Don’t look directly into the trap
I’ve said it before, but I’m a massive fan of Ghostbusters. However, I don’t think you get the whole picture. Back in my teen years, I was an active part of the Ghostbusters fan community on the internet. This was back in ‘01 to maybe ‘04. I made my own costume, discussed the movies and the gear within, and speculated on a possible Ghostbusters 3. I don’t really have any stories of anything bad happening, but I still have a bad taste in my mouth. It’s like, “Ew. I existed when I was a teenager. How horrid!”
It was a different time on the internet, that’s for certain. The dotcom bubble burst, Web 2.0 was starting to swing, and we were about to see the short boom of Livejournal and MySpace before Facebook and Twitter would arrive to homogenize the internet cesspit. Want a taste? This is the website for Ghostbusters Doom 2. That is the good stuff, right there.
It was still a few years before Ghostbusters: The Video Game gave the fandom what we craved. We’d argue what the best game was based on our holy scripture, but the consensus was always that none were particularly great. Meanwhile, Stephen “Scooba Steve” Browning and his group of modders were at work transforming Doom 2 into something wonderful. Then they stopped.
What did you do, Ray?
To be fair, Ghostbusters is a horrible license to try and move into Doom. How are you supposed to render 22 flights of stairs when the engine can’t even do room-over-room? Moreover, the Ghostbusters didn’t just blast ghosts; they lassoed them with science and stuffed them into boxes. It was such a key fact of the universe that the negative impact of destroying ghosts was covered in both The Real Ghostbusters cartoon and IDW’s comic book adaptation.
Despite this glaring inaccuracy (that the team probably knew about), what was finished of Ghostbusters Doom 2 shows a total reverence to the source material, perhaps to the point of being misguided. To wit, the first level has you walk through the New York Public Library to find a single ghost. Accurate? Yes. Fun? Sort of.
Where do these stairs go?
It sometimes feels like Ghostbusters Doom 2 was less about creating an entertaining experience and more about representing scenes from the movies within the confines of the Doom engine. The best level found within is a translation of the courthouse scene from Ghostbusters 2 where you battle against the Scoleri Brothers (of which only one of them has a custom sprite).
The developers really pushed hard to recreate the scene. Most strikingly, there are a lot of invisible objects in the environment that, when hit, turn to flame. This means that as you spray your proton juice around the place, it looks like actual damage is being done. This left such an impression on me as a teen that my biggest wish for Terminal Reality’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game was destructible environments, and they delivered.
If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say
As I mentioned before, however, the team never finished Ghostbusters Doom 2. I think part of this is because they aimed to make a “total conversion” mod, which is to say that they intended to replace every level in Doom 2. That’s a lot of proton juice to try and get out of two movies that weren’t really action flicks, to begin with.
Browsing through the levels in the last build shows a bit of straining for content. Levels like the Mayor’s Office and the Statue of Liberty were considered and left in the early stages of development. There’s a level where you drive Ecto-1 through the streets of New York, and the only goal is to drive to the Sedgewick Hotel, find that there’s no parking, and then travel to a parking garage.
However, with that said, it still seems as though they were in the process of figuring out what worked and what didn’t. Had development continued, I can easily imagine a cohesive finished product, but they weren’t quite near it yet.
The tools and the talent
What we’re left with, however, is a series of disjointed and unfinished levels. You need the level skip cheat to actually see what’s available, as most of them don’t have proper endings. Some of the levels are quite impressive, such as the rooftop battle against Mr. Staypuft, the aforementioned courtroom scene, and even the all-too-frequent trips to the firehouse. You can easily tell the art that is closer to being finished in comparison to the placeholders. The Ghostbusters are especially fun to see in the game’s art style. You could even rope in other players for co-op.
Then there was the soundtrack. While much of it is still incomplete or drawn from other games, the renditions that were moved over to MIDI sounds showed promise.
The real shame here is that the talent and passion the group brought were visibly on display. Even comparing old screenshots to the “final” product reveals improvements made along the way. It’s entirely possible that they would have eventually met their ambitious goal.
You’re really handy, I can tell
Ghostbusters Doom 2 has occupied a space in my mind ever since I first played it. It was at a time when not much was happening with the franchise. Even new merchandise, while plentiful now, was scarce at the time. Every fan’s passion project was looked into and lifted up. Ghostbusters Doom 2 was something to rally around and get excited about.
As it sits, Ghostbusters Doom 2 is mostly a curio. Scuba Steve would move on to find success with Action Doom, and is still a member of the modding community. Newer source ports allow for more to be done with the Doom’s well-aged engine, so the experiments done by the development team are a bit quaint by today’s standards. They were doing things the hard way.
But whenever I find myself playing a game on Id Software’s engine, my mind usually strays back to this ambitious mod. It then also strays to The Battle of Helm’s Deep level, which is still completely rad. Then, usually, it goes to Chex Quest. My point is: I can’t name a fan modification that has left a more lasting impact than this one. I’ll probably be showing it off for decades to come.