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Posted in PC Reviews on Tuesday, December 9th, 1997

Review by: Brian Clair
Published: December 9, 1997

AVault Seal of Excellence
“Location updated…location updated…” sputters your field computer in its cold mechanical voice as you unholster your blaster. Strogg bodies lay scattered on the floor nearby, their blood inking the walls — saving you the trouble. Explosions rock the compound as your bombers fly overhead and you mutter, “It’s a shame the rest of the marines got pasted on the way in, but that leaves more for me!”

If you thought Quake II was going to be a pale shadow of the original based on the public test demo, think again. This game delivers and not just graphically but on every level that makes a game outstanding. Quake II begins with something unusual, no not screaming demons or semi-naked women, a story. That’s right, for the first time that I can remember someone has finally taken the time to create an actual storyline for a 3D shooter and integrate it fully in the game. I’m not talking about something written in a manual either (although you can read about it there too), I’m talking about a richly detailed, explicit, full motion video sequence that not only relays the story but does it perfectly. According to id Software, Quake II originally wasn’t going to include any FMV, but I’m glad they changed their minds because it makes the game that much more real.

This time the battle isn’t being fought across dimensions against horrific demons and other paranormal spawn lurking in dank, dark dungeons, the game takes place on an alien world. A race known as the Strogg assaulted the earth in an unprovoked sneak attack, destroying our colonies and space stations. What they did with those they captured was even worse than death! Prisoners were taken for their body parts — even for food. The Stroggs are a race of cyborgs and are even more malevolent and terrifying than their Borg counterparts of Star Trek. Of course, humans aren’t a race to take a bloody nose. The earth forces discovered how the Stroggs were able to jump through space and tracked them back to their home planet. Taking the offensive, the earth forces send a carrier task force to raid the Strogg home world in order to destroy their space-jump technology and a huge cannon mounted on their planet. Hundreds of marines are launched in travel tubes from the space carrier, but the Strogg were ready and used an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) defense system to disable and destroy the invaders. Only your pod managed to survive because another marine bumped into you — knocking out most of your electronic systems. You cursed him at the time but at least he saved your life — or did he?

You begin the game having crashed into a Strogg building — killing most of the enemies in that room. Emerging from your pod, you hear the scream of fighters overhead bombing the surrounding city and so you must begin your mission. Quake II is one continuous game and isn’t strictly delineated into episodes and levels like most of the 3D shooters we’ve seen before. Quake II is composed of three “units”, each of which represents part of the alien city. Within each unit are various sections which you can move back and forth between fluidly. This is a noteworthy difference as it helps to create a realistic world instead of a static game map. Enemies will slowly find their fallen comrades and you’ll encounter search parties as you backtrack through areas. Quake II also uses the world to create its various puzzles. You won’t have to solve any complex code-locks in this game either. You will have to backtrack to other areas though to discover things you didn’t have access to before.

As you might imagine, level design is a critical part of any 3D game. A poorly designed level will shatter any realism a game might have had and thrust the player back into the real world. I have played through more than half of Quake II thus far and every single level has been absolutely perfect. Gone are the dark colors of the original Quake, replaced by brighter colors and textures which accurately portray a real alien world. Buildings are designed to integrate with the rest of the map and make architectural sense. For example, you won’t have to run to one end of a building to turn on power to some mechanism in another section. The control you’re looking for will be where you would expect it, and probably under heavy guard! You’ll also find floors over floors where you can blast a hole in and jump down through. It’s this kind of attention to detail that makes Quake II such an experience to play — especially in single-player mode.

When the original Quake first came out, many people criticized the game for not allowing you more freedom of movement with your character. This has been addressed nicely in Quake II as you may now jump, crouch, run, walk, sidestep, look around, aim, etc. Of course, turn-about is fair play and the guys at id Software gave the Stroggs the same movement you have too. Enemies will show the same kind of realistic movement that you do and take advantage of it. Enemy creatures are very intelligent in Quake II and will form strategies to defeat you. For example, if you fired a rocket at a monster in Quake, as long as your aim was true, that creature was toast. Not so in Quake II. You can fire your rocket, watch it shoot out of the launcher, stream toward the target, then watch as the target ducks the shot and fires at you while crouching! Most gamers would then just duck and fire again; and in most other games would score a hit. Don’t count on it in Quake II, the monsters I’ve tried it on have jumped over a rocket I’ve fired while crouching. Then, they’ve anticipated my moves and sidestepped out of the line of fire of another! Quake II creatures are an intelligent lot, as you can tell. If this doesn’t impress you, you may be surprised to learn that the monsters will set up cross-fires to hit you and even squeeze off a few shots as they die!

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