If you want to bust ghosts nowadays, you’ve got options. You could play Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, for instance, for Dead by Daylight-style 4v1 gameplay. That’s not bad at all, but there’s a more immersive choice as well: Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord, a Meta Quest and PlayStation VR2 game from nDreams. Rise of the Ghost Lord is the first virtual reality Ghostbusters game, and it allows up to four online players to tackle a variety of cooperative missions together.
Things start with a single-player tutorial that consists of two missions and lasts about 20-30 minutes. In this game, the Ghostbusters have opened a second office in San Francisco. This presumably allows Rise of the Ghost Lord to avoid the use of the original movie’s cast, a much different take than the one employed by Spirits Unleashed. The California branch was founded by Gabriela Sparks, a character (created for the game) who enthusiastically delivers instructions and exposition to players via radio during missions.
In the first intro mission, the player (a new Ghostbuster) is called to the spooky house of an ally who has been aiding with paranormal research. Things quickly go wrong, and an entity known as the Ghost Lord escapes to wreak havoc on the world of the living. After a brief stopover in the California Ghostbusters headquarters, solo players will head out on a second tutorial mission. The second mission teaches a few more mechanics and introduces a helpful lady ghost who seems to oppose the Ghost Lord.
In the HQ, players can watch news footage that tells a bit of the story; buy upgrades for their proton wands, PKE meters, and traps; switch characters at the lockers; and select missions for the team. Completing missions will earn money for upgrades such as allowing the proton pack to fire for longer before overheating or adding secondary functions to it. These upgrades make difficult missions much easier, so the challenge becomes more manageable over time. As for character selection, it should be noted that there are only a few characters to choose from (all created for this game), and no visual customization options. That’s Rise of the Ghost Lord’s greatest weakness, that you don’t get to make your own custom character or wear the uniforms from the movies or cartoons.
Upon clearing both tutorial missions, co-op finally unlocks from within the player’s personal headquarters. In subsequent sessions, players can choose to host a game, join a game, or play solo before entering their headquarters. Within your headquarters during online games, a room code is played above the center console, and the room can be set to private. Rise of the Ghost Lord has an active player base on Meta Quest at present, so public lobbies will fill up before too long. I’ve encountered Ghostbusters superfans and plenty of kids during my sessions, with the kids tending to quit mid-mission like little SOBs. Voice chat is enabled by default.
Several mission types are available, each taking place in one of six environments such as Alcatraz, the sewers, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Missions have a minor narrative driving them, one that culminates in a climactic battle against the Ghost Lord himself. Players will do battle against all manner of cartoonish ghosts, some of which must be dispatched in specific ways. The Mini-Pufts from Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, for instance, will cling to a player and must then be swatted off. Some missions have gigantic ghosts whose eyeballs must be individually pulled out by proton packs and then trapped – a cool mechanic, though these fights can go on for too long if the team’s weapons haven’t been sufficiently upgraded.
While Rise of the Ghost Lord whiffs the chance of letting players create their own Ghostbusters, it succeeds marvelously at recreating the act of ghostbusting in VR. Each player is equipped with their own proton pack, ghost trap, and PKE meter. To wield the proton pack’s particle wand, you grab it down from over your shoulder. Aiming and firing feels just like it should, though the thrower will overheat if fired for too long. Ghost traps and PKE meters are stored on either side of the player’s belt and can be easily grabbed off and stored. The traps here have a launcher so that players can point and fire them with the press of a button; they stay activated until reloaded. PKE meters are a little underutilized after the tutorial missions, but they can be used to figure out where to go when the team gets lost.
Busting ghosts is a naturally cooperative activity, and Rise of the Ghost Lord captures that well. Weakening a ghost until it’s ready to be trapped (indicated by a life meter) goes much more quickly with the help of a friend or three, and taking the eyes out of the giant spirits mentioned earlier definitely works best with a team. One mission type involves players taking turns carrying a “giga trap” through a ghost-infested environment; the player who carries the trap must be protected by the others. If a player gets downed (which happens too easily; these Ghostbusters should be stouter), that player must high five a teammate in order to be revived. At the end of each mission, the team’s payment is divvied up and awards are given based on performance and play-style. The one co-op negative is that mission difficulty doesn’t seem to adjust if someone quits the game (and you get practically no money for failing a mission), so quitters can sometimes spoil the fun.
It makes sense that a virtual reality Ghostbusters game would have a smaller budget and scale than a console game like Spirits Unleashed. The addressable audience for VR is worlds smaller than that of consoles and PC. That said, I wish Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord would draw upon more of the classic Ghostbusters iconography. It plays just like it should, but the handful of characters and the new headquarters that were created for the game aren’t nearly as iconic as the Ghostbusters from the films (or at least the classic uniforms) and firehouse would be. The climactic battle against the massive Ghost Lord is clearly inspired by the first movie’s Stay Puft battle, but fighting Stay Puft himself atop a skyscraper would be even cooler. If using characters from the movies adds to the development costs, nDream should sell those elements as DLC. Most of us would happily pay $8-10 for a movie-based Stay Puft level, especially if guests could join without owning the DLC. Still, even if Rise of the Ghost Lord never gets authentic uniforms or movie scenarios, the core gameplay and premise are strong enough to make the game a must-have for any Ghostbusters fan who owns a supported VR headset.
Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord supports 4-player online co-op and cross-play between all versions of the game. It sells for $34.99 on Meta Quest and PlayStation VR2. The "Full Containment Edition" costs $54.99 and adds 4 Equipment Skins, 10 Additional Character Costumes, the Slimer Hunt feature and collectible, and Additional Bonus Content.
Download codes for Meta Quest were provided by the developer for this review.
The Co-Op Experience: Up to four online players can join up and complete ghostbusting missions together. During a mission, downed players can be revived by high-fiving them. Cross-play is supported between Meta Quest and PlayStation VR2.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.