Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Muster up sustained interest
I’ve never been a huge fan of id Software’s classic first-person shooter Quake II, and not for lack of trying. I was such an OG Quake-head that I drove over an hour to secure a copy of this highly anticipated follow-up on its release day. While I got my money’s worth, I ultimately felt Quake II was clunkier and blander than both the first game and its 1999 sequel, Quake III Arena.
And yet, last week’s surprise launch of a sorta remastered, definitely tweaked and expanded new version offers a great opportunity to revisit and reassess. As is typical of Nightdive Studios, the revamp is fairly well-considered in its changes and updates, mostly respecting the original’s vision but deviating in a few ways to better satisfy modern sensibilities…or occasionally, because the studio’s proprietary “Kex” engine can’t perfectly reproduce the original’s quirks.
The latter point really bothers me in the studio’s prior Quake rerelease. But with Quake II, all I can say is that character movement feels faster and snappier. And since vanilla Quake II controlled like mud, any improvement there suits me just fine, accuracy be damned. In fact, the only differences I take issue with are Nightdive’s objectively bad decision to nerf single-player railgun damage from 150 to 100 (you can fix that with a mod) and one enemy’s busted new AoE pounce attack (here’s a fan fix).
There’s so much…stuff! You can play the original Quake II campaign, the two official mission packs, all their associated deathmatch and capture the flag maps—a bunch of extra maps beyond those—a conversion of the Nintendo 64 version’s campaign, and most intriguing, a sprawling new, just-created campaign from MachineGames that pushes the engine harder and takes some liberties with series lore. There’s no denying Quake II’s rerelease gives you a lot of game for $10 (or zero dollars, if you already owned Quake II digitally on certain stores).
All the new jank fixes and quality-of-life changes are really quite appreciated. But playing the new campaign, I am, alas, still left fairly cold by Quake II as a first-person shooter. It’s perfectly playable, but mid as all get out. I’m a few hours in and just not having an abundance of fun navigating the nice-looking new environments and gibbing the excessively stupid cyborgs. Turns out, Quake II remains a known quantity for me, and this is definitely a big ole crate of Quake II.
Even so, I find myself low-key wanting to go back and play some more, to push further into the new expansion, and to just sort of sample the incredible amount of 1998 id-ness compiled here. Love it or leave it, Quake II is a pretty important id Software milestone, and it’s never been more accessible or friendly as in this new package. Lukewarm I remain, but If you’re a Quake II enjoyer, I love this for you. — Alexandra Hall