Quake 2 Remastered - An Undeniable Legacy
The first time I ever even laid eyes on Quake 2 was when I was an exchange student in Chile. I was 16, living in a country where I didn’t speak the local lingo and looking for something to break up the exhausting and emotionally draining days. You see, when you are an exchange student, especially in a country like Chile where there are very few English speakers, it is a constant drain on your energy for at least the first five months of your stay. Trying to understand a foreign language and fit in at school is mentally taxing in the extreme and I was begging for an escape, if only for an hour a day, to just recharge the batteries and clear the mind. Enter ID Software’s classic shooter. I picked up a, shall we say, questionably sourced, copy of the game at the local market and proceeded to use it as a daily reset for a good few months. I could escape into the game, ignore the challenges I was facing and refresh, all while having an absolute blast.
That is because Quake 2, in my mind, is the best of the franchise and perhaps the best boomer shooter ever made. Sure Quake brought FPS into a fully 3D engine and Quake 3 Arena (along with UT) introduced the world to the joy of online multiplayer FPS, but Quake 2 was something special. It had a pretty solid story (especially considering the standards of the time,) mind-blowing graphics and level design that almost seemed magical in the way it would guide you, loop you around and get you where you needed to be. ID Software created something that even to this day, absolutely holds up and is frankly the equal of any of the recent games released in the “boomer shooter” revival.
This is good news because Bethesda has just released Quake 2: Remastered, an impressive repackaging of the original game along with more extras than you can poke a rail gun at. Not only do you get the original game, but you also get both of the official expansions and Quake 2 64 (which was and still is a bit on the terrible side, but it is nice to have it to round out the collection) along with a host of upgrades to take advantage of modern systems like 4K resolutions and some improved controls and settings. If this was all there was too it, I would be a happy man, because as I said, Quake 2 is just as playable today as it was when it first released. But ID Software wanted to do more.
So two major new additions were added to the game. The first is just so ridiculous you can’t help but stand up and applaud. On the PC version there is now the ability to play eight player split-screen multiplayer. That’s right, EIGHT. I mean the sheer madness of the concept is enough for me to cheer. Sure it probably isn’t practical unless you are playing on a screen the size of your garage door, but damn if I can’t help but smile at the thought of it. I am now having dreams of winning the lottery, hiring out the local cinema and playing 8 player split-screen with my mates… well a man can dream right?
The second thing that was added is easily the coolest. It is a whole new campaign called the Call of the Machine and what’s more, it has been put together by the creators of the excellent Wolfenstein revival, Machine Games. This campaign not only brings new levels and enemies to the mix but it also brings a new philosophy to level design. It is very clear that when playing these levels that there is a more modern feel to their design, despite the old technology they were built in. I have played the original Quake 2 missions so many times by this point that it is almost automatic, but these new missions really brought some surprise into the mix. What’s more, they also manage to link the story of Quake 1 and 2 together, something that ID never bothered with back in the day. If you are a fan of Quake 2, this is THE reason to pick up this remastered collection. I cannot speak highly enough of just how well put together this new campaign is.
If there is one thing I would have liked to see this collection do it is improve the game for controller players, but sadly that isn’t to be. The game is out on Xbox, PS and Switch so it would have been nice to have some slight auto aim or concessions made for those on a controller, but no, this is a keyboard and mouse experience through and through. I even played it on my Steamdeck and Rog Ally and even though it ran like a dream, playing on anything other than the easiest difficulty was almost impossible. That’s not to say the game is unplayable on a controller, as I am sure there are some masters out there who do just that, but a keyboard and mouse is clearly the best way to play and you are at a disadvantage if you are using anything else.
There are also a few other legacies of older times that may frustrate those of us who didn’t live through the original’s release. The lack of interaction in the maps, the rough checkpointing and the occasional frustrating platforming section are all relics of a bygone era that stand out in this modern day. For those who experienced it during its heyday, it is just something we expect, for those who have grown up on Call of Duty or Halo, well it might be quite jarring to experience these long-dead tropes and issues. They are, even for new players, forgivable issues, but not even a mega fan like myself can pretend they don’t exist.
When all is said and done, this is not a review of Quake 2 Remastered. How do I review a game fairly considering just how closely it is tied to my gaming history? No this is just me, telling you all out there just how important this game was, how well this package is put together and how you should totally pick it up if you have never experienced the thrill of Quake 2 before. It is, without dipping too deeply into hyperbole, a watershed moment from gaming’s history, a game that has earned its place among the pantheon of gaming greats. Its influence over the years is undeniable and can still be felt in game design today. Quake 2, simply put, is a game that must be experienced. It may have aged, it may be a little long in the tooth, but it still has the ability to let you escape into some pitch-perfect shooter gameplay for an hour or two, just like it did all those years ago for a tired exchange student in Chile.