Last week I took a dive into Black Mesa and mentioned that right now, a bit of comfort gaming could go a long way. Well I am often reminded of Quake II whenever I hear the Coldplay song Viva la Vida. The line “…but that was when I ruled the world” resonates very deeply with me. Yes, there was a time, long ago, when I ruled the world. Sadly, that was way back in November of 1997 when I found Quake II. I never quite hit that high note again! While Half-Life kept us on Earth, Quake II sent us to a planet inhabited by a race called Strogg; uninspiringly called Stroggos. This was a distinctly military science fiction story that put us in a dangerous environment where we start off with nothing more than a small laser pistol; a pea-shooter, if you will. Over the next 39 boards, you do everything you can to stay alive and disrupt the enemy fortifications. This entails taking out a factory, reactor, bunker, their planetary defenses and their palace where you come across the typical boss battle… a thing I never really care for, but I can accept here.
What made Quake II so amazing for me was that it was science fiction, but then again, so was Half-Life. I think it was that this added a military aspect making it where you were on a mission. Loading screens showed a green display of your current target like you were getting the latest data from the homeworld. On top of that, one thing Quake II did better than any other of that era’s FPS games was that it gave you a count. Hitting the tab key showed you how many secrets you found out of how many were on the board; a useful tool for those gamers like me who wanted to find everything. But better than that, it showed how many enemies were on each board. Oh I long for those counters these days. If I had 24/25, by God, I was not leaving until every last Strogg maggot had been crushed underfoot!
Another great thing that existed for Quake II was the quick save button. This was not an uncommon feature for this genre of game but it is a much appreciated feature! Some fights were damned hard and when ammo was low after a big battle, you didn’t want to relive it so the best thing to do was a quick save. Quick save often would be used in the middle of a battle too, if the needs justified it. Of course, quick saving is dangerous to rely on and back in my early days of gaming, a quick save during a battle could be disastrously bad. Take an attack by a giant cybernetically enhanced winged creature that had me hiding under steps. My ammo is out and all I have is the pea-shooter. I have to nickel and dime this monstrosity and just when I think I killed him, I rapidly hit the quick save button… only to find one more volley had been launched which ended up killing me. Now when I hit that lovely little quick load, it was to watch my death over and over again. NOT FUN! (In retrospect, perhaps funny, but not fun!) Then you’d have to go back to the last full save or start the whole board over. (The other problem was when you had the quick save and quick load keys mapped too closely, like F5 and F6… you can imagine the fun with that mistake!)
The guns ranged from pea-shooter to the BFG, or Big Friggen Gun. It wasn’t friggen… That let out an orb of expanding death. Think of the Romulan ship in Star Trek’s Balance of Terror. Massive damage but a slow charge. The shotgun was deadly on the lower end characters needing one shot at close range to blast apart but my gun of choice was the rail gun; a marvelously precise blast that shot out at such speeds that it could rip an opponent to pieces in seconds. I distinctly recall my love of that gun; I was lethal with it!
The thing is, each of the big games of the time, namely Half-Life, Quake II and Unreal Tournament had their own physics. To a non-gamer, that might sound strange but you could feel the movements; the environment felt right. And you either merged with it, as I did or you found one of the others were more to your speed. You knew how a jump would feel and how it would impact you when you made it. You knew how to run and swerve and hide. You could feel the timing of the shots and the way they impacted. And it was an improvement on the first, fantasy-based, Quake. Sadly, like all good things, my friends and I found it was time to move away from this game and I became that character in Coldplay’s song, pining for the days when I ruled the world.
I picked up every expansion pack that arrived for Quake II. The Reckoning and Ground Zero were fun but it was more of the same. Quake II retails nowadays for $5. I loved it and always enjoy it even now, when the graphics have become very dated. But it was the first of the single player science fiction games that really wowed me. The multiplayer was enjoyable too but it wasn’t until a year later that Quake II: Extremities arrived. In the interest of comfort gaming, I will be returning to Quake next week to share what made the Extremities pack so magnificent and how it brought Quake back, with a vengeance. In the meantime, enjoy this aged trailer for Quake II, the game from a time long gone… a time, when I ruled the world. (I went with a high quality one because the original trailer is painful to watch now… but this still shows what the game was like!) ML