Review – Quake II Remaster

A few years ago, Nightdive and iD Software partnered up with a surprise announcement for a previous QuakeCon: a fully-fledged remaster of the first Quake game, complete with content from all previously released console ports, as well as a brand new campaign designed by the folks at MachineGames, the makers of the Wolfenstein reboots. It was a huge success, and we were left wondering if a remaster of Quake II would ever see the light of day in a similar manner. Here we are, two years later, and our pleas have been answered. A remaster of Quake II is finally out, and it’s even better than I could have expected.

Quake II Remaster

They look so silly in these visually-enhanced environments… and that makes them even more charming as a result.

Playing Quake II nowadays is basically realizing that this might actually be the most important FPS ever made. Sure, there’s DOOM, and there’s the original Quake, but the foundations for the modern FPS genre can be traced back to this twenty-five year old juggernaut. The way levels are designed, the way enemy AI functions, adding extra objectives to the main critical path, radio chatter… it’s like watching an embryo’s development, with Half-Life being the natural evolution. It’s also amazing to realize how well the game holds up in terms of its level design and combat.

I have been playing a lot of retro-inspired first-person shooters over the past few weeks, and I’m currently tackling a few more. The vast majority of them can’t hold a candle to Quake II‘s level design. The careful placement of somewhat intelligent enemies, the simple but effective puzzles, the well-hidden secrets, the amount of power-ups scattered throughout a level – it just feels right. Combine those with Nightdive’s pristine remastering efforts, and what you have here is an old fella who makes all the kiddos look like crap in comparison.

Quake II Remaster Machine Gun

One of the most cathartic machine guns in gaming history. Change my mind. Doubt you will.

The remastering efforts are unbelievable. This reminds me of the effort put into the Turok remasters. Lighting effects and textures have received some massive buffs, with some shadow effects looking impressive even for 2023 standards. The contrast between the quality of environments and the low-poly enemies is still a bit shocking, but hey, it’s almost like it’s part of the game’s charm. However, unlike the remaster of the first Quake, the sound department doesn’t sound overly compressed. Sure, the soundtrack isn’t as iconic as the one from the first Quake (the lack of Trent Reznor is noticeable), but it’s still excellent. It’s still better than most retro-styled shooters released in 2023, which think that power chords are better than atmosphere.

There’s little else to complain about Nightdive’s work in general. As always, those lunatics know their stuff. When the fact that one of my main gripes with the game is the fact that the initial binding for crouching is Shift, and not Control, you know I’m just scraping for any kind of complaint. This is some pro stuff. But that’s not all. I still need to talk about the real star of the show: the sheer amount of content included in this package.

Quake II Remaster 64 levels

Playing the Nintendo 64 levels with a keyboard and mouse makes them a cakewalk. They were designed with the N64 controller in mind, remember.

Most remasters include all previously released content. That usually means the main game, whichever expansion pack had been released in the past, and a handful of skins or concept art found inside an old hard drive. This remaster of Quake II does feature all of the above, but there’s more than just that. MachineGames, once again, has been tasked with developing a brand new campaign, taking the knowledge of modern game design and trying to apply it in an old map editor. It’s amazing, as expected.

But wait, there’s more! What really shocked me about this package was the inclusion of the entirety of the Nintendo 64 version of Quake II‘s maps as a separate campaign. You see, those maps were completely different to the original version of Quake II, as they were developed with that bizarre thing the Nintendo 64 called a controller in mind. Nightdive said “sure, screw it, add that whole game as a bonus”, complete with that version’s introductory video, cutscenes, and MIDI-based soundtrack.

Quake II Remaster Power-ups

“Hm… neat symbol. I wonder what is does.”

All of that for a mere ten dollars, even less if you just so happen to live in, for instance, Brazil (where the asking price is a mere six dollars and fifteen cents). In terms of bang for your buck, this remaster of Quake II is one of the most impressive games I have ever seen. This rivals Rare Replay, for instance. I also love the fact this port dropped, unannounced, just a mere day after a tone-deaf interview by Take-Two Interactive’s CEO, who was trying to justify the $50 pricetag for the upcoming Switch version of Red Dead Redemption, with little to no improvements over the original, as “fair”. Thanks for the laughs, guys.


It turns you into a god of destruction. That’s what it does.

This is possibly the best remastering effort by Nightdive I have ever seen. This isn’t just “a means to play Quake II on modern platforms”. Just like how a remaster should be, it is the ultimate way to play Quake II, the one version to rule above any other, the port that makes every single previously released iteration feel like unplayable garbage as a comparison. Add in the content previously available on the Nintendo 64 version, a brand new campaign by the makers of the new Wolfenstein games, and addictive multiplayer matches, and all for less than ten bucks? This is a no-brainer. This is. Go forth, retro shooter fans, this is the comfort food you’ve been waiting for.


Graphics: 8.0

Another herculean effort by Nightdive. Character and enemy models still look rudimentary, but the rest of the game looks and runs like a dream.

Gameplay: 9.5

With the exception of one or two weird key bindings, this is pure retro shooter perfection when it comes to its gameplay.

Sound: 9.0

Quake II doesn’t feature a soundtrack as iconic as the one from its predecessor, but it’s still pretty good, and way less compressed. Sound effects are also excellent.

Fun Factor: 10

Possibly Nightdive’s best effort to date. It looks phenomenal, runs incredibly well, and the sheer amount of content available for such a small price tag is amazing. It’s a must-have.

Final Verdict: 9.5

Quake II Remaster is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, and Nintendo Switch. The original Quake II is available on PC, Amiga, Zeebo (no joke), PS1 and N64.

Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.

A copy of Quake II Remaster was provided by the publisher.