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Quake (id Software, 1996)

We've talked about DOOM. We've looked at Wolfenstein 3D. We've even touched on some left-field shit like Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold. The formative history of the first person shooter is no new topic to us, RetroFans

We’ve talked about DOOM. We’ve looked at Wolfenstein 3D. We’ve even touched on some left-field shit like Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold. The formative history of the first person shooter is no new topic to us, RetroFans…

So why the FUCK have I put off talking about Quake for so long?

As I’ve pointed out in previous articles, Quake‘s predecessors (notably 1992’s Wolfenstein 3D and 1993’s groundbreaking DOOM) create the impression of a fully 3D environment… but they’re not really 3D. Wolf3D rendered its faux-3D point of view by way of a technique called raycasting, while DOOM expanded upon that idea significantly by allowing for differences in floor and ceiling height. What we were seeing, as cool as it was (And still is), amounted to 2D information being cleverly jury-rigged into a “3D enough for me” experience. Here’s another hair to split, while we’re talking like total assholes: the monsters and items were still very much 2 dimensional – the same type of sprites one might see in a 2D title like Super Mario World.

Don’t go thinking I’m just here to take a shit on Wolf3D and DOOM; far from it. I have a point, and I’m about to get to it. Please stop throwing furniture at me.

I’ve showed you this before, but there’s no reason why I can’t show you again. Hell, I love repeating myself. A visual explanation of raycasting, wherein a two-dimensional space is given uniform height/depth and roughly translated into what a dog or a 5 year old kid might consider 3D.

In 1994, John Romero saw Sega’s Virtua Fighter, and a thought occurred to him: “We could do that. Except we could do it better. Nastier. With hatchets and demons and shit.” Thankfully, Johnny R. happened to know one of the pimp-pioneers of game development, a man whose brain runs on twelve white-hot macho cylinders… John Carmack. The man who masterminded the DOOM engine, Carmack began hatching this next golden egg not long after DOOM II was released. But a funny thing happened on the way to the release; John Romero (who, let’s be real, has been known to toss some dogshit ideas at the wall and see if they stick) wanted to make Quake a third-person game… at least partially. Seemingly hung up on Virtua Fighter, Johnny R. wanted there to be hand-to-hand fights in the game that were presented just like the Sega fighting game. This turned out to be a huge time sink, not to mention a bone of contention between Romero and pretty much every other person working on the project. Long story short, Romero left id shortly after Quake‘s release. He went on to make Daikatana, which we won’t talk about because it’s terrible enough to put on the books as a felony.

Back on subject… when Quake hit the game shelves in June of ’96, it rendered all its predecessors obsolete. Fuck “obsolete,” it made them look like some Flintstones shit. Paleolithic grunting and biting. Most immediately, it was clear that Quake was fully 3D. Not “smoke and mirrors and two-dimensional SS officers.” Not “2D wearing 3D’s stolen hat.” The environment and models were fully polygonal, you could go under and over shit, the lightmapping was lush, and to top it all off, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails did the sound and music.

Our hero. A man of coughy grunts, constant grimaces, and what looks like the world’s least comfortable helmet.

In this dark, bloody and immersive escapade, you step into the shoes of a Ranger who finds himself the last man alive after a disaster involving prototype teleportation technology. It’s unclear if the dude’s proper name is Ranger and he just had colorful parents, or he’s meant to be nearly anonymous like the Space Marine from DOOM. Anyway, the situation you find yourself in bears a close similarity to DOOM‘s: an entity code-named “Quake” (TITLE REFERENCE) hacked the fuck out of the experimental Slipgate and used it to flood your world with nightmarish horror and death. In the grand tradition of brave but questionable decisions, you decide the best way to burn a few hours is to charge recklessly into the abyss.

During your journey through overrun military bases, hellish lavascapes, and Lovecraftian vistas, you’ll meet all kinds of new friends. There’s mostly “re-programmed” soldiers and dogs at first, and a new player might get to thinking this shit’s kinda tame… until you run into your first chainsaw ogre.

There’s also the Shambler. He’s probably my favorite, because he’s a gigantic eyeless ape that gallops after you Gunnar Hansen style and slaps you with electricity so hard your goddamn point-of-view shakes. Like most of the game’s monsters, if you don’t tread carefully around the Shambler, you’re fucked.

We’ve got gear to deal with these bloodsoaked, screeching assholes, though. Ranger had the good sense to bring a shotgun with him, and he even showed a little artistic flair by choosing a short double-bitted axe as a backup. After a while, these toys don’t cut the mustard, so it’s a good thing you find new toys all over the place. Who doesn’t enjoy the ponk-ponk-ponk a weaponized nailgun, or the sheer sporting joy of bouncing a few grenades out of your launcher into a room of unsuspecting restless dead?

Back on that soundwork by Trent Reznor for a second: While a lot of the OST is minimalist, it’s hauntingly effective. The main theme is really something else, though, evoking images of darkness, rust, throbbing pain, and grit. It almost makes me think of what Coil would sound like if they were a little less “experimental” and way more aggressive.

Quake isn’t all just murder and pants-pissing fear. There’s a handful of thinkin’ man’s challenges throughout the game, and even the bosses at the end of each episode require a bit of brainwork to defeat. Even now, 22 years later, I still like to jump into the Slipgate now and then. The only difference is, I use a source port or client (much like I do when it’s time to blaze up some DOOM or Heretic). There are several decent ones being maintained by diehard fans, but the one I use is GLQuake. I feel like it offers the most authentic single-player experience. Others, like Zquake or fodQuake, lean more toward facilitating network play, which was so astounding in the vanilla product that it ended up being the direction the Quake franchise went.

It goes without saying that Quake was hugely successful, not to mention the tremendous impact it had on the gaming world. It was the phenomenon that ushered in the dawn of “modern” FPS games, and subsequent efforts by other developers were aimed at meeting or exceeding Quake‘s standard. Two aftermarket expansions were released for Quake in 1997; Hipnotic Interactive’s Mission Pack No. 1 featured three new episodes, and was followed within a month by a second mission pack by Rogue Entertainment that added two more episodes to Ranger’s gore-drenched saga. No less than five sequels were spawned from the red wreckage; even now, Queakeaholics await the 2018 release of Quake Champions, id’s latest entry into the series.

I examined this game inside and out via the clarity of hindsight, and still can find no significant fault with it. Like the id Software titles that preceded it, Quake is a big bad daddy. It was a shot of heavy adrenaline in the arm of PC gaming, shotgunning the FPS and the concept of multiplayer to new heights. It also finished what things like Virtua Fighter and the PS1 started; it held its gib-covered banner high and roared out loud that a new age was upon us. If I don’t give Quake 9/10, then someone should probably come euthanize me.

bryan.eddy@newretrowave.com

Review overview

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