Review: Quake II (PC)

In this review, we check out the sequel to Quake called, well, Quake II. We find out if this first person shooter sequel is worth playing or not.

This game was released in 1997 and would be a sequel to the original Quake which we already reviewed.

We should point out right off the bat that if you’ve only played the N64 version, the PC version is so different, the assets are about the only thing that is the same (namely weapons, items, and enemies).

This game is certainly very different from the original Quake game in that it focuses almost exclusively on futuristic and alien settings. I thought that this change was a very good one because my favorite parts of the original game revolved around the futuristic bases to begin with. While you are once again playing a soldier (a space marine to be precise), you are now battling a cyborg alien force known as the Strogg.

You can select a difficulty between easy, medium, and hard from a menu, but once you do, the game places you at the beginning of the first mission – eliminating that “lobby” feature that was present in the previous Quake game.

From there, you find yourself having to survive with just a blaster. While the blaster has unlimited ammo, there’s a noticeable bit of time you have to take between each shot. To top it off, each shot isn’t all that powerful. No, the initial few enemies won’t be dropping any weapons either, but you can find a simple shotgun part way through the first area.

One feature that really sets this game apart from others at the time is the fact that it uses a sort of continual level feature. Instead of distinct levels, you merely have different areas that interconnect through (typically) a pair of doors in a hallway. All of these “areas” are maps and a set of maps is considered a unit. In all, there are 9 units total.

Sometimes, you have to go back and forth between maps because a key needed for a previously explored map is located in another map. It isn’t uncommon that you find yourself revisiting a map. A great example of this back and forth movement is locating the two pyramid keys.

Because of the feature of interconnected maps, you are really left with the impression of being in a quasi-open world. It’s not necessarily a true open world where you explore vast areas finding various optional dungeons to explore like in, say, Elder Scrolls 2 – Daggerfall, but you are more or less free to explore the various maps. What really impresses me is that, in spite of it being a quasi-open concept, I didn’t find myself getting lost very often. Even when I did get lost, it was only for brief periods of time and I found myself making progress again once I found that next door to unlock or force field to take down. The game has a way of nudging you in the right direction as you complete various objectives along the way. In fact, for the most part, you can’t advance very far without completing them.

Making it’s return are some of the weapons you could collect in the previous game. This includes the shotgun and grenade launcher. There are, however, numerous new weapons that suit the futuristic setting including the super blaster, rocket launcher, and the ever-famous rail gun. Each of these weapons have their own uses such as the rocket launcher being more suitable for powerful ranged attacks while the machine gun is more suitable for close quarters combat. The grenade launcher is great if you are trying to attack an enemy one platform directly below you (if you can take the right bank shots off of a wall of course).

A major pitfall to this game on more modern computers can be the fact that this game can crash from time to time. Often, it’s predictable where this game crashes, but sometimes, the game crashes between maps. Unless you are using the console to skip maps, this can put a stop to your gameplay in a hurry. Fortunately, these crashes only happen sparingly as I only found it necessary to skip a map once in my gameplay. Unfortunately, you also are seemingly required to replenish your weapon inventory through the console as well as the level skip feature removes everything from your inventory.

Along the way, you’ll encounter a number of enemies. These can be the various soldiers that wield weapons like the blaster or shotgun. The tougher enemies can attack you with machine guns, and grenade launchers. Additionally, there are tough enemies that can shoot rail gun weapons and rocket launchers at you. You will even encounter a tank-like monster. Each of these monsters seemingly requires you to develop a general strategy for each. My favorite strategy is utilizing a wall and peaking out only fast enough to fire a shot before hiding again. It saved me a lot of health while fighting some of the more powerful foes.

Aiding you along the way are various items that you can pick up. These can include the classic quad damage item, invulnerability, silencer, rebreather, and power shield. You can simply select them in your inventory and use them as you see fit. Other items include health boxes that can either be +10 health or +25. Like the previous Quake game, Quake II has a cap of about 100 (sometimes, this goes up as you go along, but only by a little). You can also encounter small health pickups that boosts your health up by 2 additional points if you are above your cap. Additionally, you can pick up various kinds of armor to help protect you from damage. I don’t know what the cap is for bonus health or armor though – especially when armor shards are involved.

This game can be glitchy at times. Sometimes, movement stutters and slows down for seemingly no reason. I even found myself trapped in a crouch area once, requiring me to restart. Sometimes, firing a blaster will allow a little extra movement in these areas though. Sometimes, these slowdowns disappear altogether, so I don’t know why this happens from time to time. The actual game isn’t slowing down, but your character just doesn’t move as fast for seemingly no reason.

Another glitch is that your character can slide a little bit on slippery slopes in strange ways. There were times I slid up the slope for no reason. Sometimes, if I hit a wall, I actually got damaged from it as if I got shot once. Very weird.

Still, I really liked the challenge this game gave me. There were plenty of obstacles to overcome including water areas, turbines, poisonous lakes and lava.

Graphically, this game was pretty impressive. There was a nice variety of environments and the skylines were interesting. It’s a marked improvement over the odd window here and there that you would get from the previous Quake game. All the movements were nice and smooth as well. I also really liked the lens flares even though they were somewhat primitive. What was pulled off at the time was impressive. The textures were a bit pixelated, but this was barely noticeable. The little details of holding weapons were great (including fidgeting with the hyper blaster with the thumb), though some of the colors were seemingly limited on closer inspection. The damage enemies got as you shot at them were also a very nice touch. I also liked the effects of being under water as well as the effects of using various items. So, overall, the graphics were great.

While I couldn’t get the music to play, the sound effects were impressive. The communication between marines really added a lot to the atmosphere of the game. The sounds enemies made were quite well done and the prisoners added a good disturbing element to the game. The ships flying overhead were nicely done as well. So, overall, the audio was great.

Overall, if it weren’t for the instability, I would say this is one of the better games I have ever played. This game set itself apart with interconnected levels rather than distinct levels. There’s a real open-world feel to it even if it’s not actually an open world game. You don’t get lost too much. There’s interesting level designs, puzzles and scenery. There’s a nice variety of weapons, items, and enemies to encounter and there’s great graphics and audio. I felt the hours really vanishing while playing this game as it just sucked my right into the action. Definitely a recommended game if you can get past the glitches.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Beat the game on easy. Made it just past the first destroyed bridge on hard before getting killed off.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 10/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 86%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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