game. I am very happy that I was able to make a character that always looks surprised. It has been absolutely amazing, especially in cutscenes. Great job here, IllFonic. This is a really fun game and my friends and I have had a blast playing it these past couple of weeks.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed 4 out of 5 stars

Additional Information
  • Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed
    • Developed by: IllFonic
    • Published by: IllFonic
  • Price: Starting at $39.99 (USD)
  • Platform reviewed on: PC via Epic Games Store
    • Reviewed on: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X, 32GB DDR4 3600 RAM, Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti
    • Also available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Release Date: October 18, 2022
  • ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+ (Fantasy violence, comic mischief, alcohol reference, language)
  • This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes from IllFonic.

Additional Screenshots
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