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Quick Look: Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed

22 Mar 2022

IllFonic is a studio that’s been actively pushing back at the negativity that surrounds the idea of licensed games. While their two previous licensed titles – Friday the 13th: The Game and Predator: Hunting Grounds – received middling reviews, both maintain dedicated fanbases, with the latter still receiving updates even now in 2022.

Now with multiple big-name licensed asymmetric titles under their belts, the studio dove back into ’80s pop culture to find their next franchise to work with…and came up with one that’s a bit more family friendly.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed has been announced as IllFonic’s newest licensed title, with a targeted release date of Q4 2022. We recently had the opportunity to view some early gameplay of the title, alongside IllFonic’s CEO, Chuck Brungardt, and Chief Creative, Jared Gerritzen.

Spirits Unleashed‘s story takes place in the series’ cinematic timeline, shortly after the 2021 film Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The main premise has Winston Zeddemore reforming the Ghostbusters, with the player taking the part of one of the first employees of this new team. The story itself wasn’t discussed much, though it was mentioned that it includes story beats and cinematics revolving around a day-in-the-life of a Ghostbuster.

“…we are pulling out all the stops to make something special and accessible to [Ghostbusters’] diverse fanbase,” mentioned Brungardt. “The community is massive and very core to this game.” Targeting a T rating for this title was one of the ways the team set out to accomplish this. Whilst the studio’s previous licensed titles received Mature ratings apropos to the original films they were based off of, the Ghostbusters franchise’s PG to PG-13 ratings led the team to aim toward a wider audience.

Also assisting in this is a step away from the studio’s previously multiplayer-only titles: Spirits Unleashed will be able to be played entirely single player. Playing solo won’t punish a player interested in going online, either, as content such as unlockables are accessible in single player mode and can be carried over to multiplayer.

As for the gameplay itself, the core concept will be familiar to those that have experience with asymmetric games. Spirits Unleashed is built as a four-versus-one game, with teams of Ghostbusters working to take down a single ghost player. Whilst the Ghostbusters’ goal is to capture the ghost three times to win, the ghost player must terrify and chase off various NPCs scattered around each stage.

The Ghostbusters’ arsenal is taken straight from the movies: PKE meters, particle throwers, and proton packs, all used together (or individually with a bit of teamwork) to locate and capture the ghost player. As is common in games such as these, gear and cosmetics can be unlocked through gameplay to upgrade and customize the player’s Ghostbuster.

The ghost player has access to a variety of skills to help them fight back, of course. From possessing objects to summoning AI minions, the options available to this player look to allow them to play either stealthily or aggressively. One mechanic Brungardt and Gerritzen highlighted in particular is what they called the “Rift,” an ability for the ghost to create what is essentially an emergency escape from the Ghostbuster players. This mechanic was added specifically to protect against what they referred to as “bad rolls,” where the randomness of a match falls heavily against the ghost through no fault of the players, to help keep the asymmetrical fight on fair ground.

Brungardt and Gerritzen also made a point to mention the inclusion of VoIP (i.e. voice chat) in game…something which is so common that it seemed odd to point out. But this was highlighted particularly for the ghost player, for which the team implemented spatial voice. While the Ghostbuster players can communicate normally, the ghost player’s voice can only be heard by other players nearby them, letting the ghost player taunt their competitors or giving an advantage to Ghostbuster players with keen hearing.

While the game is still being worked on and finalized, the team is confident in their targeted Q4 2022 release date. The game is planned to launch with full cross-play from day one, and future post-launch content is also under consideration.

Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is planned for release for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC via Epic Games Store.

Screenshots courtesy of IllFonic. Screenshots taken from a pre-alpha build.