Quake II or Doom III?
Quake II. What could I possibly say that you haven’t already heard? How about this: the game is not all its cracked up to be. After reading the endless print magazine previews and last week’s explosion of online reviews, you might be convinced that id software has actually created the “best game ever,” as so many reviewers have claimed. Not by a long shot. What’s wrong with Quake II? Put simply, you’ve played it all before. Colored lights can’t hide the fact that Quake II is no more fun than DOOM, maybe less. OK, pick your jaw back up off the floor and I’ll try and explain.
DOOM changed the face
of gaming. Period. Dark Forces showed how the DOOM concept could be adapted
to include a more goal-oriented story in a non-gory, familiar universe (even
if it was a galaxy far, far away). Duke Nukem 3D taught
us to fly and emphasized the importance of humor, innovative weapons and a more
interactive environment. Quake brought multiplayer to
new heights and GLQuake made such a leap in graphic splendor that the
game itself became more fun.
So what will Quake II be remembered for? Colored lighting? The explosive
new sound-effects? I don’t think so. Quake II — as it stands — offers
no significant improvement to the genre. The only thing that will make this
game a classic (and, of course, it will be a classic) is the fanatical fans
of the original Quake and their already proven ability
to improve id’s products by getting their gib-bloodied hands on the freely distributed
It all makes perfect sense: first, the best programmers and level designers
are attracted to cutting-edge technology and Quake II is currently the
best technology, therefore the best mods and levels will be designed for the
Quake II graphics engine. Second, tons of mods and levels mean tons of
multiplayer and tons of multiplayer means tons of net presence. Third, and finally,
tons of net presence means longevity and longevity means classic. But the question
I’m here to answer is this: is the game –not the graphics engine– any better
than Quake? The answer is no.
First off, the new “cut-scences”
(all two of ’em!) are extremely poor quality. If you had heard and believed
that Quake II has a story, you believed wrong. The story is no more fleshed
out than Quake’s. There are cyborgs and you must kill
them. Big story! The “story” is also designed to be part of the in-game experience
through the new “field computer.” As each goal is accomplished you hear the
message “computer updated,” and dutiful soldier that you are, you press F1 to
bring up the field computer display, which tells you what you have to do next.
But unlike the original Dark Forces where the mission goals were engaging
and helped advance the plot of the cutscences, Quake II’s goals are mostly an
annoyance. So much for the story.
Another good idea gone bad is the incorporation of Hexen and Hexen
II-style “hubs.” In Quake II they are called “units” and instead
of moving from one level to the next you can now move back and forth between
a group of levels within the unit. Though this works well for a puzzle-solving
exploratory game like Hexen II, it just makes
Quake II confusing and, at times, boring. I much prefer the simple level-by-level
approach of Quake over the sprawling “units” of Quake
II. I frequently found myself searching for things I’d missed when what
I really wanted to do was move forward and kill. That’s why we play Quake,
Most of the Quake II hype has been about the graphics. Go figure. The graphics
are more complex than GLQuake, but I wouldn’t call them hands down “better.”
Once you start looking at games using 3D accelerators, graphic “quality” is
not really an issue anymore. All 3D accelerated games have good graphic quality.
Does the visual quality significantly enhance the game? In this case, I’d say
no. Hexen II is the last 3D shooter that used graphics
to enhance gameplay. This was because you spent so much time looking around
and searching for clues to puzzles in Hexen II that
discovering the beautiful architecture became part of the fun. Quake II,
on the other hand, looks like your traditional, cheesy apocalyptic sci-fi movie
and, truth be told, I actually prefer the less-realistic, more stylized
look of GLQuake. Everything in GLQuake is identifable: you know
what monster is in front of you, opponents in multiplayer are color coded, the
power-ups are large and easy to see, and you can easily understand the architecture
of the room you are in. Quake II is generally too dark and the colored
lighting is overdone, the monsters and player skins look the same and most of
the objects are hard to distinguish from one another.
The other thing the previews
(and the rumour-mill) had prepared us for was new monster A.I. As far as I can
tell this feature got scrapped in favor of a Christmas release. I don’t consider
a grunt who ducks when I fire a machine gun “intelligent.” The monsters are
just as stupid as they were in Quake, no more no less.
They still seem deaf at times (even when standing 10 feet from their buddy who
got wasted); they still follow you if you run; it’s still easy to find places
where you can waste them without them seeing you; in a nutshell — it’s still
By this time you may be thinking, “It can’t suck that bad can it?” Now don’t get me wrong. Quake II does not suck. Not at all. The point here is that it’s just not so head-and-shoulders above the rest as everyone would have you believe. What is good about Quake II? The weapons. Each weapon in Q2 serves a specific function and each has a weakness. Some are slow to start and stop firing, some waste tons of ammo. Some are accurate, some are hard to control. This makes for great a balance in multiplayer games. No longer will rocket launchers rule the Internet. You can also store invulnerable and quad-damage power ups and use them as you see fit, adding more flexibility to your strategy. The sound effects are great (though the music is third-rate hair metal) and though I’m not crazy about the “look”, in all fairness, most people go ga-ga for the graphics. Check the screenshots and judge for yourself.
So what do we make of these “best game ever created” claims? Look who they
are coming from: the technoid Quake freaks. This is the best game technology
on the market. But “best technology” is not equivalent to “best game.” If “best
game” is equivalent to “most fun” (and it should be, shouldn’t it?) then Quake
II may not be any “better” than the original Quake.
If you are tired of Quake, fine. Get Quake II.
You’ll play the same fun game in a different looking environment, and it will
get better as Quake fans start modifying it. But why not try Jedi
Knight, where you use cool force powers and a lightsaber? Or Hexen
II with interesting magic and different character classes? Why not wait
for Daikatana, Half-Life, Unreal, Sin or Prey and see how these
1998 games compare? If you need something to tide you over while you wait for
the next true innovator, why not pull out your old copy of DOOM. You
might be surprised how fun it still is.