In 1993, Id Software revolutionized the first person shooter genre with Doom. It was a massive success, becoming practically an overnight sensation in the industry. It perfected and essentially created the format for the first person shooter for years to come. It was followed by Doom 2, which was improved in many ways but stuck to the same engine and formula.
Finally, in 1996 the studio was ready for a proper follow-up to the massive giant that was Doom. Needless to say there was a lot to live up to, especially for it to succeed. Arguably just as revolutionary and fantastic as its spiritual predecessor, Quake came out as another huge success – both critically and commercially.
The first major change is clear from the minute you start Quake. Instead of the quasi-3D flat graphics that Doom had, Quake was fully polygonal; entirely 3D environments and enemies, with no sprite-based assets. This was right on the cutting edge of what was possible at the time, and whilst there had been other polygonal games, this ran fast and fluid. It was a major influence on the introduction of GPUs for gaming computer setups, in order to run the game.
This change in graphical power was massive at the time, yet it was a difficult transition for many game studios. However Id’s translation was a great success to become one of those moments in graphic technology that rarely happen anymore, where things truly fundamentally changed. It’s hard to picture it compared to the change we’ve had in the last ten years, however this shifted the game design from the ground up.
Every aspect of Quake changed with this different engine. Doom’s twisting maze-like level design looks tame compared to Escher-like dreamscapes that are present in Quake. These levels are just as well-designed as those in Doom, just turned right up to eleven. The multiple worlds that separate the levels are all themed somewhat differently too.
The enemies that scour the halls of these magical worlds are grotesque and inventive. It’s a difficult experience but not unfair. With creatures like the grenade-throwing Ogres to the rushing sword-bearing Death Knights, Quake constantly finds ways to mix up the combat encounters and provide a wide range of obstacles for the player.
There are difficulty levels present too and these vary radically from dead easy to mind-crushingly hard. I would recommend going as hard as you can take and then tone it down from there if need be.
The weapons are pretty expectable. There is a nail gun which is essentially a machine gun, a shotgun, a rocket launcher and grenade launcher. Most of the traditional arms in the genre. There are a few unique firearms like the arc lightning launcher, which is quite fun, however every single weapon feels fantastic and the gunplay is, frankly, phenomenal.
Certain worlds also have different types and numbers of enemies. Some may crop up more in one world than another, but throughout Quake there has always been a great diversity in the feeling of each foe. In fact, it also mixes up the pace and gameplay feel throughout the entire campaign.
In terms of the audio and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame worked the soundtrack and it’s most certainly grimy, crushing, and heart-pounding. But it is a series of tracks that create a strange industrial soundscape that fits perfectly with the creepy Lovecraftian ambience of the several worlds you travel to. It’s easily one of my favorite video game soundtracks ever; quite trippy and unlike much else.
While the single player is excellent, the multiplayer might be the star of the show. If you can find people to play with (and you can), deathmatch hasn’t aged a day. There is still a ton of violently good fun to be had fragging players to tiny gore pieces. That said, you should be warned that folk have gotten pretty good at Quake over the last couple of decades.
Quake is widely available on the PC with storefronts like Steam and GOG holding the downloads you require. It can easily be run now on most machines, so there is really no excuse not to try it out. Now if only we could get a version on the Xbox…
Quake is a pillar of the first person shooter genre and required reading for anyone who wants to explore its history. You wouldn’t have mouselook, rocket jumping, camping, strafe jumping, matchmaking, or eSports without Quake. In fact, we can go further than that – you wouldn’t have the modern FPS without Quake.
What are your memories of Quake since launch back in the day? Let us know in the comments.