I’ve been discussing the idea of “comfort gaming” and took a trip back in time to some classics from the 90’s which invariably means I’d want to look at my favorite FPS game, Quake II. What happened nearly a year after its arrival changed the playing field for me completely. NB: This particular review will be heavily anecdotal due to the wonderful time in my life and the fun I had playing this game.
Back in the late 90’s, I worked with a great team. We would take our lunch together, walking to a nearby restaurant called Aljon’s where, upon entry, the guy would see us walk in and yell to the kitchen staff, “Chicken finger dinner”, so well known was one of our orders that he didn’t even need to wait for us to confirm. The job, in those days, put me and my team in charge of a lab. One day we had an idea! No one ever looks forward to Mondays, we realized. Maybe we could make Mondays something to long for. We decided to turn Monday into game night. We took 6 computers, on a closed network specifically for testing anything we needed to, and installed Quake II with the Extremities pack. Come 5pm, for the next 6 hours, we played for keeps.
Quake II multiplayer was a great way to experience the game, but the Extremities pack did add a new level of enjoyment. It changed the weapons in magnificent ways while adding new ones as well. One such addition was a crossbow that could shoot poison arrows or exploding arrows. It added laser trip mines and proximity grenades and homing missiles. There was suddenly the ability to kick an opponent, which was far more enjoyable than you could imagine. A bastard sword was added for those who loved a good sword fight, and a grappling hook turned up for some fun, Spiderman-style action. There was also the ability to lay down a personal teleporter. Boards or levels were added that were memorable too, especially the new low-gravity environments. And there were new skins for the characters. This allowed you to download and play as an array of other characters. To compound this joy, you could download .wav files to change the sounds made when injured, killed, or scoring a victory.
We always looked for new skins, which did entail each of us having it so we could see who we were playing as, but one day, I found my “skin” and the game changed for me; I would never need to search again. I found a Spider Dalek. My old team would stop fighting one another, determined to hunt and kill the Spider. The .wav files I added had many of the best lines from Army of Darkness which didn’t always work, but it sure was fun. But the simple “Exterminate” was enough to make me happy. How joyful as an entire group hunted one player who still managed to beat them all. (If you can’t tell, I’m smiling while writing this!)
Imagine the horror as the Spider Dalek sprang up from a hole with grappling hook and immediately blasted through 2 enemies with one well-placed rail gun blast. I recall with great joy as an old friend tracked me to a cave and launched a barrage of 2 dozen homing missiles at me. As the smoke cleared, I leapt out and shot one obliterating blast to the sound of “Exterminate”. (His quote will forever echo in my heart: “what does it take to kill you?”) Oh, and the fun of planting a laser mine on a sliding door; your opponent could not see it until they opened the door…
Telefragging was another exciting thing to do. That’s a fun word all on it’s own. Extremities had a neat new ability; one could lay out a personal teleporter; a device to make a rapid escape in times of dire peril. But heaven forbid I saw where one of my enemies placed theirs; I’d place mine right on the enemy’s and the moment I heard it activate, I’d activate mine. The result was that the first body would be ripped asunder, destroyed horrifically from the inside out. Telefragged. You know, teleport-fragmented.
And how much fun is a crossbow that shoots poison arrows? Hit the enemy and watch as he staggered the hallways spewing green bile. I almost felt guilty taking them down. Almost! These were moments of pure hilarity for me but I knew that they all wanted “my head on a silver plate”. And in fairness to them, it was a matter of time. We did eventually change to other games where I did not hold sway and the battles were more evenly matched, but nowhere near as funny!
Back at home, many a late night would be spent with my oldest, best friend often playing until the crack of dawn. Battle after battle, laughing throughout. Well, at least I was laughing. I think he was plotting how to kill me outside the game!
Whether at home or at work, there was a standing rule: whenever we called “Last game”, the winner would be champ for the night. It gave us a sense that everything up until that moment was practice. Last game was the deciding round. Everyone played extra hard during that round. We never broke that rule. And I share that because…
My most memorable battle took place on a space station so late in the night, the sun had come up. We were exhausted, but needed that last game. I offered up an idea, one my friend could not turn down: meet on the outside of the space station for a duel with the swords. Alas, that meant low gravity was in effect. Jerome has long been my Moriarty; it was only natural that he would accept. But I played as a Dalek! It was in my character’s very being to be devious. I remember it so clearly as Jerome ran out of the door, sword drawn. Without missing a beat, the Spider Dalek kicked him in the rear and out he floated into space. His grappling hook shot out, but connected with nothing… Without a word, my Moriarty got up and left. I think I laughed for 20 years over that one moment.
Quake II: Extremities was gaming joy. We laughed so much during those days. Nowadays, we all have families and a virus has kept us all apart. Many of us have moved in different circles but those days still live vividly in my mind. To all those victims of the Spider Dalek, thank you for the many laughs and so many great rounds.
For those of you able to find it, try the Extremities pack. In all my years of gaming, I have never laughed so much! ML