It’s the mid-1990s. First person shooters are riding high thanks to the likes of ID Software‘s Doom and 3D Realms‘ Duke Nukem 3D. In June of 1996, a refreshing shooter franchise is ready to enter through to take the world by storm. Enter… Quake.
Quake follows a lone soldier on his quest to stop an almighty evil from some nebulously sinister purpose. Armed with a trusty shotgun, you guide the soldier through a series of stages, slaying various horrifying monsters so you can eventually find the source of it all and put an end to the evil. There is a little bit more to narrative, learned through fluff text at the end of each stage, but the big picture is fairly standard stuff. In the end, it just serves as optional context for what you’ve come here to do: crush monstrous enemies.
Making my way down hell, running fast, demons blast, and I’m very lost. That’s the basic setup for Doom, and much of it remains relevant within Quake. You run around stages, fighting off dangerous foes with an arsenal of weapons, looking for keys to open closed paths, and even do the occasional bit of platforming. It’s very much the same setup as most other shooters at the time, with most main differences coming down to the theming of the enemies, world, and the arsenal you acquire.
Quake takes a lot of inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the early 20th century author known for writing cosmic horror. And since the beasties of Quake take inspiration from his works instead of traditional fantasy or sci-fi, they have this really deformed, otherworldly appearance that I find kind of disturbing. Luckily, the game lets you fight them off using the various weapons you can discover throughout.
Each chapter starts you off with a regular shotgun and an axe in case you run out of ammo. But as you explore you’ll also find fully automatic nailguns, explosive launchers, and a really neat thing that shoots a lightning bolt—and using all of these weapons can be pretty fun.
For a lot of this game, the challenge can feel decently balanced, keeping it decently difficult without making it unfair. You’ll strafe around at a million miles per hour, trying to kill your enemy before they take you out, and many times that is exhilarating and fun. But then there are parts towards the back half of the game where I feel that the challenge can be a little unbalanced. Not only do some of the enemy spawn points feel a little too cheap, but also just the sheer amount of certain, very tricky monsters that group together towards the later stages can often lead to more frustration than might be warranted. When the combat’s at its best, it’s an absolute thrill ride. But at its worst it feels like it’s just difficult for difficulty’s sake.
If you expected this to be a full on remake of the original Quake with fancy new graphics, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s very much still the same title that dropped in ’96, but with a few minor visual tweaks. Elements such as lighting, texture resolution, and even animation have been slightly upped for this remaster. Graphically, it’s still the old game with a little bit of extra polish, which I think works quite well. It allows the game to look a bit nicer while still feeling authentic to the original release.
This remaster also sees the return of its original musical score, which hasn’t been available in previous rereleases due to licensing hell. Composed by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, the score for Quake relies on a lot of low, droning sounds, combined at times with these otherworldly and disgusting sound effects to create a horrific and oppressive atmosphere that sets it aside from the heavy metal aesthetic of its contemporaries.
Also within this rerelease are the game’s two original expansions, The Scourge of Armagon and Dissolution of Eternity, along with a couple of brand new expansions created by Wolfenstein: The New Order developers MachineGames. The remaster will also allow for fan-made mods and expansions to be supported within it. And finally, the beloved multiplayer mode is back, with dedicated servers so that you can blow up other players without having to come up with your own server workarounds. So yeah, this remaster has plenty of meat on its bone.
While I do think that a few of its combat sections can feel somewhat unfair, there is no denying that Quake Remastered—on the whole—is a damn fine shooter with great gameplay, beautifully touched-up graphics, a hauntingly stunning score by Trent Reznor, and a plethora of content.