From mid-1996 through most of 1997, there was no other game that got me in more trouble than id Software's PC version of Quake. Whether I was losing sleep because of repeated late-night adventures among the game's single-player dungeons or wantonly deathmatching even when urgent deadlines were pending in the real world, I didn't care: The game was that good. Naturally, Quake's arrival on my favorite console platform was good news to me. But being such an adamant fan of the original, I was skeptical of another console version.
As I found, I had reason to be. First, the subtle control combinations allowed by the mouse and keyboard had to be reconciled with Nintendo's three-pronged analog controller. Luckily, configuring the Nintendo pad as one would with GoldenEye seemed to provide an acceptable level of control, though aiming up or down proved to be a bit tricky. Also the frame rate, while definitely smooth by N64 standards, is slightly slower on the draw than my Pentium at home.
Fortunately, none of this sent my mind too far off track in my revisit to the classic levels originally authored by id's masterful design team. Each medieval room and hallway and each surprise monster or trap were engaging in the same way their PC predecessors were. Unforgettable moments such as a Fiend lunging out from darkness to attack or a Shambler lumbering down a corridor in hot pursuit or even an army of zombies appearing suddenly in a graveyard all had the same spine-chilling effect. It's just too bad that a few of my favorite levels, such as Hell's Atrium, were sadly omitted from this cartridge version.
Once the single-player levels have been pillaged, most gamers will probably wind up popping their Quake cartridges in only if a deathmatch is at hand. The game offers two-player onscreen mano-a-mano battles in any of the original deathmatch levels, including a seventh brand-new level. While the level design here is far more interesting than any of the DM levels found in GoldenEye, the somewhat sketchy controls and frame rate proved to be more than a little distracting. Also, some of the levels are markedly underpopulated with only two players in the game. However, you just can't beat the convenience the Nintendo offers of being able to set up a quick grudge match the minute after the challenge has been posed.
Part of the allure of PC Quake was the exhaustive amount of "mods" (independent hacks such as new levels, weapons, themes, and automated players or "bots") that seemed to reinvent id's masterpiece weekly. If Quake 64 had followed the Duke Nukem 64 model and included bots to deathmatch against, gameplay and value scores would have been raised a notch.
Still, N64 owners are lucky that they don't have to mess around with any extra hardware to get close-to-3Dfx-quality acceleration in Quake. The Nintendo's processor is a descendant of Silicon Graphics, the company that developed the GL technology enabling incredible texturing in 3D games. Hence, Quake's masonry environments and gangly monsters seem right at home in N64 territory. This ready-packed near-GL-quality plus the quick and easy deathmatch setup are really the only advantages over the original game. If Quake is a game experience you don't want to miss, and if a Nintendo is all you have, then Quake 64 is your ticket.