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Quake II (Nintendo 64)
MSRP: $19.99
Number of Players: 1
Developer: Raster Productions
Publisher: Activision

Rating:
***
out of
*****

Quake II has been around for awhile on the PC. When it was announced that it was going to be available for the Nintendo 64, most people probably had two reactions. The first was probably, "How will it look?" and the second was probably, "Why?"

The first Quake came to the consoles with a less-than-overwhelming result. The N64 version was a somewhat scaled down version of the original computer game, which, in this day and age, isn't exactly the hardest game to beat visually. Quake II manages to make the transition to the Nintendo 64 looking remarkably close to the original computer version. It's not going to make anyone switch from their 3D accelerated version that's running on a Pentium II or Pentium III machine to the N64, but it does allow console gamers to get in on the Quake II action and not feel they're being cheated.

Unless you've been secluded in the jungle somewhere, you're probably familiar with the Quake scenario. The game is a first person shooter that puts you against a variety of demented looking alien and robot enemies. Using a variety of weapons, including shotguns, grenade launchers, and machine guns, you've got to bully your way through 19 levels of carnage-laden action, solving a smattering of not-too-difficult puzzles as you go.

Whereas the original Quake was a gothic-looking game, Quake II is more futuristic, with transporters, satellite communication equipment and other science-fiction hardware. The setting may be a little different, but the objective is pretty much the same: kill whatever enemies the game throws at you (and find some secret, hidden stuff along the way.)

The game does contain some major differences from the computer version. The most obvious is that the level designs have been changed, many of them completely. The N64 version's levels are a lot less complex than their computer counterparts.

Controlling the game was initially a challenge. Being used to playing first person shooters with a combination of a mouse and a keyboard, using the N64's Z-trigger, analog stick and the C-buttons was a bit off-putting. However, the game allows a fairly liberal amount of re-configuration from its setup screens which can then be saved to your controller pak. Once I had a controller setup I could live with, the game played fairly well. Using the analog stick to aim took the most time to get used to and, even after after quite a few hours of play, I still wasn't very accurate.

As far as the graphics go, they're OK. They look a lot better with the Expansion Pak, obviously, but even without it they're about on a par with a PC without a graphics accelerator. The animation is on the choppy side, with only a few frames allotted for some weapons effects and enemy movements. The lighting effects are impressive, with lens flare and light sourcing that make the game seem a bit more realistic without being overly obvious. Some of the other effects, like explosions and the flies which buzz around some corpses, are on the blocky side.

The sound is reasonably atmospheric, as a Quake game should be. The weapons sound much like they do in the computer version, with appropriate gusto and oomph. There is a distinct lack of background music, which makes the game even creepier.

At the core though, Quake and Quake II have mainly been about multiplayer action and the N64 version includes the deathmatch and capture-the-flag (called Flag Wars) games, if in somewhat modified forms. Although the multiplayer games are included, it's still not quite the same as playing against an opponent you can't see. When playing a deathmatch on the split-screen setup, not only is your actual opponent sitting right next to you, but you can easily see where his player is hiding. It makes sneaking up on someone or hiding in a level next to impossible.

Overall, the game is pretty solid on all levels and, if you've never seen or played Quake II before, it ought to be a lot of fun. However, I have played Quake II before and on a 3D accelerated machine to boot and this just isn't the same thing. It's not that there is anything wrong with the Nintendo 64 version of the game, it's just that it's a distant second when compared to the computer version.

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