A Look Back at Quake

Happy Halloween! Have you spent all the time leading up to October 31st playing games to give you the creeps? Me too, but sometimes it is good to take a break and celebrate halloween in style too. Me and my girlfriend found a lot of game related cosplay outfits for some good old lingerie costumes roleplaying. Not your thing? Well there is still time to get some shivers sent down your spine and I would suggest the old FPS classic Quake.

Quake was originally id Software’s follow up to their major breakthrough Doom series, though it has since taken on a life of its own. The themes of hell, or something like it, taking over the world and you the one tough military dude that can stop it are back. This time it is all on steroids though as Quake is now a fully rendered 3D nightmare. While Doom was based on 3D environments it was still all created around flat pixels, when creatures come at you in Doom they don’t necessarily look three dimensional. Quake on the other hand used 3D models and back in the day this really made something already creepy just that much more. The Hell Knights being some of my favorite character models, not to mention the big bosses. There is also the famously added bullet trails and “gibbing” mechanic; the gibbing, or gibs which is short for giblets,  is what happens when a character or enemy reaches a certain damage point and explodes in a bloody mess of parts.

But, everything was maxed out for the time, not just the graphical presentation. Sounds and lighting had an overhaul too and while the dark dreary atmosphere of Doom and the sometimes completely pitch black areas certainly helped keep you on your toes the more dynamic lighting in Quake was a great upgrade.  Rooms actually looked lit only by candle light or fire giving it an even more spooky and sometimes frighting feel. Not always knowing what is around that dark corner made it feel like a classic horror movie fight for survival against the unknown evil.

The music for Quake sticks to that rockin’ metal guitar (or Industrial Rock) for some of it and the soundtrack by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is an awesome one. I would honestly pick this soundtrack over the Doom soundtracks and the Quake sequels. But even more, it isn’t all music all the time and in fact a lot of it just uses background noise and atmospheric sounds in a sort of Industrial Rock score. Hearing the sounds of the old castles and the monsters growls just beyond the next door  along with the creepy sounds of the score and occasional rock guitars keeps that adrenaline on high as you try and fight for survival against all the evil trying to break through.

Now while Doom and Doom II really started the whole hellish FPS theme Quake took it to a whole new level, or really to be more accurate just a slightly neighbored level. But however you want to word it and view it you can’t deny that Quake has some great enemies, levels and atmosphere.

Doom and Doom II had a more mechanical feel for most of the games even when you actually where in supernatural areas. Quake on the other hand has a more old world Gothic feel for the majority of the game. Each new area or part starts with an intro level which has that more classic futuristic installation theme even with the classic humanistic troopers turned evil as enemies. But as you move deeper in that part of the world towards the final boss the world morphs slowly into something much more supernatural and Gothic with the large castle like structures. Of course there is all the blood and pentagrams to remind you that this awesome looking castle is all evil and stuff. The tight corridors full of dim light, spooky motifs, and blood really create such a spooky atmosphere and the ambient noise I mentioned earlier just makes it so much better.

Now as far as enemies go you’ll initially just come across soldiers and dogs, but later you’ll get ogre’s, knights, ghoul things (Scrag), and what looks like an abdominal Snow man but with bloody claws and a lighting attack (called an Interdimensional Shambler); and that is not all you’ll encounter. Again this sticks to that more demonic, supernatural theme and less on the mechanical feel; though the occasional soldiers pop up and the Ogres do have grenade launchers and chain saws attached to their arms. Which is in contrast to the knights with their armor and bloody swords which feels more at home in the castles.

I guess I could go into the details about the mechanics of this game but if you’ve played a classic FPS (and hopefully you have) you should get a good idea about how this game works, it is a fast paced shooting fest full of strafing and running. You’ll mow down beasts with a shotgun, nail gun, grenade launcher and more. Though here there is a lot of jumping and platforming involved, which adds a nice new layer compared to the old corridor running FPS games.

Alright I’ll wrap this up with explaining how to run Quake on a modern computer as I’m betting you have the itch to do so now.  DosBox is probably the first thing that comes to mind and honestly this time it is not the best choice. Don’t get me wrong, it works and runs like a top which is great but it doesn’t hold up well anymore. Low resolution, fuzzy 3D models and lots of general old school blur makes it a hard one to suggest. I tried to get it a little better looking but I couldn’t see a way to do that well; Google didn’t turn anything up at quick glance either. In fact the DosBox Wiki suggest an open source engine and so do I; it looks much better. I use the engine Darkplaces which makes the game look super smooth, allows for placement of the original soundtrack (or one of your own) and great resolutions (even HD!) all at great frame rates.

You can also buy it straight from id software and off Steam but neither of them include the original soundtrack. I’m also not sure if they use the Dos versions with DosBox or WinQuake both of which would either have the problems I already suggested or compatibility issues. Even if you buy it from them you’ll want to copy the files to an open source engine.

If you haven’t played Quake in a while or never have you owe it to yourself to check out this classic horror FPS from the grandfathers of the genre. It is not only a great game for this spooky time of the year, it a great game all the time.

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