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February 12, 2007
Ghost Rider - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
16/2/20072K GamesClimax1MMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Flame effects are impressive.
As many of you would be aware there is Ghost Rider movie starring Nic Cage and Eva Mendes coming out in the next week. This game isn't a direct movie tie-in but rather is placed as a sequel to the movie which makes it a perfect purchase for those looking for some more Ghost Rider action. The story in this game has been penned by comic writers Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti so it ties in perfectly into the Ghost Rider universe and is a game which both movie and comic book fans should also take note of.

Ghost Rider tells the story of Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stunt performer in a traveling circus, who sold his soul to what he believed was Satan but was actually the demon Mephisto (a retcon), in order to save the life of his Step Father, Crash Simpson. Blaze was bound with the demon Zarathos and transformed into a leather-clothed skeleton, his head cloaked in a sheath of flame. Mephisto gives Johnny Blaze a choice; catch the demons that have escaped from Hell or watch his girlfriend die.

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Some effects are pretty special.
Essentially what we have here is a third person action game which has more then a passing resemblance to God of War and Capcom's Devil May Cry franchise. I'll say it up front; this game isn't quite as good as those franchises - but it does come closer then most games. Essentially this game is split up into two main sections. The first is a third person action game while the second is a motorbike action sequence.

In the on-foot sections Johnny Blaze has two forms of weapons. The first is the Hellfire Chain which thrashes around the levels cutting up the enemies in much the same way that Kratos' is equipped. (Seeing as the Ghost Rider comic books were around from 1973 to 1983 we can't say they copied from Sony's title). This weapon can be used in light or heavy attacks and there's a range of different combos that can be used for more powerful attacks. The second weapon carried by Johnny is the Hellfire Shotgun which allows you to blow away the enemies - although the number of shots is very limited. The enemies come in a wide range of forms. As well as the smaller 'fodder' styled enemies the game includes plenty of larger, almost screen filling enemies and bosses. Many will take plenty of beating to defeat but if you weaken them enough you'll often have the opportunity to press the circle button for a neat finishing move. The Ghost Rider can also use the Penance Stare to rip the souls out of enemies.

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One of the many riding sections.
The second type of gameplay in the game is the sections where Johnny Blaze is on his motorbike, the Hell Cycle. In these levels - which typically only last a couple of minutes at most - you'll be racing through the streets with plenty of enemies looking to take you out. Fortunately you have unlimited missiles to fire at enemies ahead and, should they get close to you on other motorbikes, you can use the Hellfire Chain to take them out.

As an added bonus the developers have included a tonne of extra content including artwork and interviews from the developers. Some of the interviews are pretty good too with some nice information pertaining to the games development and adapting from a comic book background.

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A near-full boss health bar.
So what doesn't work in this game? While the on foot action sections are pretty solid they can be quite linear. Progress to one area, clear all the enemies, progress to the next area, clear the enemies and so on. There was also a lack of puzzle solving elements which could have broken up the steady stream of action. It was, however the motorbike sections that we really struggled with. Due to the darkness of many of the levels it can be hard to see where you're going or what's coming up ahead. In fact the developers have even put a small light halo around the enemies so you can see them up ahead. The motorbike physics seem a little off in places but while not terrible they could have been improved. I also felt that the upgrade system allows you to upgrade to more powerful weapons a bit too quickly making the game a bit too easy early on, although it does toughen up as you progress. Finally I was also left wanting more storyline in the game. You do get snippits throughout the game but with such a rich comic background I was left wanting more.

Graphically I was pretty impressed by Ghost Rider. Sure it's not the best looking game on the PS2, and the developers didn't secure the likeness of Nic Cage for the game, but there's still plenty to enjoy. While the on-screen characters are smaller then I would have liked the animation is pretty good, especially on the Ghost Rider himself. The way his chain flashes around the level isn't to dissimilar to Kratos' in God of War and his fire covered head looks pretty nice indeed. The cut-scenes are done in a comic book fashion with voiceovers which keeps the game firmly in its comic book heritage. As you can tell from these screenshots widescreen support has also been included which makes the game look quite a bit sharper on a nice TV.

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A couple of big enemies ahead.
Audio in Ghost Rider isn't going to win any awards, but it's not bad either. The music is limited but changes according to the action on screen while the effects are meaty enough through a nice sound system. There is also some voiceovers used throughout the cut-scenes and they are of high enough quality both in terms of scripting and recording. Sadly the game only includes Stereo sound, with no option for Dolby Pro Logic II.

While Ghost Rider isn't the best game ever seen on the PS2 it certainly isn't the worst either and at only $AU49.95 (cheaper if you shop around) it's pretty good value. In fact I would go so far as to say that fans of the comic books, or the upcoming movie, should consider adding this to your collection. I was surprised that the game, despite coming out in the same week as the Nic Cage movie, isn't actually a tie-in. Perhaps that will make the game more appealing to many gamers.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSA polished game that just lacks that something extra special.
SOUNDThe music and effects get the job done, limited, but good, speech.
GAMEPLAYNot quite up there with God of War or Devil May Cry, but not too far off either.
VALUEAt only $AU49.95 this is an entertaining game with some good value.
OVERALLGhost Rider is a very solid title which fans of the comic book - and indeed upcoming movie - would do well to check out. Very solid.

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