Quake II: First Impressions

GameSpot picked up some copies of id Software's Quake II (it pays to be on reserve lists), and the office hasn't stopped buzzing.

GameSpot picked up some copies today (it pays to be on reserve lists) of id Software's Quake II and the office has been buzzing with high-quality screams, groans, taunts, missile launches, railgun sounds, and a happy crew whose eyes were stuck open after playing one of the best deathmatches they'd ever played.

Here are some first impressions of what the game is like, from the Quake II in-house editors who played. (And enjoy these screenshots from the new title.)

News guy Micheal Mullen loves the feeling of "aiming your crosshairs at the head of a potential kill."

Features guru Mike van Mantgem digs the "frightening grunts, pops, and explosions of distant battles echoing down unseen corridors."

VGS editor Jeff Gerstmann endures a "Skeptic's Education."

News editor Curt Feldman thinks Quake II may bring more people together than Mother Teresa ever did.

And VGS editor Ryan Mac Donald says, "graphically, Quake II ranges from looking pretty good, to amazing."

The link below will take you to the first write-up.A SKEPTIC'S EDUCATION

When I first started hearing news about Quake II, I was a little skeptical. Since id was focusing so hard on making a good single-player game, I was worried that the multiplayer side of the game would suffer. But id didn't disappoint.

The single-player side of Quake II is absolutely incredible. The levels blend together perfectly, resulting in a completely cohesive world.

While the game is fairly linear, it doesn't feel like it. The large levels allow for many different paths to the same destination.

Multiplayer Quake II plays out a little differently than Quake's deathmatching did. The addition of weapons like the railgun and the BFG10K really change the face of the game.

The railgun is an extremely deadly weapon but requires you to be extremely accurate. The BFG10K does the same type of room-clearing destruction as its Doom counterpart. The single-player levels are also surprisingly good for DM, although I'm anxious to see id's Deathmatch pack.

If you're looking for some levels to test out the QII DM with, I recommend SPACE, BOSS2, and the entire first unit.

- Jeff GerstmannQUAKE ADDICTION REVISITED

I played Quake II first on Friday night at the LA premiere party, and I missed out on some of the best features of the game.

The first thing that struck me about the title has to be the sounds. With the high-quality option on, ambient background sounds, footsteps, water, explosions, and hand adjustments make playing Quake II significantly better.

You can feel your heart pulse a little harder from the amazing depth of rich sound as you see your hands rattle on whatever gun you're using. Playing deathmatches has taken on a whole new quality. You have more places to run and hide, making it hard for opponents to make the kill. And levels are amazingly more complex with bright palette textures. There are great places to camp out in or snipe from, shadows line areas for great places to disappear into, and crawl spaces make for great one-on-one firefights.

Controlling your character is easier than before, and the precision of aiming your crosshairs or red dot at the head of a potential kill make it that much more exhilarating.

I think Quake II is definitely a step in the evolution of Quake, although not a jump at revolutionary gameplay as it has been hyped. Regardless, I still think that it is an amazing evolution in game design and engine enhancement. The Quake II engine shines (even if you don't have a 3D graphics accelerator with a high frame rate), and offers greater clarity than the first Quake engine.

Still, I think many people buying this title will be hard pressed to delete their sacred Quake directories once they get this on their PCs.

- Micheal MullenQUAKE'S SECOND CHANCE

Make no mistake, the name of the game says it all: Quake II is a sequel, an enhancement, not necessarily a replacement, and certainly not a new thing. But after spending a few hours immersed in numerous Quake II deathmatches, I felt myself wanting to play a game that I all but stopped playing six months ago. But is it a Quake killer?

Before our all-out deathmatch got under way, I did a little level reconnaissance. What struck me the most was their similarity. Whether the action takes place in a sewer or on a space station, you're still playing on one hi-tech battleground after another. This coherence has its upside and downside. The consistent look makes it easier to immerse yourself into the gameworld - that's the upside. But this sameness runs the risk of making for a dull run through the trenches.

The look and feel of the levels are appropriately foreboding and grim and are exceptionally crisp. (It's worth noting I play on a standard-issue GameSpot machine - a run-of-the-mill name brand Pentium 166. No 3D accelerator cards, no hi-res monitor, none of that.) As for level design, id once again delivers multilevel, double-crossing corridor mayhem - precisely the thing a deathmatch player wants. Of the levels we played, the one titled Sudden Death was the best of the lot. It could best be described as a mix of Quake's DM2 and DM4 levels, and its circular design and screw-yer-buddy lava traps will no doubt vault this level to the top of our heap. Ultimately, it was level design, not the look of the levels, which for me carried the action.

But what truly sets this game apart from its predecessor is the sound. Incredible ambient sound. Fantastic weapon sounds. Frightening grunts, pops, and explosions of distant battles echoing down unseen corridors. This, to me, is the biggest step forward in Quake. You will want to play it loud. Really loud. Annoy your coworkers loud.

Quake II also delivers on the new weapons, sort of. Truth be told, the weapons here are really variations of old standards. Fans of the Dooms will thrill to once again get their hands on the pistol, chaingun, and the BFG. If there were a category for Most Improved Weapon, the chaingun would be the muzzle-down winner. Required to overcome the inertia of its Gatling barrels, the chaingun is slow to start and impossible to stop. Your enemies will absorb the ammo at a truly alarming rate, giving new meaning to the word overkill. The weapon balance overall seems good, although the HyperBlaster - a weapon that could best be described as a coffee can with a stock - is without peer. It has no downside, and mows down your foes faster than a riding mower would cut grass on a typical San Francisco front lawn. (For those who don't know, there are no front lawns in San Francisco.)

Conspicuous in its absence is a non-shooting weapon. Gone is the Doom Fist or Quake Axe. This is especially odd when you consider the mighty Adrenaline power-up from Doom fame makes its reappearance. You start with an Action Hero Pistol (a gun that packs an impressive punch and features unlimited ammo), and go up from there. In other words, there's no penalty for wasting ammo, nor is there that visceral satisfaction of dropping your opponent with a mighty lumberjack chop.

As for combat, suffice to say precision in aiming is absolutely key. The action is smooth, crisp, and very, very fast. Seeing your enemies is a lot easier than before, though hitting them is altogether another matter. However, downing your foes isn't as satisfying as it could be: The fountains of blood and rolling heads of the original have disappeared.

After my short time with Quake II, it's not so much a matter of what the game is, but what it isn't. So is it a Quake killer? Ask me that question after I've logged in a few hundred hours of play.

- Mike van MantgemON THE COATTAILS OF QUAKE II COME RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS Quake II arrived in the GameSpot office this morning and suddenly the weight of a hundred deadlines lifted.

I had heard the stories of id's new shooter and I knew what to expect: Quake II would be a title that put a premium on the quick kill. Rewards will go to the player with the fastest draw. Riches would rest with the wicked, the bastardly, the souls with murder on their minds and the taste of blood on their tongues. Or so went the conventional wisdom. But after just an hour in the same room with a full version of Quake II, I now see the title in a different light. I say the game's a peacemaker.

Heck, Madeleine Albright, Bill Richardson, and Mother Teresa (bless her bent little torso) combined couldn't have cast the spell of sharing and fellowship over the GameSpot and VideoGameSpot crew that Quake II did. With the Christmas season fast approaching, I can finally say I witnessed brotherly love incarnate. With my own eyes I saw the console boys getting it on with their PC brothers. OK, OK…so they were dueling mercilessly over the local area network conveniently set up by James in the tech department - but there was real sharing going on among these now-glassy-eyed players. News guy Mike Mullen (a PC purist), purveyor of previews Trent Ward (leans toward the PC world…but has a worrisome fascination with Monster Rancher on the PlayStation), level-headed PC player James Reed of the technology department (I have never, ever seen that guy in front of an N64 or Saturn), deer-slayer Ryan Mac Donald and "porn star" Jeff Gerstmann (two consolers with absolutely NO time for the PC gamer), and Mike van Mantgem (who's just as comfortable on a console as PC) were in to Quake II up to their ears. They were fragging with abandon - whooping and yelling like dogs surrounding a tree-bound fox.

For the first time in months, the lads were hollering-for-joy happy. (It was as if Arab and Jew had piled six, no eight, into a booth that fit just four and were eating from the same bowl of fruit.)

What I saw was a game, a game, that put the real blood of land mines, ear-biting prize-fighters, and gun-crazed high schoolers on the back, back burner. Quake II arrived at GameSpot this morning and while I didn't lay a hand on the chaingun, rocket launcher, or the BFG (ah, hail the BFG), I saw the petty differences that separate man from man / woman from woman / console player from PC gamer walk straight out the door. Just like I said. The game's a peacemaker. A real peacemaker.

- Curt FeldmanQUAKE II: BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND

At first I think I liked Quake II simply because it gave me a new excuse to play what I was sure would be nearly the same game. But throughout the first hour of playing Quake II I said, "That's so cool!" about a million times. What was I referring to? The new weapons, the lighting effects, the death animations, the levels, the sound effects, everything! It definitely wasn't the same old game.

Quake II's multiplayer deathmatch mode plays just like the original: Run around and shoot your friends. However, QII deathmatch play feels entirely more ominous than the first.

The single-player game seems to be quite a bit better than in the original. Lots of little subtleties add to the game - like radio transmissions, actual mission objectives, and levels that are simply fun to play.

Graphically, Quake II ranges from looking pretty good, to amazing - depending on whether you are running the game with an OpenGL card or not. And you have to see the game running with the card!

- Ryan Mac Donald

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