Retro Review: Quake II
It is no secret that when it came out, I was a HUGE fan of the Id Software game Quake. It was the first true 3D FPS game, released as shareware as was Doom, and I quickly paid the money to get the full game.
A couple of years later the follow on game, Quake II, was released, and it dropped in the era of 3D acceleration (the original Quake ran on VGA and SVGA cards, but used OpenGL, so when 3DFx arrived, performance improved, but it wasn't essential to run) and it took full advantage of the emerging technology.
20+ years later it is a rather tame game, but comparing it to what came before, it is rather elegant. The models, the skins, the animations are all superb, and while the single player story is trite (you are a one man team on a mission to defeat the Strogg stronghold) it is entertaining. The mission requires you to go back and forth through checkpoints to get what is required to move forward, so it isn't a set of episodes a'la Quake I, but instead more of a puzzler, that you have to solve with a shit-ton of baddies that get in your way.
Some of the things that I like is that the quad damage is something that you collect and use when you need it (and when you need it, you really need it). You get your weapons slowly, and that helps keep the game interesting to say the least. There is a computer/pda like display that gives you hints to the mission, and is updated often. Unlike in the original Quake, where the goal is to get to the end of the episode, collect the Rune and begin the next episode, Quake II has a story thread. Sure it feels contrived, but it does make it interesting - somewhat at least.
Things I am puzzled about:
- Grenades. You can carry 50 of them, but I never seem to find a use.
- Machine gun. It has recoil rise, so it is closer to using a real sub machine gun, in that it is difficult to keep on target. But it is weird. Alas the machine gun is the most effective weapon
When it first came out, I am 99% sure I never completed the stand alone game, but dove right into the multiplayer online gaming, playing with friends. Quake II brought the concept of the clan to the game, and the ability for you to modify your "skin" to make you unique. I played as Sweaty Spice, and we adopted the clan of "Crack Whore" (hey, it was the 1990s after all) and I played the shit out of the game. Years later I stumbled on the official listings, and surprise, I was still in the top 1000 players ranked. Yeah, I wasted TONS of time playing.
Quake was great in multiplayer, but Quake II was amazing. The balance of the weapons, the maps, and the motion/controls just were perfect. Clearly the team at Id for Quake II focused on the multiplayer experience more than the solo mission.
As the 3D accelerators began to go mainstream, Quake II was the first game I recall playing that really leveraged the technology to the fullest, and in that it was seminal.
The game though was good, but not as earthshaking as the original Quake, or even Doom was. Evolutionary, and a showcase for the progress that John Carmack was making in his universe of game engines, Quake II remains a worthy part of my collection. It's cleanliness of coding and the fact that it still runs twenty odd years later is a testament to the skills of the Id Software heyday.