Oh boy. All we've ever had are clones on the Amiga - Testament, Nemac IV and a handful of the others have been good games in their own rights but it's obvious they're Doom clones. Good Doom clones though, because although they look pretty shoddy in parts (some of the monsters in Testament are very 1988), they were great fun to actually play. But for one, and possibly the biggest genre, the day of making do with clones are over. Make way for Quake.
The heavy metallic clang, clang, clang of a grenade bouncing before exploding in a shower of light and destructive energy is a marvellous thing and something that's hard to grow weary of. You'll experience this many times in Quake as you fight your way through the many levels of the game's three episodes.
The biggest advancement Quake has over its predecessors is its 3D-ness. There's none of this pseudo 3D nonsense - this game world is in full, glorious technicolor three dimensions. Balconies above you, walkways around you and dungeons below you all contain solid, gruesome, polygonal baddies - not as many as you'd first imagine, but we'll get to that in a bit - waiting to tear you limb from limb.
Armed with a simple shotgun to start with, the game takes you through progressively harder and larger levels as you try to survive long enough to make it to the level's exit. Along the way you're going to be picking up armour, better weapons and health bonuses. THe running back for the other health bonuses you couldn't pick up because you were at your maximum.
You're going to be moving cautiously through dark tunnels. You're going to be running full-pelt backwards, firing a nail gun at the chainsaw-wielding ogre that's after you. You're going to be searching underwater pools for secret areas that contain those very useful red armour bonuses. You're going to scared witless at the sound of a dead Samurai suddenly jumping out behind you. In essence, you're going to be having a whale of a time.
...even with some of the game's bigger weapons you're going to be pumping shot after shot into the beasts...
Somewhat disappointingly, Quake doesn't deviate from the Doom plot as much as you'd be imagine. This really is all about blood and guts and fighting your way to the exit.
Sure, there are puzzles, of sorts, but these are not exactly difficult because most simply involve pressing a button or a switch here and then trying to find which door/drawbridge/trap has been either opened, lowered or rendered harmless. Clues are even included to help you along - 'The switch for this door is located nearby' is simple enough for even me to comprehend. And you can't exactly miss the coloured keys when you find 'em or know which doors they relate to.
Getting lost in Quake is something you'll do often, but you won't ever be lost for long. Simply backtrack a bit, stop and have a good look round, using the mouse lookabout control, which you'll have configured at the start of the game along with all the other keys you'd rather use. Then hold down the right mouse button (say) to enter lookabout mode and scan the floors and ceiling for clues you may have missed earlier. Clues you probably missed because that zombie you kept shooting kept bloody well getting up again before a well-aimed grenade reduced it to so many chinks of red squelching meat.
Exploration is still a big part of the game. Fortunately, there are some great-looking places to explore., with glorious textures everywhere and splashes of colour aplenty, so you're not going to mind just running about looking around.
Look hard enough and you're going to find those consuming little sidelines - the secrets. Finish a level and it'll happily inform you that you discovered 0/6 secrets. The desire now is to go back and do the level all over again, but this time not just making a panic-dash for the exit but spending some time looking around and seeking out that odd-looking piece of wall or that switch on the floor behind the boxes that will lead you to somewhere a little bit special.
Such is the pull of Quake. Initial fear and panic give way to curiosity and then even a competitive desire to curiosity and then even a competitive desire to not be beaten by the level designers, but to laterally think (sometimes anyway) your way round a level until everything that can be pushed has been pushed and everything that can be pulled has been pulled. And then you'll go and scare yourself all over again as you start the next level and meet some new monsters.
Let's talk about the amount of monsters then. Unlike Doom, there are far less of them in Quake. Sure, they're much better looking, but they rarely attack in more than threes and fours. Is this a big problem? For me, no.
You're going to be running fullpelt backwards, firing a nail gun at the chainsaw-
wieldingogre that's after you.
OK, there was a lot of fun to be had in Doom when you could go barrelling into a room full of monsters and just spray the area until nothing continued to move, but hey, that was on the PC. Now the monsters are just meaner and harder. Meaner because they do have a habit of coming out of the most unlikely places at just the wrong time, causing much fear and involuntary yelps, and chaving you around with a horrid glint in their eyes. Harder because even with some of the game's bigger weapons, you're going to be pumping shot after shot into the beasts before they fall over.
Thankfully, you can save the game at any point. This is a double-edged sword though, because it does mean you get into the habit of killing off a few baddies, saving the game just before you go and explore a new part of the level and then simply running about to see what's around, not really caring if you get killed. Then you just go back and reload the game before clearing the area out properly. Obviously, the more seasoned gamers are not going to be saving often because it's more risky that way. I saved the game religiously after every scrap. Ahem.
One place no-one's going to criticise you for saving is when you come across one of the end of level bosses. These huge monstrosities are not only mean and tough but they're persistent too and will hound you down, so you'll have to be pretty creative to kill 'em off sometimes.
Be warned. Nothing sounds better than Quake. If you're deaf, then sorry and all that but you're going to miss out. Aural clues are a very important part of the game, not merely because the guttural moan of a Shambler behind you is guaranteed to give you the willies, but because when you hear a creaking and clanking door open you know that something's happening. Somewhere.
What it is and just how life-threatening it's going to be remains to be seen but believe you me, you'll want the sound up so you can hear every gunshot, squelch, football and bone drop.
Quake is going to take you days to play through, even on Easy. However, the Normal and Hard settings are where the action really is and where you're going to get more bangs for your bucks.
Sadly, the single most enjoyable part of Quake is going to be out of the reach of most gamers - the network option. There are a bunch of special Deathmatch levels that up to 16 networked players can fight each other on, plus all the levels from the main game itself.
If you've got network access then the process is simple: someone becomes the server, decides how many players can join the game and then waits for them to come to him.
Once embarked upon, a network game of Quake can be all-consuming. Hours can pass unnoticed as you all run around the levels, blasting and being blasted. Sadly though, most of you are not going to get the chance to enjoy this feature.
Don't let that put you off. Quake has enough quality in single player mode to more than warrant a purchase (check out the machine spec box first though).
Fast, frenetic, engaging and engrossing, Quake is all of these things and more. It may only be a game, but the whole game world is so realistic that you can't stop your palms from getting sweaty and the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. Quake is gripping chilling stuff. Hurrah!