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GAME REVIEW: Gamers better off renting, not buying, 'Ghost'

The "Ghost Rider" video game feels like an afterthought, not like a part of the recently released movie or the comic book upon which the movie is based.

The game picks up where the movie leaves off. You're Johnny Blaze, motorcycle stunt rider by day and demon hunter by night. You get a flaming chopper and a flaming skull. How cool is that?

As you wield Johnny's fiery chain whip, you're constantly nagged by the feeling that this is trying to be "God of War." And failing. Where "God of War" envelopes you in a mythical struggle, the pint-size characters of "Ghost Rider" make the action seem as though it's happening far away. And without mind-bending puzzles to solve.

The game also settles into a rut: clear an area of demons, advance, clear a room of demons, repeat. There's little strategy, though in "Devil May Cry" fashion, your Vengeance Bar fills as you string together combinations of blows. If your Vengeance Bar equals or is greater than your enemy's Spirit Shield, go ahead and dish out a butt-whipping. But if it's not, get ready to pump up your Vengeance Bar by delivering more blows while avoiding hits. This good idea gets frustrating, though, when off-screen foes hit you and sap your Vengeance Bar. Too bad you can't control the camera view.

Also unfair are the parts of the game that take place on your bike. Not even the flaming chopper can light up the streets enough so you can see where you're going while fending off demons. Prepare to replay some scenes not because you're incompetent but because you can't see what you're doing.

Adding to the "argh!" factor is the game's ease over the first 90 minutes or so. You're unlocking combos and boosts so quickly that the game feels too easy. Foes prove more formidable as the game goes on, but a more balanced beginning wouldn't cheat you of the thrill of conquering a challenge.

Things could have been leavened with the camp of the comic book or movie. There's plenty of action, and by using combos, you keep the action going. But it's mostly thumb gymnastics.

"Ghost Rider" isn't a bad game. It's just you've done it before and with enjoyment in "God of War." And with "God of War II" right around the corner, save your pennies by renting "Ghost Rider" instead of buying it.