The single-player game consists of a series of multi-part missions that are almost all of the go to point X and kill creature Y variety. The enemies stick to a few incredibly unintelligent behavioral patterns, and it becomes easy to predict these patterns and blast your way through the game. In fact, the single-player game is so anemic that few people will play through to the end, and it's highly doubtful anyone would embark on the journey a second time.
Never the less, people play Quake II for the multiplayer game, and there is little doubt about its longevity. Level design is one of the key issues that makes or breaks multiplayer games, and it is here that id's masterpiece overshadows all of its competition. From cold iron warehouses, filled with traps and other goodies, to wide-open killing fields, special attention has been paid to sniper areas, multiple spawn points, and multiple approach areas that all but eliminate safe camping.
And while id reneged on its promise to offer Capture the Flag and Team Frag out of the box, both scenarios are available through patches on id's web site and add legs to an already sensational product. Furthermore, the ability to import skins you have created and customize your character through a number of third party mods makes for some much-needed variety in deathmatching.
To fully appreciate all the graphic splendor of the game, you'll need one of the supported 3D accelerators (3dfx, PowerVR, Verite, or a card with full OpenGL support). Where the 3dfx-accelerated GLQuake offered gamers better framerates at higher resolutions, there weren't that many noticeable graphic differences to set it apart from its software-only counterpart. This is not the case with Quake II. With one of the supported accelerator cards, you'll enjoy a dazzling mix of colored lighting and transparency effects that transform dreary gray military complexes into eerie, otherworldly outposts. The effect is so impressive that there are times when players using software-only Quake II will miss out on much of the creepy atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the game is not without its problems. Almost immediately after Quake II shipped, there was a patch to fix a problem in multiplayer games, and at press time there had been more than 10 patches to address additional issues. Even with the patches, it seems that not all of Quake II's problems have been solved. During multiplayer games, it's possible to get stuck momentarily when passing too close to a wall (an all-too-common problem that has become known as "sticky wall syndrome"), and on many occasions, it's possible to get killed before you've even entered a game.
Those nagging problems aside, when you add all of the improvements to id's trademark brand of kill-or-be-killed carnage, Quake II is easily the most bulletproof action game to come along in quite a while. Even in jaded gamer terms, Quake II is swinging some pretty big lumber.