Quake II Mission Pack: The Reckoning
One thing to tell your pale little grandchildren about Quake II in years to come is its open architecture. The way it enabled anyone with a bit of suss to change it, to add new levels, new monsters, new graphics and all that. A lot of people have had a go at doing it. Some turned out good. Most turned out crap -as Doctor Who to Babylon 5, you could say, if you were a sci-fi special FX buff.
The authorised commercial variants, however, have thus far been very excellent indeed. The Reckoning is the first kosher mission pack for Quake 2and, we're happy to report, falls into the same category.
This whole new episode features 18 levels spread over several hubs. Your mission takes you through sewers, swamps and waste sieves, into a Strogg compound with its warehouses and core reactor, and then beyond that into the intelligence centre, the waste treatment plant, until finally you reach the Strogg freighter and take part in all sorts of low-gravity shenanigans.
Although you pile through various mountain ranges and spooky blue caverns, the style of The Reckoning is definitely first-episode Quake 2-lots of industrial grilles, pipes and chambers; big machines, ladders and barrels; and shadowed secrets. The main differences, apart from the architecture, are the three new weapons (two guns and an item), the new monsters and a whole pile of new deathmatch levels.
Don't Point That Thing At Me
The two new weapons - the Phalanx Particle Cannon (press nine, twice) and the Ion Ripper (press five, twice) - look and feel good. The cannon occupies a meaty portion of your view screen with its grimy electronic look. Firing it piles a couple of big fiery flowers in the direction of any foe, exploding nastily on impact with the force of half a rocket. The Ripper sends bouncy frisbees of light off walls at bizarre angles, forcing your opponents to do a bit of evasive break-dancing to avoid the painful boomerangs.
Both fit visually well into Quake Its armoury, but their usefulness or necessity in a rank of fairly well-balanced weapons is questionable. The Phalanx projectiles are powerful but irritatingly slow-moving, and their particle effects look a bit pathetic alongside the awesome might of the dissolving RailGun. The Ripper's weapons are fast and hurtful, and the random nature of their ricochets makes it possible to use them to shoot round corners or perform 'clever' shots.
The Trap - which sits grenadelike in your inventory - provides some new hilarity for your deathmatches. It looks and works like the 'ghost-sucking' device in GhostBusters (the one you'd hope would suck in Dan Ackroyd but always ended up sucking in the ghosts). Lob it into a fray of pirouetting deathmatchers, then laugh maniacally as the glowing yellow spiral of light sucks in anyone within a 20-metre radius. Giggle as beefy players flail around in mid-air, squealing to escape the might of the Trap. Anything drawn in and splatter-caked by the device - be they DM opponent or nearby monstie -ends up as health capsules (useful when exploring the first aid-free levels). Avid Quake players might remark on the similar device found in the great Total Conversion, PainKeep. However, the deadly 'dimensional gate' in PainKeep was more powerful, and therefore better and more hilarious than The Reckonings Trap.
Pets Win Prizes
The mission pack's one new monster is the Gex, a kind of leaping gorilla-type beast not dissimilar to the demons in the original Quake. These boys have a few gimmicks up their sleeve. Firstly, they can really jump. Like horrible bi-ped fleas, the apes spring about all over the place, which makes them hard to track and easy to be complacent about. Next they can swim. With a disturbing likeness to Patrick Duffy in The Man From Atlantis, these yellow thugs undulate disturbingly through water, happily chasing you for miles through the various mountain springs which dot the episode. And when you finally nail them, they explode into great gobs of deadly acid. The meat explosion is yellow, and these silver lumps of fish flesh that are painful to the touch come piling down around you.
There have been some subtle enhancements to the usual roster of nasties, just to keep you on your toes. The grunts, for example, now come in a few new, deadly guises. The slight greyer variants now take a good three or four super-shotgun hits to spank, and when they turn to face you they could either fire blue laser bolts, electro-boomerangs or -worse - the evil, red laserpoint gun, designed just like the gadget that people from Essex and unimaginative clubbers use to spice up their evenings. A grunt with a laser can spike you from a healthy distance. If you try to avoid the grunt, he'll track you until you find a piece of decent cover. Very nasty. Aside from those small but scary enhancements, the rest of the menagerie stays the same. Expect tanks, cyborgs, repair bots and those floaty things.
In fact, your worst enemy when playing The Reckoning may well be your memory. It's been a while since we all played singleplayer Quake, and you may find yourself getting caught out by the more pedestrian enemies, like fish and those small helicopter robots. Our tip: revise Quake II to avoid embarrassment. As per usual, the plot gets abandoned in the first five minutes, and the game adopts the same hub-to-hub progression as vanilla Quake II, plus all the computer updates and take-the-disk-to-the-computer puzzles. Which is fine. There's plenty here to keep any pale young Quake ninja focussed for a good 24 hours.
The eight new deathmatch levels are a little disappointing. Obviously designed with ten-or-more-a-side Internet games in mind, the sprawling, complex unmemorable architecture doesn't work too well for a four- or five-player session. There is a cool reworking of Quake II, DM7 with a couple of extra rooms, but again it suffers from size-does-matter.
Overall, while gripping and fun to play, The Reckoning stumbles by not venturing as far as the superlative Quake mission pack Scourge OfArmagon. While remaining faithful to the Quake II canon, maintaining the authentic look and feel and not fiddling around too much with the weapons or the bad guys, The Reckoning is an enjoyable but unspectacular add-on.
Download Quake II Mission Pack: The Reckoning
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP