Ghost Rider PlayStation 2
Published by 2K Games
Developed by Climax
Release Date: Out Now
Ghost Rider puts you in the shoes of Johnny Blaze, a famous motorcycle stunt rider. With his father dying of cancer Johnny meets a stranger who, in return for his immortal soul, agrees to cure his father. Johnny agrees to the deal but his father dies anyway. He was tricked by Mephistopheles and to make matters worse he must now do whatever Mephistopheles asks of him if he wishes to save his girlfriend's life. Johnny has to become the Ghost Rider and deal with some of Hell's biggest problems if he's to keep his girlfriend alive.
Ghost Rider is essentially an action game that mixes beat-'em-up combo style game play with vehicular combat. Armed with a flaming chain and a variety of combo moves the Ghost Rider has to take on a variety of enemies and between beat-'em-up sessions he has to ride his flaming motorcycle taking out enemies on his journey in a Road Rash sort of way. At the end of a level you're rated for your performance and given bonus points (called Demon Souls) that allow you to upgrade your character by purchasing Fire, Light and Heavy Combos.
Naturally with such an emphasis on the combat, particularly the sections where you're on-foot, the quality of the combat is all important. The game offers three difficulty levels. The easy difficultly level is an absolute cakewalk and won't give anyone any real problems. The default difficulty level and the hard difficulty level are slightly more challenging but those who regularly play games from this genre should not have too many problems. In fact it's fair to say that most gamers will only take around five hours to complete the game. The right analogue stick is used to perform evasive manoeuvres and this makes hit and run tactics very easy to employ. The link attacks, shotgun attacks and combos are quite useful too. However a couple of the combos seem too strong and it's possible to rely on them for much of the game, which does take some challenge out of the game. It's also possible to acquire far too many of the combos very early into the game. The AI doesn't really put up much of a challenge and more often than not the number of enemies rather than the competency of them will cause you the most problems.
At times Ghost Rider can be quite entertaining. The beat-'em-up sections are certainly passable and the sections where you're riding the motorcycle can be mildly enjoyable. However, it's not one of those games you can sit there and play for long sessions because it does become remarkably repetitive. Yes, all games are repetitive to a certain degree but there are those games that manage to keep us glued to the screen and there are those that become tedious after a short while. Sadly Ghost Rider falls squarely into the latter group and with prolonged play the whole experience becomes remarkably dull.
Graphically Ghost Rider looks OK. The enemies you'll face don't look particularly inspiring but get the job done. The level design is also uninspired and offers nothing that will live long in the memory. The game plays from the third person perspective most of the time. For the most part the camera is OK. In most situations you can snap the camera behind your character but there are moments when you're running toward the camera and at times it can be difficult to see approaching enemies. The frame rate is generally fine however there are moments when it chugs a little. I really noticed the frame rate become inconsistent during the motorcycle sections but thankfully it never caused any problems.
Whilst the Ghost Rider's story isn't anything special it's still disappointing that the game isn't subtitled. Tutorial messages are shown in text and all of the information you need in order to know what you're doing is accessible, which is important. Sadly though you won't be aware of the game's story and this certainly detracts from the experience.
The PlayStation 2 has a long list of great beat-'em-ups and Ghost Rider was always going to be up against it, particularly with it being released so close to God of War 2. It has a few things going for it in that it's accessible and the motorcycle stages are quite enjoyable. However, it does become quite tedious when playing for more than a few levels in one sitting. Some of the combos seem over-powered and it's also disappointing that the game can be finished in such a short space of time. It wouldn't be right to call Ghost Rider a poor game but it's certainly nothing special and certainly nothing to drag you away from other titles in the beat-'em-up genre.
Ghost Rider is ultimately a disappointment. The game is far too short and some of the combos are far too strong meaning you can complete the game with the minimum of effort. It's certainly far from being a disaster but it could have been so much better. Subtitles would have been nice too.