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SummaryNot just an engine! A Real Game!!! *gasp!*
The GoodAn actual game? You mean with a halfway decent singleplayer and multiplayer portion designed BESIDES the techy wow-wow?? Surely you jest! Nope. Quake 2 is (get this) a real GAME!!!
I must admit that this caught me completely off-guard at the time, and when the game came out I planned to shrug it off and wait for the first real game that used the Q2 engine. Eventually I did get my hands on it, and though it's not the best game ever it's still a pretty good classic-styled shooter.
There is an actual attempt at a plot here, what with some alien threat and you being a space marine (hmm were have I heard that before?) shot into the Strogg's (bad aliens) planet to kick ass and take names. However everything goes to the crapper and you get separated from your team, thus your mission is to survive and make contact with HQ and eventually (once you find per standard shooter requirements that you are the last hope of all the universe) go for the Strogg leader.
Paper-thin? Sure, but it's something! They even threw in some pre-rendered cutscenes, and they incorporated the story in the gameplay to a certain extent, ie. you have mission objectives which often involve going back & forth between some levels, briefings, inventory, etc. and you also get a small modicum of immersion a la C&C Renegade, for instance: you see ships fighting around, explosions, heck, you'll even be rejoined with your marine buddies, now helpless and completely traumated p.o.w.s. Cool, huh? That last bit also points out another area were Q2 improves over the original: detail. You are now surrounded by more or less credible settings. You no longer have the rocket launcher floating in the middle of a hallway, instead you find it in a place that makes sense, like an armory or cabinet. Furthermore, the levels become much more alive than on Q1, with working machinery, decorating details (a console there, a dead body here, a bio-mechanical station there, a dismembering machine over there, etc.) and a much more cohesive gameworld (gone is the medieval/techno/chtulu mix of the original) and you instead get a more concentrated bio-mechanical world.
The weapons are both complete ripoffs, and sheer genius. You see, for the most part Id recycled everything, but this time they actually bothered to dress everything up as shiny and new, and even did some nice modifications. Your standard weapon is ranged (a wimpy laser pistol), then you have the standard and double-barreled shotguns but overworked to feel like the pulse rifles from the Alien films; then you have the nailgun and the slicer, now dubbed the machine gun and mini-gun, both well known but now with actual thought put into them (the machine gun has a mean recoil that makes it's use a complicated affair, and the mini-gun is pure rock-&roll-screen-shaking genius); then you have the grenade and rocket launcher (graphically reworked so as to be actually interesting, with pretty complex models were you see the ammo loading and all); a pulse-rifle like gun; Eraser's Rail-gun (stolen with the cool smoky trail and all); aaaaaand... THE BFG! Yes!! Completely stolen and unoriginal??? Yup. Absolutely cool?? That too!! The BFG charges up for an eternity, and then lets out with the first big texture lightning-heavy effect of any weapon in any fps. Kudos to id for updating a classic with full-polygon bliss.
Speaking of which, with 3D acceleration now a reality, Q2's graphics really shine. I remember firing this baby up after just installing my Diamond Monster 2 and just grinning while thinking "yeah, this is what I'm talking about" Hehehe.... The 3D graphics are much sharper and cleaner than those of Q1, and the use of colored lightning is a major plus. Furthermore, id really put some thought when it came to designing monsters, and the end result was a collection of greatly animated and superbly detailed baddies to shoot at (like the Iron Maiden, the Parasite, the all-mighty Tank, etc.). And this detail shows in the multiplayer area too. The player models have now a decided quota of variation and much more realism (gone is the steroid-ladden, blocky fella from Q1) Not to mention now standard features like right/left handedness, gender selection, skins, mods, etc...
The BadIt took no new strides. Q2 merely attempted to deliver the same amount of braindead action Q1 did, while righting all of said game's faults. This gives us in essence what Quake REALLY should have been, however some time after Q2, the world would face Half-Life, and simple shooters like Q2 would become way too braindead for the uptight masses of "nü shooters". Q2 was the last of a now dying breed. And it's probably best that it died.
Other than that the only bad things you can point to Q2 are the usual "id palette disorder" and the fact that the engine, for as good as it was, didn't incorporate detail textures. Unreal beat it to that.