Quake II Remaster Looks Gorgeous With Glorious RTX Renderer Effects

quake2 remaster rtx
Quake II is the latest classic first-person shooter to be remastered by Night Dive Studios, and the company did a bang-up job on the title, subtly improving the lighting, assets, and gameplay in ways that remain faithful to the original and patch up problems in the 1997 game's design while adding extra content. Like the developer's other remasters, Quake II uses Samuel Villareal's "KEX" engine instead of the original Id Tech 2. This offers familiar-feeling gameplay while making it easier for the developer to implement new tech, like upgrades to the lighting and support for newer model and texture formats.

However, Quake II's already had a relatively-recent "remaster" of sorts in the form of Quake II RTX, a free project released by NVIDIA developers shortly after the launch of that company's first-gen RTX GPUs based on the Turing architecture. Quake II RTX doesn't include any of the gameplay or map changes that come with Night Dive's new remaster, nor any of the new content (like the brand-new episode by Wolfenstein: New Order developer MachineGames) but it does have one thing over the new package: a fully path-traced renderer.

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Yes, indeed: while Quake II KEX has drastically improved lighting over the original game, Quake II RTX takes things to a whole other level by rendering the entire scene using path tracing. This required drastic changes to the game's assets, as path-tracing doesn't work particularly well without material data for surfaces. Quake II RTX's fully real-time ray-traced lighting really has to be seen to be understood, but suffice to say that it looks incredible, and tech nerds like your author were disappointed that the new renderer wasn't available in the KEX remaster.

If you count yourself among that number, then take a look at Redditor /u/mStewart207's latest work. Despite the misleading name—"Quake 2 Remaster with RTX Renderer"—this is actually the opposite. What he's done here is load the fancy levels from the new Call of the Machine episode for Quake II KEX into a heavily-modified Quake II RTX. This wasn't just a matter of moving some files around and using a command-line, as the new levels are considerably more detailed than anything in the original Quake II game, and the source to Quake II RTX—based on the GPL source release for the original game—was never designed to support levels like this.

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What the maps looked like before mStewart207's mods to Q2RTX.

There are some limitations to doing it this way. For starters, you don't get access to any of the gameplay changes in the remaster, which particularly includes the revamped monster AI. The new behavior for enemy Stroggs in Quake II KEX radically changes how the game plays, and makes it a lot more challenging, which is great. There are also some limitations in terms of the content; while there aren't too many new textures in Call of the Machine, there's no PBR material data for the ones that are, which means they look weird and plasticky in the RTX renderer.

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Still, it's a taste of what could be. This is just one man's casual work as a hobbyist; mStewart207 describes himself as a "web developer." Apparently, the original Quake II RTX developers are actually quietly working on official support for these levels. The modder says that this would be "far preferable" compared to his own work, as it's apparently a bit of a hacky mess. He says he will release his modified files on Github soon.

Of course, in the author's opinion it would be even more preferable if we saw the implementation of a proper path-traced renderer in the KEX engine. Not only would that allow us to enjoy the best of both worlds in Quake II, but it could also be back-ported to many other games, including Quake, both Turok titles, Powerslave, Blood, and even the recent System Shock remaster. Here's hoping Kaiser has some time in his busy schedule to work on such a thing.