Quake on the Switch Is Boring, Until It Isn’t

Thank goodness for those expansions

Key Takeaways

  • It’s okay to skip the early stages of the base game; you aren’t missing anything important.
  • The four expansions are where Quake on the Switch really shines.
  • There are loads of graphics options to play around with until you find your preferred setup.
Screenshot of the Quake Logo.

The early portion of Quake on the Switch doesn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped, but fortunately, the extra content makes up for most of its shortcomings.

I’m old enough to remember when Quake was the first-person shooter, grabbing the spotlight from Doom thanks to its more advanced visuals. Seriously, my friend Nick and I would spend hours in the game just marveling at how we could see enemy remains from different angles. 3D models were a huge deal back then. Naturally, I was excited to see how one of my most fondly remembered shooters holds up in 2021. Turns out, it doesn’t. At least not at first.

Sure Quake has that fancy 3D modeling, but going back to it now, I can admit that it’s missing its predecessor's personality and colorful style. The early sections of the original Quake are more-or-less textbook examples of a Dull Brown Shooter. As a result, many of the enemies are bland, most of the weapons aren’t interesting, and many of the environments are painfully basic—even with all the secrets.

There’s something about playing

Forget the First One

Partway through the original game’s campaign, I was ready to call it quits because I was so bored, but I wanted to give it one more chance. Sure the first chapter’s boss was a yawn-fest, but there was so much more for me to take a look at. It felt silly to ignore it.

So I loaded up the first expansion, The Scourge of Armagon, and something changed. The environments were more varied and complex; new enemies were introduced; the puzzles weren’t obnoxious. I was having fun.

At first, I thought maybe I was enjoying the expansion more than the early chapters of the base game because it was more of a challenge, but no. Having to liberally use the Quicksave feature because I kept dying was more of a frustration than anything. It really came down to a better level design. Areas looked more interesting, were a blast to navigate through, and the enemy placements kept me on my toes.

Screenshot from Quake on the Nintendo Switch.
Split screen comparison of the 'All Off' and 'All On' options in 'Quake.'.

The improvements just got better the further down the list I went, culminating with the brand new Dimension of the Machine expansion. I can’t be sure if it’s due to more modern level design sensibilities or improved creation tools that the other expansions didn’t have, but wow.

Dimension of the Machine looks fantastic. Even the hub area stands out over the original game’s environments with some spectacular level geometry and lighting details. I was legitimately stunned the first time I started it up.

Oh Yeah, the Visuals

A big reason why I’m so enamored with the look of Quake on the Switch—particularly the expansions—is because of the graphics options. There are a lot of toggles in the menu that you can play around with, from texture smoothing to complex shadows.

Even the Switch outclasses the most advanced gaming rigs from 1996, so everything runs smoothly no matter what you choose. Okay, technically if you turn off model interpolation it makes enemy animations look choppy, but that’s not a performance thing.

Screenshot from 'Quake' on the Nintendo Switch.

I played through a fair bit of Quake with everything turned on, at high resolution, and with texture smoothing, and it was smooth the whole time. Which is great and all, but the quality of the visuals still felt a little "off" to me. It wasn’t until I played around with the graphical settings while in the Dimension of the Machine expansion that I found my preferred loadout: everything but texture smoothing.

There’s something about playing Quake with all the graphical options turned up to full, but with the blocky textures intact, that practically sings. It’s a sweet spot between nostalgic faithfulness and modern updates that makes it feel now, in 2021, like I remember it from 25 years ago.

In fact, that’s a kind of metaphor for how I’ve felt playing Quake on the Switch. What I think I remember and what actually was are two different things, but if you’re patient with it, you can find a near-perfect combination.

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