Quake 2 - the best in series single player, improved multiplayer.
Quake 2 campaign - this time there is an actual story about artificial intelligence versus human conflict. So Quake 2 campaign has absolutely nothing to do with original Quake campaign. While you play as a space marine and travel to the Strogg planet to eliminate it's main command & control, you experience a totally different gameplay now - levels are divided in hubs, and once you will clear one area, and travel to another, you can always return to the previous hub to get some ammo that is left or unlock some secret doors; actually there will be times where you will need to return to previous hub in order to progress further. If in Quake the levels were just random and bizarre fantasy worlds, this time, in Quake 2, all the levels are connected into a logic "circuit" being one giant Strogg base with many subterminals. The design of the base is impressive and makes sense - you will travel through standard control and observation rooms, powerplants, werehouses, waste and recycle facilities, prisons, weapon factories and personal suites of high ranking enemies - be sure that every level of this kind has it's unique atmosphere with well suited sounds, lightning effects and even elements of disgust, horror or comedy. However Quake 2 lacks good monster positioning - same types are seen in every level. I would expect some genuine monsters "working" in recycle facilities and other types guarding the high command and the AI is not great either. Despite that, everything, unlike in original Quake, has it's place and order. There are almost no strange buildings serving no purpose now, and secret places now more often contain keys or cards to progress than just powerups, although there are enough crazy places to visit in Quake 2 too.. So be sure that it is not a complete departure from Quake. The level design in not linear - it is rather continuous as you see how you travel from one destination to another in a tactical map, representing the planet surface.
You play alone and nowhere in the game will you have any help from other computer controlled marines or machines. However, the fact that cooperative is present, makes more sense than in any other game - because the cooperative players control the same space marines, and since you know from from the presentation that many marines have landed into the planet, it is logic to storm the base with many marines instead of one. Certainly cooperative is implemented excellent.
The sound effects are as good as in Quake 1, but certainly the graphics are improved as you really would hope, that it would be the case with a game, that has been released in the last month of 1997. However it's more the shading and lightning as well as building textures that look impressive rather than enemy design, since Quake 2 certainly lacks good quality looks compared to 1998 titles like Half-Life or Heretic 2.
Quake 2 is easy to edit and customize. You will easy learn the commands of cfg and make your own preferences to it as well as your own setup for different kind of gameplay. You will execute what you want in the console and get the results asap without errors. Quake 2, as of 2010, has so many mods and enhancements, that there is no need to play it out of the box.
To get the best experience from singleplayer, i would recommend upgrade Quake 2 with some modern looking graphic enhancements like Evolved and play Quake 2 in cooperative with your friend..
Quake 2 multiplayer is the real deal as it continues to establish itself as one of the professional gaming all time icons. Out of the box, Quake 2 is by far the best 1 VS 1 multiplayer game of all time, nothing comes close. Quake 3 Arena had to be heavily modified in order to bring that level of competition we see these days. Having that in mind, it's amazing how Quake 2 has improved multiplayer gameplay over original Quake - multiplayer is alot more balanced now in some many ways. For starters the maps now have a far greater design for all types of players - they are larger and fit both for duel or FFA gameplay. They also contain more balanced weapon locations, unlike in original Quake, where grabbing a single weapon like the rocket launcher or electroshaft and controlling that weapon spot made you the king of the hill for all day. Well in Quake 2 the weapons and their locations have been balanced so that there would not be any advantage to the one that holds the most powerful one. Finally we have a rocket launcher that has FW rocket jump ability! Also the addition of the railgun ultimately improves the whole game as it brings the balance between the ones that move good versus the ones that have great static precision. Also the improved size of maps helps alot for those with chainguns and railguns.. Movement is quite different from original Quake - let's say that your initial strafes are faster in the original Quake, but if you will increase speed in Quake 2 by strafing, it will surpass that of Quake at some point. Powerups also have been "edited" - the most typical armor now has a value of 50 or 25 and the one that gives 100 is rare and typically needs to be controlled, while in original Quake an armor of 100 points was like "common" and the rare was the 200 point armor. There are less noticeable improvements, but the whole deal is that Quake 2 is now more competitive and new user friendly than original Quake, although Quake 3 Arena is perhaps the most new user friendly game when compared.
CTF mode is something extraordinary - everyone know it, but how awesome is the fact, that in Quake 2 you have that grappling hook? You must try it out!
Quake 2 packs so much stuff in it's CD - long campaign, cooperavite mode, awesome balanced and competitive multiplayer, and a future proof base for many awesome mods and maps! It is one the best games of all time and the best Quake game in the franchise!