Quake II: Zaero

A prime example of why some mods shouldn’t go commercial.

This unofficial Quake II mission pack was pieced together by Team Evolve, the same guys who gained recognition with their “PainKeep” mod that took first place in the Total Entertainment Network’s (TEN) Mapstravaganza competition. It was a neat accomplishment coming from guys who weren’t full-time game designers, but herein lies the real problem with Zaero, their follow-up commercial add-on for Quake II.

Problems start the minute you begin, when you find that you can’t skip the intro movie and not have the game freeze. The exclusive torture session you’ll experience as a result has the object of painting the story for you, which is blatantly simple. You play a crashed fighter pilot during a Strogg uprising. Your assignment – kill everything that moves. Sound simple enough? Good.

Levels here aren’t universally bad (some of the midway ones are quite good in fact), but overall design is hackneyed and individual map layouts are excessively cubist most of the time. It’s quite obvious that the game was built by a passionate but ultimately inexperienced team of mappers and artists, often resulting in a mish-mash of geometry that bears only a passing resemblance to the areas they’re supposed to represent.


Probably not the best level design ever seen…

Although not a total conversion by any means, Zaero does replace many of the old textures with new ones, and the updated texture library as a whole isn’t that bad. A few guns and items were thrown in as well – of note is the EMP device that temporarily disarms your cyborg enemies, essentially turning them into defenseless rocket fodder. Then we have laser tripmines that can be attached to walls, floors and ceilings, a defensive flaregun that blinds enemies in their tracks (and you as well should you walk to close to the burning projectile), a sniper rifle with a far too powerful zoom function that supplements the Railgun, and a BFG equivalent called the Sonic Cannon that’s surprisingly boring to use.

A few items pop up along the way but are pretty useless – like the Recon Visor, which lets you view surveillance cameras scattered around each level. The new armory isn’t short of creativity though, and I imagine some of these new guns can be good fun in multiplayer (a shame there aren’t any new DM maps), but they all suffer from that reeking sense of second-hand artistry and amateurish design.

Granted, Quakes II’s official expansion packs aren’t perfect either, but they do offer a more consistent alternative to blasting aliens, and moddb.com has enough free content by now to indulge all your modding needs. Most of what you can grab there beats Zaero, which you should wholeheartedly avoid.

System Requirements: Pentium 90Mhz, 16 MB RAM, 3D Video Card, Windows 95/98/NT

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