Previews

Ghostbusters

Haunting hands-on action...

Burning books isn't something we usually advocate. Then again, most books haven't just been turned into a hardback battering ram by a paranormal being intent on crushing our craniums. So in this case, we'll make an exception.

We're standing in a giant reading area of the New York Public Library firing nuclear accelerated particle beams at a stack of literature possessed by the spirit of a former librarian. If this sounds somewhat familiar, it's probably because you've seen Ghostbusters, one of the most entertaining celluloid comedies of the 1980's. Now, some twenty-five years after the release of the original movie (and its 1989 sequel), the Ghostbusters series is being resuscitated in the form of a third-person shooter, to which we've been given exclusive hands-on access at developer Terminal Reality's Dallas offices.

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THE REAL DEAL
This is, of course, a shooter with a difference, shaping up to be a great alternative to the abundance of over-serious, first/third-person action games currently saturating the market. What's more, it features a story penned by the legendary writing partnership of Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, and is considered by the duo as the third movie that never was.

"The story is set in 1991, two years after the end of Ghostbusters II (and) you play as a new member of the Ghostbusters team," explains Andy Dombroski, the game's Lead Level Designer. "Both Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd have made up most of the characters, and have written the script, dialogue and jokes." Add to this the fact that director Ivan Reitman has come on board to oversee the game's FMVs and with every key cast member (except Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis) reprising their roles from the movies, it's easy to see why this game has got our juices overflowing like a petri dish of angered ectoplasmic slime.

"We're bringing back a lot of characters from the movie like Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson)," promises Dombroski. "Walter Peck (William Atherton) will also be returning... We've tried to centre on the same themes as the films, such as fighting the establishment. We also try to explain why New York has become such a hotbed for paranormal activity. But we want to start the player out with some familiar situations and locations from the movies, such as taking on the Stay Puft Marshmallow man and the librarian ghost in the New York Public Library."

BOOK FAIR
Speaking of ghosts in libraries, we still have a stack of haunted books to deal with. Backed up by Ray and Egon, we let off pulses of energy at our aerial attacker, slowly incinerating its protective hardback shield in order to get at the apparition within, while desperately sidestepping its tricksy swooping attacks.

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After several blistering minutes - during which our wayward proton blasts splinter wooden tables and chairs, smash chandeliers, scorch walls and generally turn the once pristine reading hall into pulp - we finally burn away our enemy's defences, forcing it to flee into the basement. "We really want you to feel as though you're tearing up a room," explains Terminal Reality President Mark Randel as we briefly survey the carnage before whipping out a PKE meter and plunging into the murky depths of the library's basement in pursuit of the ghost.

What follows is a tense passage of play displaying masterful use of sound and flickering images that stretch our nerves to breaking point, then make them snap as books and shelves are suddenly flung towards us by the angered ghost.

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