Version tested Retro
Lock & Load
Quake, as you very probably know, is a phenomenon. It's a strong possibility that every PC gamer in the world has at least heard of this game, if not played it. But the game had very little impact in the console world, with an N64 conversion of the notoriously "brown" Quake being an altogether dull and ineffective port, since Quake was so popular for its deathmatching, rather than its single player depth. However, this conversion of the second in the Quake series has seen a tremendous leap of dedication towards bringing console owners something to shout about and wave in the face of their PC owning counterparts, other than their pointy joypads. Quake 2 on the Nintendo 64 is just as much of a classic here, as it was there, and in some ways, it's far better. What we haven't got is a straight conversion. No... that would be too easy, for I was surprised when loading the game up to find that every single level was new, from the starting episode, to the 4-player tailored deathmatch arenas. This is one incredible port... The reason I mention that it is in some ways better, is that it's simply more accessible to the player, suitable for the absolute beginner to this genre, and to the most hardened FPS addict. From the comprehensive menu systems (including player and name set-ups) to the in game HUD, everything just screams intuitiveness. Of the main gameplay modes, we have straight-up vanilla single player episodes, and then the multiplayer (more on this later). The progression of the single-player game is pretty standard-fare, with each level leading to another contained in a series of units until you reach the end. This would be dubbed dull, but the tasks you must achieve revolve around more than just the "find red key, open red door" formula, leading to the player backtracking across entire levels to solve objectives. This can get rather frustrating after a while, however, as it can be easy to get lost within the huge levels. The atmosphere in the single player episodes is totally gripping, I lost count of the amount of times I was caught unawares and jumped from the edge of my seat, as the droning from the monolithic machinery gave way to the squealing from a parasitic dog creature... at times it can be genuinely scary stuff.
The graphics are stunning for a Nintendo cart, and with an expansion pack, things start to get into accelerated PC territory. Coloured lighting floods dim corridors when you open fire, transparent mushroom clouds lifting gently from the ground as you pop grenades around a room, and particles of blood spraying through the air as your foes crumble to the ground. Add all this with the pumping sound effects (my favourite being the suitably meaty Super-Shotgun effect) and we have a winner. Where the framerate is concerned, it relies on a pretty constant 30fps or so, but in multiplayer it can drop suddenly when things get busy, which is a shame. Also, I'm not too fond of the overly dingy colour scheme for some of the textures. I was playing on a small TV, which is what the majority of other console owners play on, and I found myself having to turn the brightness up quite high sometimes in order to find my way around. When you're dealing with the low-res graphics of the N64, the darkness doesn't help with clarity. As far as multiplayer goes, we're certainly into Goldeneye levels of fun and hysteria, as you and up to three mates huddle around trying to pop each others head open in some superbly designed arenas, and as the aforementioned Bond game ages further, then I'll have no problems replacing it with this as my after-pub party game. And the fun doesn't end there, as there are Capture The Flag, Teamplay and Tag modes included as well, although regular Deathmatch is by far the most fun. I even feel that multiplayer here surpasses the PC, because you're on a personal level with your opponents, and then there's that accessibility factor again. Overall, this is one superb conversion I feel no serious Nintendo gamer should be without, for it is a truly sterling effort on behalf of the developers, who have managed to create a further classic from an already classic game. Good job, fellas.
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