EDGE 032 - May 1996


Taken from EDGE 032 - May 1996.pdf (thanks to Escapade on U-G)(1637a7ce7d316455eaa2ca8295a217fc).



From Wolfenstein to Doom 2, id have developed a genre that has both engrossed garners and enraged parents. Quake represents the next onslaught from the best minds in the business

When the new hospital PC was delivered in a recent episode of hit TV drama, ER, what was the first thing to be installed on the hard drive? Medical records? Drugs information? No - Doom.

This entry into mainstream culture, equal to a thousand rave reviews in the gaming press, is testament to the legendary status of id's seminal first-person carnage fest. Although Doom 2 offered different maps and a few new creatures, it was with the announcement of Quake that id promised to really shake up the genre. After a wait that has had the PC press quivering with excitement, a playable test of Quake has finally been released. The death match version currently doing the rounds, courtesy of the internet, doesn't quite qualify as a demo, or even an alpha, but this peek gives plenty of hints as to what gamers can expect from the completed game.

At first glance, the test fails to live up to expectations, looking more like Doom with a facelift than anything special. Only after extensive play do the new subtleties become clear.

Of course, because there are no enemies in place yet, the demo mainly showcases the maps and Quake's use of polygons and textures rather than blocky old bitmaps. Id's development of this technology was a choice move. As well as improving general visual quality, the new, real 3D engine has added noticeable refinements and bonuses to the creaky Wolfenstein formula . The lighting, for example, is improved by the clever use of texture-mapping around torches and skylights, adding an eerie luminescence to the otherwise dingy dungeon settings. The light even reflects off the gun, making the participant feel much more a part of the environment.

Further accentuating the sense of immersion is the ability to look up and down, glance around in all directions while moving, and to jump (instead of having to run very fast over chasms a la Doom). This attempt to bring the first-person shoot 'em up that bit closer to realism is admirable, but will perhaps be controversial. The control method is still not as advanced as Marathon's (despite Quake's inclusion of a 'freelook' feature which enables the mouse to control the view angle) and, in any case, some could argue the added complexity may detract from Doom's intuitive control system.

In theory, though, the new system is an enhancement. Not being able to look up and down would have been unnatural and, judging by the layouts on offer in the demo, would seriously decrease the chance of survival.

Quake offers astoundingly atmospheric 3D environments where standard Doom-esque darkness and gore is combined with breathtaking Escher-like architecture. The maps available are a mass of multi-layered arches, stairways and platforms which entwine around central chambers to create intricate and perplexing labyrinths. This overt complexity is obviously designed to exploit the more exhaustive player controls, and it works - peering over ledges into the dark abyss below will, if the frenzied death match is anything to go by, become an important part of the game.

Each location also contains the usual selection of traps and tricks, including sliding floor sections which open and close above bubbling pits of lava, and extending walkways which can be operated by foot panels strewn about each maze. Subsequently, Quake's landscapes look to be interesting and challenging in their own right, rather than just places for the slaughter to take place.

But slaughter is, of course, what the people want, and slaughter is what they shall no doubt receive. Although little is known about the enemies, the demo does feature six of the proposed eight weapons. There's the trusty shotgun, double-barrelled shotgun, and rocket launcher from Doom 2, as well as a marvellous grenade launcher (grenades shoot out, roll about for a while then ignite), a mean nail gun and an even meaner chain nail gun. Yet to be seen are the enticingly-named lightning gun and chain lightning gun, not to appear until completion.

Despite lacking in-game enemies in one-player mode, the excellent network death match does show off the new polygon marines. Opponents appear as beefy, well-detailed characters which, unlike Doom's, don't pixelate into oblivion when you approach them. Furthermore, when one of the enemy marines looks up or down his head moves concurrently - better yet, when he jumps in front of you, your gun follows him up and down.

Character animation is reasonably impressive, but movement can look rather unrealistic, especially when a marine runs up or down a staircase.

But the death animations! When a marine is hit by something like a rocket or grenade, his body flies across the screen or simply obliterates into shards of slimy flesh.

No doubt Quake will be a massive hit, just as there's no doubt the smooth, distinguished graphics will be universally applauded by the PC world. But will it offer anything new over its middle-aged predecessors? Considering id virtually invented this genre, it is hoped Quake will be more than 'Doom with a better engine'. Hoped, but by no means guaranteed.