A raytraced Quake 2 might be a fun retro showcase of shiny new hardware, but Quake 1.5 is what you really want to be playing right now. Assembled by modder "bloodshot12" (although its full credits are extensive), it's a cocktail of mods for Id's original Quake that aims to retain its aesthetic, but upgrade everything else. That means new, detailed weapon models, monsters (some from the excellent Arcane Dimensions), levels and more. Today's release is technically a beta, but well worth playing, and dead easy to set up too. Find it on Mod DB, or check out a trailer below if the fancy new boss above isn't exciting enough.
Part of Quake 1.5's stated goal is to make the game feel more like the current crop of retro revival shooters, and I feel that it hits the mark. Weapons are still chunky enough to look a little old-school, but far more detailed and better animated. They also sound beefier, and the accompanying lighting and particle effects really make things feel powerful. The new blood and gore system helps, too - enemies gib satisfyingly, and the previously useless-feeling axe now slices clean through enemies like something out of a samurai anime. Textures are still unfiltered, polygons are still chunky, but it all feels fresh again.
There's a lot of new stuff here, too. Many levels have been given a lick of fresh paint, some new interactive elements and reworked enemy placements. Episodes that previously lacked boss levels now have them and there's some new weapons scattered around. The mod even includes MachineGames's (yes, the new Wolfenstein studio) fifth episode. There's a lot going on here, and some minor rough edges aside - understandable, this is the first public release - I've been really impressed by what I've played so far, and I'm definitely exploring this more tonight.
You can grab Quake 1.5 on Mod DB here, and don't forget the little hotfix file too. Setup is surprisingly simple. Assuming a clean install of the original Quake:
1. Unzip Quake 1.5 (and the hotfix) to your Quake folder. (Don't have Quake? It's £4/€5/$5 on Steam)
2. Move the contents of the Darkplaces-Recommended-Build directory in your Quake folder too.
3. Run "Run Quake 1.5.bat", and enjoy. In-game prompts will help you set up the new controls and tweak options, though it's almost all pre-configured.
If you just freshly installed Quake on Steam, I would highly recommend also grabbing the soundtrack pack here - for some reason the Steam release doesn't include the game's excellent (and mostly ambient) soundtrack from Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor.