Released: 19 August 2021
Originally Released: 22 June 1996
Developer: Nightdive Studios
Original Developer: id Software
Also Available For: Amiga, Linux, MS-DOS, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, SEGA Saturn, Xbox One, Xbox Series S
Following the unprecedented success of Doom (id Software, 1993), first-person, PC-based shooters were suddenly all the rage and the pioneers of the genre, unquestionably, were developers id Software. Having capitalised on Doom’s success, and the wave of knock-offs, with a sequel, expansions, and ports, id Software drafted in Doom creator John Romero to create a successor series based on the original Doom engine. After his pitch for a third-person melee title was turned down, tensions were raised between Romero and id Software that ultimately led to his departure. Originally intended to feature a Thor-like character, Aztec elements, and even role-playing mechanics, Quake eventually took the form of a more action-orientated follow-up to the Doom games and was bolstered by a sinister soundtrack from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame. For my part, I played a decent amount of Quake on PC as a kid and, based on my enjoyment of Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms, 1996), I picked up the Nintendo 64 port back in the day, something which earned me a great deal of flack from my friends. Regardless, Quake is very highly regarded, especially on the PC, kick-started a popular sub-series of first-person shooters (FPS), and surprisingly received a remaster for modern consoles in August of 2021 that I decided to snap up since I was signed up to Game Pass Ultimate at the time.
When the military’s experiments with teleportation technology result in the creation of an inter-dimensional portal known as the “Slipgate”, humanity find itself threatened by the demonic beings code-naked “Quake”. After “Operation Counterstrike” is slaughtered, a sole surviving Marine is left to gather the four magic runes that are the key to stopping the enemy and ending their invasion of Earth.
Quake is a first-person shooter (FPS) in which players are placed into the role of a hardened, nameless Marine and traverse a number of dark, demon environments battling all kinds of monsters and ghouls. If you’ve ever played Doom or any of its classic sequels, you’ll be immediately familiar with Quake’s gameplay and presentation but there are a few things that make Quake stand out from its predecessor. First of all, the player is able to actually aim their crosshair, allowing for full 3600 field of view and making it easier than ever to blast enemies no matter where they’re hiding. The rest of the game’s controls are standard fair but are also fully customisable from the main options menu; when I played the game, I mapped jump to A, shoot to the Right Trigger, and the ability to quickly switch between weapons to X and B. This remaster of Quake adds a weapon wheel to the game, which I mapped to the Right Bumper but never actually used, and you can also assign buttons to have you dive and rise when swimming or use the Anti-Grav Belt to fly. You can also customise various display options while you’re at it, which allows you to change the size of the crosshair and the presentation of the heads-up display (HUD), but I left most of these alone. When in the pause menu, you can also use the Left Bumper and Right Bumper to quick load and quick save the game, which is super useful.
Like in Doom, your primary objective when playing Quake is to fight your way to the Slipgate exit. This sees you traversing a number of dark, ominous environments and taking out a whole mess of demons and monsters while collecting gold and silver keys (known as Keycards, Keys, and Runekeys depending on the theme of the level) to open doors and progress throughout the area. You’ll also be pressing in buttons and switches by walking into them to lower drawbridges, creating bridges, or otherwise opening up tunnels or doors so you can progress a little further. One thing you’ll probably notice right away is that Quake lacks any kind of map system but, for the most part, it doesn’t really need it; while many levels are somewhat maze-like and a handful are specifically constructed to be more labyrinthine than others, overall the environments are much smaller and easier to find your way around than in its sister-series and you’ll often find arrows, Slipgates, and gates to help you get to where you need to go. Exploration is often rewarded with secret areas containing armour, health, and other power-ups and the game’s difficulty is entirely up to you as you can select different difficulty settings from the main menu (ranging from “Easy” to “Nightmare”); in this remaster, you can also select whichever level you want to start from right from the start but this won’t count towards you unlocking the game’s many completion Achievements. Selecting higher difficulty settings will naturally increase the amount of enemies, their aggression, and how much damage they dish out, which can mean the difference between dispatching a boss with one move or with three.
When you start a new game, you are dropped into a small hub world from which you can also choose from different difficulty paths and jump into the next mission and you’ll need to make liberal use of the manual save system because, when you die, you’ll have to restart the last mission right from the start without any of the weapons you picked up before and during your last run. It doesn’t take long before you’ve experienced basically everything that Quake has to offer; dark military bases, bloodstained castles, and Hellish dimensions are the order of the day and you’ll find yourself taking a dip in water to reach new sections in each area, dodging balls of molten rock, and being surprised when the floor suddenly collapses beneath you and drops you into either a pit of lava for an instant death or a body of slime that slowly saps your health. Gameplay gets mixed up a little bit the further you progress, though, allowing you to hop between stationary and moving platforms or rising and falling columns of rock, riding in boats, elevators, and lifts, and blasting you around the place in air tubes. Occasionally, you’ll be faced with slightly more ambiguous puzzles that have you pushing barely-visible buttons, shooting or pressing and number of Quake pads to complete a sequence and open a new area, and dodging a variety of environmental hazards. Levels will contain crushing weights, electrical traps, rapid-firing nail guns, spears, and other death traps that you’ll often have to either run through as fast as you can, jumping madly to try and keep damage to a minimum, or carefully make your way through the trap to avoid being crushed into a bloody paste.
Graphics and Sound:
Unlike Doom or the vast majority of Duke Nukem 3D, Quake’s enemies are entirely rendered as 3D character models. This gives them a much more solid and weighty appearance and means that enemies now lumber about as jerkily-animated 3D models rather than clumsily stumbling about the place as jerkily-animated 2D sprites. Still, they do explode into bloody, meaty chunks when defeated and their bodies drop to the floor and stay there, which is super useful for retracing your steps. The main character is primarily represented as one of many floating guns and a grimacing face on the HUD that reacts when you’re attacked and becomes more bloodied and dishevelled as your health drops, but you will get to see the Marine in full during the handful of brief third-person cutscenes that punctuate the end of each of the game’s episodes.
Environments are dark, foreboding, and full of Lovecraftian and Satanic imagery. You’ll navigate through futuristic military bases of rusted metal, grey stone castles full of spikes and drawbridges, and volcanic levels full of demonic ruins. While the game retains that old-school, pixelated graphical sheen that was the order of the day for videogames at the time, the textures and game stability are undoubtedly the best they’ve ever been and, while you’ll see a lot of the game’s architecture and layouts repeated, they’re often mixed up enough to make each level distinct from others. You’ll see blinking control panels, pools of blood, dank sewers filled with zombies, blast through graveyards and catacombs, and explore high-tech military installations overrun with all manner of beasts. When you finish each episode or defeat one of the game’s handful of bosses, you’ll be met with a bit of text to help give some context to the game but much of Quake’s horror and tension comes from the fantastic soundtrack, which manages to be both fittingly ominous and rocking at the same time. Levels are also made all the more terrifying by the screams and roars of enemies and the sounds of more monsters teleporting in, all of which helps to keep the adrenaline constantly pumping as you bolt through pitch-black tunnels and explore caverns barely lit by flickering candles.
Enemies and Bosses:
Contrary to other FPS videogames, Quake doesn’t actually feature that many boss battles; instead, you’ll generally have to collect keys to open exits and battle through hordes of enemies in order to finish most episodes. Enemies are visually very interesting and range from zombies (who throw chunks of bloody meat at you and can only be put down for good with your heavier ordinance), gun-toting Marines possessed by Quake’s evil, and sword-swinging knights. One of the most recurring (and annoying) enemies in the game is the Ogre, a chainsaw-wielding monstrosity that has a tendency to shoot grenades right in your face! You’ll also come across Death Knights, who fire flaming bolts at you in addition to wildly swinging at you with their swords, the floating, leech-like Scrags, piranha-like fish and eels in some bodies of water, Rottweilers, and vicious Fiends (who leap at you and swipe at you with their claws).
That’s not to say that boss battles don’t exist in Quake, however; at the end of the first episode, you’ll have to battle the mighty Cthon, a gigantic beast made entirely of lava and resembling Satan Himself. Cthon is entirely immune to all of your weapons and can only be defeated by running up to the upper path and pressing two buttons to lower two columns either side of him. You then race back to the start of the enclosed arena and press a third button to activate a bolt of electricity that either blows Cthon into chunks or sends him back to his lava pit for you to repeat the sequence on higher difficulty levels. At the end of the second mission, you’ll encounter the disgusting Vore enemy for the first time; this spider-like monstrosity scuttles around trying to slice you with its limbs and shoots heat-seeking spiked balls that explode on contact, meaning you have to constantly stay on the move and dodge behind walls and cover to avoid taking damage. After clearing this mission, Vores will appear sporadically as regular enemies but this can actually be to your benefit; when large groups of enemies gather, you can race/strafe around in a circle and cause them to attack and damage each other, which is super helpful.
Another boss-like enemy that becomes a recurring foe is the horrific Shambler, a massive beast that stomps around the environment blasting a bolt of lightning at you and trying to pummel you with its huge claws. After taking out the first with your best weapons, these bastards will teleport in or appear at the most inappropriate moments and often guard the keys you need to collect to progress and can even appear in groups of two or alongside Vores and other enemies. Both Shamblers and Vores populate the final mission of the main game, which sees you confronting the leader of these enemies, code-named “Quake” but in actuality the “Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young” herself, Shub-Niggurath. You’ll have to settle for battling those enemies, though, as Shub-Niggurath is little more than a screaming, pulsating mound of flesh in the middle of a lava pit and, while she’s immune to your weapons, defeating Shub-Niggurath is ridiculously easy; simply wait for the spiked ball that’s circling the arena to enter the demonic Old One and then jump into the Slipgate. This will see your character teleport inside Shub-Niggurath, who simply explodes in a burst of chunky pieces.
Thankfully, this remaster of Quake comes with four additional mission packs that include not only all-new maps but also additional enemies, such as Gremlins (essentially a reskin of the Fiends), nail-shooting, cybernetic scorpions known as Centroids, sentient swords, Grim Reaper-like Wraths, and a number of additional bosses. The first is the cybernetic Armagon, who fires lasers, rockets, and shockwaves at you in a claustrophobic arena. Luckily, you can take cover behind the many columns and take advantage of the weapons and power-ups strewn around, and he actually goes down pretty easily on the easiest difficulty as a result. Far more troublesome is the multi-armed, Grim Reaper-esque Overlord; this robed mage teleports around an arena full of Wraths and nail traps, hacking at you with its axes and firing a homing ball at you much like the Vores. Other additional bosses include Hephaestus, (a smaller, weaker version of Cthon), a Mummy (which is functionally the same as a zombie but does (and takes) greater damage), and three Guardians (Aztec and Egyptian warriors and blast at you with their staffs and spawn in more minions the more damage you inflict). After battling through longer, far more dangerous levels filled with a variety of the game’s enemies that will test your mettle to the limit, you’ll eventually face off against a monstrous dragon in an arena filled with lava and narrow rock pathways. The dragon flies overheard in a circular motion and spits fireballs and energy blasts at you, but you’re completely safe as long as you stay out of its sight, follow it from behind, and don’t slip into the lava. The arena is full of some of the game’s most powerful weapons but, even so, the dragon can absorb a great deal of punishment and can be tricky to hit while safely circling the arena. After you do bring it down, you’ll have to unload the remainder of your weapons on the Quake Temporal Energy Convertor (while, again, being careful not to slip into the lava beneath it) to finally put a stop to the demons’ invasion of Earth.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Being an FPS title, your most recurring power-up will be the large amount of weapons and ammo made available to you as you play through Quake’s missions. Unlike other FPS protagonists, the Marine has no unarmed combat mode and, instead, swings a pretty useless bloodied axe at enemies when no other weapons are available; you’ll also be happy to learn that there are no pistols or small firearms here and that your default weakest weapon is a good, old-fashioned shotgun. You can also grab heavier ordinance, such as grenade and rocket launchers, but the signature weapon of the game is undoubtedly the rapid-fire Nailgun. Furthermore, you can also pick up upgrades to these weapons, such as a double-barrelled shotgun (my preferred weapon of choice) and the Super Nailgun, and the game’s super weapon, the Thunderbolt, a futuristic-looking firearm that blasts enemies with a bolt of lightning.
You’ll find more weapons in the additional mission packs, such as the lightning-spewing Mjölnir of Norse legend, a multi-grenade and rocket launcher, a proximity mine launcher, a laser cannon (that shoots high-intensity laser blasts that ricochet all over the environment and can damage even you), a grapple gun and throwing star, and further upgrades to the Nailgun and Thunderbolt that spit out lava nails and a burst of energy, respectively. In addition to health packs and armour, you can also find a number of temporary power-ups: the aforementioned Anti-Grav Belt allows you to moon jump to higher areas, the wetsuit and biosuit allow you to traverse water and slime without fear of drowning or taking damage, respectively, and you can grab Quad Damage to deal four times as much damage for a limited time. You can also pick up the Pentagram of Protection and Ring of Shadows to become temporarily invulnerable and invisible, respectively (although enemies will still attack you if you fire on them while invisible), and there are even more opportunities to increase your defence and attack in the additional mission packs. You can even grab the Horn of Conjuring to summon a random monster to fight by your side, and there are also other power-ups that are exclusive to the multiplayer deathmatch modes, such as the Rune and Vengeance Sphere.
Quake comes loaded with thirty-five Achievements for you to earn, with the vast majority of these being tied to completing the game’s single player campaign and finding secret exits. In fact, there is only one Achievement reserved for multiplayer, which is good news for me, though you will have to take on the game’s more challenging difficulty modes in order to get 100% completion. Additionally, you can’t just load up the final levels of the game and beat them to pop the Achievements; you actually need to play through the entire game to earn them, and you’ll find that there are a couple of quirky ones that have you killing a Shambler with only an axe or before it can fire its lightning attack, and causing enemies to kill each other. As mentioned, the game comes with a multiplayer component that allows you to play on- and offline against a friend or other players in standard deathmatches, such as free-for-all and team play, and you can even play alone against computer-controlled ‘bots that you can set to different difficulty levels. As I also detailed, the game comes with four additional mission packs to play through that seriously up the game’s difficulty; new enemies, weapons, power-ups and bosses have been added and maps and textures have been redesigned to create entirely new levels so you can keep fragging demon scum to your heart’s content. Finally, you can also download the Nintendo 64 port, though unlike the other mission packs there are no Achievements tied to this version of the game (which is basically just a stripped down version of the base game).
For over twenty years, my friends have ragged on me because I once owned the Nintendo 64 version of Quake. I didn’t have it for long but, for whatever reason, it was enough to become a recurring joke between us and I have shunned the series ever since in favour of Duke Nukem 3D and a cursory relationship with the Doom franchise. When I heard that there was a remaster of Quake, I was both surprised and sceptical but, against my better judgement, I took advantage of it being free on Game Pass and downloaded it mainly to snag the game’s Achievements and up my Gamer Score. However, I found myself really enjoying the game, far more than I remember in the past. Thanks to a dark, foreboding atmosphere, a fittingly ominous soundtrack, and some disturbing visuals and enemies, Quake is a tense and action-packed experience. The controls are tight and intuitive; blasting demons has arguably never felt more gratifying and, despite a few annoying instances where the floor suddenly collapsed into lava or I was unexpectedly overwhelmed by a horde of enemies, I found the game to be an enjoyable and intense ride. Although the game has a serious lack of boss battles, the ones it does have generally require more from you than just mindlessly blasting away, and though the environments can be dark and confusing at times, they’re not brain-bending mazes and it’s pretty simple to plough your way through to the exit in short bursts. Overall, I’d actually say I rate this higher than the original Doom since Quake definitely improves upon the game engine of its predecessor and delivers one of the most horrific and bloodthirsty shooters in the process.
Are you a fan of the original Quake? How do you think it compares to other FPS titles of that time? What did you think to the game’s enemies, aesthetic, and soundtrack? Were you a fan of the focus on medieval and Lovecraftian horrors and what did you think to the battle against Shub-Niggurath? Which of the game’s weapons and expansion packs was your favourite and what did you think to Quake’s multiplayer options? Which game in the Quake franchise is your favourite and would you like to see a new game on modern hardware? Have you ever had your friends take the piss out of you for owning a game before? What horror-theme videogames are you playing this October in anticipation of Halloween? Whatever your thoughts on Quake, sign up and drop a comment below or comment on my social media.