The most influential Quake mod of all time is back

Quake Threewave CTF
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Threewave, the classic capture the flag mod for the original Quake, is back after 26 years. Bethesda announced today that nine levels from the original Threewave CTF mod, along with the grappling hook, special runes, and other enhancements, have been brought back to life and added for free to the Quake remaster on Steam.

It's hard to imagine now, but when Quake was originally released, it was very bare-bones. Threewave was one of the first big mods to address the game's shortcomings: Developed by Zoid Kirsch, it was pretty basic itself at first, but it offered the excitement of goal-oriented teamplay and, maybe even more importantly, a grappling hook that changed everything.

"Over the course of many updates, and eventually a QuakeWorld version, Threewave CTF would go on [to] make Capture the Flag a household name in multiplayer game modes, and even spawn websites that exclusively covered Capture the Flag modes in games," Bethesda said. "Threewave CTF would be released officially as a part of Quake 2, and the Quake 3 version of the mod would bring in new flag-based game modes and maps that would later make their way into Quake Live. Quake multiplayer and Threewave CTF have always been intertwined, and now the mod that started it all is now available for free in the enhanced Quake re-release."

This version of Threewave features an improved flag status display (which is almost disappointing—you can't capture the enemy flag unless yours is in the base, and half the fun in old-time CTF is running around trying to find out where it went so you can make the cap while enemy players chase you like a pack of pissed-off bloodhounds), team scoreboard, and interface. The maps have also been tweaked to provide better lighting and fog effects. Four new runes will spawn randomly at the start of each match, offering enhanced damage resistance, damage output, and health regeneration to whoever's lucky enough to be carrying them. Runes, like flags, will drop on death and can be picked up by other players, so even if somebody beats you to it, you can still beat them for it.

The grappling hook is where the real magic is, though. You can use it to turn yourself into a virtual turret by grappling into a wall and then switching weapons—pick a good spot and you'll make enemy players madder than hell trying to figure out who's shooting them. You can also use it to grapple onto other players, causing a constant stream of damage (and exposing you to payback damage from your target, mind) and with practice you can even use it to bunny hop around the map, moving with far greater speed and agility than normal.

Nostalgia is the big driver here, but even if you don't have history with it, Threewave stands on its own merits as a legitimately good multiplayer mod. It's simple, direct, and accessible, but surprisingly deep, too—a great way to scratch the team-based action itch without having to spend hours learning every intricacy of the maps and systems.

The Threewave CTF comeback was announced as part of QuakeCon 2022, which is live now and runs until August 20. It's included with the fourth and newest update to Quake, which is live now and should install automatically the next time you start the game. To get into the action, start an online multiplayer game, go into the match browser, and look for CTF matches. That's it—have fun!

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.