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Quake 2 screen"Quake"-ing in our Boots - again

State of the Art mayhem Comes to Playstation, too

By Steven Bilodeau

The first person shooter began, for all intents and purposes, with a game called Wolfenstein 3D. You took on the role of Capt. B.J. Blazkowicz, trapped in a Nazi fortress, with no choice but to fight your way out. In 1993, players were impressed with the fluid movement and novelty. A year later, DOOM struck. A marked improvement in graphics combined with multiplayer capabilities to make this one of the most important games ever written.

The ability to create new levels and add sounds kept DOOM alive for years. In 1996, the next generation of first-person games was introduced: Quake. All characters and items were rendered in true 3D, which meant that they had a realism which was missing from the previous games. Before, everything looked like a cardboard cutout. With Quake, the world became solid. Multiplayer capabilities were enhanced to take into account the Internet.Wolfenstein - the Origin of Species

Quake had flaws, though. The colour palette left many players feeling it was dreary; the lack of music only added to this. There was also no story to the game, rather just one level after another, loosely connected. Quake's focus, and strength, was in multiplayer matches. This left its creators at id Software plenty of room for improvement, both in graphics and in gameplay.

The result is a sequel which betters the original in every respect. It is also, arguably, the best computer game ever written. Quake II is a game that everyone should at least see, just to find out how advanced computer games have evolved.

Quake II exemplifies everything an action game should possess. It is a native Windows 95 game, which makes setup a breeze. It supports most 3D accelerators, though they are not necessary. When used, though, the graphics' quality is beautiful. Not only is there detail, but the designers have incorporated lighting and shading to make the environment even more realistic. 3D cards will allow you to see through windows and water, and to catch reflections on various surfaces. The Next Generation - Doom

The levels in a game such as this are almost as important as the program itself. Many such titles have found themselves in the discount bin simply because of uninspired, boring settings. In Quake II, I actually paused on more than one occasion to stare at the intricate environment before me. The player encounters canyons with machinery built in the walls, dungeons with complex computers flashing, elaborate warehouse and factory complexes stacked with equipment that functions and crates all over. In short, there is a world here, not just a series of hallways and rooms that look alike.

Instead of finishing one level and moving on to the next, Quake II has missions that tie the various levels together. So, there might be three or four levels in the factory/warehouse mission, and you'll have to go between those levels in order to finish that mission. This is quite different from Quake, where you basically just blasted your way from one exit to the next. In the sequel, you actually have a purpose with tasks to complete in a sensible sequence. The enemies are also something to behold. Whereas you used to be able to win merely by charging in with brute force, now you're going to have to be a little more careful. These guys have some smarts. They actually duck when you shoot at them, crouching to one side and then firing a shot off at you. Sometimes they'll run and take cover, other times they'll pursue. Even when you inflict a fatal wound, they can squeeze off a shot at you on the way down. There's quite a variety of them, too, from mere soldiers to monsters in flying tanks. Quake2 screen

Wrapping all of these features together is a bona fide story, similar to the space soldier motif in DOOM. This focus on improving the single player experience has not meant that multiplayer gameplay has suffered. To the contrary, it's easier than ever to DeathMatch. Two people can play over modems or a group can link together via network or on the Internet. Because the game is integrated with Windows 95, you don't have nearly as many hardware problems. The game has a built-in feature for connecting to Internet servers: just type in their Internet IP address and you're off. Players can choose their "skins", the way they look to other players. This allows for choice of your character's clothing and gender, with new skins being created all the time.

When you defeat the final bad guy, you can replay the game at a higher difficulty level. The enemies will be more crafty and harder to kill. You'll also have an opportunity to find some of the secrets hidden throughout the game. Sometimes it's just a room with special weapons or items, other times it may be an entire level to explore. Even after that, you can play over again with add-on levels.

The developers haven't abandoned their hard work, either. A number of patches are available to fix various bugs and to optimize the graphics and game play. Be aware, though, that the patches can create incompatibilities with other versions. This will prevent you from loading old saved games or from connecting with a player using a different version.

Quake II, for Playstation

The Playstation version, from Activision, includes everything you expect from the game, though the graphics don't translate as well to the TV environment as they do to the computer monitor.

The scenario is that you're part of a secret assault force sent to fight through heavily fortified military installations in order to lower the defences of an alien race and help shut down their warmaking machine. If you do this, Earth can launch an air assault to put the buggers in their place and save humanity.

The interface is about the same as the PC's - except with the PlayStation's controller you have instant access to more buttons and controls that are placed right in your hands than with the PC interface, which requires you to poke around on the keyboard (unless you have a really skookum game controller). You can not only move around with the "arrow keys," but you can look up and down and slide left and right with the "L&R" keyset on the front of the controller, choose weapons, fire, jump, etc. with the control pad. This can help speed up your reaction time, because you don't have to search for the right keys.

The gore seems a bit toned down in the PlayStation version as well, which is something we don't mind. But don't worry about the game losing its edge; there's still plenty of blood and severed limbs; maybe it's just that the TV doesn't show it up as well.

Each level loads in part, with pauses during the level to continue loading. At the end of each level, you're given the opportunity to save the game (if you have the proper hardware for your PlayStation, of course).

Activision has done a nice job of translating this battlefest to the PlayStation platform.

Blast them!

Steven Bilodeau is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns at


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January 31, 2006