Fans loved to create levels for the likes of ultra-popular games, such as DOOM & Duke Nukem 3D. Meanwhile, companies enjoyed compiling them onto discs and selling them back for easy profits and scathing reviews. Q!Zone For Quake was an authorized add-on for id Software’s revolutionary first-person shooter Quake. Unlike previous entries in the !Zone series, this one had original levels made from scratch. Fans of Quake have seldom talked about this one, though the few that have very few good things to say about it.
No need to worry about any semblance of a plot – this isn’t 2011, after all. Apparently, it’s said to take place after the events of the original game. The bad guys are back, and you need to wipe them out a second time. The expansion offers 25 new levels, and 8 deathmatch maps, spread across four chapters. On top of that, there are three new enemies, an exclusive weapon, and even new textures. So far, it sounds like quite the hamper. That is, until you crack open the box and take a whiff of the putrid contents held inside.
Near-enough all of the maps are unimaginative in design. Rooms feel samey, often with overused or misaligned textures, and shadows seem to be smeared across walls with no rhyme or reason. Enemies are packed in large quantities, but the generous amounts of pick-ups and power-ups makes wiping them out all too easy, even on Nightmare mode. Some of the doors don’t even open on the first try, lest you headbutt them a few times. Even the underwater segments are littered with fish who seem to swim through teleporters and in the air. Chances are you won’t notice most of the new textures, either, unless they’re scrawled around in big, ugly chunks of level geometry.
Q!Zone must’ve been made with a tight deadline in mind, since a hefty chunk of its levels are symmetrical, box-shaped maps that couldn’t have taken longer than a day to create. It’s such a cliché in amateur video game level design, since it’s incredibly easy to draw a big box with four pillars and a small stronghold or platform in the center. In fact, most of these levels will take no more than five minutes to beat. A bundle of them can be nailed in less than a minute!
Like fishing for coins in a muddy, filthy fountain full of dead carp, digging for the best maps is a big challenge. Funnily, two of the best maps – “Jailbreak” and “No Trespassing” – are
reconstructions of levels from the fantastic, unofficial DOOM II expansion pack Hell 2 Pay by Wraith Corporation. One of the deathmatch maps is based inside an aeroplane, and quite a detailed one at that. Regardless, each chapter will take you no more than an hour to beat. And to think, you could be doing more fun activities in comparison, like sorting out taxes or cutting lawns with a pair of scissors.
The new weapon that Q!Zone offers is the Slicer, which replaces the nailgun. It fires shurikens that bounces off walls, and while it doesn’t have a quick rate of fire, it does at least add some variety to the game’s armory. After all, there was little use for the nailgun once you bagged its super-powered variant in the original game. The new enemies – a headless cyborg, a damage-absorbing plant, and a green goblin with a poo-flinging cannon – aren’t all that special and don’t really feel like much of a challenge.
While Q!Zone might have had a few half-decent inclusions, like its expanded roster of enemies and the extra weapon tossed into the mix, in the end it’s just another fine example of how even great games had some trashy accessories to go alongside. We are lucky enough to live in a time where quality assurance exists, even if a few stinkers are known to slip through. Authorization from id Software was all that the company needed to crank out a steaming puddle of ghastly maps that sucked back then and still suck now. In other words, it’s worse than things like the dreaded Horse Armour DLC for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Drop it in the bin where it belongs, Quake-fans.