Review by Megamur
For Quake II Nuts Only
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR WINDOWS XP PLAYERS: There's a potential for savegame corruption if playing either of the Quake II Mission Packs on Windows XP. You may attempt to load a save file, only to receive an error report mentioning how "function pointers have moved." It's highly recommended that you do a search for FunctionPtrs.Zip and download it before playing. After installing the Mission Pack(s), use the gamex86.dll files contained within the zip to replace the respective DLL files in the xatrix and rogue Quake II subfolders. This will prevent the savegame error.
It happened to me, and I lost probably a good six hours of progress. Don't let it happen to you!
Now, if you're going to play Quake II: The Reckoning, I'm going to assume you already own and have played the original Quake II, or will be doing so before playing this; I'm going to assume you know the basics of how Quake II works and looks and whatnot. So this review will focus simply on what's changed in this expansion.
Mo' Guns, Mo' Problems
There's three new weapons and one new power-up introduced in the Reckoning.
The first is the Ion Ripper, a crossbow-like weapon that fires energy arrows which reflect off of surfaces. It's a somewhat useful tool if you can spare the cells, letting you bank shots around corners and over objects to get at hard-to-reach (or hard-to-approach) bad guys, which can be pretty useful in the later levels. The projectiles are a bit slow and the firing rate of the weapon isn't great, but it makes up for it by being fairly powerful and accurate, and lacking the troublesome spindown of the Hyperblaster.
Next up is the Phalanx Particle Cannon, which...kind of sucks, really. It's basically just a double-barreled rocket launcher, which sounds cool, but it's really not much more powerful than the standard rocket launcher. It's also less accurate, has a slower firing rate, and seems to produce smaller explosions, which makes it easier for enemies to avoid damage. The weapon model is also inordinately large and takes up a good chunk of the screen when equipped. About the only bonuses is that you're given a good amount of ammo for the thing, and it makes cool Ghostbusters proton pack sounds after firing it.
Further suggestion that the Reckoning's creators might've been Ghostbusters fans is evidenced in the final new weapon, the Trap. These are thrown onto the floor, and a pillar of light springs up out of them, sucking in anything nearby. Unlike the traps that the GB's use, however, these will generally kill whatever's pulled into them, and will compact its prey into a cube that will boost the player's health when collected. While fairly powerful, unfortunately, you don't get a whole lot of them, they're slow to deploy, and they can kill you just as easily as your opponents, which severely hampers their usefulness.
The new power-up is the Dual Fire Damage, a variant of Quad Damage that, instead of boosting your attack strength, boosts your attack speed, letting your weapons fire more rapidly than usual for a short period. Switching weapons also seems speedier when this power-up is activated. It's truly devastating when used simultaneously with Quad Damage, but seems sort of like a double-speed waste of ammo otherwise.
So the added firepower is kind of a bust, and you'll probably find yourself using the standard Q2 arsenal for much of the game (or wasting those Phalanx Cannon slugs just because you get so many of them). More problematic are the control troubles these new weapons cause in regards to key bindings.
Since all the number keys were already used up for the standard Q2 weapons, you'll have to press the 8/9 keys twice in order to access the Ion Ripper and Phalanx Cannon. Quake II already has somewhat aggravatingly-slow weapon switching, so needing to get to one of the new weapons in a hurry is almost impossible. The process of putting away your current weapon, bringing up the Hyperblaster/Railgun, putting that away, then bringing up the new gun before you can actually start firing is a real hassle.
Weirder still? As far as I can tell, unlike most inventory items--which have hotkeys assigned to them--there's no way to bind the Trap and Dual Fire Damage directly to keys--you'll have to cycle through your inventory in order to select and activate them, which makes them extremely difficult to employ when under pressure.
New (Old) Faces
The Reckoning has a selection of new enemies to trouble you, as well...kind of. Admittedly, most of the "new" enemies are simply modified versions of existing ones, with slightly altered color schemes, new or tweaked weapons, and sometimes increased defense. Naturally, this feels like a bit of a lazy move by the developers, and some of the enhancements are so subtle, I wasn't even aware I was fighting a "new" enemy until I noticed a slight difference in their attack behavior. Some changes are more substantial, however, most significantly the Brains, which received some much-needed upgrades and are actually threatening now.
There are a couple of truly new enemies, however. The lesser of the two is the Repair Bot, a small, airborne machine that replaces the Medic from the original Quake II. It's quiet and somewhat hard to see, which can sometimes allow it to sneak in undetected and start reviving all those dead guys you worked so hard to kill. More often than not, however, it just floats around stupidly while you blow it up.
The most significant addition to the enemy roster in the Reckoning is the Gekk, a non-mechanical, primate-like beast that lives in outdoor areas. Truly the most versatile enemy in the game, it can spit acid for long-range attacks, and can pursue you relentlessly across land and sea alike, with powerful leaps that let it scale tall, rugged terrain, and it can swim underwater. It's an impressive design (though just a tad glitchy, occasionally getting stuck when transitioning in and out of water), and I wish such effort had been put forth into all the new enemies.
Many Subtle Levels
Of course, the biggest reason to get this expansion is the new single-player campaign, featuring over a dozen new maps to slug your way through.
The Reckoning gets tougher, faster than the base game did, and the early maps can tear you up in a few spots. Some of the later levels are also riddled with cheap shots, with many awkwardly-placed snipers tucked away in dark cubbyholes up above, and enemies popping out of walls in rooms you recently vacated, creeping up behind you while you're busy in the next area. Despite all this, the game practically hurls armor pickups at you as it goes on, so the difficulty balances out, largely remaining on par with the original Q2.
Gamespot's reviews of the Reckoning commended it for having more cohesive hub structuring than the original Q2, and I tend to agree. The levels just seem to "interact" with each other better than in Q2, and you'll often find yourself finding new entrances to old maps, approaching previous levels from different angles than before and discovering new areas inside them. The whole experience is still rather linear, which is kind of a shame, but the connectivity of the maps just seems to be put to better use here than before.
The mission objectives themselves aren't particularly exciting, though. Not that Q2's missions were ever that interesting in the first place, but the Reckoning falls back on the old "find the colored keycard" standby maybe just a bit too often. There are a few exceptions, however--most notably a mission where you have to explore a cave system to retrieve a stolen item from a tribe of Gekks--which add a bit more character and immersion to the game, but they're rather uncommon.
My biggest nitpick about these levels? They still hadn't fixed those terrible lifts that seem to plague the Quake games. I grew tired of having to force my marine to leap down elevator shafts and sprain his ankles just because the lifts wouldn't rise to meet him. The level designers show on several occasions that they were capable of programming elevator call buttons, so why aren't they on all the lifts?
Apparently, the game includes some new multiplayer maps, as well, but I couldn't say for sure. I never tried the multiplayer, and even if I did, I tend to believe a 13-year-old expansion pack isn't going to be running on a lot of game servers these days.
Sound! Where's the Sound!
I admit, it wasn't until its re-release on Steam that I bought this pack, and much like the Steam release of Quake II, this particular edition of the Reckoning is also missing its soundtrack. If you just play the version you get straight off of Steam, you'll be treated to no music as you play (outside of a few cutscenes which had the music and the sound effects built into the video). Apparently many of the tracks are borrowed straight from Quake II, with a couple of new ones by the same composers added to the mix. I honestly hated Q2's soundtrack, finding the constant grinding of electric guitars to be far too heavy for the slower-paced, exploration-focused nature of the game, so I doubt I'm missing much.
The sound effects are largely the same as Q2's and are generally not noteworthy, though I'm disappointed to report that the horrible whining of imprisoned space marines has returned from the original game. (Though, thankfully, you don't encounter them nearly as often.)
The Bottom Line
Overall, Quake II: The Reckoning isn't really an essential item. If you really liked Quake II and want more levels for it, by all means, feel free to pick this up. You've got a solid 6-8 hours of Strogg-blasting waiting for you. The levels are pretty similar to the quality of the original Q2 maps, and are even superior in a few ways, with slightly more variety in level themes, and level connectivity that's more creative. But the whole experience just feels like more of the same, and the new weapons and enemies fail to make a significant impact on the gameplay.
It's undeniably fun...but only if you're already crazy for Quake II.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Quake II Mission Pack: The Reckoning (US, 08/03/07)
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