Quake II: Ground Zero

It’s more of the same with Ground Zero, but at least it’s professionally done.

Check out the new ETF Rifle.

Not much has changed save for the levels and a few spare guns, like this ETF Rifle.

Mission packs are a good way to extend the life of a popular product, but they’re a tricky business. Even as far back as Doom, editors and programming tools allow legions of fans to put out their own levels and mods for free download, to which retail expansion packs have to compete against. Fortunately, that’s just what we have here – an above-average mission pack that’s usually on par and sometimes exceeds the original game. The folks at Rogue Entertainment have produced the Doom-based action/RPG Strife and the second mission pack for the original Quake, Dissolution of Eternity. One year after Quake II hit stores and we have its second official mission pack – Ground Zero.

On offer is quite a meaty singleplayer portion, comprised of 14 levels depicting the usual Strogg facilities – mines, communication relays, detention centers and anything else that’s dark, dilapidated and generally uninviting. They’re not extremely original, but levels do look extremely good and have a nice balance between indoor and outdoor areas, wonderfully fitting right into the Quake II motif. While not quite as stale as the original Quake’s, it’s still a matter of “push button, flip lever, grab key, find the exit” gameplay. There’s a grainy FMV intro (with even worse voice acting than in Quake II’s opening) ending with you, a lone marine, crash-landing into Stroggos, the result of a powerful Gravity Well device that pulled your ship in. Your mission is to destroy this device. For some reason, though, you spend most of your time turning off hydraulic pumps, destroying tectonic stabilizers and any number of other tasks that have nothing apparent to do with the Gravity Well. Sound familiar?

What Ground Zero does add are some new weapons and items, augmenting (but not replacing) the current Quake II arsenal. Sadly, these weapons don’t have their own keys and are quite a pain to select manually using the bracket keys. The most interesting of the new weapons is an electric mine that zaps up foes when dropped, and a later one works as a traditional lightning gun.

Stalkers are sneaky little critters.

Stalkers are sneaky little critters. They crawl around on ceilings and can attack from behind.

Although not immediately apparent, the AI went through a little bit of refurbishing as well. Bad guys can now jump off high ledges (you’ll hear a distinct ‘thump’ sound) and a new vicious robotic foe called the ‘Stalker’ will eerily crawl on ceilings and ambush you from behind. Turrets are another new addition but they’re far too overused, and come off as extremely annoying a few hours in. You’ll hear the telltale ‘zap’ sound of turrets every so often from above ceilings and around corners, all hidden to ambush you from unlikely angles (walk into a room and ‘zap’, a turret just hit you from somewhere). There’s also the Carrier, one of two boss characters that actually puts up a ferocious fight, and spawns (in true StarCraft fashion) wings of flyer to swarm you.

In the end, Ground Zero isn’t the most imaginative Quake II expansion ever made, but the solo campaign could probably hold your attention if it’s more of the same you’re after.

System Requirements: Pentium II 300Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 3D Video Card, Win98/2000/XP

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