In late 1993, id Software revolutionized the gaming world with the first pseudo-3D First Person Shooter “DOOM” using a shareware model, which was played by over 10 million people who where more than expecting a sequel.
After Doom II came out just a year later, using the same 2.5 graphics, id starting working in a completely 3D engine, keeping the same dark and demonic theme of its latest success, creating a new franchise: “Quake”
Quake follows the same game play formula of its “spiritual predecessor”, but instead of a Space Station in Mars and traveling to Hell itself, the environment here is gothic and has the look of medieval castles, with lots of stone, rusty iron and old torture traps through the levels, as well as monsters wearing metal armor, zombies throwing their guts at you and creatures that look like witches and mythical fantasy animals from folk tales.
Like every old school FPS, the objective of each level is just to find the exit in maze-like places filled with enemies trying to rip you apart.
By finding keys, pressing switches, shooting pentagrams, going through portals, jumping over platforms, going up and down elevators and stepping on giant pressure activated buttons on the floor, you’ll find your way to the next level.
In classic games of the genre, you see your gun right in the middle of the screen, so you have to wonder exactly how the hero was holding it… And with a click on your mouse, or (Right Trigger in a controller if you play the latest patch for Xbox 360 controller support) you’ll be blasting the gritty abominations trying to kill you into oblivion before they do.
You start out with a normal pump-action shotgun, and you’ll actually face other guys with the same firearm at the start of the first episode of the game, but as you advance, you’ll find all sorts of grotesque beings that lunge at you with a sword, use magic attacks like fireballs, throw lighting bolts, explode when they’re next to you, or just try to rip you apart with their claws and razor like claws like beasts right out of the dark pits of Satan’s underworld.
Back in the mid-90’s, players weren’t able to regenerate health by just standing still or had guns with unlimited ammo. And to make things a little more challenging, taking cover behind objects or some structures of the level than can be used as blockades, wasn’t a common game play feature like in modern shooters. You have to move around, and launch your grenades while avoiding enemies attack, while also avoiding your own grenades which explosion can actually deplete all your health if you’re too close.
Like Doom before it, you have health points that usually go from 0 to 100, and can gain health back by collecting med kits, but there’s a special item, a huge red cross box that can make your health go up to 200 points, and then it’ll steadily decline until it’s 100 points again.
As for the armor, there’s the green one that has 100 points of protection, a blue one that gives you 150, and a rare to find red one that boosts up your additional ability to take damage all the way to 200.
As for the limited time power ups, there are also special items like the Quake Symbol, called “Quad Damage”, that makes your weapons 4 times stronger, making it really easy to defeat your enemies with just a couple of shots.
There’s also one called “Protection”, that makes your armor points “666”, making you invulnerable for a set amount of time. And finally, there’s an invisibility ring, so you can go unnoticed by the monsters patrolling the dark hallways… That’s it, until you decide to attack them and reveal your location, of course.
Levels are divided between “Episodes”, which are about 7 or 8 stages long each, with an end boss to defeat before you go back to “The Hub”, a Level Zero place where you can select your next episode.
All levels feature a bunch of secret to finds, but a few of them actually have a different exit so you can play a hidden level in the episode, and after you beat it you’ll go to the next level you would’ve gotten if you had exited through the “normal” portal.
After you start a new episode, you’ll lose all the weapons you’ve collected in the previous one.
Graphics 9.0 (at the time)
While Doom II kept the 2D characters over pseudo-3D stages, and even games that tried to copy the formula like “Duke Nukem 3D” where actually more like “2.5D”, Quake actually brought things to the next level, with actual three-dimensional moving guardians of the lugubrious medieval mazes you have to explore.
When you start out, you only have a shotgun, but pretty soon you’ll find a grenade launcher; which seems to have been made to collect so early in the game to showcase the physics of objects in action.
It bounces when it hits a wall, and explodes on contact with a living being (including you), and when you launch it, you can see it go up and down in a realistic way since gravity and the propelling force of the weapon when you pull the trigger act in real-time. It may be a given today, but at the time not many games had this display of action in a virtual world.
The next addition to your arsenal you find, is the Nail Gun, which also seems to have been made in order to display the projectiles going out of the barrels and sticking to the enemies.
It’s not the same with bullets in doom, where you only see them affecting walls and making monsters turn red when blood sprays out of them.
Actually seeing the nails in 3D flying at high speeds, was a feast to the eyes over 20 years ago. And later, you get a stronger version of the nail gun called “The Perforator”, which shoots at a faster rate makes for a great sight to watch when you’re in a room sticking pointy metal objects into hellish creatures.
Finally there’s the rocket launcher, that shoots missiles that go through the air and explode on contact. And when you defeat enemies with explosions, you can actually see their body pieces flying in all directions like a Mortal Kombat fatality.
Also, with the Quad Damage item, a blast from the super shotgun up close may cause the same effect.
Some monsters also have 3D attacks, like magic fireballs or thunderbolts, and there’s a weird spider-like demon that shoots humming blue balls that explode on contact. It’s not the same as watching soldiers with a gun that just lights up and suddenly you take damage, here you can actually notice how is it that you’re being attacked, and with a big screen and fast refresh rate, this is still an experience any FPS fan should have.
A downside of this early use of a 3D engine, would be that most of the time you wander small rooms and hallways, while in Doom I & II there where actually some open spaces and arena like places where you could face giant monsters. In the original Quake there’s no where as spacious as where you face the bosses of Doom shareware version, for example.
Audio – 7.0
As for the music, instead of Heavy Metal tunes and Satanic Death Metal songs that came to be associated with early FPS titles with a demonic theme, all the way up to 2004 Painkiller, Quake actually has more subtle ambient tracks, that help set the mood for an eerie castle filled with your worst nightmares.
In Doom you could hear the demons growls where you where getting closer and they still haven’t spot you, and if you where wearing headphones, you could tell if they were left or right from your position. The same applies here, but the voice samples and guns SFX are of much higher quality, and with virtual 3D surround headphones, you will feel like you are in a dark spot, with evil killer creatures lurking in the shadows making strange noises, just waiting to pounce at you and take out your guts.
Replay Value – 7.7
32 levels in 4 Episodes is the content you’d expect from a classic game of this genre and time of release. Of course it isn’t the same if you just try to beat it, as trying to get 100% of the secrets and explore every inch of its dungeons. And there are players that will try to learn how to beat it the fastest they can in order to upload speed runs, or maybe try to beat it without taking damage and such.
Quake’s legacy may not seem as important as id Software previous titles, or maybe it could seem that what 3D Realms made with its Build Engine may have inspired future First Person Shooters even more than this game that was actually full 3D, but Quake still had a couple of expansion packs and a multiplayer mode that is still worth playing today, with fans that to this day create community content to keep the game alive, and try new things like mods that enable Ray Tracing and running it with the Vulkan api and such to boosts its performance and graphics. And you know what? It has aged nicely all things considered.
Nowadays you can get the original Quake for 5 bucks and each Mission Pack for 3 dollars each, (it’s twice as long with the expansions), or you can buy Quake: The Offering with contains all for $9.99 and get the whole experience for about the price of a large pizza with 2 toppings and a small soda. And you won’t finish it in under an hour.
Retro Rate: 8.0
If you’re into old school shooters, totally worth the asking price today; if you’re only into modern FPS, you will not enjoy it, so why bother? This is for Retro guys looking for classic challenge.
Game: Quake [PC – Nintendo 64 – Sega Saturn]
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: id Software
Release Date: June 22, 1996