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Influential FPS Games #8: Quake 2

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Quake 2 logo
Quake 2 logo

Welcome back, everyone! In the last article, we investigated Quake, the first fully 3D FPS with polygonal enemies, world models and NPCs. In this, we will investigate its equally influential sequel, Quake 2. Let's dive in.


Quake 2 used a refined version of the quake engine with improved 3D hardware acceleration support and multi-player net code.

In terms of story Quake 2 is unrelated to Quake. Indeed, it was not originally intended to be called ‘Quake 2’, but the team at id could not agree on the alternatives, so Quake 2 it was. Quake 2 has a completely different tone to Quake, with Quake’s gothic Lovecraftian theme replaced by a future sci-fi setting, with cybernetic aliens called the Strogg replacing Quake’s supernatural horrors. Being designed with a clear creative vision in mind it resulted in a more coherent, although perhaps less interesting, theme and atmosphere.

It also allowed for a far swifter development cycle, with Quake 2 hitting the shelves in 1997. Quake 2 allowed for crouching and introduced new classes of weapons - throwable grenades and the rail gun, a high-power sniper weapon capable of over penetrating enemies. Its projectiles leave distinctive spiral contrails, heavily inspired by the film Eraser. Both throwable grenades and the railgun would go on to be implemented in one form or another in many post-Quake 2 FPS games.

Quake II Longplay

Video by GamePlayShare

Quake 2’s soundscape

Quake 2’s soundtrack is reminiscent of Doom’s rock and metal influences, which suits its sci-fi theme. Id software would again collaborate with external musicians, with Quake 2’s soundtrack being created by Sonic Mayhem, Bill Brown and Rob Zombie.

Video by VGameOSTs

Multi-player and E-Sports

Even more influential than Quake and Quake 2’s single-player campaigns were their effects on the multi-player scene. Quake featured both Co-Op and multiplayer deathmatch. It shipped with six multi-player exclusive maps, and community-generated maps saw this number grow substantially. Capture the Flag was introduced to Quake’s multi-player via a mod. Such was the success of Capture the Flag - now commonly known as CTF - that it was included by default in Quake 2. CTF has since been included in almost every FPS with a multi-player element, and it all started here with Quake.

Upon release, Quake multi-player worked well over LAN, but due to the slow 56K modems of the time, it suffered from serious lag issues when played over the internet. Apparently, the team at id did not realise this would be a problem as they hadn’t tried playing it over 56k modems since they all had high-speed internet connections.

To fix this issue id software created QuakeWorld which used client-side prediction to make on-line play lag-free. QuakeWorld was bundled with QuakeSpy, a matchmaking program that made finding people to play with on-line far easier.

QuakeSpy would go on to become GameSpy. The on-line matchmaking of Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus have QuakeWorld and QuakeSpy to thank for paving the way a decade earlier.

On-line players soon started to develop high-level techniques such as bunny hopping, strafe jumping and rocket jumping to give them an edge in gameplay.

On-line multi-player became a phenomenon with annual events such as QuakeCon becoming the highlight of some on-line gamer’s calendar.

What’s more, on-line Quake started to become a serious business. Red Annihilation, a competitive Quake multi-player event was one of the earliest examples of eSports. The grand prize for this event was Carmack’s own 1987 Ferrari 328 GTS cabriolet. eSports has since gone on to become a billion-dollar industry, and it is events such as Red Annihilation which got it started.


As with Doom before it, Quake was made to be very ‘mod-friendly’. Some of these mods were minor tweaks, whereas some, such as Arcane Dimensions, were major overhauls. Many of these major overhauls featured new maps, enemies, weapons, and gameplay mechanics. Some featured enhanced visuals and sound as well.

Some of the most ambitious mods were the Total Conversions, which used the Quake Engine to create brand new games. A standout example is Team Fortress, which Valve later converted into Team Fortress Classic via their Quake based GoldScr engine. This, in turn, led to the development of the phenomenally successful Team Fortress 2.


The success of Quake led to attempts to port it to other computer systems, including Linux, Classic Mac OS and even the Amiga. Console ports were also created for the Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64. Quake 2 was also ported to these systems and the PlayStation. The console ports were scaled-down versions of the PC original, in some cases lacking multi-player and featuring fewer levels.


Quake’s legacy has been both widespread and long-lasting. Several commercial games were developed using the Quake engine (now formally named the idTech 2 engine) such as Soldier of Fortune. What’s more the engine’s ‘DNA’ can be found in game engines to this day, including Valve’s Source engine, which has itself been used to create original games such as Titanfalls one and two.

The Quake Engine’s ‘family tree’


Quake’s influence on the FPS genre was every bit as significant as that of Doom. Fully 3D environments, in-game physics, the rise of 3D hardware acceleration, improved on-line play via client-side prediction, matchmaking via GameSpy, standalone mods including Team Fortress, the invention of speedruns and machinima and a game engine that is still influencing game engines to this day. Few other games can claim to have been so influential.

Except perhaps one. A game which would prove that the consoles of the era, in the right hands, could run unique and influential FPS games. I am of course talking about the first truly great console FPS, Goldeneye 007, the topic of the next article.

See you all then.

Do you have memories of playing Quakes 1 and 2 back in the day, or via one of its many modern-day source ports? What were your experiences with QuakeSpy and GameSpy? Have you taken part in e-sports? If so, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to online multiplayer. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at, and contacted via email at

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