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Review by: Jason Purdy
Published: December 21, 1999
When future archaeologists sift through the remains of our civilization, I wonder how much influence id software will be seen as having? Will future generations look back on these years and wonder why we all spent so much time worrying about the Strogg? Will they wonder why most college students could hit moving targets with a Rail Gun in nine out of 10 shots but were unable to get out of bed more than 15 minutes before class? Will distant warrior races eventually descend upon Earth and ask to duel with our greatest champion, the one known as Thresh? It seems that, somewhere, priorities are being misplaced, though most definitely not in the offices of developer HammerHead Software.
The team HammerHead has taken it upon themselves to create the quintessential console port of the first-person shooter, Quake 2. Unlike Raster’s port for the Nintendo 64, which consisted of entirely new stages, HammerHead’s port sticks as closely to the hit PC game as possible. How can that be done on the PSX, you ask? To be honest with you, I have no idea. It doesn’t seem like it should be possible, and I remember a few people saying it wasn’t when Q2 first hit store shelves in late 1997. Apparently, they were wrong, and as a result, all of our expectations have been redefined.
I won’t waste much time recounting id’s famously thin storyline. Suffice it to say that evil aliens of incredible power, the Strogg, have been making a galactic nuisance of themselves. As a remedy, Earth sends thousands of space marines to attack the Strogg homeworld; these ill-fated soldiers quickly smack into an impenetrable wall of anti-aircraft fire that, when coupled with a gravity intensifier, sends a majority of the marines to a quick, messy demise. Luckily for Earth, you survived, and you’re more than capable of handling the entire Strogg military force alone.
To accomplish this goal, you have an arsenal of weapons at your disposal ranging from Uzis and Rocket Launchers to the now ubiquitous Rail Gun. All of these and more will be necessary to deal with the hordes of Strogg you’ll face, most of whom are more heavily armed than you and all of whom have the home field advantage. Iron Maidens will dance gracefully between your shots while firing off volleys of rockets with uncanny accuracy. Icaruses will soar through the air, peppering you with fire from twin Hyperblasters. Gigantic tanks will throw more shells at you in 15 seconds than an army of marines could toss off in an entire campaign, and at the end of everything, the Strogg Boss awaits in his mechanized, energy bolt throwing exoskeleton, complete with rail guns, shell throwers and other implements of destruction attached to every spare inch of bare metal.
Obviously, you’ve got quite a fight ahead of you, and as veterans of the PC version can tell you, it’s also quite an adventure. Each set of stages has one main objective that needs to be accomplished. This can range from disabling the Strogg communications array to destroying the huge guns used to blow the incoming marines out of the sky. Within these larger objectives are smaller tasks, such as finding a captured marine who has a key or turning off the security grid. Thankfully, HammerHead has created a near perfect replica of the PC experience; the stages you’ll be progressing through are exact down to the tiniest detail. All of the mission objectives also remain the same, and the few things that have been changed were only altered in order to ensure maximum playability.
For example, many of the larger stages have been split up into smaller sections, separated by hallways or doors. When you enter one of the places, you’ll see a brief “Loading” message that lasts no more than a second or two, and then you can go on your way. In this manner, they ensure that the PSX never has more information in its processor than is absolutely necessary, which leaves it free to concentrate on the exact area you’re in and on keeping the framerates very high. Even when the screen is full of enemies, and there are rockets and blaster bolts flying in 12 different directions, there is never even a hint of slowdown.
Without a doubt, the single feature that turned Q2 into such a widely renowned classic was its incredible multiplayer capabilities. While there are no options for Capture The Flag or any of the other numerous mods that made Q2 so popular, it does allow up to four players to compete in either straight deathmatch, team deathmatch, or Versus mode. The first two are self-explanatory at this point; the third mode places everyone in the arena to battle it out, but when someone dies, they stay dead. Whoever is left alive at the very end gets a point, and the match starts over. Yet no matter which deathmatch mode you use, the experience is perfect. The action is fast and furious, and there is an arsenal of fantastic weapons at your disposal. Not since Goldeneye 007 on the N64 has a console deathmatch been this much fun, and the team at HammerHead did a fantastic job of taking the incredibly popular multiplayer experience everyone knows from the PC and replicating it on the PSX hardware.
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