Have You Played… Quake 2?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I played Quake sometime around its release, though I don’t remember being enamored by it or spending much time with it. Instead Quake 2 was the first Id Software game I ever really loved, and even then it was mainly thanks to mods.

I played through the opening levels of the singleplayer again and again, but never completed the game. Instead I poured my time into multiplayer, occasionally against humans (over a very slow modem connection) and mainly against bots. That was made possible by the Eraser bots, created by Ryan Feltrin. They weren’t the smartest opponents in the world, but I liked them precisely for the ways they were stupid. Human opponents were too unpredictable, whereas the bots could be relied upon to regularly cluster together in groups large enough to make the BFG worthwhile.

Throw in a grappling hook mod, the multiplayer map called “The Edge”, and Id’s superlative weapon design, and you’ve got a recipe for many happy hours. Although I prefer Quake 3, I still think Quake 2 had the better shotgun, the better BFG, and some of the best maps Id ever made.

Feltrin, by the way, hopped from his mod work to working on games like Kingpin and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and now works at Treyarch on the Black Ops series. One of many Quake 2 modders who are now embedded in the industry.


  1. Andy_Panthro says:

    I played the single player campaign a lot, and really enjoyed it (those were simpler times!). Didn’t really play any multiplayer though.

  2. GameCat says:

    I remember playing it on PSX, both single player mode and split screen multiplayer with my older brother.

  3. Rodman1_r2 says:

    Yes. Recently played the demo for Doom, and holy shit, those first few seconds when you get the gun in the first room were extremely reminiscent of Quake 2. It felt and looked the same. I’m surprised I didn’t see anyone comment on that before, but maybe it’s just me.

    • polecat says:

      Good point! I remember this one for how impressive the 3D was at the time, plus I loved the railgun with its lovely swirly projectileness

  4. PoulWrist says:

    That screenshot’s not from the actual game :p

  5. sthalik says:

    One word: q2dm1.

    • sthalik says:

      > Although I prefer Quake 3

      In q3 rockets looked like flying hot-dogs.

      That’s unforgivable.

      Back in “purri” era everyone could, say, double-jump from the MH backpack and hit the yellow armor, just like that. That kind of stuff is so much ingrained into you that it works the same way after 15 years without missing a beat.

      This is the game I skipped school at.

      What maps were there other than q2dm1? q2duel8 was nice. Anything else you can recommend?

      • onodera says:

        One of the SP maps worked well for a small-scale deathmatch. Don’t remember the name, a couple of rooms connected with teleporters.

      • Bweahns says:

        ztn2dm3, ztn2dm2, areq2, are some I remember off the top of my head. Quake2 was the only multiplayer game I ever got pretty godly at. The trick jumps in that game allowed for an endless skill ceiling. Double jump from hyper to top elevator, double jump from stairs below supershotgun to 50 health etc. I got little sleep in the last couple of years of high school because of this game and pretty much spent the following year playing it on cable internet once I had finished. sD.DarknRahl

    • Andrew says:


  6. Dudeist says:

    I played a lot on phone modem :P Most expensive game ever! Nowadays p4f games are really free. Q2DM1, Q2DM2… sweet memories :D

  7. Mollusc Infestation says:

    Eraser bots and a multitude of custom player models made for many hours of entertainment. My brother and I would take it in turns to deathmatch against Beavis&Butthead, The Tick, Duckman, Homer Simpson… it was rather at odds with the tone of the game, but that was half thee fun.

  8. SomeDuder says:

    Finished single player, then discovered multiplayer. While DM was interesting (First MP game I’d ever played), when I found out about these so-called “mods” and “skinpacks”, my mind was blown.

    In particular the good ol’ CTF mod, where the grappling hook really amazed me (“Oh my GOD you can actually stick to the ceiling and shoot from obscure angle!”). Combined with the various insane skinpacks (Grappling around like a tiny R2D2 never stopped being fun).

    Memories of this game are also linked with getting a Monster 3D 3DFX graphicscard. 2 MB of videoRAM! Quake looked so LIFELIKE!

    It really was a more innocent time…

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      gritz says:

      My experience is almost exactly identical except replace R2D2 with Optimus Prime.

  9. Konservenknilch says:

    Not that much, but when it came out, those graphics… damn. Never seen anything that smooth.

  10. KDR_11k says:

    No, not really but I didn’t encounter the game until after Half-Life due to the restrictions in Germany. It’s not available on Steam now, neither is Doom 2, just Doom 1 and Quake 1 (why does Doom 1 cost more than Quake 1?)

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      They’re both available on Steam. Did you type “Doom 2” and “Quake 2” into the search box rather than “Doom II” and “Quake II?”

      • Catterbatter says:

        I think gp means they’re not available on Steam in Germany. FWIW Quake 2 works perfectly fine in Windows without an emulator, so Steam doesn’t offer any benefit. Most MP servers now require anti-cheat, so for example the “Combat Pak” would be disallowed, but you can still bind quad timers and stuff like that. The old heads still playing have 20 years experience at this point, so it’s not exactly friendly to beginners.

  11. Det. Bullock says:

    Played it only much later thanks to a budget reprint, nice enough but after having played Half-Life it felt a bit shallow and it doesn’t have the strong atmosphere of the first Quake.

  12. parallax1 says:

    No mention of Sonic Mayhem, who did the outstanding soundtrack for the single player portion? I still listen to it from time to time – and it’s still as awesome.

    The arguably most popular multiplayer mod for Quake 2 was AQ2 – Action Quake 2.

    The AI bots was never any good – Unreal Tournament was far superior in that regard.

    • Geebs says:

      Yeah, I still listen to the Q2 soundtrack from time to time. It’s a lot better than most actual albums in that nineties quasi-industrial metal genre.

      • Napalm Sushi says:

        It’s probably my most vivid memory of the game. The opening bars of Operation Overload get my blood pumping like few other sources of nostalgia, though I’ve since come to the opinion that Quake 1’s delirious cosmic horror ambience is the better soundtrack.

    • Unruly says:

      AQ2 wasn’t the most popular, that honor is held by Rocket Arena 2. But AQ2 was definitely close. I spent many an hour flying around Teamjungle with the stealth slippers and the handcannon. I remember having to write macros for the sniper rifle to adjust mouse sensitivity, because otherwise you’d be flipping your view around half the map with just a tiny twitch when you were zoomed in.

      Ah, good times…

  13. Kaeoschassis says:

    This is my preferred Quake. The original had some things over the sequel, including of course a far more interesting setting, but just didn’t feel as satisfying to me. Quake 2’s world might be less intriguing, but it’s far more colourful, and most importantly of all, its weapons are actually fun. Every weapon in Quake 1 felt like a significant step backwards from doom, whereas the arsenal in Quake 2 is noisy and beefy and full of character, and just a riot to use. I have great difficulty going back to the first Quake as a result (although I’m going to try and force myself again for that new ep we just got), whereas I still play Quake 2 semi-regularly. It’s just a blast.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Having said all of this, the best BFG by far remains the one in classic Doom.

      I haven’t played newdoom yet, mind, so I can’t comment on that yet, but Quake 2’s BFG is actually surprisingly underwhelming by comparison.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        The RPS commenters being such nice people, I feel it safe to confess that when reading this article I went “what, Quake also has a BFG weapon!?”. I have only played Doom 3 and the first part of Quake 1, so I thought the BFG weapon was exclusive to Doom.

        • aoanla says:

          Not only does Quake 2 have a BFG (the 10K, as opposed to the 9k of Doom), but Quake 3 has another, totally different BFG too. (Quake 2’s BFG is thematically similar to Doom’s – big green energy ball which kills things with an explosion, albeit with slightly different mechanics. Quake 3’s is a very-rapid-fire energy weapon, which is ironically what Doom’s was originally intended to be, until it turned out that that many projectiles in play at once broke the systems of the day.)

    • jmtd says:

      That’s only half true. Yes the shotguns were poorer, and the Lightning gun was no bfg; but the super nailgun tore strips off doom’s chaingun, and the rocket launcher is basically the platonic ideal of the weapon.

  14. LexW1 says:

    Quake 2 was my first real big let-down/disappointment with a “hyped” game. In those halcyon days of the ’80s and ’90s hype had barely existed in the same way, especially pre-internet. People told you games were great, and you were excited for sequels, but not with that same OMGOMGOMG deal that came later (for me, anyway).

    But with Quake 2, I was. They’d said the single-player would be massively better, and I was a pretty obsessive Q1 player (possibly QuakeWorld, I dunno if that was before or after Q2), loving the multiplayer especially, but wishing for the good old days of exciting single-player (something sorely lacking from Q1 – Doom’s SP was still much better than that, esp. Final Doom).

    So I remember having upgraded my machine to prepare for it, having pre-ordered it (possibly my first pre-order), and practically running to go get it as soon as the store opened. I got it back to my dorms, impatiently installed it, switched it to the hardest difficulty, and then, what, eight hours later, maybe ten, I’d finished it, and I was frowning. Because it hadn’t exactly been a challenge or really as impressive as some other single-player FPSes of the era (like, say, Unreal, which was at least more interesting). The music was great, the visual design was solid and consistent, but… it just wasn’t horribly exciting.

    I even had time to go out clubbing that night, which I really hadn’t thought would happen.

    Still, eventually multiplayer, particularly with mods, particularly with the amazing Action Quake 2, I had some great times with that game. I can still remember my brother swearing and swearing at all my post-mortem kills on him because I pulled the pin on a grenade before dying. Good times!

  15. EKSelenc says:

    Finished the campaign about 7 times, 3 or 4 out of them on hard+ difficulty in Q2Evolved.
    QII was probably the biggest influence in me becoming a quaker for life.

  16. melnificent says:

    It looked nicer, but the rocket launcher was too far off from the Q1 launcher. To me, it just handled wrong.

    • Bweahns says:

      I liked it. It was best in some situations and good in most. However, the Chaingun and Rail were quite important. I always preferred the rail and chain. I always felt in Q3 the rockets were too fast and the opportunities to use hitscan weapons at an advantage were fewer.

  17. vorador says:

    I had a lot of fun with the campaign. It was bigger, and with a more consistent level design. Sure Doom and Quake had better map design from gameplay perspective, but Quake 2 was designed as a whole instead of a collection of loosely connected maps. And the technical improvements were nice to look at. Colored lightning! Smoke! Support for any 3D accelerator under the sun! Or even lack of one!

    Sadly i didn’t had internet connection at the time, so never got any multiplayer done.

  18. aoanla says:

    The original Quake was the first “proper” FPS (and “proper” PC game, post Amiga) I played, so obviously Quake 2 was high on my list of things to play. (I think I might have somehow scrounged a 3dfx card in order to get the exciting technical advance of coloured lighting to work!)
    Quake was my introduction to local multiplayer FPS, but Quake 2 was my introduction to internet multiplayer – albeit in the bad old days of dialup and pings on the order of 1000 if you were lucky. (Plus, it had the amazing advance of letting you have a male, female or “neuter” (cyborg) avatar, which started my trend of always picking the neuter avatar choice if available.)

    The single player mode, I have mixed feelings about: the actual level “setting” was, even at the time, a lot less interesting than Quake’s – scifi dystopian industry was overplayed decades before Quake 2 came out, as were evil cyborgs – and I actually found the “hub” level design more confusing and annoying than I did innovative. The cohesive design, and attempt to give actual plot (and objectives) to the player seemed really exciting at the time, though, and I did complete the game (albeit with some cheats).

    In retrospect, it’s also quite a bit more stereotypically “young adult male” than Quake in its design, I think, and I think it’s aged strangely badly (partly because of its attempts to make halfway realistic architecture in low-poly constraints). The original Quake is definitely still the greater of the two in my memories, and my current experience (I tried replaying both, and the hub-and-spoke thing still annoys me now…)

  19. dethtoll says:

    I remember spending a long time being mad at this for not being more Quake 1, but over time I’ve grown to love it as its own thing.

  20. E_FD says:

    Hey, I remember that fat guy with the chaingun for a hand! When you shot him, actual blood and bullets would appear on his model! And then you could shoot his head off and he’d KEEP SHOOTING AT YOU SOME MORE for a few seconds before falling over dead.

    In 199whatever, that was awe-inspiring.

    • Unruly says:

      The normal grunt dudes would do that too. They were more annoying than dangerous most of the time, but man, the first time you kill one and it starts shooting at you while laying on its back is a big surprise.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      Ah, the days when every new experience in gaming felt like a technical leap forward for the industry rather than just a design decision.

  21. RichSG says:

    Yes, this was a fun game! 2 random things I remember are:

    1. The ending was very disappointing (as in, a quick 30 sec cutscene)
    2. The end boss was quite easy because there were tunnels underneath the fight area where you could hide (I think that’s right anyway)

  22. CloneWarrior85 says:

    Who here played AQ2? This mod… I spent soooo many hours on it. The bleeding, bone breaking, and the maps were just way ahead of it’s time. I think i haven’t seen a mod that surpases what Action Quake 2 did on it’s time.

  23. MaxMcG says:

    Played this so much back in the day. Formed a clan, played in various UK leagues (I think UKCCL was one?- not sure). My ping was so bad from Ireland, I managed to convince my father to get an ISDN line so I could join the ranks of the LPBs. Good times.

  24. Razumen says:

    YES. I loved Quake 2, more than Quake 1 if only for the more thematically cohesive design of the game’s world and enemies coupled with a a barebones yet effective objective system. Though I still really like Q1, Quake2’s weapons just felt so good, they absolutely nailed the pumping of the shotgun after firing, the railgun effect, and the slow but ultimately devastating windup of the chain-gun

    I can’t really can’t how many times I played the SP campaign, but I remember that it’s one of the few games where I did a no-death run on the hardest difficulty using this one more called Coop Or Die that tracked your progress along with other players. Good times.

    And then of course there were usermade maps, bots and mods: Gloom, Threewave CTF, Bots, Dawn of Darkness, AirQuake2, StroggDM and many more. Many people look back as Q1 as the heyday of modding, but for me that began with Q2.

  25. Mikko Eronen says:

    I actually played Quake 2 back when it was published. Only problem was that I had so bad hardware, so that everytime I shot, changed a weapon, etc…the game paused, paused, paused, paused, paused, paused, paused, paused, paused, paused, paused, paused, paused,…to load stuff and then continued again. But I did manage to play it through like that for three times! It was so awesome..
    I especially loved the certain bots. It allowed to tune “a personality” for each personalized bot via simple text file. I can’t remember which bots they were, but it was great since we didn’t have an Internet connection back then at home.