Overdue Reviews: Quake

Screenshot from Quake showing the opening level select section.

Overdue Reviews is an occasional series in which I appease my younger self's brief desire to be a videogame journalist by ranting or raving about part of or all of a game I've played in the past. This week: Quake on PC.

I briefly worked in IT support for an insurance company in central London in the late nineties. When I arrived I was delighted to discover a thriving lunchtime Quake deathmatch community, composed of people from around the company and run by the IT staff.

Every lunchtime I would run out of the office, grab some food and then wolf it down while watching the game on spectate mode before jumping into the fray. We'd regularly have around 10 players in at once. It was a lot of fun.

The beauty of Quake's deathmatch was its ease of access - all you had to do was find an active server and jump right in. Most other multiplayer games at the time were perhaps understandably stricter, forcing all the players to commit up front to playing, but Quake's flexibility was a breath of fresh air. I once found a server running at university and spent a happy five minutes terrorising the two friends who thought they were alone in the game.

Quake had a visceral quality to it that other first person shooters struggled to replicate. The noise and destructive power of the rocket launcher and grenade launcher were immensely satisfying, particularly when enemies disintegrated into bouncing fragments. And that's before we've even got to the more interesting weapons. Some revere Doom's shotguns, but for me the rapid thud-thud-thud of Quake's heavy nail gun takes some beating.

My favourite bit about Quake, however, was the secret level in the first chapter of the game, the one with the low gravity. What a joy that was. Leaping high in the air, soaring across open space, taking pot shots at opponents below and above you - it felt liberating. Also for some reason no one else I played with was entirely comfortable with that level, so I tended to win at it.

Eventually my job in London came to an end and despite having my own copy I never played Quake much after that, even though no game since has quite captured the joy of those lunchtime deathmatches. Martin, Darren and Tellytubby - those were some good times. Thanks for the memories.

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