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access_time August 24, 2021 at 6:00 AM in Reviews by Paul Jennette

Review | Quake

I love Quake and hold the series very close to my heart. Growing up, I remember the internet going down for days at a time. Not owning a console at the time meant that my only gaming choice was an old CD-ROM copy of the original Quake that belonged to my brother. Dark reds, muddy browns, creepy mazes, and Trent Reznor’s voice saved me from countless afternoons of boredom. The game was challenging, kept you on your toes, and had an atmosphere that really sucked you in, demanding your attention. Now the team at Nightdive Studios has remastered the game for a new audience. Not surprising after the success of the revival of Quake‘s distant cousin; Doom. While most of the revamping lies in options for visuals, the core of the game is entirely left as is. That’s where the beauty of this remaster truly lies.

What I love most about Quake is its pacing. Its presentation is rather bizarre. There are no intros or context given for who you are or what you’re doing. When you start, your protagonist, Ranger, is whisked into a hub to select a difficulty. Returning to the game again, I picked the hardest difficulty here, and it really makes all the difference. After that, things kick off right away and the killing begins. Enemies move very fast, do a lot more damage than normal, and have a significant endurance boost. It takes around 4 shots to the body to take down a standard monster on the Hard difficulty. However, as expected, headshots are always immediate kills. The enemies move so fast however that headshots aren’t really the norm.

I found the fact that I kept dying not frustrating, but a lesson to be learned each time. It was surprising to see how much strategy I needed in order to make it to the next section. Mostly dodging enemies and hitting switches before going back for the kill, as to save my health for the monsters that I know lie ahead. I’m personally not fond of puzzles but I always found it nice that Quake was always willing to make you slow down and think.

The hellish quality of the game’s environment is intoxicating. The sense of dread and danger still remains as it did over two decades ago. Turning corners is still really anxiety-inducing in early first-person shooters because all of your adversaries make their way into your view without any warning. I found myself second-guessing every left turn into a corridor because some giant freak would make himself known in a way that only 90s first-person-shooters could allow. The sudden appearance of fast-moving enemies and their unrelenting aggression meant that I was starting over from the beginning of the level more times than I’d like to admit.

When Quake debuted in 1996, people had seen almost nothing like it at the time. It presented ghastly fully rendered 3D creatures in dark, claustrophobic environments that put everything that came before it to shame. At least in terms of the way it looks. In 2021, visual enhancements like motion blur and ambient occlusion really make the game easier on the eyes considering how much time has passed. Watching other players move quickly through spaces during multiplayer deathmatches was almost hypnotizing. It was so smooth. If you’re not keen on motion blur or fancy graphics and just want the classic experience, you can easily just switch off all enhancements in the visual options menu.

It’s always interesting to see what graphical improvements can be made to a game that’s almost 30 years old. And it’s safe to say that I wasn’t disappointed. The updated 3D character models look fresh while maintaining most of their charm and grit from the original. I didn’t expect them to be so thorough with this remaster. The refreshment gives each character their own personal shine that older hardware wouldn’t have allowed for.

The most important thing worth mentioning is the amount of content you receive for a measly $10. In this remastered Quake package, you’ll receive the original game, two of the original expansions as well as two newer ones, online multiplayer deathmatches, and a local 4-player co-op mode. For such a classic, you can’t really beat a deal like this.

One of the expansions is entirely new, with Dimension of the Machine developed by MachineGames for this remaster. The visuals in this expansion are noticeably different and refined. It was rather surreal to see environments so pretty and fully realized in a game like Quake. They really took it upon themselves to go above and beyond cosmetically. Playing through it, I found that monsters were not only more aggressive, but in bigger numbers, which I appreciated. It was fun to realize what this game could be while borrowing from processing power and graphical possibilities far after its time.

I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for Quake and all that try to replicate its greatness. Diving back into this primitive FPS world, I had a great deal of fun. I fear that some modern players may still find the remaster too primitive in terms of gameplay presentation to pick up for more than an hour or so at a time. With that in mind, I feel that there’s no better time for everyone to experience this piece of first-person shooter history. With this new and accessible remaster on current-generation consoles for a very generous price, I would argue that there’s no reason not to try Quake at least once.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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