Quake 2: Ground Zero
Crikey, this is hard. Quake II Mission Pack: Ground Zero, Activision's latest 'official' add-on to the ubiquitous and fabulous Quake II, is not for wimps. No siree. I had ascertained that fact within minutes of installing and launching Rogue Entertainment's enhanced take on iD's world-famous shooter.
Being something of a Quake II fanatic (at the same time openly admitting to being not that good at it), I was surprised to find the previous Quake II mission pack, The Reckoning, far too easy to complete. This is not the case with Ground Zero. Whereas Xatrix seemed to make do with the same Al routines in The Reckoning as in the original Quake II, Rogue have seen fit to completely overhaul how the monsters in Ground Zero work, and this new spin completely changes how the game is played. For starters, the Strogg forces now hide when they appear to be outgunned by you, a rudimentary 'line of sight' defence technique sadly missing from the original. Secondly, and more importantly, monsters are now capable of leaping down from high platforms (sometimes to their deaths - the idiots) to get at you, and can also push buttons to operate lifts and the like.
All A Bit Too Much
The most interesting additions to Quake II in Ground Zero are the numerous scripted Ctraps' that you encounter en route through the game's five all-new Cunits' (further sub-divided into 15 linked Clevels'). On occasion you'll find a guard shooting at an unstable rock outcrop in order to bring it down on your head, or a piece of heavy machinery sent hurtling your way in a clever, premeditated manner. More lethal than this, however, are the automated gun emplacements that pepper you with crossfire when you least expect it. A times it can be very difficult to secure a safe place to hide, such is the intensity of these new Strogg defences.
On top of this, a wave of new monsters are out for your blood. Stalkers are spider-like creatures that can leap on to ceilings at the blink of an eye, evading your blasts, or dropping down on your head when you least expect it; Daedelus are an acid-spitting incarnation of Quake Its floating Icarus. A number of other variants, plus some imaginatively designed Cbosses' also await. The disturbingly frequent presence of the dreaded Rejuvinator also makes things far more difficult, when previously killed monsters are raised from the dead in front of your very eyes. Sometimes it can all get a bit too much.
Hit Me With Your Laserbeam
The new weapons are not much consolation either. The chainsaw is handy enough for taking care of ground troops when low on ammo, but is next to useless against gun emplacements. The limpet grenade launcher is cool, but can cost you health if you step on your own bombs. Proximity mines? Couldn't care less. The flechette gun is okay - a hark back to the original Quake-and the plasma gun is nice to look at and reasonably powerful, but somehow you can't help but feel that Claser beams' had no place in a game as gritty and militaristic as Quake II. Combined, a full arsenal would be enough to help you through the tougher levels of Ground Zero, but unfortunately Rogue haven't made it that easy, and you rapidly realise that conservation is the best policy. Wide open spaces are a pretty rare occurrence in this game, which makes escaping the onslaught all the more difficult.
In terms of single-player level design, Ground Zero is professionally put together. It lacks the creativity of The Reckoning, Unreal or Dark Forces II, but is intricate enough to keep you thinking. Sometimes this intricacy gets in the way. Having to constantly press F1 as orders change and are updated becomes a chore and gets in the way of the action.
Last Train To Fragtown
As the so-called Cnext generation' of 3D shooters get ready for release (Sin and Half-Life being the two most imminent titles), Ground Zero could be looked upon as a last chance to squeeze the last drops of blood from the bleeding corpse that is Cvanilla' Quake II. We've already played demos of Ritual and Valve's efforts, and we're suitably impressed; both look like Quake 2 beaters - single-player, at least.
Ground Zero is an heroic effort to maintain Quake Ils high profile in the market, and on many levels it works very well. The new monsters are scary as hell, the game is brilliantly challenging and the scripted elements reasonably dazzling. But in light of these new games, Ground Zerds days look numbered - Activision should maybe have released this addon at the same time as The Reckoning to have ensured its success. Now, what is essentially an exceptionally well-designed 3D shoot 'em up is already being overshadowed by the Next Big Thing(s).
Quake 2 completists should not miss out though. Ground Zero comes highly recommended to those capable of fighting their way through the game without cheating. It may be rock hard, and in danger of eclipse from newer arrivals, but it is not to be dismissed without trial.
Download Quake 2: Ground Zero
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP