New fanmade Quake map pack turns the classic shooter into a pacifist platformer fueled by vibes

Looking up at pink and green marble tower against sandy grey sky
(Image credit: id software)

Quake modding site Slipgate Sightseer has released an entire episode's worth of maps for the classic FPS with no combat to speak of. The Explore Jam 3 map pack follows in the footsteps of previous pacifist community jams on the Quaddicted Quake fan site, and offers 14 levels entirely focused on platforming and exploration.

I first checked out the map Upright in Blue from author Recycledoj, and was surprised to find a modern urban environment with a synthy background track that was all straight out of the original Deus Ex's Hell's Kitchen. This level sees you sneaking into a cyberpunk corporate headquarters by climbing up to an open window, then scouring the various floors of the high rise for keys and clues to the company's dastardly secrets. The entire time you're there a mysterious voice keeps trying to reach you on the company's phones, and I was impressed with how much of an atmospheric, X Files-y vibe Recycledoj was able to wring out of id's classic.

That other map I tried, Dream by Colossus, was an entirely different ball game. Dream is a rocket-jumping focused collectathon in a stunningly gorgeous floating ruin. Everything's textured in this pink and green marble against a gray and sandy yellow sky—it's an aesthetic I can only describe as "prog rock album art"—and it'd have made for quite a mellow, meditative experience if I wasn't constantly borking my jumps.

I've got twelve more maps to go in the Explore Jam 3, but what I've seen is already so atmospheric and surprising, I can heartily recommend checking it out. Playing it requires a copy of Quake like Nightdive's excellent remaster, as well as a compatible source port—I used Ironwail. Just drop the mod files into a new folder (named ej3 going by the mod's readme) in your Quake install directory, run your source port of choice, and access Explore Jam 3 from your in-game mods menu.

And the Explore Jam 3 is just scratching the surface of Quake map making—this is a scene just as vibrant and imaginative as the one around Doom. In addition to going back to the previous Explore Jams, Slipgate Sightseer's Brutalist Jam has already caught my eye, and it's also about time I checked out Arcane Dimensions, another instance of psychedelic Van Wizard excellence brought to life in Quake.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.