Quake 2: Ground Zero Mission Pack (c) Activision

By: Ned

As much as I love the multiplay of Quake 2, I simply cannot get into the singleplayer in the game. This mission pack adds 14 new levels and 10 deathmatch maps. I actually found 14 deathmatch levels though. The plot of this mission is to find a way to destroy the Gravity Well. By combining items from the various levels you eventually make a bomb to destroy it. There are also some new weapons and a few new monsters.

Graphically, nothing is really different in this mission pack than in the original retail release, last Christmas. Most of the levels are the dull, factory/warehouse/base look and some portions seem copied directly from the original levels. A few hacks here and there alter the graphics or use the same graphics in new ways. Ocassionaly I saw some interesting architectural designs or other good uses of the q2 engine. The Gravity Well itself, used a neat light strobing effect that I hadn't seen before. The new weapons also had some new visuals such as the beam weapon and the floor electrocutor traps. Still though, the game really looks dated now when compared to more recent games like Unreal. New tidbits here and there interested me but didn't make me think, wow! Certain levels were lit extremely well, such as the green sewer area, but most of the time levels had that yellow or red/brown tinge to them that really makes me sick.

Aurally, the game is the same. Monsters yell out a phrase when they spot you and explosions and weapon effects are the usual array of sounds. Again, nothing really that new here, and annoying stuff like that irritating computer voice and the silly com chatter are back. Wetrix for example, has a computer voice, but it sounds really cool, Q2 has that stupid repeating voice say "computer updated". Nobody liked it in the original Quake 2 and nobody likes it now. The music is more of the same generic guitar rock, so don't go wasting your money if you think the music is worth the purchase. The more game music I hear, the more impressed I am with the work that Trent Reznor did for Quake 1. It was inventive and moody, and he took a chance, most games just put in "safe" music that doesn't get you worked up to play. Real excellence in game music is rare.

I *forced* myself to finish this mission pack. I wasn't going to just skim through a few levels and rate it on only a surface inspection. I have mixed feelings about this Mission Pack. In general it is dull and really lacking in innovation. But at times there are some pretty neat things that have been done with the Quake 2 engine. At one point, you emerge from a cliff above a valley with a new enemy base below. Suddenly a space craft flies overhead and crashes into the base, destroying the entrance doors. Then the computer informs you that your mission is to meet up with the marine in the spacecraft. For a brief moment, I thought a computer controlled marine might hop out of the downed spacecraft, but I was soon disappointed. Had you been joined up with an AI marine, this mission pack would have been fantastic; instead the computer changes your mission outline and your back to the bore of finding keys and switches for various doors. What a letdown. If anyone who designs levels reads this, please remember this. Stop making levels that loop back forth between each other. It was slightly cool in the original Quake 2 levels when you realized that the exit for level 3 led back to another area of level 2, but in this mission pack it goes beyond ridiculous. I felt ill every time the computer goals told me I had to return to a past level to find "X" item. I finished this mission pack but at about the 6th level I couldn't wait for it to end. It is better than the first Mission Pack, but it is still severely limited. I wouldn't even call this addon difficult. On the normal difficulty level, I zipped through the whole game in about 4 hours and only died maybe 3 times. After playing so many Quake 2 games against real human opponents on the Internet, it was a breeze strafing around and blasting the snot out of the unwitting Q2 monsters. They are veritable morons, with just enough AI to shoot a gun at something that moves. As far as the new weapons go, none of them really impressed me with innovation. There's a chainsaw (how rare, remember Doom 2?), a wannabe nailgun that fires ice-blue nails instead of regular colored ones, a proximity grenade launcher that is just too weak to be of any real use, a Beam weapon that you don't even get til basically the second last level, and a few other items like infra-red goggles and floor traps. In deathmatch these may be fun however, but no server is gonna run these DM maps. The DM maps themselves are fairly bland and lack any flair or complexity. Some of the free maps for the mod called Action Quake (action.telefragged.com) could blow these boring levels away. I was really disappointed with this mission pack. That brief spark of joy when I thought a computer marine would appear, was shattered when I realized that it was just a false hope.

Good stuff:
new weapons might be good for deathmatch
a few interesting hacks to the Q2 engine

Bad stuff:
lacks any flair

Graphics: 13 / 20
Sound: 10 / 15
Gameplay: 15 / 30
Fun Factor: 12 / 20
Multiplayer Play: 5 / 5
Overall Impression: 6 / 10

Overall Rating: 61 / 100


By: Lil' Grrr

Although there are thousands of addons and modifications for Quake and Quake 2, a mission pack is a rarity. Tracking back in history, the first official mission pack released was Scourge Of Armagon by Hypnotic Interactive. It added a few new enemies, a few new weapons, and a linear storyline, making singleplayer play in Quake not just bearable, but very fun and intriguing to play. Shortly after, Rogue Entertainment released Dissolution Of Eternity, a 2nd mission pack which concentrated more on the Deathmatch aspect, giving us great deathmatch levels but added little to singleplayer play. Not long after the release of Quake 2, Activision released another mission pack by Xatrix, The Reckoning. The verdict? It was absolutely horrid. So for the 2nd mission pack, Activision called upon Rogue Entertainment. So here is the 2nd mission pack for Quake 2, Ground Zero.

Typical for an addon, there are new weapons, levels, and enemies. The new weapons consists of the Chainsaw, the ETF Rifle, the Plasma Beam, the Proximity Mine Launcher, and, Placeable Tesla Coils. The levels include 10 deathmatch levels and 14 singleplayer levels, and invading these levels are many new enemies. There is also an end boss and a surprise to wrap up singleplayer play. The one unusual addition to Quake 2, is the smarter AI on the enemies. One example, if they are really hurt, they'll run away. Oh, before I forget, the story consists of the Stroggs' (The baddies) new weapon called the Gravity Well, which can bring down mankind. Your mission as one of the survivors landing on their planet is to, as unpredictable as it is.....go through a number of enemies and destroy the Gravity Well.....

Graphics: 16 / 20
Although Quake 2's engine has been surpassed by Unreal's, it is still one of the best game engines out there. In Ground Zero, there are many additions. Along with the enemies, there are also new textures to be found in the environments. Since the level design is great, the environment in Ground Zero is a sight to see (minus the ugly looking lava, but that's only because Quake 2 has ugly looking lava). As you roam around, you'll encounter mines that have rotating grinders working away, crystals out of the rocky walls that emits light, etc. As for the new enemies, the animations are great. For example, the flying critters, forgive me if I'm wrong but I think they're called Stalkers, fly back spinning when you shoot them with something heavy like the Double Shotgun, or the Railgun. Too bad the explosions in Quake 2 looks horrible, consisting of yellow, orange, and red spheres. The weapons also carry sum good animations. The Chainsaw is an example, along with my personal favorite, the Plasma Beam, that shoots a constant beam of laser. Last but not least, Quake 2 v3.19 update is included with this release. The most noticeable difference is VWep, which lets you see, in multiplayer, what weapon your opponent/teammate is carrying.

Sound: 10 / 15
As for the sound, it's just the usual Quake stuff. There is really nothing much to be said. Nothing is really added, leaving it with just the usual grunts, gunshots, and the "Computer Updated" voice that comes on time to time. To sum it up, nothing has really been added.

Gameplay: 26 / 30
As this is a Quake 2 addon, what makes it or breaks it is obviously the levels, weapons, and any other enhancements it makes to the original game. So lets start with the most noticeable one, the levels. The singleplayer levels are nicely done, revolving around a construction of the big weapon, the Gravity Well. You roam through mines, sewers, and construction sites as you try to find and destroy the weapon. As for multiplayer levels, they are even more refined than the singleplayer ones. These huge levels, plotted very nicely, should entice all the deathmatch lovers out there. The weapons are also a good addition to the package. The new artillery includes the Chainsaw (Pretty much self explanatory), the Plasma Beam (One of the best weapons I've seen. The best way to describe it would be saying it's a constant Railgun. It travels from the nose of your gun to your opponent in a split second, with a beam that stays to hurt them more, ala the Lightning Gun in Quake. On the downside, it does drain your plasma supply very fast), the ETF Rifle (The Icepick Gun in Unreal makes a stop in Quake 2), the Proximity Mine Launcher (Like a grenade launcher but proximity land mines instead of grenades), and Placeable Tesla Coils (Landmines you set on the ground, and anyone who comes near it gets zapped with lightning). Along with the weapons, there are many power ups like the Anti-Matter Bomb, which if coupled with Quad Damage, would practically kill everyone in the level, including yourself of course. There are also many new enemies to kill with the new found artillery, including the Stalkers (Little flying critters that fire multiple laser shots), the Turrets (A turret on the wall that fires all sorts of weapons), and much, much more. The addition to Quake 2 is noticeably good, especially in multiplayer, to make this a great addon.

Fun Factor: 16 / 20
Well, good levels, interesting new weapons, and many new enemies, would add up to a good addon for Quake 2, but there's more. The AI for the monster is also improved. This is shown as enemies who get hurt tend to run away. If you meet up with a monster, and another monster is close by, it'll run back and get help, attacking you with its partner rather than alone. This should make the singleplayer play a lot more challenging. A noticeable flaw in the singleplayer play, however, is the lack of a linear storyline that is somewhat interesting. Rather than follow in Hypnotic Interactive's footsteps to include a storyline in this first person shooter, Rouge Entertainment opted to use the "if you don't destroy this thing, everyone will die, so destroy it" storyline. A linear storyline in a mission pack is rare, since Scourge Of Armagon was the first and only one to offer it. Other than that, the challenging levels, in my opinion besting the original Quake 2 levels, should keep most people playing for hours. The multiplayer levels are very well designed. The huge levels and the new weapons should entice many of the deathmatch fans out there. All in all, it's a rather good addon, only lacking in the storyline department.

Multiplayer Play: 5 / 5
Multiplayer is a blast. The huge deathmatch levels are extremely well done.

Overall Impression: 8 / 10
Simply describing it, a good addon. More attention to singleplayer play, like Scourge Of Armagon, would make it better. Then again, compared to first mission pack, The Reckoning, and the original Quake 2 levels, this addon bested both by a fairly large margin.

Overall Rating: 81 / 100

(Just a little side note. I want to say a little something to Wicked 3D. Their recent attempt to persuade buyers to buying their Voodoo 2 board was cheap and pathetic. The early enhancement they made to their boards were commendable, 1024x672 resolution and native H3D support for many games. Recently, they implemented X-Ray vision for glide games, which can make you see through walls in glide games. This obviously attracts many Quake 2 fans to buy their boards as they get a little advantage in their deathmatch, but I mean they are getting you to buy their boards so you can cheat and play unfairly in deathmatches. How pathetic is that? It was good to see it get pulled back after a day, but trying that in the first place was just a piteous attempt to rake buyers to buy their boards.)