The first official mission pack for Quake II is a cohesive, if conservative, extension of the original, offering more weapons and opponents along with plenty of solid single-player and deathmatch levels. The question you need to ask yourself is whether you enjoy Quake II enough to merit playing it again, because The Reckoning is a supplement rather than an improvement. You're still just one marine up against the evil biomechanical Strogg, and though you'll take up a few new guns and see a few new sights, The Reckoning remains thematically identical to the original Quake II campaign.
Though there are plenty of new graphics in this add-on, you'd have trouble picking them out of a lineup. The polished gunmetal walls, the crimson skies, the dimly lit corridors - all the sights from Quake II are back, albeit slightly different than before. Though you'll pass through a few all-new vistas, such as a canyon and a low-gravity moon base, they are not so different as to make you think you're playing an all-new game. Likewise, while the mission pack features a sizeable slew of new enemies just waiting to frag you dead, only a handful of these are original. The most noteworthy of these new enemies is an amphibious ape-like creature with glowing, acidic blood. Instead, most are stronger variants of the original Quake II menagerie: slightly different in appearance, much tougher to kill, and far more potently equipped. Expect to face three new types of guards, an enhanced Tank, an Iron Maiden equipped with guided missiles, and more. Meanwhile, there are very few new audio effects worthy of note. The new weapons sound appropriate enough, the occasional instances of voice-over are effective, and the soundtrack is naught but the original Quake II distortion guitar mishmash.
The new weapons you'll discover are well designed, but nothing too far out of the ordinary. The Phalynx Particle Cannon unloads two huge, explosive fireballs, but it's a little too slow to be effective in a heated firefight, let alone against a skilled opponent in an open deathmatch. The Ion Ripper, a design quickly becoming yet another first-person shooter cliche, fires powerful ricocheting energy bolts (surprisingly, a sniper rifle is nowhere to be found). Other new gadgets include the simply named Trap, a device that absorbs and collapses everything in range reducing its unfortunate victims to a bite-size, edible cube; and a quad damage variant that increases your rate of fire fourfold.
Level design in The Reckoning is akin to that of Quake II at its most mediocre, meaning the majority of the areas are suspenseful corridor crawls. The levels are hub-based like in the original, such that you'll need to move back and forth between several areas killing the opposition, solving puzzles, and unlocking new regions before you can move on. Though the backtracking is better implemented than in Quake II (expect plenty of resistance even on your second pass through, rather than a bunch of corpses), the architecture itself isn't as striking as the original missions. You won't see anything like Quake II's grisly processing plant or detention cell areas, for example. But these new levels are certainly tougher than those of Quake II, in no small part because of the stronger enemies. After all, those guards you used to scoff at are now armed with hyper blasters and laser rifles, making even the weakest of your foes a formidable challenge. Fortunately, you'll find weapons and ammo on a regular basis. The puzzles within the levels are much like those of Quake II, in that they help make the game seem bigger than it really is without frustrating you excessively. Overall, The Reckoning is roughly equivalent in physical size to Quake II's campaign, though its difficulty means it will invariably take you longer to complete. Furthermore, there are enough secret areas within each level to warrant playing it through more than once.
More than half a dozen new deathmatch levels mean The Reckoning has much to offer in terms of competitive play. Its deathmatch levels are typically well designed and allow you to use the new weapons to good effect. Internet servers running The Reckoning levels are already springing up, so rest assured you'll find online competition anytime you're ready for it.
Those who found the original to be either entirely or gradually disappointing will want to pass on The Reckoning for the same reasons. But this mission pack contains all the necessary ingredients to satisfy the Quake II fan looking for more of the same.