Introducing…Quake II!

Welcome to our review of the new first person shooter sensation from ID and Bethesda: Quake II.

Wait, what year is it? No, your eyes deceive thee not. Quake II is back and not just as a compilation game or a watered down “special edition”. Well, not exactly, anyway.

Nvidia and Bethesda have partnered to re-release Quake II using the RTX ray tracing abilities of RTX-series Nvidia cards. This is partially because there’s been a dearth of content for said abilities, and partly because there was already a project doing exactly this. Now, they’ve made it official. Notice the difference in the screenshots below:

Full disclosure: I’m a fanatic for the first three Quake games. They’re a formative experience of my adolescent years and I continue to play all three of them to this day. For those that aren’t aware, all three of the original Quake games were “benchmark” games. Before there was “Can it run Crysis?”, there was “Can it run Quake?”. Quake killed Cyrix, the 486 and (later) a great many crappy graphics card technologies.

The first Quake was a DOS game that was a true 3D experience, as opposed to Doom that used tricks to give itself the appearance of 3D. Eventually, GLQuake (3D accelerated) and WinQuake (a native Windows port) were released.

Quake II wasn’t even supposed to be a Quake game. ID just couldn’t think of another name for it. They share nothing in story, but they were both boundary-pushing. Quake II required Windows: no DOS port exists. While it had a software renderer (and that was the first way I played it), to truly experience the game you needed a 3D accelerator.

Everything that’s old is new again. Quake II RTX also needs a fancy card to experience it properly, this time courtesy of the Nvidia RTX series cards (20xx cards). I bought a 2080 this year and, though it’s an impressive enough card, I’ve not really played anything that makes use of ray-tracing. Until now.

Oooooh….pretty…

Simply put, Quake II RTX is gorgeous. The original game was pretty muddy on textures without a Voodoo card. Lighting effects weren’t really a thing and the particle effects were pretty basic. Clearly, all of that has been redone. I’ll have a gallery up later in this review, but you can see from the above photo that we’ve got some reflection on the gun barrels, pretty light emanating from the explosion and some nice shadows.

I’ve only made it about 1/3 of the way through the game, but I believe it’ll be necessary to go all the way through to the end. It’s almost a brand new experience. Almost. There are some people who believe that Quake II started the trend of boring, brown levels and limited-narrative, point A to point B gameplay. I’d argue the latter started much earlier, but I’ll admit that the default colour palette of Quake II is definitely brown.

I suppose, too, that the gameplay is somewhat dated. Pick up keys to open doors, kill enemies, rinse and repeat. The thing is, it just feels good and proper in this game. The level design is pretty solid, with a clear path to the end but enough branching paths and secrets to make exploration worthwhile.

And then there are the weapons. You’ve got your standard fare pistol with unlimited ammo (you’d probably be better off shooting your enemies with a fart). Next is the shotgun. Ho hum. Then an SMG. Okay. Borrowing from Doom is the chaingun, which has a delayed spin-up but does MASSIVE damage while repainting walls with giblets. Another Doom staple, the Super Shotgun, makes an appearance as a futuristic version of the classic gun. Watching enemies explode in one hit or double over from a glancing blow is fun.

The grenade launcher and rocket launcher are two somewhat boring guns that have their purposes. But the meat and potatoes of the late game weapons are the HyperBlaster (a high speed energy chaingun), the railgun (one hit kill sniper weapon) and the BFG10K (a more futuristic version of Doom’s BFG).

Another big part of Quake II when it first released was the multiplayer. Sadly, I haven’t yet delved into any servers, but according to Nvidia most regular Q2 servers should work with your RTX client. I plan to try this out soon.

Overall, I’m very happy with this game. It is nostalgia meets modern technology, which is always a beautiful thing to me (when it works). If you’ve got the hardware, I’d recommend a playthrough.

Verdict: Recommended

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