Just call it "Devil May Ghost Rider of War." Based ever-so-loosely on the same-named upcoming Nic Cage movie (which, in turn, is based on the popular Marvel comic book), Ghost Rider isn't just inspired by such great action franchises as God of War and Devil May Cry, it practically robs those games blind of every gameplay mechanic it can get its grubby, demonic hands on. And yet, somehow, some way, despite the incredible pedigrees the developers were lifting from, Ghost Rider is completely bereft of the elements that made those games so much fun. It is a hollow, monotonous shell of those games, completely soulless in its execution and devoid of any unique or interesting qualities, much less any fun. Suffice it to say, no matter how much of an affinity you have for the titular hero, this game is not for you.
How in the heck do you make a game about a dude with a flaming skull for a head so incredibly boring?!?
Ghost Rider purportedly features a storyline penned by Marvel writers Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti, but the story feels less like a fully fleshed-out piece of comic fiction and more like leftover table scraps. The story doesn't even do a good job of tying in to the movie. It's told through some comic-paned cutscenes that feature just-different-enough-to-not- quite-look-like-real-actors drawings of all the major characters from the movie. A soundalike of Sam Elliott (apparently channeling his Big Lebowski character, with a spookier edge) narrates a few opening sequences just to get you up to speed, and eventually you figure out that the demon Mephisto needs Ghost Rider to head up to earth to stop his son, Blackheart, and his army of demons from getting their apocalypse on. It's a middling tale that's disjointed in its delivery and does a weak job of shoving in some familiar Marvel personalities (like Blade) just because it can. It also doesn't help that the audio mix on the cutscenes is so awful that you'll have to turn the volume on your TV way, way up just to hear what's going on, only to be brutally assaulted with the screechy in-game sound effects and soundtrack at much-too-high volume seconds later.
Once you settle into the gameplay, you'll find an unholy combination of God of War's whip-heavy combat and Devil May Cry's ranking system. The game is all about you killing Blackheart's demonic forces with as much style and variety as possible, and to its credit, it does provide a decent number of combos to work with. You start out with almost none, but then, through a direct rip of God of War's upgrade system (right down to the sound effect it uses to fill up your various upgradeable meters), you can use souls you've collected to buy new combos and up your abilities.
The problem, though, is that very few of the combos are actually worth using, and you get the most useful ones very early in the game. In fact, one combo in particular is so powerful, it kills just about any enemy in roughly three hits. All the other combos in the game tend to take much longer to fell any one foe, so there's not much incentive to ever use the other combos--except when the game forces you to. There are a couple of instances where enemies will pop up with shields that can only be broken by reaching a certain ranking on the combo meter. You can't build up your combo meter unless you throw in as much attack variety as possible, so you're arbitrarily forced to use as many different attacks as you can to eventually crack this shield. Trouble is, the meter fully resets any time you're hit, and enemies are just good enough at coming at you from offscreen and nailing you when you're not expecting it to make this whole process intensely frustrating.
Apart from this one particularly stupid element, very little of the remaining components of Ghost Rider are frustrating, mainly because the game's really easy. You fight the same onslaughts of the same generic demons over and over again, and they never change up their attack patterns in the slightest. Not to mention the one-size-fits-all combo that eliminates practically any bad guy in just a few hits. You'll blow through the game in just a few hours, but it'll take some fortitude to not become desperately bored an hour into the whole thing. The combat goes absolutely nowhere, and the enemies are so dull to look at and fight that you can't help but wish the developer had gone the extra mile and just lifted enemies right out of DMC or GOW, since at least they'd put up a more interesting fight. Level designs add to the sense of monotony, not just through their constantly drab and grainy graphics, but also because the game frequently forces you to backtrack through the same territory again and again.