As a disclaimer, I'd like to point out that I'm only reviewing the single-player aspect of what is primarily a multiplayer game. I haven't played its multiplayer variant simply because I never play multiplayer games; so this review is fully one-sided and can be considered unbiased only if we limit all the comparisons to other single-player FPSs.
It is easy to sum up the positives of Quake
in a nutshell: great graphics, superb engine. Just like with Doom
before, id Software managed to cram fast-paced gameplay into impressively-looking environments. Despite the clear overdose of brown colors, the levels of Quake
still contain some eye-candy. The quality of graphical design is uneven, but some of the stages impress with their slightly "Lovecraftian" undertones. I wish they went all the way with the medieval tendency: ominous castles and bright lava pits are by far more interesting than the drab alien sci-fi the game keeps reverting to. But of course, the true revolution comes courtesy of real 3D enemy models, which are surprisingly well-animated as well. Fighting enemies that actually form a visual whole with the backgrounds is technically a significant step forward compared to the sprite-blasting of former 2.5D games.
If all you want is a raw variant of Doom
done in fancy 3D, you will probably spend some happy hours with Quake
. At least there are still secret areas that may lead to powerful weapons, and even usable items. The latter, however, were probably introduced for multiplaying purposes: an instant-use, limited-time quad-damage power-up feels too arcadish in a single-player campaign of a 3D shooter.
is, for all purposes, an attempt to recreate the simple old-school gameplay of Doom
in full 3D. I suppose there is no need to complain how it fully disregards any development that took place within the frames of the genre during the three years separating the two games. After all, if you went for the now-archaic joy of monster-blasting with an occasional "find the silver key" segment, enhancements like interactive environments (Quake
even gets rid of the "use" key!), setpieces, mission objectives, etc. would probably be superfluous. The problem is, however, that Quake
also fails to repeat the thrill of Doom
in a prettier environment. It has little of what made its predecessor a landmark game.
I seriously played Doom
for the first time more than fifteen years after its release, and it scared me. It had an unparalleled atmospheric tension that made me forget its primitive gameplay mechanics. On the contrary, Quake
is not scary at all; in fact, it doesn't really convey any emotion, it's just lukewarm. I've heard praises concerning the enemies in this game, but while they certainly look
good, they are ultimately unimpressive, with a nearly cartoony feel that penetrates the whole game. Playing just a few levels of Quake
immediately reveals its major weakness: it was not designed with the purpose of immersing the player in its world, but merely with the goal of demonstrating its engine.
The sloppiness in design is evident everywhere; even the weapons, though in 3D, look and feel like there wasn't much thought put into them. The levels retain the nonsensical secret passages and illogically placed weapon caches of Doom
, but this randomness now extends to everything else: there are no memorable moments in the game, no experiences similar to sudden co-ordinated demonic attacks on a helpless protagonist locked in a dark room. Now there are annoying and unnecessary traps that only add to the arcade-like reality of the game.
Even though you could access any episode of Doom
from the start, it still had its own logical stage progression. Perhaps it didn't have a real narrative, but it did manage to tell a "story" of sorts: the lone surviving marine had to escape a demon-infested space station before traveling to the depths of hell itself. The first episode took place in a sci-fi space environment with only a touch of hellish imagery; afterwards, the game became progressively darker, culminating in nearly disturbing, heavily "satanic" scenes. Quake
, on the other hand, mixes bland sci-fi and unimpressive "gothic" stages liberally. You never feel you are really moving somewhere; you are merely "jumping" from one incoherently designed level to another, exploring a nicely-looking, but lifeless and ultimately repetitive playground. The textures also severely lack the artistic attention to detail that distinguished Doom
The Bottom Line
Disregarding its merits as a multiplayer game and a software demonstration, Quake
is far from being a satisfying single-player FPS experience. In fact, it is difficult to take Quake
seriously in this respect; it hardly even tries to be anything more than a display of its flashy new engine. Suffice to say that even as a harmless "3D Doom", Quake
doesn't deliver the goods: lacking in atmosphere and coherent level design, it is a game that rose to fame solely for technological reasons, and contributed nothing genuinely valuable to the genre.