I remember the box of the first copy of Quake II I owed. The avocado green. The iconic, battle-scared Q. The glossy, flimsy cardboard.
Quake II is almost 18 years old.
For the sake of authenticity, I’m playing WASD style. This isn’t authentic in the personal sense, mind. I grew up using arrow keys for movement1. I’m not a leftie. I grew up using a mouse with my left hand because my father is left-handed and that’s the side of the keyboard the mouse was on.
And I’ve used a mouse with my left hand ever since.
Occasionally, I’ll sit down at a strange PC and use my right hand for a few minutes, but then I realise what I’m doing and feel weird and gross2. Like walking, I can’t use a mouse in my right hand if I’m thinking about it.
I highly recommend returning to Stroggland, or wherever the Hell Quake II is set. It’s on a planet made of crates and triangles. Super shotguns are there, too. It’s great.
I’m not a huge FPS fan, but if you buy more than one game a year, genre doesn’t mean much these days.
Shooters have had “RPG mechanics” for years. They have all the genres on your mobile now. And everything is roguelike.
That may be why Quake II feels refreshing. Like reading Homer.
In many ways, the game is manifestly part of a tradition. Quake II feels honed, tight, with facets that are presented without comment, presuming the player understands their nature through a shared language.
Quad Damage, for one. Yes, there was a picture in the manual, but in 1997 it was fine for games to have inexplicably anachronistic power ups and floating, rotating guns. Now everything has to be lying on a table.
It would be reductive and fanciful to write “And yet, the game feels pure.” But it does feel pure.
Not pure like distilled vodka. Pure like spring water.
Quake II has terroir rather than a literary tradition. The game may not be the better for it, but is fresher.