Reviewed: March 14, 2007
Released: February 13, 2007
Just in time for the movie release, 2K brings yet another synergistic marketing ploy into gaming stores everywhere. If the title of this article didnít already give it away Iím talking about Ghost Rider the video game or as I like to call it: Ghetto Devil May Cry. You think I kid, but in all honesty I would like to be able to set a Spirit of Vengeance on the people who made the game. Someone needs to make them pay for their crimes.
So youíre Ghost Rider, bad ass Spirit of Vengeance, out to, you know, avenge? If only it worked that easily. With what can only loosely be termed a Ďplotí you spend the game running through a series of open arenas or riding down pointlessly convoluted road ways. In short this is a button mashing train wreck of a game.
For starters the camera control is a joke, but thatís mostly because there is no camera control. Some titles have been able to pull off a lack of camera control; Ghost Rider is not one of them though. Since most levels consist almost exclusively of large open spaces that you run around and fight demons or ninjas in (donít ask, because I donít know either) you would think camera control would be a given. That way you can see what the hell you are fighting. Instead, you at best get a transparent overlay of the monster as it comes between you and the camera, and projectiles come out of nowhere.
The real frustration with that is when you run into ĎVengeance Sealí enemies. These guys can only be hurt when you have a certain level of combo built up, which has to be done without being hit. Iím all for a challenge, but I canít very well avoid attacks that I canít see coming. That was one of the reasons I flunked out of ninja school. If the game just had camera problems it would still be a palatable, but to compound the problems the combat system is shallow, the bike missions might as well not be there, and level design has never been so abortive.
Any third person fighter depends on how you fight for its legs, and GR here doesnít have a limb to stand on. There are the typical button repetitions and alterations (square, square, square, and so on), and they get built on as the game progresses, but the timing is spotty. Usually in trying to start one combo I would end up doing something completely different. This isnít too much of a problem, because really combat is just button mashing until you get enough power to drop one of your special moves.
The bike missions are sprinkled throughout the game to break up the head bashing monotony. They start off well enough, but quickly deteriorate into something like a forward scrolling shooter. The courses are all linear, and they donít present much of a challenge or even any interesting game play, after about the third one itís about as exciting as your daily commute.
What will bother you to no end though, what will make you completely incensed that you actually picked this game up off the shelf, is that the levels are so nice they use them twice. Iím kidding about the nice. The levels are at best gladiatorial arenas. The twice is anything but laughable though. Level layout is a series of rooms you wade through until you get to the motorcycle stage. Then you drive through that and wade through another series of arenas to a Ďbossí fight. On to the next level right? You only wish. Instead you go back the exact way you came. The same rooms to the same road run in reverse to the same framing arenas out. Thatís right; you run in and run back out.
Even worse, the bike missions get more implausible as the game progresses. I mean, Iíll buy the skyscraper in hell, or the tunnel through the cave, but a road big enough for motorcycle acrobatics in a military base? The mind boggles. On top of all that, there isnít much game even with the doubling back. All told I beat the game in something like 5 hours.
There is always a point where you know what kind of game youíre getting into, for Ghost Rider this happens about the time you see the first menu screen. All the menu screens, not just the title, but also the in game sub menus and the loading screens look like something phoned in from a PS 1 title. Itís almost painful to think they paid someone to make them.
In game graphics fare slightly better. The levels and backgrounds are unremarkable, but thatís just as well, because you see very little of them. Either youíre tearing past them on a hellfire powered motorcycle or too distracted by the poorly rendered monster bearing down on you.
With the exception of Ghost Rider himself and a few other main characters the models are blocky and lack detail. The basic demons look like little more than colored skin wrapped around wire frames, and the projectile demons look even worse. The only enemies that look halfway decent are the ninjas and the clowns (yes, you fight ninjas and clowns; I know it doesnít really make sense, just run with it). GR himself is an ok model, but the best part about him, as you might expect, is the skull. What makes the skull worth talking about is that as you increase your combo rating, the skull changes color to reflect where you are. It is a mostly worthless toying with pixels, but a nice touch none the less.
You might think that with such sub-normal character models there might be some worthwhile animation going on. You would, however, be wrong. The characters, be the friend or foe, move stiffly and often donít seem like they have much weight to them. Much of the movement looks unnatural as well; perhaps the most telling moment is one of the first in game Ďcut scenesí where you see the monsters crawling out of the woodwork. It really looks more like drunken paraplegic monkeys falling out of a tree, but thatís still menacing, right?
The Ďstoryí to the game is told in comic panels, somewhat reminiscent of Max Payne. They look nice, but donít always make a whole lot of sense.
The soundtrack is pretty much generic background rock. It has Electric guitars and drums just bland enough to not get in the way, but just distinctive enough to help set the scene; sort of rock casual.
I would have loved to work as a sound effects guy for this game. I would have gone out and bought the cheapest sound effects record I could find and then blown the rest of my budget on jell-o and skittles, or maybe my cocaine habit. Either way the game gets the same poor treatment.
It would be nice to be able to say that the voice acting is a saving grace of this title at least that would be something positive. Anyone who has ever played a video game can tell you how unlikely a proposition that is. They wouldnít be wrong here either. The narrator is a not very passable Sam Elliot (who is?), and everyone else is just there. Like they held auditions on the subway on the way to the recording studio and whoever wasnít busy got the job.
As mentioned above the game took me a grand total of I think it was 4 hrs and 20 min to complete, at least thatís about what my last save was at. You can probably tack on another half an hour in level retries, but you arenít looking at much more than 5 or 6 hours of game time. Thatís unlocking everything except for one hidden character too by the way.
The other extras are about as interesting as the game itself. In theory they are nice, some behind the scenes interviews, concept art, movie stills, and comic book pages. The comic book pages are a nice touch, but like everything else, they arenít nearly as cool as youíd think. There are only like 5-7 pages from each issue you unlock, so while itís a nice addition for the comic fans, there isnít nearly enough content to make it worth your while. Then again for $20 can you really complain that much?
This game just feels like it was pushed out the door to capture the heat and hype of the movie. The levels that had the most polish and the enemies that went along with them were on display at E3 a year ago. Everything else is not nearly so well rendered or animated.
If your room is plastered with posters from the movie and comics, and Ghost Rider is the entire reason for your being, then by all means pick up the game. If you are somewhat less of an acolyte, then youíre probably better off saving your money, unless youíre looking for a cheap, mindless beatdown.