Many gamers are “into” comic book series such as Spiderman, Superman and various obscure publications as well as manga and other Japanese titles. I just don’t see the appeal, Pokemon was perhaps the closest I got but that was a long time ago. So when Ghost Rider for the PS2 dropped onto my desk, a little researching had to be done to find out exactly what this game is about.
From “well known” comic book writers Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti, the story follows a young guy named Johnny Blaze who sold his soul to the devil. Not for rock ‘n’ roll, but to ensure the safety of his father. As such, whenever blood of the innocent is spilt our Johnny turns into the Ghost Rider. Things aren’t so simple however as the demon in control of his soul (Mephisto) has his own problems to solve and so drags along Blaze to do the dirty work. Blackheart, the son of Mephisto, has escaped with some other evil-do-ers and has set his sights on starting the Apocalypse. With Hell on thin ice with Heaven, this simply cannot happen, and with the added incentive of losing his girlfriend to Mephisto, Johnny gets on his way.
…still with me?
Ghost Rider in the flesh seems to be the adoring fan of Devil May Cry in that it’s very hack ‘n’ slash with limited moves that can be strung together to make combos (and dish out MASSIVE DAMAGE), thus filling up gauges that allow special moves to performed for a certain amount of time. Slaying each demon gives you soul points which, much like the Japanese blockbuster, can be exchanged for better weapons, items and powers. Using a variety of attacks in a combo alters the amount of points you get so you’re encouraged away from just using one form of assault.
All very well, but what Ghost Rider borrows from Devil May Cry and God of War seems to have been chewed up in the process, leaving us with a mangled form of what once was a brilliant system. You see, no matter what rating you get during battle, for the most part you’ll end up with just about enough soul points to achieve anything within the game. The fact that one hit from an enemy is enough to destroy your progress on the special attack gauges is very annoying as they tend to have a habit of hiding off the edge of the screen and attacking from there, so you’ll be one or two hits form unleashing the fury, and then back to nothing again. Once in a while you’ll encounter enemies with shields which can only be broken once your gauges are at a certain level. Pretty simple, really, as you just keep hitting the shield until you’ve enough to pass. Not exactly sure where the challenge was meant to be in that one.
There’s not a vast array of enemies to be found either. Much like back in Streets of Rage you’ll find yourself fighting the same old creatures again and again and again until you come to a boss that presents little challenge or variety. Only the fact that he releases more soul points than the other enemies makes him stand out. Driving sequences are even worse, with players driving their motorbike over an uninspiring road filled with holes and low bridges that require you to simply swerve and duck. Enemies pop up once in a while that can be easily defeated with a swing of your chain, and the bike is one of the most unresponsive and poorly handled vehicles I’ve ever the displeasure of experiencing in a videogame.
The graphics aren’t any better, with poorly detailed and dark locations with blurry textures and enemies that are very uninspiring. Couple that with a camera that sticks to anything nearby and slowdown once a group of enemies comes on screen and you’ve pretty much experienced yet another comic book/movie tie in that’s poorly designed and executed.
If there’s anything good to say about Ghost Rider then it’s the unlockable content such as comic book pages and concept art as well as a few movies from the guys behind the game. Why exactly you’d want to include a movie of yourself contributing to such a dire effort of a videogame is beyond me, but fans of the series should find themselves at home here.
Ghost Rider is the classic example of what happens when videogames meet a license. That’s all I can say to wrap this one up.