A brand new, full-fledged FPS made in an engine from 1996 is coming to PC and consoles.
Duke Nukem creator 3D Realms is stuck in the past. That’s not an insult or a criticism, it’s literally how the developer has decided to make games. After debuting Ion Maiden last year – a well-received retro FPS made in the original Build Engine used for 90s games like Duke Nukem 3D – the studio told me its newest game is ready for the next big technological leap available: full 3D models.
Wrath: Aeon of Ruin, is a brand new, full-fledged FPS made in the Quake Engine. I’m not talking about 2017’s Quake Champions, I literally mean the engine made in 1996 for the very first Quake. It hasn’t been used in a major game release in roughly 20 years. And not only is Wrath coming to PC sometime this summer, it will actually be making its way to Xbox One, PS4, and even Nintendo Switch early next year as well.
See first gameplay of Wrath: Aeon of Ruin in this video:
This isn’t some stunt or joke. This is real game and the level I played was really fun. It may be an old engine but the design philosophy behind Wrath is anything but dated. Just because the technology stopped growing in 3D Realms’ universe, that doesn’t mean it can’t take to heart twenty years of hard-learned lessons about what makes a shooter fun.
Wrath’s framerate is capped at 666 FPS as it could otherwise hit 1000+ on modern PCs.
Believe it or not, the Quake modding community has been building new levels and keeping the original game alive for the past two decades, so 3D Realms hired people straight from that community to make something more than just a conversion mod. And their experience with the engine shows. Even if you likely won’t notice a lot of their behind-the-scenes wizardry while you’re in the heat of the action, tons of work has clearly gone into pushing Wrath to the limits of the engine while still staying true to its roots.
For starters, level design is more varied and open, and can now include massive, sprawling rooms that computers in 1996 simply couldn’t have handled. Wrath’s framerate is actually capped at the very metal 666 FPS as it would otherwise sometimes hit 1000+ on modern machines. Character models, while still low-poly and low-res in an attractively retro way, look noticeably nicer thanks to the better textures and and more detailed models that new hardware allows.
3D Realms told me the Wrath team has also come up with some clever new tricks to push past some of the Quake Engine’s limitations without altering it too far away from itself. For example, the engine still can’t do things like dynamically blow off body parts – models were using simple vertex animation instead of skeletons in 1996, so they can’t really specify what a “limb” even is. Instead, shooting an enemy has a chance to seamless change its texture to one where its arm is invisible before immediately spawning a different arm that then flies off in a premade animation.
The Wrath team uses some clever tricks to push past some of the Quake Engine’s limitations without turning it into something totally new.
Lots of exciting new gameplay considerations have been made too. There’s an extremely fun dash with the sword weapon that acts as a sort of horizontal rocket jump, used both in combat and for some light “platforming” to secret areas. 3D Realms also told me that specific types of enemies give you ammo for specific guns, and that those guns usually aren’t strongest against the enemy that gives you their ammo back, pushing you to swap around depending on your situation and use more than just one weapon.
There’s also an interesting new checkpoint system, which links mid-level saves to consumable items you find around the map, allowing you to drop a checkpoint anywhere you’d like as a sort of “save state.” That could potentially get frustrating if the balance of level-length to how often you find that item doesn’t match up, but I enjoyed the flexibility it provided in the level I played. 3D Realms says there will be 15 levels total, each taking maybe 45 minutes to an hour to complete if you want to find all the secrets hidden around, setting Wrath up to have a fairly substantial campaign.
You can watch the reveal trailer here:
And if there was any doubt, it’s still fast like Quake too. It felt great to fly through levels, flicking and firing as I went, though I worry about how that will translate to a controller for its console launch. I’m thrilled it’s coming to more than just PC at all, but Quake Champions hasn’t even made it to consoles yet, and I’m willing to bet controls are a part of that – though the novelty of a Quake-Engine game coming to Switch in 2019 is even more hilarious than Turok’s plans to do same.
3D Realms has taken the idea of making “retro” style shooters more seriously than any other developer – it isn’t making an homage to ‘90s FPSes, it is literally making a ‘90s FPS. But similarly to what the developer did with Ion Maiden, Wrath seems like much more than the sum of its parts, and I’m excited to see what more it has to offer.
Tom Marks is IGN’s Deputy Reviews Editor and resident pie maker, and he is excited to play at 666 FPS. You can follow him on Twitter.