Quake II Review

Screenshot from Quake II
This weird looking device is apparently a Black Hole generator

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: id Software
  • Publisher: Activision/Bethesda
  • Release Date: 9 Dec 1997
  • Time played: 6.5 hours

What is it

id Software is a giant of PC gaming that really needs no introduction but back in the 90s their name became synonymous with the First Person-Shooter genre. After the success of 1992's Wolfenstein 3D, 1993's Doom and 1994's Doom II, id started a new franchise with the release of 1996's Quake. The original Quake was instrumental in introducing full real-time 3D rendering and offering support for 3D acceleration through OpenGL; it also popularised online multiplayer thanks to the introduction of the QuakeWorld update. The plot for Quake's single-player campaign, however, was rather strange and was heavily inspired by Lovecraftian lore. I don't think it really clicked with everyone (at least it didn't in my case).

This all changed with the release of Quake II in 1997 which had a more accessible sci-fi setting with a more coherent story involving Humans versus Aliens, all rendered on an improved engine of course. In Quake II you play the role of a Human Marine who has crash landed on the alien homeworld of Stroggos and it's your job to take on the alien war machine pretty much all by yourself (no pressure).

The game was a critical and commercial success, and there were three more Quake titles to follow with the most recent, Quake Champions, being released last year.

How I got it

In 2015, Quake II: Quad Damage, a compilation initially released in 1999 that includes Quake II along with a few expansions, was released on GOG. Since I'm a fan of oldschool FPSs it wasn't long before I purchased the first three Quake games, Doom, Doom II and Wolfenstein 3D as a package. It's been sitting on my Pile of Shame for three years now but I finally got to revisit it this year. I used to play quite a bit of Quake II deathmatch back in the day but that's probably the last time I ever played the game, so it's been almost two decades since I've touched it.

Screenshot from Quake II
WTF is that?!?!

What I like:

Awesome soundtrack

If you haven't listened to the Quake II soundtrack, do yourself a favour and check it out. Sonic Mayhem (Sascha Dikiciyan) does a fantastic job in providing an industrial rock soundtrack which suits the game perfectly.

Arsenal of weapons

You have a lot of iconic and memorable weapons in the game such as the railgun (which features again in later Quake games), the HyperBlaster and the BFG10K (a big uh… friggin' gun). The only disappointment is your default weapon, the blaster – give me Quake's axe or Quake III's gauntlet any day.

Decent length campaign

Provided you're not doing a speed run (apparently you can finish Quake II's single player campaign in less than 20 minutes) 6-7 hours for a single player FPS campaign isn't actually too bad, considering Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's single player campaign only takes 4-5 hours to complete and the level design is probably a lot more linear than Quake II.

Screenshot from Quake II
The ending cinematic is pretty underwhelming...

What I dislike:

Not really much of a plot

While Quake II does have a more coherent plot than the original Quake it's still your throwaway, sci-fi, body horror story with humans being tortured and experimented on in disturbing ways to ultimately transform them into the very enemies you fight.

Mediocre ending cinematic

Well, at least the game had a somewhat happy ending after you defeat the final boss, although the ending cinematic only really lasts for a few seconds and while it seems your character is still alive at the end, he's still in quite a predicament. Basically, this ending cinematic would simply not fly nowadays for a AAA shooter.

Low-poly graphics of the late 90s

It goes without saying that a game with early 3D graphics like Quake II isn't going to age well, and it hasn't. It doesn't bother me that much (hey, I grew up on these graphics) but it might to a younger audience that has never experienced the low-poly graphics of the 90s.

Primitive gameplay mechanics

Sometimes less is more, and I can totally appreciate that, but it does it make feel weird if you're playing a modern FPS like Rainbow: Six Siege and then returning to something like Quake II which has no prone, no peeking, no aiming down sights, no reloading, etc., etc. But what really caught me off guard while playing Quake II was the lack of the humble autosave. Thankfully, you can save the game at any time and you've got lots of save slots to choose from – but back in the good ol' days of gaming, you actually had to remind yourself to save the game and save it often. I had to backtrack through quite a few levels because I forgot to save my progress.

Not optimised for modern hardware

By default, the game isn't optimised for modern hardware. What I mean by that is that you'll most likely be unable to run the game at the native resolution of your monitor and Sonic Mayhem's awesome soundtrack simply refuses to play on Windows 10. There is a workaround though that involves overwriting the executable with a program called Yamagi. So, if you're planning to experience Quake II the way it's meant to be experienced, be sure to check out this patch.

Score – 7/10 (Not Bad)

Despite being almost two decades old, Quake II is still a competent FPS. Sure the graphics are dated and it'll take some tinkering to get it to work properly on Windows 10, but it does boast an awesome industrial rock soundtrack by Sonic Mayhem, a decent length single-player campaign and a memorable arsenal of weapons. There's even the prospect of multiplayer, if you can still find any populated Quake II servers out there 😊.

Is the game worth $9.99?: If you manage to find anyone still playing Quake II multiplayer then it's definitely worth the money, however, I suspect populated Quake II servers will be hard to come by. Consequently, it really depends on whether the single player content is worth it and if you're getting the Quad Damage pack off GOG, then yeah, possibly. If you're only keen on playing the original single player campaign, you might want to wait until it goes on sale (but keep in mind if you buy Quake II: Quad Damage on GOG you also get The Elder Scrolls: Arena and The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall for free)!

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[ LINK: Quake II: Quad Damage on GOG ]