One of my guilty pleasures is suffering through a big budget comic book movie video game adaptation, then tearing it a new anus here on The Comics Console. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance hit theaters last weekend, and sadly (or perhaps luckily), no video game tie-in was spawn from the film, but that inspired me to dust off my copy of Ghost Rider, the game released along side Nicholas Cage’s first ride as Johnny Blaze. I dare say it’s the most authentic comic book video game experience ever. Within minuets of starting the game, you actually feel your soul being ripped out by the hand of Satan!
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Climax Group
Released: Feb. 13, 2007
Which is worse? Ghost Rider the movie or Ghost Rider the video game? Thankfully, the video game spares us any of Nick Cage’s horrid acting abilities, so I’m inclined to give the video game the benefit of the doubt. Climax Group’s Johnny Blaze doesn’t at all resemble Cage, helping me immerse into a more comic book friendly game environment instead of a movie tie-in muck. Moving comic book panels tell the origin and set up your opening mission as Mephisto drags you to hell itself for an offer Blaze can’t refuse. The story basically ends there, resulting in an abrupt and uninteresting payoff.
The stylized comic book forms and Cage-free cast set this game off on a good start, but once the button mashing begins, it all goes down hill from there. From God of War to Devil May Cry, there were many great games the developers could have chosen to rip off for their slasher/beat-’em-up, and they did. They just left out all the parts that make those games fun. Cramped, linear maps take you through wave after wave of the same three demons as you eliminate them using different combinations of the triangle and square button. The signature Ghost Rider chain whip, a minimum use shotgun, temporary invincibility power up, and a good ol’ sucker punch all look pretty at first glance, but the repeated animations quickly grow tiresome. Even purchasing new attacks adds no spice to the mind numbing four hours of repetition.
Every comic book video game has that one niche that every fan looks forward to living out, be it web slinging between skyscrapers as Spider-Man, flying above Metropolis as Superman, ripping apart soldiers as Wolverine, or silently taking down a room full of henchmen as Batman. In Ghost Rider’s case, leaving a trail of brimstone as you tear through hell on your flaming motorcycle should be the game’s most exciting moment. Unfortunately, it’s just the opposite. The motorcycle driving stages feel like a gimmick forced down your throat every other level. What should be a fast paced thrashing of fire and chains is actually an overly delicate and bland obstacle course. Disappointing doesn’t begin to describe this miscarriage of justice.
What could have been a saving grace was the amount of extras purchasable with your experience points. I got excited when seeing developer interviews about re-imagining the comics, original Ghost Rider comics, and alternate costumes like Carter Slade, Ghost Rider 2099, and even Blade. But, costumes aside, the developer interviews are weak and uninteresting, and the Ghost Rider comics are merely a few excerpts of shrunken illegible pages. Ultimately, none of it is really worth the extra play time needed to purchase.
Every environment is empty, uninspired, and blocky. Putting your main character in hell itself should be an opportunity to show some real creativity, but nothing very creative comes through at all. The graphics in general are harshly dated by 2007 PS2 standards. Even the music is pathetic as the same single metal score mumbles over the action in each level. What’s good for a laugh is pressing the select button and hearing Ghost Rider spout a catch phrase like he’s literally phoning it in through an old rotary telephone.
Like many comic book characters, Ghost Rider is a great hero caught in a bad situation. At its core, Ghost Rider is a great franchise that hasn’t been treated with the respect the fans expect in either film or games. If you’re looking for an extension on your Ghost Rider this year, your best buy is going to be Zen Studio’s Marvel Pinball Ghost Rider table. Otherwise, your collection of games will be just fine if Ghost Rider is absent from it.
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