in our Boots - again
State of the Art
mayhem Comes to Playstation, too
The first person shooter
began, for all intents and purposes, with a game called Wolfenstein 3D.
You took on the role of Capt. B.J. Blazkowicz, trapped in a Nazi fortress,
with no choice but to fight your way out. In 1993, players were impressed
with the fluid movement and novelty. A year later, DOOM struck. A marked
improvement in graphics combined with multiplayer capabilities to make
this one of the most important games ever written.
The ability to create
new levels and add sounds kept DOOM alive for years. In 1996, the next
generation of first-person games was introduced: Quake. All characters
and items were rendered in true 3D, which meant that they had a realism
which was missing from the previous games. Before, everything looked like
a cardboard cutout. With Quake, the world became solid. Multiplayer capabilities
were enhanced to take into account the Internet.
Quake had flaws, though.
The colour palette left many players feeling it was dreary; the lack of
music only added to this. There was also no story to the game, rather
just one level after another, loosely connected. Quake's focus, and strength,
was in multiplayer matches. This left its creators at id Software plenty
of room for improvement, both in graphics and in gameplay.
The result is a sequel
which betters the original in every respect. It is also, arguably, the
best computer game ever written. Quake II is a game that everyone should
at least see, just to find out how advanced computer games have evolved.
Quake II exemplifies
everything an action game should possess. It is a native Windows 95 game,
which makes setup a breeze. It supports most 3D accelerators, though they
are not necessary. When used, though, the graphics' quality is beautiful.
Not only is there detail, but the designers have incorporated lighting
and shading to make the environment even more realistic. 3D cards will
allow you to see through windows and water, and to catch reflections on
The levels in a game
such as this are almost as important as the program itself. Many such
titles have found themselves in the discount bin simply because of uninspired,
boring settings. In Quake II, I actually paused on more than one occasion
to stare at the intricate environment before me. The player encounters
canyons with machinery built in the walls, dungeons with complex computers
flashing, elaborate warehouse and factory complexes stacked with equipment
that functions and crates all over. In short, there is a world here, not
just a series of hallways and rooms that look alike.
Instead of finishing
one level and moving on to the next, Quake II has missions that tie the
various levels together. So, there might be three or four levels in the
factory/warehouse mission, and you'll have to go between those levels
in order to finish that mission. This is quite different from Quake, where
you basically just blasted your way from one exit to the next. In the
sequel, you actually have a purpose with tasks to complete in a sensible
sequence. The enemies are also something to behold. Whereas you used to
be able to win merely by charging in with brute force, now you're going
to have to be a little more careful. These guys have some smarts. They
actually duck when you shoot at them, crouching to one side and then firing
a shot off at you. Sometimes they'll run and take cover, other times they'll
pursue. Even when you inflict a fatal wound, they can squeeze off a shot
at you on the way down. There's quite a variety of them, too, from mere
soldiers to monsters in flying tanks.
Wrapping all of these
features together is a bona fide story, similar to the space soldier motif
in DOOM. This focus on improving the single player experience has not
meant that multiplayer gameplay has suffered. To the contrary, it's easier
than ever to DeathMatch. Two people can play over modems or a group can
link together via network or on the Internet. Because the game is integrated
with Windows 95, you don't have nearly as many hardware problems. The
game has a built-in feature for connecting to Internet servers: just type
in their Internet IP address and you're off. Players can choose their
"skins", the way they look to other players. This allows for choice of
your character's clothing and gender, with new skins being created all
When you defeat the
final bad guy, you can replay the game at a higher difficulty level. The
enemies will be more crafty and harder to kill. You'll also have an opportunity
to find some of the secrets hidden throughout the game. Sometimes it's
just a room with special weapons or items, other times it may be an entire
level to explore. Even after that, you can play over again with add-on
The developers haven't
abandoned their hard work, either. A number of patches are available to
fix various bugs and to optimize the graphics and game play. Be aware,
though, that the patches can create incompatibilities with other versions.
This will prevent you from loading old saved games or from connecting
with a player using a different version.
version, from Activision, includes everything you expect from the game,
though the graphics don't translate as well to the TV environment as they
do to the computer monitor.
The scenario is that
you're part of a secret assault force sent to fight through heavily fortified
military installations in order to lower the defences of an alien race
and help shut down their warmaking machine. If you do this, Earth can
launch an air assault to put the buggers in their place and save humanity.
The interface is about
the same as the PC's - except with the PlayStation's controller you have
instant access to more buttons and controls that are placed right in your
hands than with the PC interface, which requires you to poke around on
the keyboard (unless you have a really skookum game controller). You can
not only move around with the "arrow keys," but you can look up and down
and slide left and right with the "L&R" keyset on the front of the
controller, choose weapons, fire, jump, etc. with the control pad. This
can help speed up your reaction time, because you don't have to search
for the right keys.
The gore seems a bit
toned down in the PlayStation version as well, which is something we don't
mind. But don't worry about the game losing its edge; there's still plenty
of blood and severed limbs; maybe it's just that the TV doesn't show it
up as well.
Each level loads in
part, with pauses during the level to continue loading. At the end of
each level, you're given the opportunity to save the game (if you have
the proper hardware for your PlayStation, of course).
Activision has done
a nice job of translating this battlefest to the PlayStation platform.
is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns
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