Have You Played… Quarantine?

If you had a Mr. Mulch-brand autocannon, you'd probably blast everything in sight too.

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

An open-world taxi game set in a hyperviolent dystopian futurecity, 1994’s Quarantine is hugely exciting in my foggy memory. It felt more like a place than any game I’d played. I remember weird fares with weird lives, cars at a drive-in theater watching a cartoon of a man whipping a hot dog weiner, covertly reintroducing life to the park’s lake by launching fish with my ejector seat, a gang of punks set up in a zoo of slaughtered animals, and cruising dark streets simply trying to avoid trouble. If you wanted trouble, mind, your cab was also stacked with weapons.

It’s a weird thing. Most of the time, you’re earning cash to upgrade your cab by picking random fares up and dropping them off. This being a hyperviolent dystopian futurecity (quarantined after an experiment made everyone fighty), cars casually take shots at you and each other, but it’s not particularly malicious. You can find big fights if you want them, but mostly they’re obstacles delaying you on your journeys, albeit obstacles you can explode with guns, rocket launchers, mines, and C4 strapped to your bumper. People only care about you if you’re in their way or driving them somewhere.

Well, until you inadvertently join a rebellion fighting the local megacorp. Still, you’re mostly helping them because they’ll help you escape into new areas, and ultimately leave the city. Getting out the dark blocks of the first level into a foggy green park was hugely exciting. Watching videos now, it looks pretty frustrating. Still, the Quarantine of my memory is probably the open world I judge others against, and inside my head it’s hard to compete with goofy dystopias filled with zany punks.

And gosh, this intro cinematic!

49 Comments

  1. Laurentius says:

    I played it and it was great. I’m tottally form the ninities and to this day I’ve never really let them go, I still play Master of Magic, One Must Fall 2097 and Sensible World of Soccer. Quarantine though I only played back in the day and it was suprising as I didn’t play FPS back then , actually it was the only FPS that I really played till CoD:MW. I don’t shooting and driving people over and “Up yoursing” them just did thsi to me, it’s no suprising that I settled for GTA games toot sweet.

    • tanith says:

      Ah yes, OMF2097 along with Transport Tycoon (or rather OpenTTD) are still two of my favourite games that I play to this game.

      I remmeber playing Quarantine and I loved it. However, I also remember that I never really progressed. I didn’t know you could actually escape the first level or that it was a level at all. All I remember is that you could drive out of the city into a maze-like area where the walls were shooting at you and killed you. Never got past this part.
      Well, I was also pretty young ang didn’t know any English when I played it, seeing as I was born in 1988.
      Still, very fond memories of this game.

      • Alice O'Connor says:

        The outer rim with all the mines and gun turrets… a dangerous place!

      • nullnick says:

        I had some trouble progressing but i found out eventually. You picked up a client that gave you the passphrase. I remember the passphrase was “keep the oppressor oppressed” :)

  2. Stellar Duck says:

    I have! Quite a lot as it happens!

    My cousin, my brother and I basically wasted entire weekends in the 90s playing Quarantine, Rise of the Triad, Wolfenstein and Doom.

    I’m not sure we ever got very far in to the game as I think we spent most of the time just blowing shit up and picking up obese cross dressing men with purple hair and marvelling at how Omnicorp or whatever it was called was basically OCP. We were kids so we were a bit hazy on what the hell a mega corp was anyway but they sure seemed ominous to us! Also, we didn’t speak English very well yet at that point so the story was so much nonsense to us for the most part.

    Can I say that I kind of want a new one of these?

    • LexW1 says:

      My brother and I spent our time much the same way. Quarantine was pretty amazing, and like you, despite playing tons of it, I’m not sure how far we actually got.

      Unlike Alice, I’d played games that actually felt more like real places (in the sense that they existed somewhere) to me than this, by then. Midwinter was the first that I remember like that, in that it didn’t seem to be just a game, but rather a world you happened to be in (and is probably one of the most forgotten/overlooked games out there), and Quarantine didn’t reach that level of world-like-ness for me. Quarantine was tremendously fun though, which was it’s main asset.

  3. strangeloup says:

    I never had this myself, but always wanted to play it, though I think I only ever got to play the demo on a friend’s PC.

    One of the things that I’d love GOG to rerelease, even though nostalgia goggles are probably making it far better in my mind than it actually would be to play now.

  4. chiablo says:

    Both Quarantine and the sequel Road Warrior are horribly buggy games. I remember getting very frustrated as a kid when I would run into missions that would cause a crash to DOS prompt. Despite their shortcomings, I loved those games. I don’t dare play them again, because I think nostalgia made them a little better than they really are.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Hm I think I had Road Warrior, I wondered why the taxi HUD looked familiar but the game description was not.

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    Oakreef says:

    This sounds pretty great honestly.

  6. derbefrier says:

    wow i had completely forgotten about this game. I think i only had the demo for it but my brother and i played the shit out of it. It was a pretty cool game.

    • gfrenz says:

      Same. Got the demo off a floppy taped to the front of PC Format magazine if I recall correctly (that sentence makes me feel so old). I think it was just the first level, but I thrashed it pretty hard. Good times.

  7. Guvornator says:

    The box art was great. In an age when people love to put every character, gun and explosion on the cover, it’s a reminder that simple is best – Red, White and one windscreen wiper…. link to en.wikipedia.org

    • totem42 says:

      +1 for the box art. I somehow convinced my parents to buy it for me at the time, not sure how I pulled that off. I don’t recall having any idea what I was doing, or even what I was supposed to do, but it was fun.

  8. LionsPhil says:

    Dem gorgeous ’90s pixels.

    Somehow was completely unaware of this.

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    phuzz says:

    I think I played this as a kid, probably on someone else’s computer.
    I think I did.
    Did I?
    Weirdly my memory is trying to bring back some kind of taste associated with this game, I’m not sure how that works.

  10. bluebogle says:

    I picked this up at a computer convention as a kid in the 90’s and played the hell out of it. It was super fast fps driving, a rare gem in its own weird way.

  11. cpt_freakout says:

    Never played this, but it sounds like fun stuff! Hopefully it’ll get released on GOG someday.

  12. Bugamn says:

    I played the demo a few years ago and it still seemed like a fun game. The graphics are a bit old, but the gameplay is different from most I have seen and I think I could play through its entirety. Maybe someone should make a remake or inspired game?

  13. Basil says:

    This game was awesome, my parents read parental guide warnings so I wasn’t allowed it but my mates folks couldn’t care less about “tv games”. Would hate to go back now and ruin the nostalgia but the world it created will always stay with me.

  14. Safari Ken says:

    I loved this game on my 3D0, and I still will occasionally listen to the soundtrack.

  15. ResonanceCascade says:

    Why no, no I have not played Quarantine. But it looks great, so I might have to now.

  16. geldonyetich says:

    I played the heck out of the demo of Quarantine. It sort of felt like Daggerfall… if Daggerfall was a post-apocolyptic cab driving game. Very punchy presentation all throughout.

  17. Simbosan says:

    Brilliant game, some of the weirder passengers caused much guffawing.

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    gritz says:

    I vividly remember my friend in school telling me about this game and me calling him a liar because there’s no way a game made at that time could have had what he described.

  19. forwardirektion says:

    I played the heck out of Quarantine’s demo as a nipper as others have done. Then by about 2001 forgot what the name of it was. I haven’t been able to find it (there were many crazy taxi / carmaggedon clones about after all) UNTIL NOW!!! THANK YOU RPS!!!! *downloads*

  20. vorador says:

    Played the demo on it’s day. I remember it fun, but never found it on retail and promptly forgot about it until now.

  21. Shakes999 says:

    Lets give more attention to the 90’s sludge/garbage soundtrack that came with it. Thou I loved it at the time (Dance with me!!!)

    I loved the hell out of quarentine. I finally made it to the second level but it was too excruciatingly hard. Can’t say it was a good idea to have a level in a DRIVING GAME in the middle of the damn forest! Especially with all the horrible clipping issues. The main problem the game had was pace. You had to grind fares over and over again and just hope that you would run across one that would advance the story. Levels could easily take more than a hour and if I recall the save system was garbage.

    That being said, despite its flaws, it was so much fricking fun. There was quite literally nothing else like it at the time, Nothing cracked me up like ejecting a passenger whos ride I wasn’t getting paid for cause I was so late.

  22. GameOverMan says:

    Of course I played it. I got a 486 PC the same week Doom was launched so I played every Doom clone I could get my hands on. For me, Quarantine was Doom in a taxi so… why not? I loved it.

  23. marano says:

    Of course we have! This was one of the greatest games I’ve ever played on my awesome Pentium 75mhz with whopping 8mb ram and 1 gig hdd. Yes, it was awesome.

    I’m still waiting for the remake, by the way.

  24. Barberetti says:

    That intro cinematic is awesome.

    I’d pay good money to see Volition’s take on a modern version of Quarantine.

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      teije says:

      Holy crap, that intro is awesome – love the music too. Somehow totally missed this when it came out.

  25. The Denzel says:

    Loved it as a kid, bought it again for the box as an adult. Favourite box art period.

  26. ExitDose says:

    I had the misfortune of playing this on the 3DO, which might be the worst port that I’ve ever played. The intro however always stuck with me. I miss FMV.

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    Phasma Felis says:

    “…so if you live downtown, wake up, ’cause you’re on fire.”

    I still quote that bit.

    The cinema is particularly impressive when you realize the budget they must have had–the cab is the entire set, you never see anything outside of it, but you still get a reasonably convincing (for the time) impression of swerving dangerously through traffic.

    I got stuck and couldn’t finish it, though. There’s a mission in the third (or maybe fourth?) zone where you’re supposed to deliver a ticking time bomb to a particular location for the Resistance (something you’ve done before, IIRC), but this time the drop-off location is in the middle of a building and unreachable. Bumpering up to the building and ejector-launching it at the target point didn’t work. I spent some time trying to get on top of the building–I think that zone featured normally-inaccessible elevated roads, and maybe some kind of car elevator somewhere?–but I couldn’t get that to work either. I think I actually managed to get up on top of the zone wall and into a different zone entirely, which definitely should not have been possible (the world was rendered normally, but completely deserted), but none of the elevated roads ran close enough to my target.

    Anyone else remember it?

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      Haywardan says:

      Think I remember that bit. I’m fairly sure I got past it, as I think I finished the first game (not sure about the sequel), but I definitely remember having a lot of trouble with that one.

      I loved Quarantine, it looms as large in my childhood memory as Doom or the Lucasarts point and click games.

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    Phasma Felis says:

    I wonder what was the last game to use live-action FMV.

    (And, since it’s probably some weird gimmick indie thing, I also wonder what was the last game to use live-action unironically)

    • kalzekdor says:

      Probably one of the Myst games. I finally got around to beating Riven last month. I got it in some game bundle or other for Steam, and, unlike Myst, my 12 year old self never finished it. Those games are _rife_ with (poorly acted) FMV.

  29. Rindan says:

    Oh my god I loved this game. I can’t believe my parents let me get it. They must not have fully registered what the awesome box art was or something. I remember having to delete piles of stuff including my secret hilariously pixilated porn collection to get this bastard to fit. It came in 6… fucking SIX god damn disks, which was like, half my hard drive.

    The really sad thing is that Quarantine is really a one of a kind. The future murder cab set in 90’s vision of dystopia future genera has been sadly dead since Quarantine. Fuck survival games and fuck space games. They have broken my heart with their emptiness and incompleteness (except you Neo Scavenger, I love you). Screw World War II, zombies, survival, Minecraft-a-like, rogue-a-like, space, kickstater, early access, and all you cliche bastards. Bring back 90s dystopia murder cab simulator!

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      Harlander says:

      There was a sequel, so I guess it was two of a kind.

      Though I didn’t like the sequel as much. It was a bit higher resolution, so it didn’t satisfy my already-forming nostalgia for big pixel messes as well.

  30. AyeBraine says:

    Jesus on a cross-dressers party boat. I played it so hard.

    I’ve never seen the intro (because my copy was pirated, bought in an outdoors market or more likely copied on floppys from a grown-up programmer friend).

    I didn’t hear any sounds (because I played the game on random PCs at my mom’s work, in some dying Russian research institute that’d lost its funding).

    I never got too far (because I was a little dumb shit and also didn’t speak English back then).

    But it was so glorious. Every fare was a juicy victory and an adventure. It seemed so dense, so alive to me back then – much more even than Carmageddon, that I played obsessively later.

    • KenTWOu says:

      (because my copy was pirated, bought in an outdoors market or more likely copied on floppys from a grown-up programmer friend)

      In my case it was an outdoor market, ‘Car Games’ CD with floppy version on it.

    • G_Man_007 says:

      “I didn’t hear any sounds (because I played the game on random PCs at my mom’s work, in some dying Russian research institute that’d lost its funding).

      That sounds like a story all in itself… Also sounds like the set up for a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. prequel.

  31. Afoxi says:

    Holy shit i remember this. But no, i only played the demo. =(

  32. kalzekdor says:

    What’s this? A “Have you played…?” article in which I have not, in fact, played the titular game? Quarantine looks quite interesting, I might have to go bug GoG about this…

  33. Bweahns says:

    I only played the shareware demo and never really knew where I was going so I would always end up ejecting my passengers.

  34. radioactivez0r says:

    This was one of the many in a long parade of demos I played from discs/disks that came with magazines, I’m sure. I remember thinking it was neat, but I wasn’t buying a lot of games in the mid 90s.

    Now do one for Hyperblade!

  35. Axeldanzer says:

    I loved this game on my 3DO. Quarantine, Immercenary and some game about golems that changed classes I can’t remember the name of (Guardian Wars, maybe?) were my favorites. I actually finished the game and the end cinematic is actually quite good and makes Road Warrior make a lot more sense really. If I remember right there were 3 or 4 zones and you got increasingly more awesome weapons… but that was a long time ago so I might just be going senile in my 30’s.

  36. smoke_th says:

    Sadly pc version of the game(and by extent some other ones) were plagued with problems. 2 speeds – slow as turtle, and fast as crap – you can rarely find right speed to not constantly bump into everything.
    Collision detection along with lack of rendering precision were giving huge disorientation half of the time + you were able to get stuck between walls after speedy crash.

    But aside from that, game is pretty darn good, especially if you can get past said problems.