A gritty, mud-hued shooter with terrifying monsters
In early 1996, Duke Nukem
captured gamers' attention with a rivetingly humourous one-up of DOOM, but by summer id
had regained their position atop the PC gaming world. Quake boasts the first graphics engine capable of rendering not only the game world in true 3D, but also monsters, items, and players.
Aside from the technical considerations, Quake stands out as a top-to-bottom solid shooter. Weapons are varied and satisfying, from your basic shotgun and automatic nailgun, to a double-barreled shotgun and quad-firing nailgun, to your explosive arsenal of a grenade launcher and rocket launcher. All these weapons lay into enemies with a satisfying feel and sound, but the grenade launcher stands out as a really fun weapon. The simple look of the weapon, the sound of grenades clanking off the floor, the primitive pixelated explosions, and of course the chunked body parts all make it one of the most satisfying weapons of all time.
Monsters are another stand-out feature. Your basic zombies fling wads of rotting flesh at you, werewolves come at you with horrifying speed, samurai knights cut you to ribbons with a devastating broadsword, and the Shambler is a truly horrific Yeti-beast that can zap you with lightning bolts but prefers to deal with you personally with his claws.
The general tone and atmosphere of Quake is a third stand-out feature. Although the world is rendered in drab earthy hues, there are occasional lava pits to brighten things up. Levels are really well done, and when you finish one it's a great relief. Generally the tension will build as you explore a new level, monsters and puzzles become trickier as you progress, and towards the end there will be some terrific showdown with one or more tough enemies. The end bosses of each of the three chapters are memorable, starting with a Shambler and ending with a gigantic Lovecraft-inspired tentacle beast called Shub-Niggurath.
There isn't a lot in Quake to criticize. The color scheme is somewhat drab, but varied lighting keeps everything looking interesting.
The Bottom Line
Quake is a landmark game, the first to really bring a 3D world to life in a believable way. All the elements of a good FPS come together, from smooth rendering to escalating challenges to sparse, effective sound effects to excellent weapons and the resulting gore that they produce. A fine title from id, and in my mind the best of the series.