Quake II Enhanced (PC) Review

By Athanasios 13.09.2023

Review for Quake II Enhanced on PC

Back in 2021 Nightdive Studios updated the Id Software classic Quake, and basically created the best way to experience this FPS gem from the past, in a neat package that included all expansions next to the beautification of it all. Surprise, surprise, Nightdive has done it again, this time with Quake II. Semi-unofficially titled as Quake II Enhanced, this… well, enhances its audio-visuals, making it much easier on the eyes of modern games, and also adds all mission packs, the N64-exclusive campaign, as well as a brand-new set of maps courtesy of Machine Games. Once again a lesson in remastering, Nightdive's gift to the world belongs on the shelves of all FPS aficionados.

For those who are unaware of what Quake II is, here's a short summary: a sequel in name only, Quake II threw away the eldritch terrors of its progenitor, and introduced the Strogg; the body-horror cyborg villains that want to turn you and your friends into their deadly toys. The campaign revolves around killing those fun fellows, with players taking the role of a lone marine who got lost on the Strogg home planet during a D-Day style assault. While nowhere near as fast (or fine-tuned) as the first Quake, this remained a first-person shooter that had everything expected from a Id Software creation - big guns, lots of enemies, and levels that begged to be explored. On a more personal note, after countless hours of playing Quake II and loving every second of it… it somehow lost its magic. That 'countless hours' bit was partly to blame, but the same never happened with Doom, for example.

Quake II always felt too slow than what came before, more restrictive due to its somewhat linear structure, a bit boring to look at because of its industrial/military complex theme, and as a whole, more like an entertaining tech demo, rather than a solid, ageless classic. This critic learned to love it once more throughout the years, but it was clear that this wasn't as good as previous Id Software endeavours. Having said that, it does have a unique charm of its own. As an example, when comparing it to Quake it loses a few points in the atmosphere department yet wins back all of them with its strong feeling of immersion. You aren't simply completing levels anymore; you are on a mission to save humanity, and you feel it in every cell of your body.

Screenshot for Quake II Enhanced on PC

Putting the nit-picking of this nit-picky nit-picker aside, Quake II can definitely be fun, and this enhanced version creates the perfect opportunity for veterans to jump right back at it, and newcomers to experience an old-school classic. This adds support for up to 4K resolution, enhances cinematics, improves textures, enemy models and animation, and most importantly heavily upgrades the lighting, with ambient lights or - the brand new - muzzle flashes casting shadows that make everything look much better, something that becomes super-obvious in the new expansion that pushes the engine to its limits. Nightdive has even worked a bit on some of the "empty" areas of the original campaign and has fixed whatever level flaws it could find. The older expansions still have a few issues, as well a bit blurrier textures, but they weren't really up to par with the main campaign after all.

As with Quake Remastered this comes packaged with all previously released extra context, which means the two expansions, as well as the campaign of the N64 port! Once more, it's the main game where the fun is. The two expansions, 'The Reckoning' and 'Ground Zero' can basically be described as "more Quake II," but don't expect much of them besides a few minor additions in terms of weapons and enemies, as well as a heavier focus in exploration and completing objectives. The N64 campaign is undoubtedly the most simplistic, which is to be expected as FPS ports where usually shadows of the originals back then. As for 'Call of the Machine,' the brand new set of maps, it's Quake II on steroids, with dozens of enemies thrown at you from all sides, and gargantuan levels that frequently feature imposing architecture.

Screenshot for Quake II Enhanced on PC

Quake was pretty much left intact, with Nightdive mostly taking care of its looks. Not here. Apart from the visuals, the game itself has been enhanced. For starters both the weapons and the items that can be picked up and activated can be accessed through wheels that slow down time like in many modern shooters, which is a blessing, especially when it comes to item use, as the original "inventory" was somewhat irritating to handle. The compass is a neat little tool that can help if you are feeling terribly bored, and just want to finish the darn level. Upon activation it temporarily throws a dozen of green arrows on the ground, showing you the way to the next objective. In the end, the most significant change is the small but quite impactful re-balancing, which will go unnoticed by most people, although this changes the experience quite a lot.

Quake II has always been a bit of a cakewalk. Not anymore. Enemy AI has become better at following you and shooting at you. They jump to lower floors to get a better aim, and even use a few new moves, like the Berserker's jump attack, or the melee slash of the flyers. Now, the increase in challenge is good, yet some of the "fixes" occasionally mar the fun. The aforementioned Berserker jump attack, for example, is way too hard to avoid, making an annoying enemy even more so. Worse is the rebalancing in some of the weaponry, mainly the Railgun, which has always been the best risk/reward item due to its strong bite and very, very slow reloading time that forced players to make each shot count. This has been nerfed quite a bit, which is a big no-no in a title filled with bullet sponges, effectively turning one of the best tools into a simply 'good' one. According to Nightdive that's intentional, so don't expect a fix of the fix anytime soon.

Screenshot for Quake II Enhanced on PC

A thing that has always been synonymous with Quake is Deathmatch. Of course, if one wants to have a great arena style frag-fest, there are much better alternatives out there; Quake III and Unreal Tournament definitely being the best amongst old-school choices. That said, Quake II can still offer plenty of friendly warfare excitement, with loners now being able to add bots of varying skills to practice on their own. Want to play the campaign with a few friends? Great, as you can enjoy local and online co-op, with Crossplay between all major systems available as well.

Besides the few issues mentioned above, it's safe to say that this is the definite version of Id Software's second foray into the realm of fully three-dimensional gaming. It includes pretty much everything one wants, as well as an Id Vault with sketches from development, and info about weapons, enemies, and so on. Already have Quake II? No problemo. The upgrade is free and doesn't "delete" the original version, since you always have the option between the standard and the enhanced version. Don't like Quake II? In fact you hate it with a passion? You are advised to spend those few coins required to purchase it, solely to support the industry anomaly known as Nightdive, who has been churning fantastic remaster after remaster, and never insulting anyone's wallet. Such commitment to quality should be rewarded.

Screenshot for Quake II Enhanced on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Veteran or newcomer to the industrial world of the cybernetic Stroggos, and the hard-rock fuelled action that can be enjoyed on it, look no further than what is without any doubt the best version of Quake II. Improving both the look, as well as the gameplay of Id Software's classic, plus adding all expansions (and then some), Quake II Enhanced is solid proof that if you want an old-school title to get the remaster treatment, Nightdive Studios won't let you down.


Nightdive Studios


Bethesda Softworks


First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Comments are currently disabled

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?

There are 1 members online at the moment.