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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Quake.

Transcript Edit

"Yahtzee, please come out of the fridge." Has a big release come out? "No." Did you bring me more lager? "No." Well, then piss off!

Christ, I hate summer. All no games and nice weather and and reasons to go outside. "What about Abzû, Yahtzee?" Oh yeah, Abzû! What do you want me to say? If you thought Journey and Flower didn't have quite enough marine biology for your taste, then here's the game for you, as long as you're badly misinformed as to what the word "game" means. "Yahtzee, we both know you'd only get off the gaming couch if more than half of it was declared a nuclear disaster exclusion zone, you must have been playing something this week." Well, I did play a lot of Quake I. "There you go, tell us about that... from over there, where we can't smell you." You're on like the two Johns!

A few weeks back, the developers of the excellent Wolfenstein: New Order marked the 20th anniversary of Quake I by releasing a free new level pack for the original game. Which cemented my respect for that company, because this is a gesture rooted in actual passion for gaming. "Passion?" muses the AAA games industry, collectively. "What's fruit got to do with anything? Oh, hang on, 'passion'. I remember that, that's that thing I pretend to have during E3 and while I'm inside my wife's dry, joyless cunt."

Anyway, after playing it, I felt the need to play all of Quake I again, perhaps in the aftermath of Deum relighting the spark that two decades of console shooters has done its best to smother with its big fat chest-high-wall-cuddling arse. In truth, I'd never liked Quake as much as other retro shooters, because if you want to find the evolutionary ancestor of brown and miserable modern shooters, then Quake makes for a pretty good starting point, since it lacks all the joy and humor of its stablemates Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, and is persistently the color of a wet weekend at the Siberian logging camp. But for all that, it is still a retro shooter of its time, high-octane shooting where you move faster than a hairless Filipino boy through a crowded bathhouse, and the story never gets in the way of the action. About the only story you'll get is a paragraph at the end of each episode that reads like John Romero is reciting it at you from across his Dungeons & Dragons table.

Quake was the last collaboration between id Software's two Johns, Romero and Carmack, before Romero went off to make Daikatana out of mousetraps and semen, and Carmack proceeded to to craft Quake II out of stale Weetabix and paste. Quake I finds the happy medium, and illustrates why they kinda needed each other. That lighting gun that murders you if you use it in water definitely smells of Romero, but at least there's some imagination on display. The colour scheme and repetitive levels were probably scraped up from the Carmack tarmac, but the gameplay is characteristically solid!

I like that every monster is clearly distinct- from each other, I mean, if not from the background, since everything looks like it just dropped out of a sewage worker's nose- and all have a different role in life. The Knight harasses you in tight spaces, and the Fiend harasses you in the open. There's the floating Scrag, whose job is to molest you in those troublesome hard-to-reach places, and then there's the Ogre, whose job is to GET FUCKED! You think you're so great, sitting up there spamming grenades with impossible-to-predict bounce trajectories. Let's see who has the last laugh after I've quicksaved another seven or eight hundred times! And that blob monster in the last episode can get double-fucked on a bed of crispy lettuce, the way it hops about like a marble on a honeymoon mattress and hitting it is like trying to swat a fly with your jizz.

The weapons are also distinct and functional, for the most part. I'm not entirely clear on why we needed a nailgun and a super nailgun. What's the standard nailgun for once you have one that fires the exact same nails, but slightly harder? Serving drinks and mixed finger food? And the other glaring issue with Quake is the usual one that happened with shareware games. If you don't remember shareware, because you're an overstimulated millennial blinking stupidly at this video as you attempt to parse my words through a haze of ADHD medication and energy drinks, it was kinda like a demo, but freely distributed and anything up to an entire third of the finished game, to coax a payment for the rest of it. But the usual strategy was to load it up with all the game's good ideas.

The first episode of Quake is the only one with a boss fight, and even that is mostly spent running around someone's poolhouse, flicking light switches like a fussy dad with an increased electricity bill. The other episodes just kinda meekly stop the instant they run out of brown castles. Hope you like brown castles, 'cause Quake has every imaginable iteration of such! It's got brown castles, it's got ochre fortresses, it's got sepia strongholds, the works. It's like a school field trip to continental Europe during a major cholera outbreak. But you know what, there's still quite a strong atmosphere to it.

The actual plot of Quake, reading between the posterior paragraphs of purple prose, is that you are Man With Gun, Esquire, traveling to Evil Otherworld to defeat the resident demonic forces. We hasten to add that it's not Hell. Oh dear me, no, wouldn't want anyone to think we hadn't moved on from Doom. It's some other evil netherworld with hostile demons who put a load of pentagrams and Satanic imagery all over the place- not because they're actually in Hell, you understand, they're just really big fans. It's more Lovecraftian in theme, really, in that Shub-Niggurath shows up at the end, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, here re-imagined as a sort of upside-down bar stool experiencing a very heavy menstrual cycle.

But as repetitive as Quake can get with its umber palaces and chocolate chateaus, the world still feels a hell of a lot- sorry, hostile-extradimensional-territory-mildly-reminiscent-of-Hell of a lot better realized than the world of Quake II, which actually did have cinematics and story objectives, but was, in practical terms, a string of identical grey-brown military bases full of hybrid human-and-forklift monsters. Maybe it's just the fantasy setting that gives Quake I the edge, as it adds the intimidating sense that our big-chinned hero is somewhere he doesn't belong. Or maybe it's the rather lovely sound design that heaps on the bleak, otherworldly atmosphere and gives each monster a unique, identifiable voice. Although one does wonder why all the knights make noises like an aging Marlon Brando having an orgasm.

As one of the first fully-3D FPSs, it's fun to look at Quake as part of gaming's collective learning process. "Mouselook?! Why on earth would you want that on all the time? How often will people want to look away from the horizon? I mean, honestly." But Quake I was a pioneer in more than just the technical field. It's probably one of the first retro shooters to be entirely consistent in tone. A slightly laughable tone- I mean, this is a game that gives all of its levels names like "The Tower of Despair" and the map list reads like the first album from a high school goth metal band. But compare that to Duke Nukem 3D, where pop-culture references and monsters going to the toilet are right alongside the captured, violated women begging for death. Quake represents PC gaming's maturing out of the in-jokey fucking about and into awkward, angsty pubescence, for better or worse. Later, it would go off to college in Half-Life, join the military for Call of Duty, and get all its arms and legs blown off in time for Gears of War.

Addenda Edit

  • A Quake at the gates of Hell: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • And those bloody homing rockets the spider things throw out can get triple bacon fucked with extra relish
  • When you think about it id Software's games sort of resemble the 7 Ages of Man
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead


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