Undeniably the most popular genre in the modern videogames industry, first-person shooters (FPS) titles owe a debt of gratitude to a number of 1990s titles. QUAKE II is one such landmark release; a perfect mix of visceral violence and logical puzzle solving all wrapped-up in a technically astounding 3D package. QUAKE II promoted videogame design that was a generation ahead of its peers and leaves its mark on the genre even sixteen years after release.
It’s fitting then, that in the era of stereoscopic 3D evolution, QUAKE II should be presented as one of the most forward-thinkīng FPS titles currently in the virtual reality space. An officially sanctioned mod that has made QUAKE II compatible with the Oculus Rift headset – and requiring minimal technical know-how – shows that creating 3D worlds is no longer just about throwing around polygons, it’s about creating a space with intrigue and suspense, and more importantly ensuring that the window dressing doesn’t get in the way.
QUAKE II’s world is the same now as it’s always been of course, though a modern high-resolution texture pack (also given the seal of approval by id Software) does smooth things out considerably. Where QUAKE II makes its efforts to counteract the degree of separation between player-and-world experienced through the use of a HUD: rather than simply opting to place the information on the forward most layer, QUAKE II displays its health, ammo and other information on translucent hovering menus, thus eliminating any interference with the videogame world. It’s a simple but incredibly effective design decision; one that’s likely to become common place in titles specifically designed for virtual reality headsets.
Of course QUAKE II isn’t without fault, both mechanically and in it’s adaptation to virtual reality. Some may say that its gameplay is shallow, but in actual fact this is not the case; the seemingly lifeless nature of much of its design is due to a disconnect from the threadbare storyline which only occurs between levels. There’s no denying that QUAKE II is an old videogame and it wears its age boldly; an era where technical limitations forced clever thinking in design execution, but one also where the demands for suspension-of-disbelief were much greater. In this same regard, the occasional disconnect of the player’s arms from the bottom of the screen is just as jarring as you might imagine; a result of a videogame modified for technology it was never meant to be used with.
Despite its flaws QUAKE II is still a fantastic videogame and a wonderful virtual reality experience. Its maze like level design and unforgiving combat place demands on the player that simply wouldn’t exist in modern videogames and its adrenaline pumping rock soundtrack keeps you on the edge of your seat when the action heats-up. For those willing to break through its tough exterior QUAKE II provides a dense and chilling science-fiction horror atmosphere in its virtual reality world, and one that exceeds the depths of many modern creations.