"It's Christmas at Ground Zero"
"All the missiles are on their way. I'll duck and cover with my Yuletide lover underneath the mistletoe…" and not bother playing the second dreary mission pack for Quake 2, Ground Zero. I'll be frank right out; I don't especially like Quake 2. In fact, I'd say that all the ID games and their fiendish adherence to minimalism in game design has done far more damage to the game industry than even the intolerable myst-clone obsession.
However, the biggest problem with both Quakes was the poor single player games. Can this add-on pack help? Read on.
So here we have a mission pack made by the same folks who made the Quake Mission Pack 2: Dissolution of Eternity, Rouge Entertainment. What do you want to hope for in a mission pack for Q2? New graphics? New Enemies? New Weapons? More Interaction? Redesigned AI? More Interactive Environments? All the trappings of CREATIVITY perhaps? It would appear so --considering the preponderance of innovative MODs that Q2 lovers with programming skills and way to much time on their hands have put together over the past year.
But hey, none of that here. All we are given are 14 new single player levels, 10 new deathmatch levels, 4 "new" weapons, 5 "new" enemies, a new Boss, and 7 new power-ups. No new graphics. No new AI. None of the trappings of creativity.
What we really have here is an overpriced deathmatch MOD.
The single player levels are bad. Yes, bad. The first unit (3 levels) starts you off in an underground volcanic mine of some sort. These are the only decent levels in the pack, mainly due to their creative architecture and good use of Quake 2's blasphemously overdone lighting effects. Aside from that, the levels are mostly boring rehash of Quake 2s boring environs. Save for one cool spot in a very large canyon of fire, you've played this before.
The drab levels feature the 5 "New" enemies present in this expansion pack. There are actually only 3 new enemies as 2 of them, the Deadalus and the medic Commander, are actually just remakes of the original Icarus and Medic with new skins, weapons, and a green defensive shield for the Deadalus. The other new enemies include a spider-like Stalker that only exists to annoy you, a Turret that only exists to trap you (it's actually kind of cool though), and an Anime inspired "Carrier" that'll make you wish that SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division would hurry up and get to the stores.
Then there are the 4 new weapons. They are the Chainsaw, the Prox Mine launcher, the ETF Rifle Flechette, and the Plasma rifle. Essentially the Chainsaw is just the Quake axe, the Prox Mine Launcher is just as it sounds (and pretty useless), the Flechette is the Nail gun from Quake, and the Plasma rifle is a better looking version of the lighting gun from Quake. Nothing to scream about and run from in terror here.
The 'story' behind the single player game has to do with a new Strogg (the Quake 2 cyborg bad dudes) "Gravity Well" weapon. Don't worry about it, it's not worth talking about. But, as they say, "Who the hell plays single player Quake 2?"
Admittedly Quake 2's great success has been in the multplayer area where it's clean and simple deathmatch has grabbed the Internet game-playing community like an alien face hugger and refuses to let go. So, what about them multiplayer thingies? Well, we have here 10 new really big and bland deathmatch levels that'll bore you pretty quick. In fact, the maps are so big, unless you play with 32 or more players, your trigger finger will cease up from inactivity.
However, the cool things about this mission pack... correction, the only cool new things about this mission pack are the new power ups used mostly for multi-player. These include 3 types of spheres, a Tesla Grenade, Double damage, IR Goggles, and a bad ass anti-matter bomb. The spheres circle your head and do one of 3 things: The Defender Sphere kills your enemies and lowers damage to you by %50. The Vengeance Sphere waits till you get down to %25 health, then kills your attacker (hehe). Finally, the Hunter Sphere locks on to the ass of the person who just fragged you and doesn't stop 'till they are chunky salsa giblets. The Tesla grenade electrocutes anyone dumb enough to wander to close to it, the Anti-Matter bomb kills everyone, and the Doppelganger creates a decoy that looks just like you. Oh, the IR Goggles and Double Damage are self explanatory.
On the whole these little beauties are fun distractions but add little to the already existing Quake 2 deathmatch gameplay. It would probably get you more just to download the user MODs Action Quake 2 or Lithium for free.
Look, I'll make this one simple. This was a missed opportunity. Perhaps if Rouge had shown a bit more creativity and done something cool with the Quake 2 engine (like the Malice TC for Quake) then this could have been cool. It could have been less terminally boring than Quake 2. As it is, this 104 megabyte puppy didn't stay on my hard drive for very long and I got it for free. Don't bother paying any of your hard earned/scammed/stolen cash on this one, there ain't enough meat to nuke.