Review - Quarantine (DOS, 1994)

Kemo City wasn't always so bad. Why, back at the beginning of the 21st century, it was a beautiful place, the jewel of the Eastern seaboard. I mean, sure, there was crime, but no more than you'd expect in such a big city. The real problem started when Omnicorp came in with their "big plans" for cleaning up the city. The people should have known better than to trust such a huge company, because these big plans mainly involved a big wall being raised around the city. When the citizens started to panic, Omnicorp reassured them that the wall was just a "defensive measure" and that passage in and out would be easy. Of course, if that were true, what would be the point of such a wall in the first place?

Sure enough, when the wall was complete, the only exit was sealed off, and the project, which had previously only been referred to as "Q" could finally reveal its full name: Quarantine.

Not coincidentally, Quarantine is also the name of a high-speed first person shoot-'em-up from Gametek. The player is Drake Edgewater, a hovercab driver in Kemo City, who is determined to escape from inside the wall. This has become even more important since Omnicorp began experimenting on the Kemo Citizens. They introduced a chemical called Hydergine 344, which is supposed to eliminate "criminal thoughts," into the city's water supply. Unfortunately, the high bacterial content in the water reacted in an unusual and unpredictable way with the drug, and forms a psychoreactive virus which turns its victims into crazed violent killer lunatics. Fun place to live, huh?

So the life of a Kemo City cabby is not exactly full of romance, although there's lots of thrills to be had. Most of the local psychos seem to have developed an odd tendency to stand in the middle of the road, firing guns at oncoming traffic. Fortunately, psychotics are just as vulnerable to being run over as the pathologically sane.

Yes, run over. And shot, and set on fire. It would be a valid question to wonder if Drake himself might not have caught the violence virus. After a few minutes in his drivers seat, you'll start to see the appeal of the murderous mindset.

A superficial glance at Quarantine prepares the player for yet another Doom clone. But the setting of the game in a taxicab zipping down the highway was a stroke of genius that utterly changes the tone of the game. Instead of being trapped in a room and getting stared down and shot down by the minions of hell, or whatever, you have all the freedom of the open highway and the advantage of high speed motion. You probably won't be killed by one determined enemy because it's to easy to escape. No, you'll get whittled down and bounced around until your car just won't go anymore. This isn't Doom, it's jazzed-up bumper cars with big guns and an attitude.

Like any first person shooter, you've got to have a lot of neat weapons to shoot. The local Weapon King will be happy to provide you with flame throwers, heat seeking missiles, and all the bullets that your hood-mounted chain gun could ever want, provided you have the cash.

Cash?!? Where can a hardworking cabby pick up the bucks to deck himself out in heavy armament? Well, obviously, by picking up fares and delivering them, with speed, to their desired location. True, some of them are psychos, but with a bulletproof shield between the passenger and you, you're really not in that much danger. Besides, if someone gets on your nerves, you have an ejection seat on a hair trigger.

Also, there is a cadre of revolutionaries on the road who will do anything to help out someone who is an enemy of Omnicorp, even give them the passwords to get through the wall! Don't worry about finding them, they'll find you!

The sound effects are hilarious. Every one you run over lets out with a satisfying scream, and of course, there are explosions galore. You can even add to the racket with the Enter key "horn" and the F10 curse key that lets fly with a robust "Up yours!" These features have nothing to do with actual gameplay, they're just a little extra fun for the player.

The CD-ROM player gets the benefit of an introductory music video, featuring digitized live action footage showing a Drake Edgewater who bears a striking resemblance to Lister on Red Dwarf. Also, if you load the entire game onto your hard drive, you can play your audio CDs while you drive! This was a great idea, and it really fit in well with the game concept, but I wish the sound effects could be laid over the music. I hate having to choose between music or explosions.

The only big problem I had with the game was their chosen method of copy protection, a painful to read matrix of numbers printed black on maroon on a piece of cardboard. This wouldn't have been so bad if you didn't have to use it EVERY SINGLE TIME you start the game. I know there are ways to disable this sort of thing after a particular player has "proved himself worthy," and I wish Gametek had thought this out a little better.

But if you're talking about the game proper, Quarantine definitely has what it takes. A fast paced game with tons of action, a little strategy, and gallons of blood. Well, as you can see on the box, Drake's got good windshield wipers.

Play the demo for this game directly in your browser