Monday, 23 December 2013

Quake II (PC)

Quake II is the sequel to id software's 1996 smash hit dimension-shifting Lovecraft-inspired fantasy first person shooter Quake.

Actually it's not, that statement was in fact a CUNNING LIE. Quake II is in fact an entirely unrelated sci-fi game about an entirely different lone marine fighting an improbable struggle against another hostile alien race on their own soil. The developers couldn't think of a decent title for it that wasn't already taken, so they stuck their established brand name on it instead. A good thing they did too, as it meant that they had to adapt the Quake 1 logo and come up with this ingenious logo design.

I'll admit up-front that I've played this one before many years ago, but I'm giving it another go as part of my ongoing mission to get every first person shooter ever made onto this site of mine (and every game in every other genre while I'm at it.) No mods or source ports were used in the making of this post.

(Click the gameplay pictures for a slightly higher resolution.)

The game starts with a pre-rendered cutscene, the first to show up in an id software game I believe, playing audio clips of news reports about the Strogg attacks on Earth before revealing this space fighter piloted by "The Adrianator" flying towards their homeworld.

Ignore the ship, it's irrelevant.

This battleship on the other hand seems like it's going to have a bit more of a role to play in the story. If the dramatic orchestral soundtrack is any indication, the vessel is hurtling towards planet Stroggos on a mission of righteous retribution on behalf of all humanity.

In fact it even gets a full Star Wars Star Destroyer-style flyby to give the player time to admire every lovingly modelled turret adorning its hull, and there are a fair few of them.

They never let me get a good look at the thing from a distance, though I was allowed a glimpse at the side of it as it fired off eleventy hundred little assault pods towards the alien homeworld, including this one piloted by our designated hero for this story: Bitterman.

I remember all this from the last time I played the game, but one thing that's caught me by surprise is that Bitterman talks. There's something id protagonists don't typically do. In fact he's a little pissed off that one of the other pods clipped him on the way down, screwing up his descent.

This actually works out in our hero's favour though, as the rest of the assault force is obliterated, leaving Bitterman circling this giant gun at the center of a Strogg city, his damaged pod out of control. At least that's what I think is going on; the game is doing a lot of telling via the radio and not a great deal of showing right now.

Either way this is dragging on way longer than it needs to; we've been circling this bloody place for over a minute now. C'mon Bitterman, crash already!

Behold the Quake II id Tech 2 engine, capable of richer and warmer earth tones than ever before. Also the polygons on my gun are wobbling slightly, but thankfully the rest of the world seems solid enough.

Alright cool, I have successfully inserted my pod through the roof of a Strogg facility and now I'm ready to begin phase two of the operation, which is...

Actually I'm not going to check my mission orders. The game announces "Computer updated" in its distorted computery voice while desperately trying to get my attention with a flashing 'Press F1 for the objectives screen' icon and it's really annoying, so I'm going to avoid checking my instructions entirely out of spite.

I decided to investigate the world outside the starting room, and found these two just kind of hanging around outside. Incoming fire gave me the impression that they probably weren't on my team, so I decided to test out my wobbly pistol on them.

The handgun is making a glorious return to id shooters after skipping Quake 1, but this time it's replacing the traditional melee attack as my low power, infinite ammo back up weapon, shooting slow-moving low-damage sparks. These guys suck at dodging though, and they're stuck with the slow moving variety of laser blasts themselves.

Check out the guy on the right by the way; he's down but he just had to fire off a few more rounds in his death throes. It doesn't happen with every kill, but it's something I'm going to have to be mindful of as getting killed by it would be way too embarrassing.

Crap, I can't tear myself away from this window. I'm entranced by the flags blowing in the warm alien breeze and the sounds of alien spacefighters flying by overhead.

Fortunately a Strogg soon came by and shot me in the back, giving me a good excuse to turn around and test out this new shotgun I earned by exploring a side passage. There's no reload button in this, so this is one of those classic shotguns without the irritating 10 second reload animation that first person shooters are all stuck with these days.

Well there's the exit lift up there and the staircase leading up to it; I like how id keeps their intro levels short and sweet. I'd be smart though to pause and take a moment to put this guy out of my misery first, before he's finished turning on his arm-mounted Gatling gun to shoot me in the back as I run past

A single shot won't kill him, not with anything I'm carrying right now, but running right up while he's fiddling with his weapon and unloading a shotgun shell into his gut at close range should get me halfway there. It'll at least make him flinch for a second, which is I always appreciate (it makes enemies seem a lot less bullet-spongy if nothing else).

Okay so enemies take a second to react before opening fire, I have a chance to dodge their shots, and I can interrupt their attacks by injuring them... seems like all the ingredients are there for a delicious metaphorical Quake flavoured first person shooter pie.

Quake 1 PC magazine pie advert
Mmmm Quake pie.

(It's from a magazine ad).

And here's a classic button-shooting secret room before I leave the first level. How very retro.

Incidentally, I'm a big fan of Doom's E1M1 level music (especially the 3DO version), I think it's one of the catchiest themes in all first person shooter history, but I think Quake II's level 1 tune by Sonic Mayhem may actually have it beat. The intro might have gone for the grand movie soundtrack style, but this is just plain rock music and it definitely gets the job done. (Youtube links by the way.)

The pistol's energy blasts may be slow, but they seem accurate enough. That spray of sparks down there is a mixture of blood and bullet trails and it's dead on the crosshairs. There's no iron sights or scope view in the game, but somehow I think I'll do alright.

That's an exit down there in the water, but as appealing as an alien sewer is I think I'll investigate up here first before I jump in and go exploring.

Oh, well I guess there's nothing to investigate up here but a raised bridge, and the switch is on the other side of that window. That door behind it has an area transition symbol, so it seems likely that I'll have to complete a different level first before coming back to this one.

So I suppose I'm going back out to the water to check out the sewers. Joy.


Man, these guys have to be my least favourite enemy in the game and an contender for my top 20 worst enemies in gaming list. Well, okay I can't remember most of the later enemies, but I doubt they can outdo 'blanks out the entire screen in a red haze while constantly draining health'. I'm just lucky I saw the thing coming or else I'd have no idea which direction to shoot in (or more importantly, which way to run.)

Here's what they actually look like by the way, caught in the split second before it spotted me and sapped half my life away with its long range tongue attack. Little bastards.

Well the classic FPS keycards are present and accounted for, but the game's making a daring break with genre tradition and is starting with the blue key instead of the red key for once.

Okay, now that I finally have the blue key I should be able to... uh... crap, why did I come here again? Oh that's right, I'm looking for a lever to lower that bridge in the previous level. And now I suppose I'm looking for a blue keycard door as well now. It's annoying because the doors aren't clearly marked with a colour like they were in the Doom games. I'd check the map, but it doesn't have one.

Great, I was backtracking with my key through corridors I'd already cleared out, only to find these swoopy drone things had sneaked outside to ambush me. Fortunately I've already learned the basics of combat: point crosshair at enemies, strafe to avoid incoming fire, duck behind a wall if it looks like they've got a Gatling gun, repeat as necessary.

Hey, I wonder if that brown unmarked wall panel over there with the red lights on it is the blue key door I'm looking for.


Alright, the blue door led me back out to the previous level again, where I finally found the switch to lower the bridge. I may now proceed... just as soon as I've found my way back around to the other side of this window.

Damn these guys are persistent. I took his head clean off with that shot and he's still stumbling around spraying bullets everywhere. That's why everything's yellow by the way: it's supposed to be lit up from the muzzle flash. We're still a few years away from Doom 3's true dynamic lightning at this point.

Alright, my work here is done, time to head onwards and blow up strogg logistical train.

You know, I bet HQ are really kicking themselves right now. They planned out this massive coordinated operation and ended up sending down a hundred well-equipped space marines to their deaths, when it turns out that Bitterman is capable of completing the entire mission single-handedly with a broken pod and a pistol.

Awesome, I get to do some crate jumping! The first person shooter takes yet another important step along the road to Half-Life.

These things are bobbing up and down in the water, but sadly it's all scripted. I can push a certain kind of box around and activate lift platforms, but aside from that the world is frozen. That crate over there at the back will never tip over. Still, at least that allowed them to apply pre-calculated shadow maps, and you only have to compare the gun I'm holding to the walls in the background to see what kind of difference that makes.

No, stop firing your machine gun at me, you're making the level look weird! Incidentally, if you wondering why this guy has a cloud of glitter above his head, that's actually my gunfire climbing the wall because I failed to compensate for the recoil. For some reason the submachine gun is the only weapon I have that pulls upwards when I hold the trigger, so I have to remember to move the mouse down when firing. There's a 'feature' that thankfully didn't catch on.

Also look at how many unmarked doors are in this room. The game follows Doom's tradition of making sure that half the time I have no clue where I'm going or where I just came from. There's no map, switches are often placed across the room from the things they activate, and I end up walking in circles trying to figure out where I haven't been yet.

Aha, the Strogg Logisitical Train I presume.

Look at this guy firing off grenades from the window like it's some kind of boss fight. I just jumped onto the roof of the train and rained gunfire down upon him and that soon put an end to it.

Then I flicked a switch to drive the train into a wall, which revealed another switch hidden under the rails. So I jumped down to flick that as well and was instantly electrocuted. Ooops.

Thank fuck for quick saves really. I can understand why some people hate them, but personally I reckon they have their place. Like when I need to recover from a lethal misunderstanding about Strogg rail technology.

Okay this time I'm going to pull the plug first. In fact I'm supposed to be collecting four of these power batteries for later, so this'll serve two purposes.

Oh that reminds me: the game has a Duke Nukem 3D style inventory full of the power ups I've been collecting along the way. In theory this allows me to trigger a Quad Damage at the exact moment I need it, instead of having to make use of it the second I pick it up. In practice though I just end up hoarding the things, activating one from my stash if I find another one in the level when I haven't got the space to pick it up

Oh come on! I've wandered this whole bloody level twice over, I've gone into all the dark hallways, I've checked behind every box, but all I ever get when I walk over to that exit on the left is "This door is opened elsewhere."

A few minutes later I shot that explosive crate out of boredom in the end and it blew a hole straight through the wall... which is nice, but it'd would've been awesome if they'd given me more of a clue. I mean this isn't the first exploding box I've come across so far and they usually only destroy walls that have an obvious crack on them, Duke Nukem 3D style. Games need to stick to their established rules.

Man, look at that beautiful Stroggos skyline. I think I'm starting to understand why Quake 1 took place in a cloudy purple void.

I have come to realise now that this was a terrible time and place to try out my new grenade launcher. I can't get a single shot to land near him, while he just came inches away from taking my head off with his railgun.

Man, Eraser definitely wasn't the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movie but it's surely earned its place in history for giving the world blue railgun smoke trails. Maybe some day we'll get to see them rendered with glorious real-time particle smoke physics when id finally remembers that they still own the Quake franchise and starts work on a fifth game.

Well I got out of that ambush with half my health left somehow and I even found a map on the wall! I guess now I know why they didn't include an auto-map in the game: even though the Stroggs have thoughtfully labelled the map in English for me I can't decipher it at all. Does it even tell me where am I now?

At least I can see that there's three other levels in this section, all linked to this Security Complex hub. First I have to locate the red keycard in this area, then go back to the Detention Center to deactivate the yellow laser barriers.


Alright now my boss wants me to retrieve the data CD from Cell Block A on the right and then come back and use it to get inside Cell Block B on the left, for some reason. I'm sure I'll get an annoying "Computer updated" to tell me more when I've done it. Where the hell is HQ getting all this intel from anyway?

Well this ought to be a laugh, seeing as I only have 7 health left right now and I just overwrote my quick save. No seriously, I'm curious to see if I can survive long enough like this to reach the next stash of health kits; it makes things more interesting. I've always got a save back at the start of the area to fall back on if it turns out I've gotten myself into an unwinnable situation.

That all worked out pretty well I think. I killed a few Strogg, found the exit and I've gotten back up to 80 health. This poor bloke in the cage hasn't done so well though. There's a single button on the walkway over there and I've got a crazy hunch that it doesn't open the door for him.

I've actually released a few human marines along the way through the prison, but they were all too far gone to join me, their minds shattered through unimaginable torture. I've even found a few wandering around free, completely ignored by the enemies, and I've had to reload a few times after accidentally gibbing the unfortunate bastards before I'd realised who they were. Not that there's any penalty for it, I just have a thing against shooting my own dudes.

Here lies poor Willits, distant descendant of Quake II level designer Tim Willits, next to the landing pod that brought him here. Apparently the brass liked him more than Bitterman though as instead of a pistol they'd equipped him with a chaingun and body armour. Well I eventually found a chaingun of my own no thanks to them, but it never hurts to carry a spare. Though it runs off my stash of submachine gun ammo so I can't see myself using it too often.

Incidentally this takes the classic approach in its arsenal, in that I'm able to carry all the weapons in the game simultaneously, and these are fairly huge guns. Plus it even has grenades, though without a dedicated instant grenade throwing button I never end up using the things. The first game to introduce a separate grenade key did humanity a great service and should be commended. It's probably Halo I'd expect, though I'm curious now so I think I'll look it up...

Wow, it was actually the original Shadow Warrior apparently, as you can throw grenades from the inventory. It also beat Quake II to ripping off the Eraser railgun.


Well I've collected red cards, turned off yellow lasers and retrieved data CDs, and my briefing text just says I'm done here and can proceed to the security pyramid. But the pyramid itself disagrees, claiming that I need the Pyramid Key first. No mention of where I should be looking for it this time though.

Somewhere in these four connected levels a new path has opened up, so I need to think back and try to remember if I've passed any locked doors.

Damn, that looks more like another grenade launcher than a pyramid key. A message popped up telling me that I'd discovered a secret area as I walked in, so I guess I have officially gotten to the point, like in so many classic FPS games, where I'm finding it easier to come across secret rooms than the actual path I'm meant to be on.

Still, it's a cool looking room, all lit from below by the red lava.


Oh hey, there you are at last. The thing actually looks like a pyramid!

Right then, where did I leave that Security Complex level?


Opening the Security Complex pyramid brought me to this new area, a secret underground facility filled with ancient machines the Strogg use to drain all the colour blue out of the world above. Or something.

Feel free to use this screenshot if you ever want to prove to someone that Quake II isn't entirely brown. Though you're still gonna lose that argument.

Oh look, it's a tank with a tiny little head on top and it's firing giant missiles at me. Well I would stick around for a bit trying to kill it but I really must be, uh... writing the end of this article up. Yeah that makes sense.

I think I liked what I've played of Quake II so far, but I didn't quite like it as much as I would have liked to have liked it. It's a solid game for sure and a much bigger step up from Quake than Doom 2 was from Doom, but I'm not sure I found it as much fun to play.

In Quake I'd be running around a room, dodging through my enemies' projectiles before switching through my weapons to find the right tool for the job and then hitting them right back. A graceful dance of death in an abstract puzzle box nightmare world. This on the other hand has more enemies I have to take cover from, enemies that soak up bullets, enemies that creep up, hit me with their tongue and turn my whole bloody screen red... I just got less joy out of dealing with the creatures.

Also I know this applies to Doom and Quake as well in part, but as much as I appreciate being able to carry a massive array of weapons, it loses a bit of the appeal when half my arsenal is taken up by two varieties of shotgun, two kinds of grenade launchers, and three rapid fire machine guns. It just seems like a shame for a game released after Duke Nukem 3D and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter to show so little imagination in its weaponry.

Wait, this came out AFTER Turok? Whoa it was released after GoldenEye as well! Damn.

This is the text at the bottom of the page where I tell people that comments are both welcome and appreciated.


  1. Even though it's odd to find out that it's not really a sequel, I am pumped to maybe PLAY SOME QUAKE now! Great update. I had the original and only played a few minutes when it was like "Why am I not playing Doom?" but now I'll give the series another chance.

    1. Play some Doom first, get it out of your system!

  2. Good ol' Quake 2! Actually I find Q2's arsenal a step up from the Q1 aside lacking a melee weapon. I love DN3D as well but I don't find its arsenal so much better. Its shriker and freezer act almost the same. The latter has ricochet but that's it. Pipebombs are fun for a while assuming you know pipebomb spam trick but get old fast and are awkward to use during some of the more intense firefights. Devastator acts like a more powerful version of plasmagun or hyperblaster. TBH my most used weapons in DN3D were the shotgun and chaingun. Q2 on the other hand has multiple-penetrating railgun and room-cleaning BFG and sorry, DN3D has nothing on the fun using those.

    I can't really decide if I prefer Q1 over Q2 or vise versa but I know for sure that Q2 is much more enjoyable than either Turok or Goldeneye 007.


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