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Quake II Remaster Review – A Timeless ’90s Relic (Xbox Series X)

Quake II returns in 2023 and it's been updated to feel familiar and new at the same time. This remaster version is simply a love letter to those who love Quake II and is by far the best version to play for anyone who hasn't experienced Quake II during its inception. The game may be old, but it certainly hasn't shown its age when it comes to being a quality first-person shooter experience.

Quake II Remaster Review - A Timeless '90s Relic

The late ‘90s sci-fi shooter classic is back and it’s been updated at the same time. Quake II Remaster is by far the most complete product out of all the Quake II products that one can get in this day and age. It includes the base PC game and all its expansion. It also includes a Nintendo 64 port of Quake II which is mostly a new game compared to its PC counterpart, and a brand new expansion titled Call of the Machine.

This remaster version does an excellent job at making the game play smooth and it also includes a lot of handy quality of life features like having a level select screen and a compass to help players preventing from getting lost. There is a lot to discuss about this port of Quake II, and this affordable purchase is simply a steal if you are a big fan of boomer shooters.

Quake II Remaster is currently available on various platforms for both Xbox & PlayStation. It is also available on Nintendo Switch, and Steam. The game is priced for $9.99. If you do own the Steam version, the game is automatically updated to the Remaster version.

Quake II - Official Trailer (2023)

Story – Simple and Forgettable

Quake II’s story is heavily revolved around the war between us and an alien race called the Strogg. Throughout the base game and its expansions, you’ll be playing as various marines doing different objectives to take out the Strogg’s hostile intentions. That’s basically the storyline for Quake II. It wasn’t the key thing that made players enjoyed the game, but more of an excuse of why you are shooting these aliens in the first place. This was the formula that many first-person shooters from the ‘90s were using, and Quake II was also one of them.

Gameplay – Quad Machine

For those who didn’t grow up playing Quake II, one thing you should know is Quake II is actually not a true sequel to the original Quake. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Lovecraftian theme of the original game and it is a slower paced game overall. Despite being a slower game and abandoning from the original game’s universe, it still maintains a lot of the elements you’d expect from a shooter from the ‘90s. You can carry all sorts of weapons, there are power-ups to use, the game is movement based, there are secrets to discover, and it is also a game that requires lots of exploration to beat the campaign. The player is also allowed to carry certain items throughout levels like power ups or equipment. And of course, lots of bad guys to kill.

Good ol' Ammo Depot.

Good ol’ Ammo Depot.

Quake II was unique for using a hub based world to make the game feel more real compared to other shooters at the time. It was also a mechanic that the developers used to make the players finish certain objectives for each level. These are some of core features that you can expect when playing through the game’s campaign content. The base campaign is basically the one that started it all. Players will be going through various locations of the Stroggs from tech bases to outdoor environments to fortresses. There are many iconic enemies that feel distinctive like the Parasite which is this alien dog-like creature that will do tons of damage to you if you don’t take them out quickly enough.

There is also the Gunner which these guys will be one of the most threatening enemies in the game, and are much deadlier than before with the enhanced AI. It should be noted that Quake II Remaster feels more like a title update to this beloved ‘90s classic because there are tons of gameplay changes from the legacy version. For those who are purist, they might find it off-putting that they’re changing the game that they know and love, but overall, it still stays true to what you’d expect from a shooter in the late ‘90s.

The Reckoning, Ground Zero, & Nintendo 64 Version

The two expansions that were released after the base game were called The Reckoning and Ground Zero. Both of these are basically more of what makes the base campaign fun with more assets that players can take advantage of whether its new weapons or fighting new hostile threats. The Reckoning is fairly short, but the level design is absolutely high quality due to how well paced the expansion is. There is also a good balance of fights that feel different from each other. This makes The Reckoning stands its legs firmly against Ground Zero which is the bigger expansion. It should be noted that Ground Zero is certainly the harder one than The Reckoning. The fights are more intense, and secrets are definitely not as easy to come by, but do have a lot of value if you do find them.

A cool looking object in the Nintendo 64 version.

A cool looking object in the Nintendo 64 version.

The Nintendo 64 version is actually something I’ve never experienced back in the day. It’s basically a reworked version of Quake II from the PC version. Most of the maps from the campaign are new, but there are some that are ported from the PC version, but stripped down. Other than that, the game does follow the same premise from the PC version, and it does have a bit of interesting feel to it due to the texture selection.

Call of the Machine & Multiplayer

The new expansion is made by the same folks who did Wolfenstein: The New Order: MachineGames. Call of the Machine is somewhat more of what made the original expansions so fun, it still have the same iconic textures and environments you’d expect from a Quake II expansion content to have, but there are some areas that are completely alien and different. There are areas that are going to have custom textures that weren’t used in the original game and its expansions. These areas certainly make the player feel like they’re playing somewhat of a different game, but it is absolutely gorgeous in terms of attention of detail and it is a nice change of pace. It is definitely the toughest content out of all the official content from Quake II, so be prepared for the challenge when you play Call of the Machine.

Dead bodies everywhere...

Dead bodies everywhere…

The Call of the Machine expansion also offers the biggest and most complex maps out of the official maps. These maps are entirely designed on today’s hardware. As you can see, there are a lot of content for you to play through if you’ve never played Quake II back in its heyday. Completing everything will definitely require time and patience, but it will feel fast because of how fun the game is. If you’re into the multiplayer side of first-person shooters, Quake II Remaster does have online multiplayer that players can play and it’s just some good ol’ deathmatch carnage. You spawn, you look for a weapon, control items on the power, and start fragging your foes until you hit the kill limit. You also do have Capture the Flag if you want a more objective oriented game mode to play.

Graphics & Audio – That Sweet ’90s Charm

Graphically, it’s basically the same graphics how Quake II looked back during its inception with better anti-aliasing and resolution. For the time, the game certainly looked amazing and it was the game that was pushing of how breathtaking games can look. In the year of 2023, the visuals do show its age, but you can still appreciate how much effort went into the game’s map design in terms of the artistic standpoint.

The entire soundtrack was composed by Sonic Mayhem. The music in Quake II is easily what you call a masterpiece. I’ve always thought Quake II has the best soundtrack out of any id Software title, and I still believe in that. It is some of the highest quality of industrial rock and metal you’ll hear in your life. They are groovy due to the attention grabbing riffs and breakdowns. The music is so good and the more you listen to it, the more you become an Adrenaline Junkie. On top of that, the game’s sound effects are also noteworthy. The Railgun shot will instantly be satisfying to the ears because it connects to the actual strength of the gun itself. Also, some of the sound effects from the monsters are also distinctive to allow the players know what kind of Strogg they’re fighting if they aren’t aware of their presence. Overall, the sound department is something Quake II nails the job without much struggle.

Quake II Remaster was reviewed on Xbox Series X.

It was a blast to take a trip down to memory lane of playing this beloved '90s relic. Quake II has certainly stood the test of time and is easily one of the best from the retro first-person shooter scene. The amount of value that the remaster version has given the players is simply unmatched and Call of the Machine is also a nice addition to the diehard Quake II fanatics. Quake II Remaster is easily a must have game for the lovers of retro first-person shooters, and can get you into the game if you didn't play it during its heyday.
  • Lots of juicy content
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Excellent level design
  • Retro FPS perfection
  • Railgun
  • Gameplay changes can upset purists

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