Joseph Rositano
01 Mar, 2007

Ghost Rider Review

PS2 Review | Whatever happened to Casper the friendly ghost?
Surprise, surprise: a film based on a comic book has hit the cinema and a game is released to cash in on the publicity. The story this time focuses on one Johnny Blaze, a biker who strikes a deal with a devil named Mephisto (short for Mephistopheles) to save his dying father from cancer. However, it eventually backfires on poor Johnny, and after his father dies from a horrible bike accident, our hero is cursed to flame up on a nightly basis, and turn into a walking skeleton as he fights evil.

In the game, Mephisto lures Johnny into Hell to persuade him into helping out with destroying the demons that walk on Earth. This task is made all the more necessary because of a pact Mephisto made with the angels of Heaven; for while he is the ruler of Hell, his leadership can be taken away from him should he allow demons to wreak havoc on Earth. This isn’t explained terribly well for the average person who knows next to nothing about Ghost Rider, and the story pans out in a similar fashion right up to the credits. Needless to say, we'd recommend you watch the film and/or read a few of the comic books to get a better grasp of what’s going on.

Essentially, Ghost Rider is a basic beat ‘em up title which sees you traverse from room to room disintegrating demons and collecting the various spoils they drop. Combat is more or less left to a range of combo moves that are performed by hitting the corresponding triangle, square and circle buttons. To add a little mix to the combat, you’ll also have a shotgun at your disposal, but it's sadly quite fiddly to use and has no aiming capabilities, making it generally only useful when fighting larger enemies. Combo moves range from a series of flips to flame wheel attacks, where Ghost Rider spins around like a ring of fire.

Besides these, you can also perform two special attacks: Retribution - a ferocious blast of fire that obliterates all enemies surrounding Johnny - and Pendant Stare, a lesser blast which stuns enemies and allows you to pick them up and smash them against the floor. Each special attack can only be used once their respected meters are full. The Retribution meter is filled with green spirit orbs, while the Pendant Stare is powered by a chain meter above the screen, and can be filled by simply performing standard attacks and combos. Be warned, however: the shotgun also uses the chain meter as a means of ammo, so you’ll have to be careful with the way you use your abilities.

"Flame on!" Whoops, wrong character.

"Flame on!" Whoops, wrong character.
As charming as they might sound, the beat ‘em up portions of the game have their lesser moments. We cannot stress enough how often you’ll be fighting the same enemies over and over again, and the AI is less than desirable. Even when the character models change, the general gameplay remains repetitive. Ghost Rider also manages to dish up repetitive secondary bosses - when you fight them for the first time, they’re easily twice as large as Ghost Rider himself, but once defeated, they’ll return multiple times thereafter, only they’ll be smaller and not quite as intimidating. The game also uses a Matrix bullet-time effect when you use a special attack. This has been done a thousand times over, and gets tiring very quickly because it slows down the pace of the gameplay. Usually, there would be an option to turn the effect off, but Ghost Rider seems to have missed this trend.

Climax, the game’s developer, has also included some motorbike sequences, which bring a fresh change of pace between levels. Primarily, they’re used to get Johnny from one location to another, but there still remains enough elements on hand to almost make the motorbike levels a standalone feature. Firstly, there are several jumps across ditches, spikes and other hazards you have to make that are simply inspirational. At times, you even have to skid under overhanging obstacles. On a few occasions - to the game’s credit - we found ourselves repeating jumps after dying simply because we timed them incorrectly, resulting in missed landings and poor Johnny getting smacked against billboards. The handling really feels thoroughly realistic (if you can call a motorbike on fire realistic, of course) and enjoyable. Simply riding the bike isn’t your only objective, however. Swarms of enemies litter the track, and you’ll either be shooting fireballs at them or, when they wander too close to you, you’ll be using your trusty chain to make short work of them.

Unfortunately, once again, a few problems ruin the experience. Firstly, whenever you make a big jump, the Matrix bullet-time effect that plagues the beat ‘em up segments once again becomes bothersome, in particularly when you know you’ve messed up a jump and spent a good five to ten seconds watching yourself fall to your death. Tracks also tend to be reused a bit, as backtracking is involved in the game, and more often than not you’ll be heading in the opposite direction you came, just to access a new area for the beat ‘em up levels. Fortunately, the same criticism can't be levelled at the beat ‘em up sections, where backtracking is kept to a minimum.

We get the feeling our insurance company isn't going to pay for this.

We get the feeling our insurance company isn't going to pay for this.
A range of unlockable content can be “purchased” on the pause screen using demon souls collected from fallen enemies and include "making of" videos, artwork and complete issues of Ghost Rider comics. The fact that the comics will be on a TV screen hasn’t been overlooked, and there’s a handy zoom-in/out function that allows you to view even the tiniest of text with ease. You can also upgrade your abilities by powering up your shotgun, unlock new combo moves, increase your health meter and, in the case of the motorbike levels, you can give your bike some extra fire power.

To be frank, despite it’s flaws, Ghost Rider is an above average game. However, there are a few factors that will leave you disappointed. Much of the game’s fun factor comes from upgrading your abilities and unlocking items, but once you’ve done all this, the game loses a lot of its appeal and becomes a mind-numbing, repetitive button masher. Shockingly, it took us only two and a half hours to unlock everything available on the pause screen, and a further hour to complete the game fully, giving the game a lifespan of just three and a half hours in total. For this effort, you will be rewarded with a selection of cheats and new characters, all of whom do absolutely nothing that the default Ghost Rider doesn't already do; basically, they're just different character models. As for the cheats, they’re really there as a gimmick to get you to play through the game again, and range from invincibility to one-hit kills. It truly is a disappointment.

For the most part, Ghost Rider's visuals are presented nicely, but are nothing overly special. Fire effects are dazzling (particularly in the Hell levels), but when it comes to environments, the game suffers from dull exposure. It’s not so much that the environments aren’t suited to the themes of the game; it’s more that there aren’t many decorative features, such as trees and statues, and when you are treated to some of this scenery, they look a little low on polygons. Character models aren’t particularly well-detailed either, with Ghost Rider’s flamed head the only noteworthy graphical nicety.

The camera system can also get frustrating at times. As you travel from room to room, the camera remains fixed, and quite often enemies will sneak up behind you and attack before you have time to react. To counter this, pressing R3 will automatically place the camera behind you, but it isn’t particularly useful when you’re being attacked from all sides. The right analogue stick also acts as a dodging mechanism when pushed, which is why the camera system is as poorly designed as it is. Staying true to its roots however, cutscenes actually play out like a comic book, and neatly pan to different boxes as they progress, as if you were reading a one.

Plants are no match against fire.

Plants are no match against fire.
The game’s soundtrack is a mix of '80s-style music and guitar riffs, which is all suited to the “evil in the desert” theme that's present throughout the game, though nothing in particular stands out. In terms of the voice acting, none of the movie’s cast lent their voices to the game, yet there's still a certain polish to the delivery of the dialogue. Ghost Rider’s voice is a bit muffled at times however, making it difficult to understand his speech, especially considering there isn’t any subtitles.

Whilst Ghost Rider has some solid gameplay behind it, and boasts a respectable amount of unlockable content, there’s just not enough here to warrant a purchase from anyone other than die-hard fans. There's a lack of replay value, repetitive gameplay, and the title takes far too little time to complete. Worth a rent, but only if you enjoyed the film.
The Score
Ghost Rider is worth a rent if you enjoyed the film, but otherwise, only die-hard fans should buy, due to the unlockable content alone.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Ghost Rider Content

Ghost Rider Preview
17 Feb, 2007 Hands-on with this decent licensed beat-'em-up.
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Review
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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike Review
20 Nov, 2005 We recon there's just summit about it.
7 years ago
article wrote
Apparently this is due to a deal Mephisto made with the angles of Heaven and reveals that as much as he is the ruler of Hell, his leadership can be taken away from him should he allow demons to cause havoc in the world above.
the problem with those heavenly angles, they're always right.
7 years ago
A bit short (the review), not really too in-depth, and various grammar problems bring the review down a bit, but it's not too bad. The game itself? Looks decent, but repetitive. Also, if it only takes 3 1/2 hours to complete it, shouldn't Lifespan be lower than 4.0?

Perhaps the classification should be "better than the average movie tie-in, but not a buy".
7 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
article wrote
Apparently this is due to a deal Mephisto made with the angles of Heaven and reveals that as much as he is the ruler of Hell, his leadership can be taken away from him should he allow demons to cause havoc in the world above.
the problem with those heavenly angles, they're always right.
Gold. We need some kind of status symbol to identify you as PALGN's resident smartarse/funnyman/quiptser.
7 years ago
^^ Damn straight. Obs is pretty awesome.
7 years ago
a devil named Mephisto (short for Mephistopheles)
Nar, the Marvel Comics character is actually called just "Mephisto". These days they downplay the demonic angle a lot and refer to him as an inter-dimensional psychic entity or something instead. icon_rolleyes.gif

...On the other hand, they call him Mephistopheles in the movie. Presumably the game's developers were confused by the mixed messages and/or went with a compromise solution.
7 years ago
When you say Pendant stare, I hope you don't mean Penance Stare.
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