Quake II, the much-maligned FPS game from 1996 that required a Voodoo 3DFX accelerator to play and was overshadowed by its more popular, better-looking sibling Quake III Arena, is apparently the better game. Yes, you read that right. In what I'm guessing is some kind of nostalgia-fueled fever dream, some Quake fans have reevaluated Quake II and found it wanting in all the right ways.
I've been playing Quake II for the past few weeks and can confirm that it is quite fun, if not one of the best FPS games ever made. The single-player campaign is okay – it's basically the Doom formula with more levels, more story, and more Lovecraftian monsters – but I agree that the real draw is the multiplayer, which requires a bit more strategic thinking than your average shooter. It's also nice to replay an old game for the first time in many years, and beat it without using cheats.
Quake II requires a Voodoo 3DFX accelerator card, which is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it means Quake II is stuck in 1996 and can't take advantage of higher resolutions or better framerates, but on the other it means you (and I) can't play it on our PCs. A Voodoo 3DFX was also expensive back in the day, so most players either stuck to Quake I or played QuakeWorld with its better clients, movement, and community.
Some users claim that Quake II's expansion pack Ground Zero – where you battle the Strogg on their homeworld and then blast them into oblivion – is actually better than the main campaign, which is quite the statement. I found Ground Zero quite challenging, as you have to frequently save your progress, and there are often long walks between areas. Others say it's disappointing and not as enjoyable as the main campaign, which is more of the same but with less impressive environments.
Many people spent more time creating Quake II levels in the game's editor than actually playing it, which I suppose is a testament to the game's engine. Personally, I spent more time playing Quake II at work than I did at home, as a number of the Dell Optiplexes in my office were capable of running it, so I'd use my lunch break to frag bots in the railgun arena.
The thing about Quake II is that, if you were a hardcore player who spent a lot of money on a Voodoo 3DFX, you'd notice the graphics. They're impressive, especially for 1996, but id Software clarified on Twitter that Quake II could run on a software renderer, so that's something. I'm glad I played Quake II, if only to bring back some Quake memories from my childhood.