Review: Quake (Remastered 2021)
By: Roberto Nieves
Developer: id Software, Nightdive Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PS4|5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch, PC
The 1990s were a time of great innovation and progress. The world of video games was undiscovered territory. The world's developers were peering into an entirely new man-made ecosystem, never before explored or seen. In the 90s, there was a focus on what a game could be and then make it what it had to be. It had to be enjoyable and give the players all the tools they needed to enjoy themselves, but could it be different? Is it possible to take an established formula and push it further? There will be answers and then more questions, but that is the thrill of technological discovery. While potent and flourishing in this age, innovation was a risky endeavor where something could go wrong. Those who dared changed the way games were made and imagined, transformed entire utilities, and paved a direction for the future. In 1996, id Software released Quake. At QuakeCon this past Summer, Nightdive Studios and Bethesda Softworks released a remastered version, with updated controls and sound and a bevy of content for the FPS enthusiast.
Wolfenstein takes you into the fight against fascists. Doom puts players into a battle against Hell's monsters. Quake puts players into a dark, disturbing realm of insanity and madness. Grotesque monsters roam the halls of temples, and interdimensional castles pierce a desolate and unfriendly sky. This is not a world, but a dimension of nightmares, straight out of HP Lovecraft. There is a constant unease and disturbing atmosphere in the air. No hope exists to survive, except for one's skill to fight. Within these dimensions of Quake lies these keys to survivals, the runes. With an entire army of monsters set to take on the Earth, you are the only one between them and plummeting Earth into unearthly horror.
Quake is a first-person shooter that first launched on PC and mid-90's gaming consoles, such as the PlayStation. Quake falls back to a more traditional formula of first-person shooters, where the ultimate goal is to obtain keys and flip switches to escape an area filled with enemies. In an age before abundant ammunition and auto-healing, Quake puts players into a setting where speed and quick reflexes are essential for survival. Finding secrets for new weapons and items will certainly give an advantage for players, but ultimately, it boils down to the speed and reflex of the player.
Quake plays significantly differently from Wolfenstein, DOOM, Duke Nukem 3D, and the other so-called "boomer shooters" of the time. It's slower and more methodical, encouraging players to be more cautious in the dark caves and medieval structures. The enemies are large, grotesque, and bizarre, each with their own attack methods. Compared to the slightly looney Nazis of Wolfenstein and the horrifying demons of Doom, Quake has you face abominations with no explanation as to who or what they are, except that they exist and want to end your life. Even the screen-filling bosses at the end of each chapter require far more than just an endless supply of bolts, but instead, to be quick and find a solution. It's a far different take on first-person shooters.
The world of Quake differentiates itself from the more military and sci-fi presentations of its predecessors. Strange castles, bizarre laboratories, underground villages, and other oddities are where the enemies of Quake take their claim. It's certainly a different visual palette, especially as the sky is a hazy and indecipherable amalgamation of pink clouds. Still, like its predecessors, secrets abound within each level, and those with a keen eye will find hidden rooms and entire secret levels.
Of course, no shooter is complete without a solid roster of weapons and a well-designed mechanic to use them. The weapons for Quake are rather limited by today's standards but are nonetheless a thrill to use, from the nailgun to the super shotgun to the legendary weapon, the Thunderbolt. Quake is the first true 3D first-person shooter, with the weapons animated and rendered in 3D instead of 2D sprites with limited animations. Each weapon provides remarkable feedback to using them, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. The bolter and the shotguns will be the most common weapons used in Quake, and using them is unendingly satisfying. There is a melee weapon, the ax, that is rather useless when talking a large number of enemies, but using it to save bullets on hapless foes is also incredibly pleasing.
The team at Bethesda and Nighthawk Interactive went above and beyond for this port of Quake. In addition, to have the complete game experience available for players, Quake contains online multiplayer for players to jump and blast other players like its 1997 on a Compaq Presario with Windows 98. Additionally, presentation-wise, playing Quake is a portal, pun intended, to an era in games that paved the way for our current gaming world. It was a time well before the modern-day internet when social media meant talking to friends on AOL instant messenger, and a new music format, the .mp3, was discovered to stream music. The concept of 3D was so new, and game devs plunged into this new frontier, creating classics such as Warhawk and Wipeout, as well as disasters such as Bubsy 3D. Quake is a game that evokes many memories of that time period, and for music lovers, strong gains vibes from the hard rock and grunge themes. In fact, the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails provides some voice to the main character, and the ammo crates for the bolt gun clever have a logo reminiscent of NIN.
Playing Quake today is almost like a luxury, as the game is available digitally on multiple platforms and can be downloaded and installed seamlessly over high-speed internet. It's a humbling moment. Growing up, my family could barely afford a 56K dial-up modem and a computer that could run anything more than Math Blaster, so to finally play a game from that era, in a far more different moment in my life, is thrilling and inspiring. For a person like me, playing Quake shows what more we could learn from the past and more that we could bring to the future.
For the many players looking to try something different, Quake is mandatory in every gamers' library. It's a game that is bizarre in the best ways with a thrilling presentation and timeless gameplay, but its combat, local co=op, and online gameplay keep players coming back. Quake isn't just a throwback, or an old fossil brought back to life, but a true celebration of the 3D first-person shooter. Quake paved a path we still follow today, and to enjoy it today is not only thanks to that team that worked on that game years ago but a rallying call to how games can be made.