Monday, 18 November 2013

Quake



If Doom is the recognised Great Granddaddy of the First Person Shooter genre, then Quake is the Grandfather of 3D First Person Shooters. Not that pseudo 3D perception we'd been given with Doom, Duke, and any BUILD game for that matter, or indeed the Marathon series of games. But a TRUE, actual 3D set of architecture, 3D models for virtually everything from weapons to pickups and so on. Quake holds the most recognised crown for it and paved the way for the games like Unreal, Half-Life and so on.

Quake still holds true to the Doom formula, as one might expect of ID software, in which players get from point a, to point b, in an as "alive" state as possible, preferably with as many guns and as much ammo as one can acquire. What functions slightly differently is that the game gives you a 3D run down of the difficulties (Easy, Normal, Hard... and nightmare if you can find it) then you may select which of the 4 episodes you wish to begin, battle your way through the levels, kill the end enemies and exit with the rune. Once you've gained all 4 runes, you'll see the end level open up and from there you combat the final boss that has caused the situation in the first place resulting in one-lone-hero syndrome.

Sort of...

Let's start with the positives. Bearing in mind I'm taking a look at the original Quake with no additions, mods, enhancements or other such little situational changes (like using OpenGL etc.).

The game is fast, even on low end machines for the time, the optimisation of the code is impressive nonetheless for the game and even while showing levels in some of the most outstanding shades of brown imaginable, (seriously... almost everything is brown, perhaps something to be not-so-proud of for the future of gaming, turning everything "realistic" brown) the character's movement in and around the game is often very fluid and rather quick, which is taken to extremes in the speed runs of the game.

Enemy AI is little more than the doom system with opponents often taking the most direct route to you and moving back and forth a little if they cannot, animations are clunky but we're talking of a game that would have hand-designed these animations and models rather than using 3D scanners or body mapping for motion. There's no ragdoll but that never came into the fore until after Quake 3, so there's no point slagging off the game on that regard. However it would be nice to have enemies that weren't outfoxed by a brick wall and a corner.

Enemy variation is the usual mixed bag we've come to expect from ID software, though less varied as in Doom 2. There's your zombie marines with shotguns, zombie doggies, zombie heavy marines with lasers (a weapon you never get by the way) for the modern levels before you hit the time portals in each episode and then the game shows its roots as having started as a Dungeons and Dragons design. You'll be warped to castles and such where knights with swords, bigger knights with fire launching swords, magical worms that spit acid (I've not a clue what it's supposed to look like), zombies that can't be killed and need to be blown up, Fiends which resemble manic dogs with scythe arms and severe blood-mouth, tar-babies that blow up, ogres with chainsaws and grenades (the fuck???) and later Vores and Shamblers that are the more monstrous creatures that fire homing explosives and lightning respectively, often taking position in levels as a sort of boss creature.

This is where the game falls a little flat. The demo/shareware version is the first episode alone, sporting a good number of levels, multiple distinct enemies including even the shamblers (giant white yeti looking things that shoot lightning) and a boss creature that is part puzzle, part battle which rises out of lava, throws lava at you, and then is destroyed in lava.

You encounter nothing like that boss ever again; even the last boss is just a large BLOB with tentacles suspended above it that does NOTHING. Seriously, I've seen dead people offer more of a threat than this creature. While yes, it does have an army of the more nasty enemies to battle while you get to it, the actual fight with it is a cut scene if you time your jump through the teleporter at the right moment. After seeing the first boss of the first episode you cannot help but wonder did ID run out of time while making this and as such had to fudge the last boss? And lose making any other bosses too? It's rather inconsistent within the games (especially as there's videos of people beating the game in 100% kills, on the hardest mode, within 20minutes) you won't get to see anything like it again and it sticks out as such a variation from the norm, you can't help but wonder why it's not repeated or other such creatures had not been implemented.

Perhaps more a case of "Our demo is excellent, the rest we threw together"

Weaponry within the game is a fairly standard set up. Axes for the melee, shotguns of both single and double barrel flavours, nail guns of the dual and quad variety take place for the machinegun class. Grenade launchers for that dynamic angle of attacking, rocket launchers for the direct method and the lightning gun that sprays bolts in a constant, high-damage, stream. (Do NOT use it underwater, unless invincible). 8 weapons all in all and fairly consistent with ID for the variety. So nothing really adventurous there and nothing that packs the "wow" factor of a BFG (later Quake games however.... mmm 10k).

Various power ups will augment damage, boost health/armour or turn one invisible or even make one anti-god like (666 health, ho ho ho such humour), though usually found in places that they HAVE to be used or hidden so well nobody will find them.

Quake also brings to the fore, underwater swimming! This really gives you freedom of movement, screws up your resolution and makes it hard to see what you’re doing and lets you sink slowly if you just “remain” there. Drowning takes place shortly after and all guns work underwater, especially the lightning gun.

That pretty much is quake. Save for one final aspect of the game, the multiplayer.

There's the co-operative model for people that like to run through the game with infinite respawns while they and their barely-recognisably-human models attack all manner of enemies and even each other if they put the wrong friendly-fire setting on, with sometimes more enemies in places and the usual situation we've come to expect in Doom. And then there's the death match option, which is one of the most engrossing and fast paced action fests I've seen in a death match game in a very long time.

Every level can be used as a death match while also there are 6 specifically designed levels just for the death match experience ranging from the claustrophobic first level with a few key weapons and really for 2-4 players to the bigger and more deadly trap filled levels, one level that is more a tower of combat with height and floors playing more of a key role. The crown goes to level 5 and to a lesser extent, level 6 as the epitome of death match experience, particularly for groups of 4-16. The shotgun fires rapidly enough to cause a threat but the bigger weapons will slaughter people left and right.

This does however lead to an imbalance of a situation where someone gets the rocket launcher and goes ape-shit mental. It's hard to take someone down with one of those unless you have one of those or gang up on them. When a player is killed, they drop a pack holding ALL their ammo and the weapon they had selected, so it's possible to get their guns off them. This does however mean that someone will be running around with full ammo most of the time as the cumulative effect of picking up ammo drops means they'll hold all the ammo for all the weapons bar the one they were using at the time.

This however, is entirely negated if their ammo pack falls into lava or into a place nobody can get to. Leaving everyone to start their ammo collection over once again. There is a high level of thrill to running a corner, ending up behind someone and giving them both barrels in the back to launch them off the edge, dead, into some lava before running off to find your next victim. Sadly, spawning in front of someone who has a rocket launcher will leave you looking like a shower of blood pissing from every fissure and crack an explosion can give you. But we're still talking in an age of teething and few games had that mercy invincibility for freshly-spawned players.

The game is certainly worth looking into for those that want to relive the older, simpler, more FUN and faster paced games, or those that want to know where the lofty heights of Battlefield 53, Crysis 12 and even Quake 12 and Doom 72: Even more demons, came from and you can't do much better than Quake in that regard.

Incidentally, the Dope Fish lives!