Tuesday, November 4, 2014

VGR Quake II


Did you like the original Quake 1? Well, good. This game doesn't have a thing to do with that.

Hell awaits your soul, will you dare face more id Software reviews through the following links?

VGR: QUAKE II aka Quake 2 or simply Q2
From id Software/Raster Productions/Hammerhead/Activision
Played on PC
Also available on PSX, N64. Amiga & Xbox 360

Type FPS
Year 1997

Following the Lovecraftian story of an invasion of creatures from another dimension, Quake II seems to be a huge departure for the series. It involves an assault on an alien planet, Stroggos, in retaliation for the Stroggs' attack on planet Earth. And for a reason!

It actually wasn't another Quake game at all!

After the release of both original QUAKE and Doom 64, id software started working on what would become their brand new engine. And as the tradition would become, they also wanted to launch a brand new franchise along to showcase their hard work.

The game was originally titled WOR. It started as a completely unrelated scifi game. While trying to secure a couple of different possible tentative titles, they nicknamed this new project "Quake II". And I guess it just stuck! They couldn't secure any of the names they wanted... Instead they simply ended up using Quake II at the end of the day! Both to fall back on the extremely huge popularity of the original Quake (and to avoid having to call it "WOR" I suppose). And that is why Quake 2's such a different game in aesthetic, tone and design.

It's still a mature fast-paced 3D first person shooter, mind you. But it has very little to do with the previous game when you get down to it. And that is also why the infamous Quake logo appears so very little in this installment compared to the rest of the series (the previous and later episodes).

The real show here was the new Id Tech 2, originally the "Quake II engine". A pioneer in 3D graphic engines once more, the idea was to then be able to license it to other studios. The Id Tech 2 would allow brand new revolutionary features, such as supporting innovative hardware-accelerated graphics (specially regarding the OpenGL) along more classic traditional software renders. It was mostly dedicated to all the stuff going "outside the screen", which resulted in more flexible loading process from the libraries, etc. Several other games would use it in the following years, mostly from Raven Software. id would finally release the source code for free in 2001.

Basically the entire game itself was actually developed by a very small skeleton crew of the likes of John Carmack, Adrian Carmack, Kevin Cloud, Kevin Cloud, Tim Willits and American McGee. The game itself was then distributed by Activision.


Quake II focuses this time on this world where an alien invasion that already happened.

Mankind was now preparing an assault on their homeplanet, Stroggos.

Not that long ago, the Stroggs attacked Earth. Stroggs are this mechanical engineered alien race that acts as scavengers and use the organic bodies of their foes to build their armies. Their leader is called the Makron. They proceed to turn their prisoners and the dead into new Stroggs to join their own ranks via prosthetics and cybernetic modifications on flesh bodies. Their troupes are made of former "enhanced" humans as well as several other kinds of alien creatures they met along their conquests.

You play as this marine, Bitterman.

Humanity has just launched "Operation Alien Overlord". They decide to take this war to the aliens' planet, Stroggos. Earth is under fire of the alien invasion. In return the plan is to attack the capital city and kill the Strogg leader, the Makron.

Sergeant Bitterman makes a surprise arrival by using the other marines' pods as a decoy. At first he is simply following a few basic goals. Striking the Strogg's weaponry with an EMP blast. Establishing communications back to Earth. Destroy the planetary defenses and disable their interplanetary portal. When all this is done, it's time to assassinate their commander!

Our protagonist starts with only a weak handgun, but he will obtain quickly several new toys by going through the environments. There's also these smaller objectives such as destroying the security grid, reaching warehouses or traveling back to their Black Hole Generator before finally arriving at the City Palace. You can check those on your personal computer.

The game will take you form these huge mines to factories, industrial plants and other toxic environments.

A first in an id Software game, the story is told via CGi cutsenes (which wre getting increasingly popular in games at the time). The game opens with an introduction showing the conflict taking place between the Strogg and humans, across the stars and the game starts with Bitterman's arrival...


Quake II offers a similar FPS experience to past id titles in the general aspect.

You'll find yourself fighting large number of enemies, finding your way around these huge open areas. There are more outdoor environments this time since by now the game was rendered by proper "real" 3D. It also features the same overall controls but with the only difference of a slightly slower protagonist compared to those earlier titles. And now for the first time, given the ability to crouch!

The structure of the levels have also changed. The game now uses mission objectives (similar to the 1996 game Alien Trilogy), tied to the storyline slightly more apparent in the game. Which really gives more meaning behind having to find a way to open a specific door.

There about 10 stages, known as "units" in Quake 2. Each cover a few sub-stages. They're much bigger open areas, interconnected via a hub level that allows to go back to previous levels (which you have to do for some objectives). Meaning the game's a non-linear experience. There's also a few traditional secret rooms to find.

There are 4 difficulty levels as per id tradition. Here they're simply called Easy, Medium, Hard and Hard+ (basically, the Nightmare setting) which is the only one that is hidden.

There are all sorts of enemies from the simple humanoid Stroggs to a couple of much more complex boss entities and some special foes such as flying drones and dog-like machines. Enemies can show wounds in Quake II, which is a neat plus.

There's also a new element in the form of non-enemy type characters you can find in the form of other marines, but they're pretty useless. They're either captured or have just escaped. Although there wasn't any form of interactions yet at the time.


Returning from the original Quake are only four weapons (the shotgun, the super shotgun, the grenades launcher and the rocket). All redesigned for the occasion to better fit this new Quake 2 universe, along 8 brand new weapons: a blaster, the hyperblaster, the machine gun, a chain gun, the (Total Recall-inspired) Railgun and the all-new BFG10k, a much more powerful over-the-top version of the BFG9000 from the Doom series. It's the most powerful gun of the game but it takes a lot of ammo to use it.

Speaking of the franchise trademarks, the "Quad Damage" multiplier bonus return along other power-ups such as the invulnerability and whatnot.

Multiplayer (via internet, of course) was a big part of the focus of the development of the game. The team wanted to recreate a similar experience to the past Doom and Quake. Although the idea was to do so on a much more impressive scale. It supports all kinds of deathmatches (free-for-all, 1-vs-1,..), a capture the flag as well as the ability to use co-op in the single-player stages. The game originally only re-used those same stages for all those modes, but it quickly received a few original maps over free updates (take that DLCs!).

Finally, Quake 2 features a rockin' soundtrack composed by the aggro-industrial rock band specialized in video game music since then, Sonic Mayhem (they've done Mass Effect, Borderlands, you name it!). With some additional tracks by Bill Brown, and the main theme composed by Rob Zombie! The soundtrack is really catchy and quite effective. It seems strange how the story appears to start with this grand epic movie musical score only to drop this for just plain rock in the game itself. A kickass soundtrack!


Overall, Quake II is a very fun game. Featuring a several fun guns. a much more action heavy gameplay and less puzzles around. 

This sequel in name only has a fun plot, even it might seem basic or short of anything much compared to today's standard. But I have to say the idea of a counter-offense on an alien race that has already invaded Earth is pretty good though!

The game went on to have a huge success and quickly became a best selling title.

It's a great game, pretty solid and Recommended. But I also have to say it wasn't that huge a difference as some expected. Sort of like Doom 2 was for Doom 1. It also seems to be lacking some variety in the arsenal (there's really just a couple of shotguns, several grenades launcher and machine guns, it's kind of a shame really). Kind of a step down from the previous games I think.

Honestly I miss the eerie tone of Lovecraft-inspired horror from the original. It's still a very good FPS, and a landmark in the genre (even if its impact was much smaller to the the likes of the original Doom, Duke Nukem 3D or even Quake 1). And generally speaking, the game just looks a bit boring at times, the screen always seems entirely filled with browns through the game game. Which is not bad per say, it's a design choice.

Quake 2 was ported on the Nintendo 64 and the Playstation in 1999 (by Raster Productions and Hammerhead respectively). Despite trying their best to keep the same general gameplay, they had to make some changes to the game engine to run Quake on those home consoles. Over the years Quake 2 has been ported to a few more other systems including Mac, Linux, Java, as well as the Brazilian exclusive Zeebo and other systems. While it offers the same general experience, the PSX version had to be scaled down, entire level sections had to be cut. They tried to make up for it with a few new additions including a new enemy type! Also on the N64 the music was completely changed, which made that version miss that extra "Quake 2 touch". Quake 2 was also featured in some versions of Quake 4 (for example on the Xbox 360), but that was thankfully a direct port with no modifications to graphics, etc.
Attention! For some reason the Steam release of Quake II doesn't feature the original soundtrack...!?! Really missing a lot from what made the original game fun in my eyes... 

Quake II would be followed by two direct continuations in the form of a couple of official "Mission Packs" and some fanmade custom maps made by the community at the time.

Quake 2 was then followed by another original episode in the Quake franchise, in the form of Quake III (more on this one some later time). But fear not, because it would finally get a direct sequel unlike the other episodes. In 2005 Quake 4 was launched along the all-new id Tech 4, picking up where Quake 2's story left, with the struggle between human and Strogg reaching it's epic conclusion.

The Id Tech 2 was also used for other games and lots of share titles such as Raven Software's Heretic II (1998) and Soldier of Fortune (2000), as well as other unrelated games like SiN (1998). Even Valve's Half-Life in 1998 was originally built to run on Quake 2's engine in its early stages of development (before it went through heavy modifications and turning into their own original engine).

I give it:
2 / 3 Quacks!



VGR: Quake II Mission Pack: The Reckoning 
By Xatrix Entertainment/Activision
Type Expansion pack
Year 1998

Released the following year, "The Reckoning " was the first of the two official expansions published by Activision.

It was developed by Xatrix Entertainment.

The story begins with a mission to infiltrate the Strogg's Moon base. You play as Joker this time, another marine part of a squad after the Strogg fleet. They crash on the planet surface after an incident.

The objective is to make your way through the waterways, air ducts and canyons to reach their spacecrafts at the refuel base.

The game is about 5 units long.

The Reckoning added9 new enemies (bust mostly just upgraded classes of previous monsters). And a couple of fun new weapons. 

Overall: The Reckoning is a nice addition to the main game. It offers a couple of new additions, but it's confined to mostly the same gameplay. Nothing much really.

It tries to expand the single player mostly, and adds a few forgettable multiplayer maps as well. The game might feel kind of dull at times. It feels like deleted content from the original game. There's some fun original levels later on though, such as a spaceship and space station setting. 

It might not have much to offer but it's a decent enough extension of Quake 2's experience.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 



VGR: Quake II Mission Pack: Ground Zero 
By Rogue Entertainment/Activision
Type Expansion pack
Year 1998

This second official mission pack was developed by Rogue Entertainment (which was located in the same building as id Software, before they would merge with Nerve Software later on).

Ground Zero was released 3 months after the first expansion.

This time the story is more like an afterthoughts.

Earth Fleet are trapped in orbit above the planet. A random marine (the protagonist the player controls) needs to shut down the entire planetary defense system.

And that's it I guess.

The game runs for about 5 units as well, but it offers a much shorter experience.

Most of the content it has to offer are a lot more multiplayer maps. And a few additions like these new smaller foes (drones, cameras, smaller versions of previous enemies). On the weapons side we also get more scifi-based guns such as the plasma cannon and Tesla mines. But the best new addition is the chainsaw (from Doom!)!

The game ends with a pretty hardcore fun final boss (against the "Black Widow"), the hardest most difficult enemy of the entire Quake II. It's a bit cheap though, as she keeps spawning loads of enemies and even possesses a second form.

Overall: This second expansion doesn't have much going for it. It's perhaps less memorable and a bit on the shorter side in terms of levels.

It balances that by offering a much higher difficulty though.

All in all, it's decent enough I'd say.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 


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