For those of a certain generation, Quake will have a special place in their hearts. It was – as the kids call it – the Boomer Shooter that inspired the spiritual successors and sequels to follow. It was all but inevitable that this game would receive a remastered port to the latest systems. Luckily Quake Remastered not only proves the 1996 original holds up, but its new features and extras only add to the title's overall quality.
A Simpler, Edgier Time
Despite the large leap Quake meant for first-person shooters, it still retains a lot of the design sensibilities as the Doom series. You'll still be picking up armor, health, and ammo as you blast away at horrific monsters. There are still hidden rooms and areas filled with bonus items. And of course, you will still be navigating large labyrinthine levels searching for switches and keys to get to the end. Despite the technical innovations this title brought, these gameplay elements are inextricably tied to the series.
Quake Remastered includes the base game as well as all expansions released. In a way, these original levels are a great time capsule of the awkward adolescence of the genre and of the late 1990s edge. Everything from the goth metal soundtrack, enemy designs of twisted eldritch horrors and deformed mutated men in armor, the arsenal of large explosive weaponry, and the threadbare story of ancient Lovecraftian horrors rising to consume the world all mix together into the greatest comic book Image never sold.
I blasted through the original campaign in a transfixed haze. I bunny hopped through arenas, blowing up bloody skeletons with grenades and weaving through the lightning blasts of dimensional shamblers. The twitchy gunplay and high-speed movement of my character felt almost balletic. All the while, somewhere in my psyche my inner teenager was reveling in the cohesive dark fantasy aesthetic. It's a testament to id Software's dedication to punchy gunplay and enemy design that this game still has such an effect 25 years later.
But looking back at these original levels in 2021 there are a few elements of Quake Remastered that come off as quaint. The game's overall color palette of shades of brown and heavy shadows – despite the look being adopted by the game's contemporaries – makes the navigation of the more complex levels difficult. This isn't helped by the lack of a map. There are also a few elements of the original game that seem needlessly cruel; meant more to annoy than challenge. These include instakill traps that require pixel-perfect dodges to avoid as well as baffling flourishes of realism like instantly dying if you fire the lightning weapon while underwater. For the game that introduced players to the rocket jump, it is a bit silly.
Flesh Restored, Made New
As for how well Quake Remastered makes the transition to modern machines, it is seamless. Once again, Nightdive Studios does a great job bringing the game to life on their stellar KEX Engine: the same technology that helped power the remasters of Turok and Shadowman. Textures and character models have been upscaled and refined, the display runs at a crisp 4k resolution, and the entire experience runs at a buttery smooth 60 FPS. For consoles, there's even a weapon wheel that slows down the action straight out of the recent Doom games.
In addition, Quake Remastered includes a brand new campaign: Dimension of the Machine. This campaign was created by MachineGames (ha, cute), the studio behind the recent Wolfenstein titles, and it stands in stark contrast to the original material. Dramatic shadows and deliberately placed light sources combined with some crucial color actually help the grungy aspects of the game pop even more. There is also a bit more context to switch and key puzzles, echoing environmental storytelling. There aren't any new enemies or any new major assets introduced, but it is still some retro shooter goodness made by modern hands.
Much like how recent versions of Doom, the Quake Remastered does support free add-ons. The first one is a certain blast of nostalgia: a completely playable version of Quake 64. In the broadest strokes, this is the same game as the PC original, but with many visual and technical elements changed. It is a trip to see the original game but with slightly muddier textures, colored lighting, and through a CRT monitor display filter, and I'm glad the developers included it.
But arguably the biggest addition is Quake Remastered's multiplayer. There is splitscreen as well as online, complete with dedicated servers. Better yet, it has complete cross-platform play. It doesn't matter if you're playing on PC, Switch, PlayStation, or Xbox, you can all get into a match together and then scramble to camp the rocket launcher for some easy kills. A new generation of players can enjoy Quake deathmatches now; whether or not they'll rage quit shortly after is up to them.
Quake Remastered | Final Thoughts
Despite some aesthetic elements aging out of fashion, Quake Remastered is a triumph. Everything that made it great has been preserved. Everything added has been done with care and reverence. If you haven't experienced this part of gaming history yet or want to experience it again, the time is now.
TechRaptor reviewed Quake Remastered on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
- Remastered Audiovisual and Technical Elements
- Satisfying Boomer Shooter Gunplay
- Seamless Cross-Play Multiplayer
- Brand New Expansion Campaign and Add-On Support
- Dreary Art Direction Can Make Levels Confusing