Friday, 20 January 2012

Malice: 23rd Century Ultraconversion for Quake (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

Well this can't be possibly be true.

If this was made in the 23rd century, I'll eat my bandana!

Yep, I'm playing a total, nay, ultraconversion of Quake. I'm allowed to do that because I bought it in a very big and very real box from a charity shop for £1.50. And because I feel like it.

According to the box, I've got "9 Full Voice Cut Scenes" to look forward to!

And we'll be watching them some other time.

The game just dumps me at this pyramid place in the middle of nowhere with a pistol and expects me to get on with it.

It's a tutorial for the new abilities you get in Malice, but I just got lost. It's as if they made a massive, symmetrical deathmatch map with walkways and secret passages and placed hidden doors on the far sides leading to the tutorial stuff.

There's no difficulty portals in Malice. You have to change the skill level in the console manually. It's got new Duke Nukem 3D-like inventory items that you can use, and you have to manually reload your weapons, but the new keys you use haven't been added to the controls menu so they have to be manually reset in the console. Why go to all the trouble of packaging the game in a nice retail box with an easy-to-use installer that works perfectly and then tell people to use the console to bind impulses and set the difficulty?

And they didn't add a map. Bastards.

At the end of the tutorial you have to jump into a big pit, so you get to hear Damage yelling "OH SHIIIIIIIT!" in his amateurish way over the 'You won the level' music. It's as if he knows what he's let himself in for.

Cutscene! Let's watch it, because it's not like WE'VE GOT ANY CHOICE.

Here's a hilarious scene where our protagonist Damage shoots the Quake guy in the back as he's running away, and calls then him an asswipe. Ha-hah!

Damage was a mercenary working for Bossman, a cigar-smoking underground crime boss robotic blob monster. Bossman doesn't want to pay up. Damage decides it's a good idea to do another mission for Bossman because that's what you do when people don't pay.


Would you like to know what happens if you press a button? The main menu comes up. And if you're idly hammering, say, the Return key? Main menu. New Game. Start.

And there's no autosaves. I'm glad I found this out before I got somewhere in the damn game.

It's Quake! Except... I don't know. It's just Quake, really.

Ah! It's got a whole new set of guns! This shotgun fires four rounds at once.

This nicely detailed Uzi is the long range weapon, which is something I have absolutely no problem with whatsoever.

This enemy's got a flamethrower. One hit and you're on fire. Can't find water in two seconds? You're dead.

You've got to be highly alert when playing this game. Everything moves really, really fast.

All this minigun does is waste ammo. Precious Uzi ammo, at that.

They're getting their money's worth out of these yellow and grey textures.

I've opened a lab somewhere! And the lab was the sealed door at the very start of the level. Back we go!

My trip back was suprisingly uneventful. I figured there would be super-tough security guys roping in everywhere now that Damage has made his presence fully known and they know where he's going. (And the level designers wouldn't have to bother making any more level.)

Inside that red beam cage is the secret technology that Bossman wants me to steal. I think.

That rope guy looks pretty cool dangling from the ceiling, but I've been finding his like everywhere. In cupboards, in mid air, in featureless corridors, everywhere.

ARGH. Every time I think I'm doing well, I run out of ammo, automatically switch to the rocket launcher and blow myself up thanks to its ridiculous splash damage radius.

New enemy! Truncheon guys! They like to run at you, attack silently... and take off loads of health... And they don't drop ammo.... C'mon! I thought we discussed this last week!

In Judge Dredd, the levels were huge so I could try to run about and dodge. All I've got to choose from here are narrow walkways and pitch black corrdiors. The vampires couldn't change direction in mid-leap, but these guys are always sliding over to me at Mach 2.

Oh well, there were only a couple of them. The last level had a mixture of Uzi guys and flamethrower guys so with any luck the truncheoneers will hit them by accident and everybody will be dead before I get there.

When I read on the box that "More than a Mission Pack, A Whole New Game", I assumed Malice would be... y'know... different to Quake. Or at least distinguishable from Quake. They could've started by changing the palette. ("All new textures and palette", my ass!) I'm not saying they had to make it Nerf Arena Blast (external link), but these must be the exact same colours! I'm not a fan of Quake because it was dark and ugly and I got lost a lot.

At least the levels have great music. Together, the music and gameplay pour LIQUID ACTION into your face.

I was wrong. EVERY ENEMY on this level is a truncheon guy. When you hit a switch, they fall down from the ceiling. Silently.

You open a door, they're behind you. You go down into a dark area, you best believe it's FULL of these guys. I got locked in an underground area that was totally black which, you guessed it, was FULL of truncheon guys. Guh.

You can run about the place like a madman, but you have to manually reload everything and there's no on-screen counter for how many bullets are left in your current gun. You have to count your bullets, or die.

There's no armour, Quad-damage, Ring of Whatever or other powerups to find in Malice, because our man Damage is too hardcore. I haven't found of those inventory items other than the parachute, and I haven't found a platform tall enough to throw Damage off yet. And I'm not sure I'd want him to survive the fall anyway.

Well, that's enough Malice. My usual rule is that I have to play until I find different graphics, but this game is as changed as it's ever going to get.

Hey! Wait a minute! I can change it. Let's see how this sucker runs in Darkplaces, a replacement Quake engine that does shiny things! (external link)

Hmm. I don't know what I was expecting really. I don't think I expected it to work at all. Go Darkplaces!

(Click these images to go to back and forth between Darkplaces and DOS versions.)

I was expecting the lighting to look a little different here. This looks the same! Darkplaces must be set for accuracy. (You can get other Quake ports that do all manner of magical things, but I've not tried them as my computer doesn't 'do' the whole shader jazz.)

I guess you can change the settings if you prefer the nearest-texel filtering of the DOS version over this blurry texture filtering.

The cutscene dialogue timing is messed up because the game's running faster than it used to. Sadly it doesn't seem to have made the cutscene itself go any faster or made the voices any less awful.

This poor sucker just can't catch a break!

I have to be even more careful now. The game feels like it's running at triple the speed it was before, and it was already pretty fast.

Everything looks a bit more realistic with the blurry textures and the higher resolution lighting, but that just makes it look more fake.

Shimmery textures and harsh colours made DOS Malice look like a computer game. Everything in Darkplaces looks like a paper model.

I finally found the guy from the box, and he's standing in the light! What do I win?

With the mouse controls more responsive in Darkplaces, I might just stand a chance against these armies of trunchon wielding bastards on Level 2.


The only way to survive an encounter with these guys is to know in advance when they're going to appear. You can't anticipate them fairly because they can come from any direction or simply teleport in from nowhere. Silently.

Like these guys did.

I'm going to have to keep playing anyway, because I want to see if this game has any other textures apart from these yellow and grey ones it keeps using over and over again. Would it kill them to find another colour?

Another bloody truncheon gang trap!

When you enter the room, the staircase leading into it retracts into the wall and a lift rises with a group of goons on it.

Like so.

If I stayed in the room and tried to fight them all off in the 'normal' way, I'd have ran out of ammo for my current gun and automatically switched to the rocket launcher, meaning instant death to all.

Absurd traps call for absurd solutions; quickloads, quicksaves and using switches, items and explosives in all the wrong ways. I don't care that the game isn't deliberately designed for it. It's way better when it's not.

Don't use your infinite ammo starting pistol on the quadruped heavy robots. It's not a good idea.

Here's where I got absolutely, completely, uselessly stuck.

The levels in Malice aren't linear. They're more like a spiral. You get to the end of wherever you can access to begin with which opens another door in the starting room. And then you go around and around the same areas opening every door one by one until you open the exit immediately adjacent the door you started by. You've got to have one hell of a memory to play this game.

Isn't that door texture on the left from Duke Nukem 3D or Doom or something?

Malice adds another amazing and novel technology to the world of FPS gaming: pushable crates. Or, to be more precise, pullable crates. To move a crate forwards, you need to move yourself in front of it and back into it. You also need to tilt your head toward the ceiling so that the magic attraction beam that shoots out of the back of Damage's head aims downwards and latches onto the box.

The puzzle here is to push the switch on the far wall, which retracts the bridge above the crates, so you can jump up the staircase of crates and into the upper level doors. To say it was easier said than done is an understatement.

And for your trouble, you don't get anything special. It's what you have to do to progress. I didn't find a single secret in all of Malice. The normal game progression was a unbroken series of hidden switches, impossible jumps and timing puzzles. I had to shoot a series of unremarkable boxes just to unlock and open the doors to get here.

This automatic shotgun fires incendiary rounds. The incendiaryness is just for show. This gun's terrible, even against those truncheon guys.
At first I thought that this was just a pretty cool walking robot enemy that fires rockets.

And then its model started displaying properly and it turned into a big scary walking cyber-man robot thing. None of the standard weapons seemed to harm it and I couldn't get far enough away to use the rocket launcher without killing myself.

Here's another wonderful puzzle.

Step one, get down there. Normally, you could jump down there as Damage can survive any fall thanks to the handy-dandy infinite-use parachute you find on most levels. There's a barrier stopping you from jumping. The entrance to that large room is waaaaaaay away from here, through a series of lifts hidden in darkness and destructable vent covers that look identical to indestructible ones.

After you get down there, there's a button on the opposite side of the room from the exit door that opens it temporarily. There's a fast train you can jump onto that shoots across the room when you shoot another switch. The timing to jump on the train, ram into the exit door switch, jump back onto the train and dive into the exit door before it closes is phenomenally hard. I don't think it's possible to do without holding two movement keys to move diagonally.

The next level! City towers!

Looking a bit ass, to be frank. And there hasn't been a single cutscene since Damage accepted the mission from the Bossman. I grabbed the technology, didn't I? I escaped, too. What else am I supposed to be doing?

The city looks a tad better when you find a lit building, I suppose.

The level designers have finally mixed up the enemy types and given you room to do things like attack them individually or cause them to fight amongst themselves.

They haven't made them not teleport in behind you whenever you hit a dead end, though. In Quake, teleporting objects made a "Thwump" or "Thwiwiwiwi" sound. If these enemies are making any sound here, I can't hear it.

My worst nightmare. Another box-dragging puzzle. I'm through with this. I've found a sort of different-looking level, so I'm satisfied.

If anybody wants to play something that's almost identical to Quake except inside a different kind of brown box, here you go. It's like Quake mixed with... well... Quake 2. Just make sure to take some kind of crazy stimulants first, you're going to need to be operating on a whole a different level to handle these damn enemies. And make sure to revise your 'FPS level design cheap kills' book while you're at it. And get ready to draw a map.


  1. I also never got it why this is considered to be such a cult classic. They promised elaborate storyline, maybe even something like Strife, but for Quake... it did had some cool skateboarding... but God it's a boring game.

  2. I don't know, I enjoyed it thoroughly. The music is great, and for 1996 in a straight up FPS game? It does have a pretty solid story. Not an award winner, but fully voiced cutscenes in an old school FPS is a big novelty.


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