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Ghost Rider (PlayStation 2) artwork

Ghost Rider (PlayStation 2) review

"Ghost Rider rides a motorcycle, has a skull for a head, wears a leather jacket with spikes, is engulfed in unquenchable hellfire, and makes the corrupt relive their sordid crimes - from their victimís point of view. That sells itself."

First off: Ghost Rider was not a bad movie. I was skeptical, too, especially after Nicholas Cageís riveting performance in the Wicker Man (ďKILLING ME WONíT BRING BACK YOUR GODDAMN HONEY!Ē) but itís a fun flick that doesnít take itself too seriously. No Batman Begins, but good.

Second off: Even if Ghost Rider was as bad as everyone thought it would be, it wouldnít have much bearing on the gameís worth. The plot takes place after the movie. New characters are introduced, old ones are downplayed. Nicholas Cage doesnít do voice acting, and the Johnny Blaze that shows here doesnít look at all like him. So no beef.

Now, this would typically be the part of the review where I go into the history of Ghost Rider and tell you just why heís so damn awesome. But Iím passing on the former, because telling it takes too long, and most people donít care, anyway. And Iím passing on the latter, since Ghost Rider rides a motorcycle, has a skull for a head, wears a leather jacket with spikes, is engulfed in unquenchable hellfire, and makes the corrupt relive their sordid crimes - from their victimís point of view. That sells itself, and itís kind of funny, really - the two best things about Ghost Rider are the motorcycle and the guy who rides it.

When Ghost Riderís on his motorcycle, the game goes for a Road Rash From Hell approach. Youíve got Ghost Rider, tearing up the road down the highway to hell. A streak of fire following in his wake, motorcycle roaring, demons swirling about him. They come at him from the side, he whips them away with his chain. They pass him in the front, he blows them away with balls of flame. And if theyíre stupid enough to stand in his way, he just runs them over.

Itís frenetic, kinetic, hectic experience; Ghost Rider pulls off daredevil jumps, slides under obstacles, blazes through anything and everything and looks so damn good doing it. You really get the feeling youíre riding this accursed engine, you really see the flames lapping at your wheels as you fly over the chasms of hell, you really hear the screams and howls and wails of the demons chasing after you, and it can really drive you wild.

Which makes it such a shame that itís treated it more like a minigame than anything else.

Iím not saying Ghost Riderís time on foot is a total loss - it reminds me a bit too much of Devil May Cry 3, but, given the similar Satanic subject matter, that canít be helped. It plays out like some damned beat-em-up; Ghost Rider beats demons of every shape and size around with his bony fist, he wraps them up in his flaming chains and slams them to and fro, he unleashes his dreadful Penance Stare and engulfs them in the searing inferno of the pit. He even picks them off from afar with fiery blasts of his shotgun, taking the souls of his fallen enemies and using them for ammo.

Itís sinfully sweet, and you will enjoy it, and youíll dispatch the Devilís minions with glee and gusto. But after, a few chapters pass and once you fall into the swing of things, you realizeÖthereís just not much variety here.

Demons. Big demons. Bat demons. Ninja demons. They can be fun to fight, they come in different flavors, they each require different strategies to defeat. But once you fall into the rhythm, things slow down. You travel here, get ambushed, you travel there, get ambushed again. You maybe solve a simple puzzle, you move on. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat; more enemies, more button-mashing, more reaped souls. It just wears away after a while, and while the occasional motorcycle minigame helps break the monotony, you canít help but wish you spent more time on the open road. Youíll be wading your way through waves of demons, burning them to the ground, and the whole time youíll be wishing you could just call in your ride flatten them beneath your scorching wheels, laughing all the way.

The game makes up for it. Tries to. It gives you rather well-drawn comic pages for cut scenes, voiced by Sam Elliot himself, of The Big Lebowski fame (I keep expecting to refer to Ghost Rider as ĎThe Dudeí) It gives you updates of classic enemies, like the sultry succubus Lilith and Ghost Riderís rival rider, Vengeance. There are things to enjoy here, for new fans and old ones alike.

Just donít expect it last too long. Ghost Riderís flame burns so long as the blood of the innocent is spilled. His game isnít so lucky.

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (March 23, 2007)

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