Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
10 years old! Splash Damage’s attempt to transform Quake – then in the doldrums due to the unlovely Quake 4 – into a class-based team shooter felt like such a big deal at the time. Goodbye corridor-based Strogg-popping, hello open warfare in vast outdoor spaces. Surely the future of id-universe games, after both Q4 and Doom 3 had suggested the old formula had run its course.
You can’t even buy Quake Wars on Steam these days. Hell, the only way to get it is to find a physical copy from somewhere.Resting, not dead. As far as I can tell, there is still a community of sorts, and those that still play consider EWQT’s high ambition to be as good as we ever got it. It suffered by comparison to its cheerier, more accessible and certainly more zeitgeist-grabbing contemporary Team Fortress 2, it didn’t quite manage to live up to grand promises made about its appearance, and I’m not sure it fully scratched either Quake or Battlefield itches.
But I remember feeling like I was in a war, one on a vast and unpredictable battlefield, with shifting objectives and escalating scale. One where my choice of class mattered on a level beyond which weapons I carried. One where the Stroggs were a formidable military force, not a bunch of dumb mutants waiting to get shot. One I had to sit back and recover from afterwards, intense and thrilling and complicated and cruel and big.
I also remember struggling to get to grips with the over-complicated class system, the muddled menu system, the uncertainty over what I should be doing at any one time and annoyance that my choice of class seemed to have locked me out of everything I needed to do, getting grumpier as I was insta-killed from great distances too many times, turning thrill to slog to an enduring temptation to go play TF2 instead. And, after a while, that’s exactly what I did.
Quake Wars wasn’t Quake. Like Brink after it, Quake Wars was a Splash Damage game. Soaring ambition, over-complicated execution: impossible not to be interested in, harder to stick with.