Quake2 Mission Pack 1: The Reckoning - continued
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Cinematics and Music
Xatrix have provided new cinematics for every aspect of the game, including an introductory sequence, an endgame sequence, and cut-scenes between units. The introductory sequence has been very well done, explaining the situation you're in as well as how you got there. The sequence with the pod re-entering the atmosphere is my favorite part of the cinematic. The cut-scenes between units are similar in appearance and sequencing to the originals, with a couple of exceptions. First, the text that pops up is much easier to read when using a GL card; the text in the originals was a bit difficult to read. Second, the "zooming" (where the camera zooms in on a particular area or building complex) parts were a bit overdone; in one sequence, the camera zoomed in five or six separate times, which was a bit tedious. The animations showing your intended invasion path were done well, giving you a feeling of having a clear goal and objective. The endgame cinematic was done extremely well -- the scene that opens the ending cinematic is virtually identical to the last in-game scene you see, and the ship, in particular, was well done. The ending dialog was a bit odd and felt "flat" to me, but the content itself was appropriate and convincing.
The music in the mission pack has been done by Sonic Mayhem in much the same style and format as the original. Indeed, of the ten tracks on the CD, five of them are the original selections from the Quake2 CD. The new five blend well with the old, and there are some very nice pieces to listen to. (I play this one in the car as well.) A good choice of musical selections that fit the pack well.
Monsters and Items
Xatrix have added two new monsters to the mix in The Reckoning, and have modified others to provide for new combat and tactical situations. Also, they've added two new weapons (along with a new ammunition type) and three new items. We'll start with the monsters:
The Gekk is the first new monster you'll see, with a totally new model and skin. The Gekk appear to prefer attacking in packs, and have both a ranged attack as well as a hand-to-hand attack. They also have the ability to leap great distances, including up out of the water and onto high ledges. One nice thing about the modeling is that they have a realistic swimming animation; not only does this make them harder to hit when you're in the water (smaller profile) but they swim just as quickly as you do and are incredibly persistent. Basically, if you're in the water with them, get out as soon as possible. When killed, they explode into a shower of gibs, trailing bright-yellow blood, which glows well enough to provide some visibility. They're tough enough to take a super shotgun in the face and keep coming, too, so stay back.
The Repair Bot is the other new monster you'll find in the mission pack. They're not hostile until you shoot them, and spend their time moving slowly around fixing machinery. This benign monster can, however, apparently resurrect dead Strogg, though I never saw it exercise this ability... probably because I have a tendency to shoot anything moving. They too take more than a super shotgun blast to kill, but not by much; three shotgun shells usually does the trick. They have a hand-to-hand attack, but no ranged attack.
The Ripper Guard is a modified version of the line grunt, but this time he's armed with an Ion Ripper. In all ways, it's identical to your weapon -- including the bounce. Doesn't appear to take much more damage than a regular grunt, either, as a double-barrel in the face will take him down nicely. He sports a new skin, which looks pretty cool and is fairly hard to see in darker areas.
The Hyperblaster Guard is akin to the rest of the guards, but he's armed with (you guessed it) a hyperblaster. For whatever reason, he rarely shoots more than ten shots at a time, and he suffers the same spin-down delay as you do. Deadly in packs, though; those shots hurt when they hit. He also sports a cool new skin, and takes about as much damage as the rest of them.
The Laser Guard is the last of the modified guards, and is easily the most annoying one of the bunch. He likes to stay at a goodly distance and drain your health with his parasitic laser shots. Once he locks on to you, you'll be taking damage. The best weapon to use against him is the railgun. He only has one weakness, and that is that edges of ledges and doorways will block his shots -- you'll be able to see him, but he can't hit you. Also like the others, he has a very cool new skin; I especially liked the faceplates on these guards.
The Infantry hasn't been re-skinned, but he has been modified to shoot first and reload later. This was one of the weaknesses of the original Infantry -- when he first spotted you, he took the time to cock his arm gun before he shot. This one shoots first, and cocks the arm gun afterwards. This change takes the Infantry from a very slight threat to a force to be reckoned with, and it's not wise to take him as lightly as you have in the past. Strangely, the manual does not mention the Infantry's modified ability.
brain, beta class
The Beta Brain is identical to the original Brain in appearance and toughness, but that's where the similarity ends. The original Brain had a very limited range, and, unless you were right in his face, it was easy enough to dispatch him. These have extendable chest tentacles that can reach out and grab you from across the room; they both cause damage as well as yank you toward the Brain at a significant speed -- think grappling hook. The best way to get rid of these is to grenade them from around a corner or from a different elevation, because their range is rather long and they can snag you from across a wide room.
iron maiden, beta class
The Beta Iron Maiden has been slightly reskinned (the arm-mounted rocket launcher looks different) but it's in her ability that changes have been made. Now, her rockets are heat-seeking, and can track fairly well around corners. They can't track more than one or two corners, but they're effective nonetheless. I only saw a handful of these during the course of the game, however, so though they're a bit tough (The Railgun Is Your Friend), they're not unbeatable, and they're placed in areas that make it easy to dodge. Even though they're harder to beat, I would have liked to have seen more of them, and in different combinations.
gladiator, beta class
The Beta Gladiator has a very cool and grim-looking new skin, as well as a Phalanx Cannon mounted where the railgun used to be. On top of that, he's sporting a power shield that appears to have about a hundred cells behind it, making it very difficult to kill him. He's a pretty good shot, too, and is vicious in packs. The hyperblaster or Ion Ripper is a good choice both for rate of fire and damage; it takes too long to kill him with rockets or slugs. Definitely the hardest opponent to beat, because it's too easy to underestimate him.
super tank, beta class
The Beta Super Tank is tied with the Gladiator for the coolest new skin -- the blacks and reds make them look more lethal somehow. Like the Gladiator, he comes equipped with a power shield, but his weaponry remains the same. Surprisingly easier to kill than the Gladiator, probably because it's second nature to whip out a quad when you see one of these bad boys. Be careful, though -- he likes to have friends around.
The first of the new weapons is my favorite. The Ion Ripper shoots chevron-shaped projectiles that not only ricochet off of walls, floors, and ceilings, but last quite a long time in the air and dish out a healthy chunk of damage. Two of the projectiles will gib everything up to Infantry, and chopping up a Tank has never been easier. Each shot takes two cells. (I call it the "Staple Gun" because that's what it sounds like to me when it's shooting.)
phalanx particle cannon
The Phalanx Particle Cannon is the second of the two new weapons. It has a new ammo type -- magnesium slugs -- and the boxes are white with red stripes and distinctive. It shoots two projectiles at once, slightly offset because of the double barrels; with a little practice, you can get them both to fly down the same line. The slugs have a radius damage. They fly about as quickly as a rocket, yet (surprisingly) they don't do as much damage as I thought they would. In fact, the Ion Ripper is a much more effective and powerful weapon. I did use this one, but not nearly as much as, say, the rocket launcher or grenade launcher.
The Trap is a new item reminiscent of the Black Hole item from PainKeep. You toss it on the ground, it self-activates, and it sucks in anything near... including you, if you wander close enough. I liked the "opening" animation as well as the particle effect it has while open. I have to admit, though, it reminds me very strongly of the traps from Ghostbusters...
The Power Cube (or "trap biscuit" as I refer to them) are the result of a monster getting sucked into a trap. The biscuit, when picked up, increases your health by 20, and doesn't deteriorate (like the megahealth does) if you're over 100. (Also, when I took the shot of the biscuit, I noticed that, from this angle, it has a very strong resemblance to the Xatrix logo...)
The Quad Fire is a new powerup, which basically doubles (not quadruples) your fire rate, similar to the haste rune from just about every version of CTF and Lithium. Fun to have in single play, though, especially with the railgun. Can be stored and used just like a Quad; in fact, it is much fun when used with the Quad.
Finally, the Green Key, which opens green-key doors. I like it because it's a new model and skin, and it looks pretty cool.
A very well done and well put-together product, and one I have enjoyed immensely. The levels' design, flow, theme, and continuity is first-rate and equally excellent to look at as well as play through. The new monsters and weapons add to the depth of the Quake2 universe seamlessly and smoothly -- they look and feel like they should have been in the original version. Game play is sensible, tough, and fun, with varied locations and combat situations challenging the most die-hard Quaker... and no, I'm not going to tell you how many times I died; suffice it to say I learned to save at the beginning of every level. The mission pack fits all styles of gameplay -- the run and gun, the cautious explorer, and the Tomb-Raider wanna-be (jumping and climbing everywhere).
This is a product I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed, and will play again soon... and recommend strongly. If you enjoy single player Quake2, you will enjoy this pack. Kudos to Xatrix for putting out such a fine, solid product! I'll definitely be looking forward to future releases.
-- crash (crash's single player quake2 page) 25 jul 1998