Quake II: Ground Zero is the second and final mission pack for Quake II, id Software's successful fast-paced first person action game. Developed by Rogue Entertainment (who had previously created Dissolution of Eternity, the second mission pack for Quake), the expansion stays close to the general gameplay style set forth by its forebear, adding several new objective-based "units" as well as new weapons and foes to the Quake II formula. Enemy AI has also been upgraded to exhibit somewhat more sophisticated behavior. On top of its single-player game, Ground Zero incorporates 14 new deathmatch maps which take advantage of the new hardware introduced in the expansion.
Taking place during the same timeline represented in Quake II and The Reckoning, Ground Zero casts the player as a marine known as Stepchild, who is part of the first wave of attackers sent to planet Stroggos. He is part of a strike force sent in retaliation for the invasion of Earth at the hands of the Strogg, an vile race of cybernetically enhanced alien assimilators. While the operation does not go as expected, with the Strogg appearing to be fully prepared for the assault, a handful of marines make planetfall, Stepchild among them. He is tasked with finding and destroying the Strogg gravity well, a device capable of increasing the planet's gravitational pull enough to draw Earth's capital ships dangerously close to the planet's surface.
The structure of Ground Zero's single-player campaign does not deviate overmuch from that of previous Quake II releases. It is organized around several mission-based hubs, or units, each with a single primary objective and many secondary objectives. Secondary objectives are meant to facilitate the primary objective which, once completed, normally ends the mission. Within each unit players are free to travel back and forth between maps at will, though the game is not entirely non-linear, as mission objectives can commonly be completed in only one way. Along the way players are expected to fight numerous Strogg defenders using whatever implements are at hand, and despite the conceit of mission objectives, this is really the core of Quake II's gameplay.
Aside from new weapons and enemies, the biggest addition made to Quake II in Ground Zero is enhanced enemy AI, which affects both new and returning foes. This change manifests in many aspects of enemy behavior. Strogg will attempt to sidestep incoming fire, blind fire at a player's last known position, and will also make a more concerted effort to track down an evasive player.
- Unit 1: Mines - Penetrate deep into the Strogg mining facility and disable or destroy the tectonic stabilizer.
- Unit 2: Storage Facility / Base Complex - Infiltrate the Strogg tactical command center and disrupt ground-to-air communications.
- Unit 3: Waste Processing / Hangars - Find an entrance to the Strogg research hangar and obtain an experimental fighter.
- Unit 4: Munitions Depot - Use the components in the Strogg ammo facility to create an anti-matter bomb.
- Unit 5: Gravity Well - Use the newly created anti-matter bomb to destroy the Strogg gravity generator.
The new armaments of Ground Zero are of a decidedly nostalgic bent. They are for the most part designed to either look or act like weapons in previous id Software games, and sometimes both. Among them is the first melee weapon to grace an officially endorsed Quake II product.
Tesla MineSince it requires a few seconds to activate after being thrown, the Tesla Mine requires a bit more forethought than most Quake II armaments. Once active, arcs of electricity shoot toward nearby targets. A single mine can strike multiple targets at once, but will also target other mines, making it impossible to stack its effect with additional mines.
ChainsawIn a nod to the Doom Chainsaw, the Ground Zero version, also called the Chain Fist, sports a yellow and black color scheme. It is an arm-mounted device, allowing for one-handed slashing and cutting. Since almost all enemies in Quake II possess ranged attacks, it is something of a last resort weapon.
ETF RifleIts full name is the Explosive-Tipped Flechette Rifle. Despite a much longer name, the ETF Rifle performs and even sounds like the classic Quake Nailgun. The biggest difference is that ETF rounds are armor piercing, though in single-player very few enemies wear shields.
Prox LauncherBorrowing the signature barrel stripes of the Quake Grenade Launcher, the Prox Launcher functions in a similar fashion to Scourge of Armagon's Proximity Mine Launcher. Rounds stick to walls, ceilings, or floors, and will be activated by any nearby entity, including the player.
Plasma BeamThe Plasma Beam is functionally equivalent to the Quake Lightning Gun, in that it is essentially an extremely powerful sustained hitscan weapon. The only notable difference between the two is that the Plasma Beam causes a fair amount of knockback.
Unlike The Reckoning, which included only a single new item, Ground Zero features no less than seven, several of which are designed specifically to provide new possibilities in the game's multiplayer component. This includes a new sphere class of items which follow the player and provide a certain benefit.
Double DamageA half-strength Quad Damage power-up. Double Damage still grants a significant advantage to its user, but doesn't make them quite the unstoppable force that a Quad-powered player represents. It is likely intended to prevent Quad-fueled runaway victories in multiplayer, though it appears in single-player as well.
IR GogglesContrary to what the manual states, IR Goggles are not particularly good at illuminating dark environs. Enemies and items, however, appear bright red in color while it is active, making it useful for spotting hidden items among other things.
Defender SphereThe only sphere item found in both single-player and multiplayer, the Defender Sphere aptly protects its bearer by not only firing upon its master's attackers, but also reducing damage taken by 50 percent.
Vengeance SphereOnce a player's health has dropped below 25 percent, the Vengeance Sphere is triggered. Streaking off toward the user's attacker, it attempts to prevent its master's impending death by assaulting their opponent directly.
Hunter SphereIntended to make enemies think twice about pulling the trigger, the Hunter Sphere immediately seeks out and kills whoever lands the killing blow on its user. The idea of a talent intended to kill one's attacker after death would become widely used in later first-person shooters.
Anti-Matter BombWhile it appears during the campaign as well, the Anti-Matter Bomb is only a usable item during multiplayer matches. It is a room-clearing nuke, making it similar in use to the BFG 10K. As with the BFG, it gives players plenty of notice before activating, making it best in situations where foes are distracted.
DoppelgangerQuite similar to the Holoduke powerup in Duke Nukem 3D, the Doppelganger creates a stationary clone of the player in order to distract other players long enough to get the drop on them. The illusion will explode when fired upon, making the deception obvious, so it is important to quickly take advantage of its temporary misdirection.
Ground Zero debuts several new types of baddies, and, unlike the previous expansion, it includes entirely new boss encounters to finish out the campaign. They seem to be designed overall to be more troublesome than Quake II's enemies, with many of them being able to spawn additional assistance or regenerate health.
TurretThe Turret is the hardest new foe to spot due to its small size, and this issue is complicated by the fact that they are often far above ground level. They tend to activate when they are passed by, leading to dangerous situations where the player is attacked from behind while engaging another foe. The most common types fire blaster rounds or rockets.
StalkerFond of latching itself to ceilings and attacking by surprise, the Stalker is a fairly crafty foe capable of hopping from floor to ceiling at will. It is also rather adept at leaping over rockets and other projectiles, so hitscan weapons or close combat are best when dealing with one. When close to dying, a Stalker will attempt to feign death so that it can regain its hit points.
Medic CommanderA significant upgrade to the standard Medic, not only does the Medic Commander make a more concerted effort to resurrect fallen Strogg, but it is also capable of spawning low to mid-level Strogg to its side. On top of this, all Medic Commanders come with Hyper Blasters as standard issue.
DaedalusThough it comes with heavy shielding and a more rapid-fire attack, dealing with a Daedalus is a process similar to, albeit longer than, dealing with an Icarus. It attacks in the same fashion, so provided the player has enough ammo and enough space to avoid its attacks it will go down in time.
CarrierA flying weapons platform and the sub-boss of Ground Zero, the Carrier is equipped with dual chain guns, a railgun, and a grenade launcher for starters. To top it off, it can also spawn Flyers at will to add to its already significant threat. It guards a Strogg experimental fighter toward the end of the game's fourth unit.
Black Widow Guardian (First Form)Guarding the gravity well which threatens to destroy Earth's entire orbiting fleet, the Black Widow Guardian is a towering cybernetic monstrosity with a heavy blaster, a railgun, and deadly melee attacks. It is also capable of spawning Stalkers throughout the fight to further complicate matters. Once defeated, the upper half of its body will teleport to an unknown location...
Black Widow Guardian (Second Form)The Black Widow Guardian returns in its ultimate form with a spiderlike lower body and significantly more deadly weaponry. While it spawns Stalkers just as before, it attacks at range with a Plasma Beam and a black miasmic cloud that tracks the player. Both are significantly more lethal than the previous weapons, and dealing with them and Stalkers at the same time is a tall order. Prevailing will unlock the way to the gravity well.
Minimum System Requirements
- Operating System: Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0
- CPU: 90 MHz Processor
- Memory: 16 GB RAM (24 GB for Windows NT)
- Hard Drive Space: 130 MB uncompressed space
- CD-ROM Drive: Quad-speed (600k/sec. sustained transfer rate)
- Fully installed registered version of Quake II