It’s easy to forget how significant Quake has been to the industry. To be fair, the last mainline title in the series was Quake 4, which was released in 2005. Quake Champions is more of a side title with its free-to-play multiplayer and is kind of just…there.
However, id Software and Nightdive Studios have been doing excellent work reviving the older titles. Quake 2 is the latest, with its remaster covering the base game and its two mission packs – The Reckoning and Ground Zero. You get Quake 2 64 and a new expansion, Call of the Machine, by MachineGames. Local split-screen, online multiplayer, and AI bots in Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch have also been added.
"If you enjoyed Nightdive’s work on the original Quake, then Quake 2’s remaster will satisfy you. Remember: This is not a remake."
There’s more to it than that, though. I played the remaster, went back to the original to test the waters, and it just doesn’t feel the same. This is the best version of the game to exist and simply essential for anyone who enjoys classic first-person shooters – the boomer shooters before boomer shooters were even a term.
It all starts with the intro cinematic, faithfully translated and looking extremely crisp, almost like a showcase of what the remaster is capable of. Players are quickly dropped into action on the Strogg homeworld, and almost immediately, you’ll notice the difference in texture quality on the starting pistol to the environments and lighting. Previously, shots from some weapons would act like their own light sources, which could feel a bit unnatural at times.
Not only do they blend in naturally, but the environment is more realistically lit. Additional details like muzzle flash, indicators when hitting enemies, and more have also been added. Explosions look more detailed and sharp, while enemy character models are more defined. Even better, it’s all in a 16:9 aspect ratio – no annoying black bars on the sides.
If you enjoyed Nightdive’s work on the original Quake, then Quake 2’s remaster will satisfy you. Remember: This is not a remake. It keeps true to the classic, enhancing and improving its visuals in drastic or subtle ways without sacrificing the original’s atmosphere. In terms of overall flow, it does make some changes to areas, even the architecture in specific places, but doesn’t dull the pacing. The level design is faithfully on point.
The movement also feels so much more responsive. While the original Quake 2 felt weighty, the remaster seemingly adds momentum (which could be the improved tick rate at work). It can be a bit slippery at times but feels very good to control overall – like your character is more agile without unduly increasing the game speed.
"Some new quality-of-life features improve the experience without dumbing down the challenge. There’s a compass which indicates the path to your next objective via some helpful green arrows."
Enemies have also seen some changes. They now attempt to dodge your shots, sometimes ducking out of nowhere. You may not view the Berserker as much of a threat…until it leaps at you out of nowhere. Flying units are also more relentless in their pursuit.
I noticed fewer AI gaffs than with the original, but the enemies never felt unfair. However, this is still an old-school shooter, and they will take you down if you don’t strafe, jump or take advantage of your environment for cover. The improved AI feeds more into the aggressive combat without making it feel repetitive. It’s also worth noting that the enhanced visuals help denote enemy positions, such as when their shadows are peeking around corners. While not the most practical in the middle of a firefight, it’s still pretty cool and adds to the mood.
Of course, some new quality-of-life features improve the experience without dumbing down the challenge. There’s a compass which indicates the path to your next objective via some helpful green arrows. They don’t persist constantly and feel like a nice in-between for pinging and waypoints. You also have a weapon wheel, which slows down the action and lets you choose an appropriate weapon.
No fumbling for keys when you need a Super Shotgun to counter a close-range enemy, and somewhat less panicking when facing a powerful enemy and needing that powerful weapon stat. The best part? Both of these are completely optional. Do you want to get lost in Ground Zero or The Reckoning and figure out the way forward, or memorize keys to swap weapons at a moment’s notice? You can do both of these things, no problem.
"Despite how much it deviated thematically from the first game, Quake 2 is still a classic with an incredibly fun campaign."
Other noteworthy features include the restoration of the original soundtrack by Sonic Mayhem, Jeff Brown and Jeremiah Sypult. Honestly, it’s a trip – one of those soundtracks that’s incredible on its own while enhancing the overall gameplay experience. The industrial riffs are the perfect tone-setter for the action, and it’s impossible to go back to the original game without them. Phenomenal stuff all around.
Finally, there’s the id Vault, teeming with concept art and assets for the entire game. You can view enemies, pickups, weapons, development material, sketches, design docs and unused assets. Even the E3 1997 and ECTS 97 demos are included to play through. Though it’s not an in-depth journey or history into the game’s development, it’s still a treasure trove for long-time fans.
Content-wise, everything is pretty much as you know it already. Despite how much it deviated thematically from the first game, Quake 2 is still a classic with an incredibly fun campaign. Criticized for its limited color palette, it all comes together nicely as you fight through the imposing Strogg homeworld alone and outnumbered.
This was my first time playing Quake 2 64, and its visuals and how it tweaks the original’s campaign make for a unique experience. It might be worth checking out if you’re looking for something even faster-paced than the original game.
"It’s a love letter to fans that includes all past content while accommodating new players with functions like the compass and accessibility features."
Opinions are divided on the mission packs, but they’re decent – not quite as snappy as the main campaign, yet offering some fresh enemies and scenarios. Call of the Machine is interesting since it allows choosing your destination from a hub-like area. Each level is aesthetically distinct, with some interesting enemies to face. It’s not a massive game-changer, but the more adventurous pace meshed well with the hard-hitting action, even if it can sometimes get repetitive.
Quake 2’s remaster isn’t just an incredible visual improvement to a classic game. It’s a love letter to fans that includes all past content while accommodating new players with functions like the compass and accessibility features. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at several assets while addressing one of the biggest omissions – the soundtrack, which is still incredible, even after all these decades.
While the mission packs aren’t on the same level as the base game, the overall package is appealing to fans of old-school shooters. As the best way to experience one of id Software’s most iconic games (especially given its price), it’s also a strong benchmark for remasters in general.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Solid visual enhancements that improve the overall mood of the classic without diminishing its aesthetic. Restored soundtrack is incredible. Excellent quality-of-life and accessibility features. Better game feel, with tougher AI that have new tactics. The id Vault offers some nice behind the scenes assets and demos. Stellar value for money.
The quality of the mission packs doesn't quite match up to the base game. Call of the Machine is a decent addition overall but nothing too crazy. No auto save, which means abusing the Quick Save button constantly.