Who wants to play single player?
That's the question that most expansion packs ask these days, including the
latest Quake 2 Mission Pack from Xatrix (the developer). First, we must examine
if anyone wanted to play single player Quake 2 in the
first place. The answer to that question is a resounding no. Quake
2 was anticipated solely for its 3D engine and multi-player aspect. ID software
is well known for ignoring single player in favor for making the best multi-player
games in the world. And that's something they are damn good at.
The first Quake 2 Expansion, The Reckoning, attempts to both expand
the multi-player that id is so well known for, but also to make the single player
experience more enjoyable. Xatrix has succeeded moderately at both, creating
a mission pack with a single player experience somewhat better than Quake 2's,
but not quite up to Unreal's, while including some
mediocre multi-player maps.
The new maps are somewhat dull for the first half of the mission pack. Although
they have new textures, they don't really stand out and many of the levels look
just like levels that might have hit the cutting room floor in Quake
2. The later levels though, the ones that take place on a spaceship and
on a space station, are extremely innovative and look great. The overall level
design is far superior to what was offered in the original Quake
One thing The Reckoning does capitalize on is the hub system, where
you have to go back and forth between levels to retrieve items and to open up
new locations. It's a system that was made popular in Hexen
II, but it is better executed in The Reckoning, and it makes the
small number of levels offered seem to be much larger than they actually are.
Since this is a mission pack, of course it includes some new monsters and
weapons. Some of the weapons in the pack are uninspired and boring. One, the
Phalanx Particle Cannon, fires two glowing balls at a time that act suspiciously
like rockets. The second weapon is called the Ion Ripper which simply shoots
orange particle beams that bounce off walls, much like Unreal's
buzzsaw/ninja star weapon. The only weapon that is really cool is a rip-off
of a popular movie. Assuming you've seen Ghostbusters, you're sure to
remember how they captured the ghosts in their traps. There is a similar trap
in the mission pack that acts just like the one in ghost busters, but if you
get sucked into it, you turn into a food pellet that others can eat to replenish
life. Although not original, it sure is a lot of fun.
Regrettably, most of the new monsters are modifications of monsters from the
original game. Xatrix gave the normal enemy troopers some new weapons, including
a blue hyper-blaster, a red ray gun, and the aforementioned Ion Ripper. Not
very exciting to say the least. There are two new monsters, one simply revives
dead monsters, making it extremely annoying, but the other, the Gekk, is much
more interesting. It acts like an amphibian, able to swim in water and able
to jump around on land, but it looks more like a reptile that stands on its
hind legs. It also has acidic blood, a-la Aliens, that will hurt you
if you come too close to it.
The new multi-player levels, while better than what an amateur can make, aren't
anything special. The seven different levels, including a modified version of
q2dm1, are bland - they aren't horrible but they aren't great, either. These
levels don't really add anything to the Quake 2 experience,
the built in multi-player levels are much better.
The mission pack is a decent diversion, but unless you really enjoyed Quake
2's single player game it doesn't have much to offer. Unlike last years
Quake 1 mission packs, this pack doesn't make a
boring single player experience fun, it simply extends it.