If DOOM is the granddaddy of the FPS genre, Quake is the daddy. Whilst the former defined what it meant to be a shooter, the latter rewrote the rules and made it 3D. Both were revolutionary for the time, even if DOOM ended up having longer legs overall.
The problem with the Quake series is that it has a bit of an identity crisis. Starting as a Medieval Lovecraftian Horror Shooter, it then turned into Cyborg Sci-fi Shooter, and then into a Multiplayer Arena Shooter. After that, it never really found its footing as to what it actually wanted to be. The only thing that linked them all together was some damn fun FPS shooting.
As the 25th anniversary of the original rolled around, rumours were abound about a potential remaster or remake, and fans like myself were hyped at the prospect. Sure enough, QuakeCon 2021 rolled around and here it is.
It has been quite a few years since I played the game (and on the Sega Saturn no less), so how does it hold up? I intend to find out! Strap on in, and get ready for Quake.
I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO QUAKE
The game puts you in the role of Ranger (or QuakeGuy, if you prefer). After the government’s slipgate project goes awry, you have been sent on a mission to stop the unknown entity (codenamed Quake), who has intercepted the teleportation system and plans to send its dark forces to Earth. The way to stop him mainly involve shooting things until they die, which is what you’d expect from a 90s shooter.
The base game contains around thirty levels set over four episodes that can be completed in any order. Each one contains a blend of Medieval and Lovecraftian architecture, but they all have their own unique identity too. The first episode is the most generic, made up of castles complete with walkways, murky water, and a little bit of lava. It feels like more of an introduction to the enemies and structure to the game; however it does contain some fantastic levels and works well as a showcase for the game. The second episode centres around more gothic medieval castles, and every level features some type of water to swim around in. The third opts for more hellish imagery, with satanic runs and lava being prevalent throughout. The final one probably has the most distinctive identity, with its Lovecraftian architecture being quite obtuse and alien, giving it a much more otherworldly feeling compared to the others. Whilst all the episodes may have similar theming, these differences help each one stand out from each other.
The design of the levels themselves are a huge step up from the DOOM games too. True 3D means that levels are now able to have a greater degree of verticality than before, and boy oh boy, they really make use of it. Every map has multiple floors; there are huge cathedrals that can be scaled; watery passageways lead to secrets and hidden entry points: everything in the levels just feel far more cohesive and real now. In addition, Ranger has the ability to jump too, allowing for some platforming as you navigate the levels. Don’t be worried though, the game knows that platforming in first person isn’t the easiest, so things tend to be quite forgiving. This freedom of movement makes it a joy to explore the world and find all the secrets hidden within.
The shooting is, of course, where the game truly shines. Unlike the games that came before, you start the game off with a shotgun instead of a pistol. It’s a good introduction to the game as you quickly realise what sets this game apart from its predecessor: enemies are far tougher. Gone are the enemies that die in one shot, with the weakest needing multiple shotgun blasts to put down. Foes in Quake are far tougher, but they’re also far less plentiful than before: a sideproduct of the increased polygon count and storage issues, but it works well to set this game apart from its predecessor. These stronger enemies help to fuel the foreboding sense of horror that the game exudes too, as you know that any opponent could be your last. All it takes is one grenade to the face and it could all be over. Throw in Trent Reznor’s haunting ambient soundtrack, and you’ll have a game then genuinely works to unsettle you and make you worry about what lies behind every corner.
Ranger’s arsenal is split over four types: shells, nails, explosives, electric (I’m not counting the axe, because nobody uses that). Your shotgun is soon upgraded to a super shotgun, which works the same as it did in DOOM. The nailgun is a neat little weapon that functions like a grittier machine gun, with the upgraded version firing stronger shots. Explosives weapons consist of a grenade and rocket launcher, which both have their uses – including the iconic rocket jump if you fancy skipping huge portions of a level. Finally, this game’s super weapon is the Thunderbolt – a gun that fires a continuous stream of lightning and deals massive damage; it’s no BFG, but ammo is far more plentiful giving it more utility by comparison. The weapons feel good to use, although the beefy enemies mean that your super shotgun doesn’t quite have the same badass impact as in DOOM – unless you have the Quad Damage pickup active, of course.
These weapons will be of no use against the bosses, as they are famously immune to conventional weaponry, requiring you to think outside the box. Many people don’t care for these encounters, but I’m rather fond of them and think that the final boss in particular has quite a memorable method of destruction. The main issue is that there are only two of them, with most episodes just ending with harder levels. I’d have liked to have seen more gigantic creatures to take down, but it was not to be.
It’d be remiss of me not to touch upon Quake‘s online component. The game offers 4 player online co-op, and up to 8 players online in deathmatch – all of which is crossplay too, in case you fancy getting destroyed by some PC Master Race players. Crossplay is a great addition, although functionality can be a little wobbly depending on things like region, platform, and internet connection. Trying to play deathmatch online with a group of people around the world can be a difficult affair sometimes, as you may find that room don’t connect or the match lags a lot. These issues will depend on your circumstances though, as I also played co-op with a friend and it went seamlessly without any issues.
The game also offers a good degree of customisation too, from controls to FOV to graphical quality. Enough options are available to ensure you get the experience that is best for you – and that includes gyro assisted aiming! Yay! The options aren’t perfect, however, as there’s no way to switch off the auto weapon changing in game, meaning that your current weapon will be forcibly switched constantly during the game – which is irritating every time it happens.
Finally, the game features all the expansions currently available and a whole new one by Machine Games. I’ll cover my opinion of these individually, as they each deserve their own mini-review. There’s also an add-on menu for curated mods, but at the moment there’s only Quake 64. Considering that game is largely the same the base game, it’s not really worth mentioning, but I’m sure Bethesda will add plenty more in the future.
Scourge of Armagon
Having never played any of the Quake expansions before, I was rather excited to jump into something new. Set after the events of the first game, Ranger finds out that Quake’s General – the titular Armagon – has taken command of the monsters and is planning to continue his plan to take over Earth. With your job now unfinished, you go back to end things once and for all (although considering there are three more expansions, you probably won’t).
Unlike the main game, this first expansion has three episodes but there’s no way to select between them; instead, it plays as one continuous storyline and the episodes effectively work as acts, separate distinct sections of the game. The first episode, for example, is set wholly around military bases, with the end of the episode seeing you enter the slipgate to the dark realm. It works well, and the episodes definitely wouldn’t have benefitted from being selectable. In addition to this new setup, the expansion throws in a few new weapons, enemies, and power ups to help mix things up. The most interesting addition is the Gremlin, which looks like a Fiend crossed with a monkey; these creatures will steal your weapon and turn it against you. It’s a fun gimmick that works well, and you regain the weapon upon killing the thief. The Gremlins are also cannibals, meaning that you can distract them with a snack by killing one of their nearby friends. The new weapons and powerups are mostly fine, if a little forgettable. The Mjolnir electric hammer that was planned for the original game makes its appearance in Armagon, but it’s not something you’re likely to use very often.
Levels themselves feel very different to the main game, with them being longer and harder than the base game (which is fine), but the biggest difference is in the artistic design of the stages. In the main game, the levels were more abstract and as such felt appropriately alien and different; in Armagon, however, levels are far more realistic: churches have pews, the mine contains complex machinery and conveyors, and so on. It has a very different feel to the main game, but not necessarily in a bad way – just … a different way. The levels are mostly well designed with some interesting challenges, platforming, and secrets to uncover. The latter of which can be especially charming: after accidentally shooting the crucified figure in The Black Cathedral, I was greeted with a shocking and hilarious surprise. Touches like help make the expansion stand out, even if it’s not quite as enjoyable as the main game.
Dissolution of Eternity
After the surprisingly decent Scourge of Armagon, I was certainly intrigued as to what the following expansion would bring to the table. Set after the previous game, Ranger returns to Earth only to find that Quake has formed another nasty plot to screw everyone over involving travelling through time. Back our hero goes to put an end to this new plan. It’s a laughably terrible setup, but it’s not as if there’s much plot there to begin with. Whilst it doesn’t try to offer anything new with the story, it does offer a lot of new enemies, new weapons, and new music. Quite impressive.
Looking at the new stuff, it’s serviceable for the first part. The weapons serve as secondary functions for your main weapons, with the nailguns having lava nails (basically a little stronger than normal ones), the explosive weapons now fire three shots at once, and the alternate Thunderbolt is essentially an electric BFG. In practice, they’re mostly quite underwhelming to use and aren’t as exciting as you might expect, although the multi rocket launcher is so ridiculously overpowered that it can instantly kill anything that isn’t a Shambler or a boss. New enemies fare much better, with some interesting additions – like the Phantom Swordsman and the Statues, and some that are irritating. The Spawn enemy from the main game (an annoying explosive blue blob), not only makes a return but has a new variant: the Hell Spawn. This version can duplicate itself infinitely. Whoever thought that this was a good idea needs a good slap. There’s also a new enemy known as the Wrath, which is essentially a cross between a Scrag and a Vore. Not only do these creatures suck, but they’re also quite common too.
The main problem with this expansion, however, is with the levels themselves. There are 16 maps split over the two episodes, but most of them are overly long with pretty flat and dull design with little exploration. The ones that are more inventive with their designs tend to be quite good, but the ones that aren’t suck. There’s also a recurring gimmick involving earthquakes that removes control away from your character while you’re trying to do some first person platforming, and it has to be one of the worst gimmicks I’ve ever encountered in a videogame.
It’s not a terrible expansion, but it is definitely mixed in terms of quality. The final boss is cool, but also features earthquakes and low gravity, which only serves to spoil the fight. I can’t say that I hated the expansion, but it’s also unlikely I’ll ever replay it.
Dimensions of the Past
For the 20th anniversary, Machine Games created a new episode to act as an official episode five for the game. It’s a curious move as this expansion completely lacks any kind of story, since Ranger is essentially just jumping into different realms to clear out the monsters there. There’s really not much more to it than that. The final level does offer a nice homage to fans, but it’s also devoid of any challenge or even a boss. You get to the end and it just … ends.
Ignoring the non-existent story, the gameplay is definitely where this expansion shines. Whilst still having the same types of locations as the main game – military facilities and ancient castles – the level design is far more complex. Instead of just finding keys, you will also be tasked with additional objectives. An early level, for example, has you restoring power to the facility. It’s a nice touch and makes the game feel a bit more modern compared to just hunting down the next key.
As well as not having new level themes, there are also – disappointingly – no new enemies or weapons either. This no frills expansion is a little disappointing in that regard, but it still offers some fun and challenging gameplay – even if it does get too challenging later on. With hard enemies in cramped spaces and a lack of health and ammo, you will probably find yourself save-scumming to make your way through to the end! It’s still an enjoyable expansion regardless, even if it is only for the most hardcore of Quake players.
Dimensions of the Machine
Along with the announcement of Quake Remastered, it was also announced that Machine Games had created a brand new episode specifically for this release. Their other episode may have not done anything particularly new, barring some more complex level design, but they really went all out with this one.
Ranger is wanting to travel back home, and has to acquire the runes from five different realms in order to power up the titular machine. From the offset, this episode blew me away with just how good it looks. The level of detail and architecture is far beyond anything else in the package. This episode is essentially what Ion Fury was to the Build Engine, except for the original Quake Engine. It’s stunning. Each realm has a different theme, and all of them are extremely distinct locations that stand out from each other: one has you starting outside dilapidated castles and windmills, whilst another has you in a world reminiscent of Xen. Even though each realm has only two maps (with a weapon reset at the start of every realm), they’re all very long and complex with lots to explore, meaning you’ll never get bored. You won’t be seeing any new enemies or weapons, but the levels alone make them stand out from the rest of the package – I’d even go as far as to say that this feels like what Quake 2 could have been if they didn’t abandon the Lovecraftian theme.
If I had to nitpick, the final boss (yes there is one) is a little bit anticlimactic. The actual boss itself doesn’t feel like the finale to the storyline, but the sequence is still somewhat enjoyable (once you know what you need to do). It’s a blend of shooting and puzzle solving, which makes it more interesting than the ones seen in the other expansions, but it just feels a bit too anticlimactic when it’s over. A disappointing end to such a great expansion, but not enough to put me off wanting to replay it.
All in all, Quake Remastered is an excellent remaster of an excellent shooter. Visually, they’ve done a great job making it look a lot better whilst also remaining faithful to the original. It’s also jam-packed full of content, but a really cheap price. Quake is a legendary shooter for a reason, and this remaster helps make it shine even brighter. The expansions may be a little inconsistent in quality, and a few extra Quality of Life options wouldn’t have gone amiss, but this is a must buy for fans of old school shooters, especially at this price. An absolute bargain.