Happy Fragging: Quake Remastered
I have been waiting for this moment for years. My favorite classic first person shooter is finally accessible without jumping through hoops. Of all the classic 90’s FPS games, Quake 1 is my favorite. That’s right, I like Quake 1 more than Doom 1 & 2, Duke Nukem, Blood, Shadow Warrior, Hexen, Unreal, and even Half-Life. Quake has the fast-paced action of its 90’s colleagues but has a unique atmosphere and consistent tone throughout. Quake is a dark fantasy FPS that takes influence from Lovecraft. Combined with the score by Nine Inch Nails, Quake conveys a sense of dread and a constant feeling that Quake Guy (later called Ranger) is alone somewhere he doesn’t belong. Quake came out in 1996 and in 2021, it has been remastered. If you like boomer shooters or shooters with high skill ceilings, Quake is an easy sell. The remaster is available on PC (duh) and is even free if you own the original files. It is also available for $10 on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, & Playstation 4. It is on Xbox Gamepass for free if you are a subscriber. All consoles run the game at 60fps at 1080p resolution. The game runs at 4k if you play on a PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, or on Playstation 5/ Xbox Series X/ S through backwards compatibility. Native Xbox Series X/S and Playstation 5 versions are on the way as well (free to upgrade), with rumored 120fps support and likely other visual enhancements (maybe some form of raytracing?).
This is a remaster done right. The original look and feel of Quake are preserved, but there are a few modern graphical options to make it easier on the eyes. Nightdive Studios, the development team behind the re-releases of Doom 64, Blood, Turok, and System Shock, did a fantastic job porting Quake to the much more robust Kex engine. You can turn on updated character models, adjust the resolution, have dynamic lighting, keyframe interpolation, etc. My advice, turn them all on except motion blur. You’ll get a clean presentation and ultra-smooth gameplay without sacrificing the original developer’s artistic vision for the game. I like to bump up the field of view to 100 or so, but this is personal preference. I’m happy to report that original creepy soundtrack is included in this release, unlike the Steam & GOG versions of Quake, so you don’t have to download the soundtrack, reformat into a different file type, insert in the correct spot in your source port presumably after you have downloaded one of many source ports (am I right PC guys?). I am also happy to report that the original sound files are all used and cleaned up, making it sound infinitely crisper than the original release.
Quake’s remaster plays the way Quake has always played. Quake is all about fast moving and skill-based shooting. There are some fairly easy puzzles to solve in the rare moments that something isn’t trying to turn you into meat chunks. Like many games of it’s time, Quake’s levels are essentially light mazes where you need to find keys to progress. Unlike many games of it’s time, looking at you Hexen and Doom 2, the mazes are not too complex, and the developers make it pretty clear where you are supposed to go (subtle arrows within the level architecture and text blocks tell you exactly what to do and where to go if it isn’t already obvious). Due to Quake being the first fully rendered 3D FPS, the levels tend to be relatively short, so if you do manage to get lost, you will find your bearings rather quickly. Quake is full of secrets to make your life easier for those willing to look. You don’t need to find any of them to progress but doing so will provide valuable resources to help in future encounters.
The combat in Quake isn’t terribly different from that of its competitors. You shoot the bad guys and avoid taking too much damage from the bad guys. What differentiates Quake is the strength of each enemy. Quake couldn’t throw 50 enemies on screen at a time, it would have set pc’s on fire back in 1996 as Quake was designed to run in full 3d without computers having dedicated graphics cards. Instead, Quake tends to throw 5 to 10 enemies at you, and they are waiting for you around nearly every corner. The enemies are harder to bring down and can dish out a ton of damage, so you need to pay attention to their telegraphed attacks and get out of the way before you get torn apart. Unlike other games of its time, monsters introduced early on remain a threat throughout the entire game. The first real monster you meet (hello Mr. Ogre) has a grenade launcher and a chainsaw. Quake Guy isn’t superman, so grenades hurt and are devastating without armor, and chainsaws are no picnic either. Grenades do just as much damage in level 28 as they do in level 2. Like all good skill-based shooters, the majority of enemy attacks can be dodged. Those that can’t are telegraphed or delayed, giving you enough time to get behind cover or shoot first. So I don’t end up breaking down and reviewing the mechanics and METAS of a 25 year old game in depth, I’ll briefly summarize. Quake has simple controls, is fast as hell, has brutal and often challenging combat, a creepy atmosphere, and a high skill ceiling thanks to some advanced movement tricks. Though it may not have the photorealistic graphics of today’s blockbuster releases, I mean it came out in 1996, the moment-to-moment gameplay is far better than the vast majority of modern games.
Apart from quality-of-life improvements, what else does the remastered Quake offer? On the single player side, the remaster includes the original Quake and its expansions; Scourge of Armagon, Dissolution of Eternity, Dimension of the Past (DOPA), and Dimension of the Machine. Scourge and Dissolution were developed and released in the 90’s where DOPA (2016) and Dimension of the Machine (brand new) were developed by Machinegames (Wolfenstein reboot developers). Each expansion does something a little different and is worth checking out. Scourge adds new weapons and enemies, Dissolution brings in alternate ammo types, DOPA is essentially a fifth episode of the original game, and Dimension of the Machine could easily be the Quake 2 that we never got. What’s really amazing about this remaster is that it includes Quake’s multiplayer. Quake was most fondly remembered for it’s competitive deathmatch. It was one of the first games to include support for online multiplayer. The remaster gives you the original deathmatch maps, where you can compete online or against bots. Cross play is enabled across all platforms, but if this is your first time playing (assuming you play on console) I suggest only playing against controller players. There is still a healthy community of people that have been playing Quake since 1996 and the scoreboard will reflect that should you take them on. Along with deathmatch, Quake includes co-op with up to four players, local split screen and cross platform online. If you like first person shooters, there is undoubtedly something included here that will cater to your tastes.
Just like what Bethesda is doing with the original Doom games, Quake remastered will have support for free “add-ons”. These will likely include approved fan made expansions, mods, and other official releases of the game. Currently, there is only one available (I’m sure that will change rather quickly), Quake 64. Quake 64 is the Nintendo 64 version of Quake 1. It features a different soundtrack and some colored lighting effects unique to the N64 at the time. I’m unsure if the game is locked at a low resolution or just uses some kind of CRT rendering filter, but it looks and feels like you are playing on an N64 with a modern controller. It’s a fun and different way to experience the game if you can get used to the aged visuals. Hopefully mods/ conversions like Quake 1.5 and Arcane Dimensions are eventually supported, but only time will tell.
Quake Remastered is a steal for a maximum of ten bucks. Whether you like playing solo, co-op, or competitively, there is something for you here. If you’ve never played or are an experienced veteran of the series, I can’t recommend this enough. Grab your rocket launcher, pick up quad damage, and get to fragging.