Top 100 N64 Review: #42 – Quake (1996)

Things Aren’t Looking Up.

Because the game barely lets you look up. 

Quake Title Screen

LesLites’ Ranking#42/100
My Rating:cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

Quake II was one of the defining moments of my youth. It was a beast to even get on multiplayer, needing to know coding commands, directory pathways, and IP addresses to get started. On my first map, I opened a bay door and saw rail guns firing in every direction as someone was fragged to bits right in front me. This. Was. AWESOME. 

Finding its predecessor on N64 was going to make my youth full circle. I meant to play the original but never did. I was wondering how it would port to the N64 since it was a game meant for the PC. This. Was. UNFORTUNATE. 

This could easily be a four (or maybe even five!) star game if played on a PC. It has the same old problems that every other shooter faced on the N64: without two analog sticks, you were restricted in how freely you could aim. This meant using a clunky collection of C-buttons on a X and Y axis to aim above. You will die several, several times from this alone. I found this limitation too much to overcome even with all the other amazing aspects.

Quake Story 2
The game has a few vignettes that are akin to serial killer scrawl. 

[STORY]

I’m not quite sure actually. Something about rune stones.

Quake Enemies 2
Thanks for being front and center otherwise this wouldn’t work. 

[GAMEPLAY]

This game can really be fun. It combines a nice collection of atmosphere, puzzles, and surprise factor that invigorates the soul. The execution of fighting, however, makes you feel like you are playing with your hands tied behind your back, never free to excel in combat.

Atmosphere.

The music? Sparse. The color palette? Foreboding. The enemies? Frightful.

The game really does set a mood. Traversing Quake really feels like an isolated venture with plenty of horror elements to keep you a bit on edge. Nothing like descending farther into a quiet and deranged dungeon to only have a yeti like beast who shoots lighting be around the corner with nowhere to hide.

This plays directly into the horror aspects. There are plenty of surprises and gotcha moments that make you feel directly in intellectual combat with the minds of the developers: every hidden trap gets a riposte of quick thinking. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you fall down a deep pit into lava.

Quake Death
I’m pretty good at pausing the game at surprises to take in the moment of pre-morbidity.

The maps are also genuinely good. They have plenty of twists and turns for you to get lost in with secret hidden areas to be explored for rewards. Each map has its own puzzles involving keys, switches, and doors. This means that death is rewarded with the more knowledge; you want to try again because you find out things that will make your life easier the second (or 10th and 11th) time around.

Quake End Screen
The end of every map tells you what you missed. 

Aiming High Makes You Go Low.

So allow me to vent about what brought this amazing game down: aiming.

This game is already hard enough. Between the varied monsters trying to tear you apart, the traps laid by the developers, and the existential crisis of having enough ammo and life to reach the exit, you are in a constant dog fight. This is what make games exhilarating: reaching the exit after being thwarted several times gives an immense of satisfaction.

This only works, though, if the deaths aren’t cheap. It has to be your skill as a player that failed, not the poor mechanics of the game that boxed you in. This is just not the case in Quake for N64. 

Several levels have grenade launching foes on multiple tiers. These grenades are deadly, endless, and bounce. Trying to be on a lower floor while these guys are firing is a death sentence and a risk you can’t take. Good luck trying to aim at them: you hunker down in a door frame, slowly adjusting R/L and Up/Down until you get in the vicinity of the creature. Your best bet is that they walk into your fire by mistake.

As you meander your way with c buttons to aim, this leaves you open to attack on creatures on current level. There is a quick key of sorts to get back to looking straight ahead (double tap c-down I think?), but then you have to go through the same tedious process to look back up. Then, in the interim of dealing with the immediate problem of a ghoul in our face, you get blown away by the creatures you couldn’t deal with from above due to lack of aiming.

The game has an auto-aim feature to try and correct this problem. I wish I could have captured how ridiculously wide it can be at times. When looking forward with an enemy on a lower floor, my nail gun twisted to almost 45 degrees below to impale it. This doesn’t happen often (otherwise the game would be tilted too far in your favor), and it certainly doesn’t happen when foes are above you.

On the PC: you point and shoot. Done.

Quake Enemies
DOGGOS.

[CONCLUSION]

I would trade in my N64 cartridge for a PC disc.

Other People’s Takes on the PC Version: 

  • Pond’s Press: Quake is still simple shooter fun, though like Doom, the later games have rendered the original obsolete in quality for more than balance, level design and even the minimalist story.”

 

Author: Casual But Smart

I review the top 100 books, movies, albums, and games of all time.

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