Remastered Quake Launches: New Expansion, 4K, Split-Screen Co-Op

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Bethesda announced a remastered version of Quake, with a number of goodies and quality of life upgrades for anyone who feels like revisiting the classic title. The remaster isn’t just a repackaging of the original game; it includes a new expansion built by Machine Games.

Other enhancements include improved lighting, better models, as well as the addition of dynamic shadows, motion blur, and antialiasing. The game also supports split-screen co-op, which I’m fairly certain was not the case when Quake originally launched. Video cards of the era had their hands full rendering one player’s movements on one display. The company has released a trailer, embedded below:

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Dedicated server support and crossplay are both included.

It’s a little funny that Bethesda refers to Quake as a game that “inspires today’s retro shooters” in the trailer above. One could argue that the vast majority of first-person shooters (FPS) made in the past two decades were inspired by Quake, period. Quake was not the first FPS game (that’s Wolfenstein 3D, although elements of it can be found in games as early as Battlezone and MIDI Maze). It wasn’t even the first popular FPS — Doom and Doom II get that prize. It’s not the first game to introduce jumping or looking up and down, either; Heretic had mouselook support and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces supported jumping.

What sets Quake apart — and what makes it the grandfather of every modern FPS game today — is its embrace of 3D acceleration. Twenty-five years ago, the success of 3D accelerator cards was by no means assured. OpenGL was difficult to use and was confined mostly to professional applications. Early 3D accelerators from companies like 3dfx were only 3D accelerators, meaning you still needed a 2D graphics card for your regular Windows desktop. When Intel launched the Pentium MMX, it positioned MMX explicitly as a SIMD intended to boost graphics and media workloads (MMX stood for Multi Media Extensions).

In the early days of FPS gaming, your CPU literally dictated how quickly you could game. I was quite envious of a friend who owned a 486DX2-66 because he could run Doom and Doom 2 with the screen size set to full. If you owned, say, an 80386SX-16, you could play Doom in a much smaller window, but not in full screen.

The Quake family tree (partial). Image by Bayo, CC BY-SA 2.0

With Quake, John Carmack decided to support 3dfx’s Glide API (itself a limited form of OpenGL). In software mode, the K6-233 I owned could run reasonably well at 320×240, but 640×480 was too high for smooth gameplay. With a 3D accelerator (sometimes mistakenly referred to as “3dfx” accelerators), resolutions like 640×480 and 800×600 became plausible.

Quake wasn’t the first FPS game, but it was the first modern first-person shooter in which the ability to run, jump, and mouselook was combined with the first 3D accelerators to deliver a game that was faster and more fluid than anything before it.*

We daresay that every gamer who lived through the 3D revolution of the mid to late 1990s remembers their first 3D accelerator, especially if they were using non-Intel hardware. There were multiple alternative x86 manufacturers at the time, including AMD, WinChip, and Cyrix, but of the three only AMD delivered a floating-point unit strong enough to make gaming possible, and the K6 wasn’t nearly as fast in FPU code as the Pentium MMX.

3D accelerators didn’t entirely remove that problem — GPUs of this era still performed transform and lighting calculations on the CPU instead of using dedicated GPU hardware — but they reduced the impact substantially. Games that were previously only playable in 320×200 (64,000 pixels) could be plausibly played in 640×480 (307,200 pixels) if you had a Voodoo and 800×600 (480,000 pixels) if you had a Voodoo 2. I’d go so far as to argue that the reason FPS games have often been on the cutting edge of graphics technology is part of Quake’s legacy.

One thing to keep in mind if you pick up the game: Quake doesn’t have much in the way of a coherent story. The game is more of a grab bag of levels the id folks built, with a very loose story heavily influenced by Lovecraftian design elements. If you think the plot of Doom was a bit too wordy, you’ll like Quake just fine, and it’s a great game to pick up if you’re interested to see where first-person shooters began.

Quake is available for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It is playable on the PS5 and Xbox Series S|X via backward compatibility. PC gamers who own the title through Steam have already received upgrades to this version for free; otherwise, the game is $9.99 on various platforms.

*Note: The 1994 game Descent is technically classified as the first 3D accelerated FPS game, but I’ve always thought calling Descent a first-person shooter was odd. In Descent, you fly a spaceship through a series of mining tunnels. The game touted its “six degrees of freedom” (it made less mention of how it could induce motion sickness). While Descent may be the first 3D FPS, it is not the FPS that modern titles descend from. After Descent II and 3, the concept faded away. This happened a lot during the late 1990s and early 2000s, as advances in technology rapidly rendered old methods of gaming obsolete.

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