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Quake Review

Publisher - id Software
Developer - Midway Home Entertainment
Platform - N64
Type - 3D Shooter
Score - 6/10

When Quake appeared on PCs in 1996, it was hailed as a major technological breakthrough. The first breakthrough was its graphics, which featured polygonal 3D characters rather than flat 2D bitmaps used in previous examples in the genre, such as Doom. Other changes were the fact that it was geared toward multiplayer gaming and that it was programmable, allowing truly dedicated gamers to create new creatures and objects. In spite of all this, I never found the gameplay as interesting as earlier first person shooters, and the game was criticized for its relatively weak one-player gameplay.

The success of Quake on PCs, due principally to its multiplayer game, naturally resulted in its appearance on console systems, and after some delay, it has arrived on the Nintendo 64, complete with a multiplayer mode. For masters of the PC version, the Nintendo 64 doesn't have much to add, but for those who haven't experienced it, Quake gives the potential to get in on what they've previously missed.

New features aside, Quake is a first-person shooter in the mold of Doom which was in fact developed by the same team. While some shooters have required at least some thought on the part of the player, Quake is all about running and shooting, and occasionally terrifying the player. If games in this genre distinguish themselves by their atmosphere, Quake's domain is definitely terror. The designers want to keep you jumpy and nervous, and Quake has its scary moments like no other. This aspect of the game is unfortunately diminished by a number of factors, starting with relatively uninteresting level design, and also including the graphics.

While the graphic engine was unquestionably a technological advance, the graphic design holds the game back. Everything appears in dull browns and grays, and the general darkness of the game is a two edged sword. While it allows things to hide in the shadows, the darkness makes it difficult to see what's going on. Even Doom 64, the darkest game to yet appear on the Nintendo 64, at least had interesting things in the darkness. In Quake, when you can't see, you don't care. The Nintendo 64 version of Quake enlivens things compared to the original with colored spotlighting, but it can't compensate for the overall blandness of the game.

The original design for Quake on the Nintendo 64 limited it to one player, but Midway reconsidered somewhere along the development process and decided to include 2-player deathmatches. This can only possibly be considered a good thing. Nothing like getting a little action in killing your friends to provide entertainment for the evening. Two players is unfortunately not the same as the eight supported on the PC, and the multiplayer game is hampered by some of the same limitations as the one-player game, with the darkness making it difficult to know where you are. While there are those who will take one look at multiplayer mode and promptly declare that Quake provides everything they could ever hope for, I can't get that excited.

The biggest problem Quake has is that time has passed. While the graphics may have been ground breaking, they have nothing on the special effects of Turok or the character animations of GoldenEye. The character animations are actually another significant problem, with the characters sometimes approaching the choppiness of Doom. After the incredible smoothness of Turok and GoldenEye, this just doesn't measure up. And while multiplayer may be a necessary and redeeming feature of Quake, the proliferation of four player games makes the two player support of Quake somewhat limited.

The sound is okay. While the PC version sported a soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails promoted by the NIN logos throughout the game, the N64 version only has music when you're not actually playing. During the game itself, it has ambient noises, like Doom 64 and Duke Nukem, and sound effects that, while familiar to players on the PC, still can't create the excitement I seek in these kinds of games.

The control is another weak point. While the game has exactly the same range of motion as Turok, with strafing, looking up and down, and jumping, the default controls make it difficult to exercise the full freedom. After Turok, I consider looking up and down to be a major part of this kind of game, but the default controls rely on the right shoulder button as a modifier, so if you're looking you can't be moving at the same time. The game also doesn't gracefully bring you back to looking up or down, or anticipate that if you're on a slope you probably want to look in the direction of the slope, the way that Turok and GoldenEye do. Fortunately, you can reconfigure the controls to a more Turok or GoldenEye arrangement, but you shouldn't have to. The game should know that that's what you'll want.

While the game supports the Rumble Pak, it's fairly unexciting. Games that have made good use of the Rumble Pak recognize that if you use it, you should use it a lot. Saving it only for dramatic moments tends to make you forget that it's even there.

As far as I'm concerned, Quake was a doomed concept on the Nintendo 64 from day one. Without massive multiplayer support, there's just no point. The game is just too old to compete with the games that have appeared in the past year. While it may have some interest from people who think they missed out or for people who just haven't gotten enough of Deathmatches, I'll be playing Turok or GoldenEye if you need me.