With a new Ghost Rider film dropping in theaters next week, I thought it would be rather topical to take a look at the Spirit of Vengeance’s first and only major console release: Ghost Rider for the PS2.
Ghost Rider was released to coincide with the 2007 film released from Sony and serves as a sequel to that particular film. The character’s appear as they do in the film (Johnny Blaze looks like Nic Cage, Mephistopheles and Blackheart appear more humanoid) but none of the actors reprise their roles. I’m guessing Nicholas Cage had to rush to do another picture, as it’s very unlike him to turn down a pay cheque, but I digress.
Gameplay in Ghost Rider can best be described, as Yahtzee would put in a Zero Punctuation review, “Like God of War, but…” or “like Devil May Cry, but…” with the “but” being Ghost Rider. Light and heavy attacks are found on the square and triangle buttons respectively, you can dodge roll out of the way by hitting an applicable direction on the right analog stick, defeating enemies produces orbs which can be used to buy new attacks, additional health, etc.
Being a tie-in to a film that no one really liked and a clone to one of the most well regarded third-person combat games, Ghost Rider isn’t actually that bad. The combat is fun and the unlocked combos add a lot of diversity to the standard “hit, hit, roll away” attacking that normally happens in games like these.
To break up the regular combat levels, there are stages that take place entirely on Ghost Rider’s hell cycle. In these you drive down a straight path, hitting enemies with physical and missile attacks, and slide or jump accordingly as the various arrows dictate. The game itself is pretty dark in its graphical style, so it would be very hard to know when to jump or slide without them. Some better level design to indicate this would’ve been better and more organic, but it’s not that big a deal. The hell cycle levels don’t tend to last that long as they do in certain other games (Bayonetta and Tomb Raider: Legend come to mind) and are a nice diversion.
Ghost Rider isn’t without its faults (it is a movie tie-in after all). As I mentioned previously, the graphics are very dark and it makes it hard to see where to go sometimes. The camera isn’t as zoomed out to frame the action as well as it is in God of War and thus results in a lot of cheap hits where enemies off screen are hitting you. Also one of the most annoying things in the game are combo shielded enemies. Certain enemies can only be hit when you have your combo meter up to a “B” rating (rating goes from D,C,B,A,S and V). One stage in particular had me in a stage of near heart attack frustration where I was surrounded by demon birds who would swoop in from above and hit me just as I was getting to the “V” rating needed to damage there shielded brothers. It would be alright if getting the combo meter up meant just hitting without getting hit, but in order to get the rating up you have to be creative and use everything in your arsenal.
Outside of the unlockable combos there are also movies from the development team to be unlocked, art from the film and game, pages from Ghost Rider comics and alternate skins such as Ghost Rider 2099, classic Ghost Rider and Vengeance. One of the more interesting unlockables is Blade, whom makes an appearance in the games story. It would’ve been nice if there would’ve been Blade specific levels that showed what he was doing behind the scenes, but you just play through the game as that character. Blade fights with his trademark sword, but doesn’t have access to a gun or extra powers like Ghost Rider does and he replenishes health by draining wounded enemies and not standing next to healing fires. Overall having Blade is a nice extra, but a little bit of a missed opportunity.
As far as movie games go, Ghost Rider is actually okay. By all means it’s not perfect, but it is a decent “like God of War, but…” game with decent unlockables and great combat that will get you through the short campaign. Check it out if you see it your local game shop, I guarantee it won’t be that expensive.