Occasionally Rik and I like to do discussion pieces, where we team up and review a game together. We take it turn to suggest games, and a few years back he nominated Quarantine.

Released in 1993, this was a hybrid of driving and first person shooting. It’s set in a dystopian future city, where law and order have collapsed and criminals rule the streets. The usual mode of transport now is hovering cars, usually armed which machineguns and mines. You take on the role of a hover taxi driver, trying to survive amidst the constant violence and chaos. Through transporting passengers, packages, and carrying out combat missions, you hope to find a way out of this nightmare.

I was initially enthusiastic. I never played Quarantine much, but I do recall the demo being on the coverdisk of one of the first ever PC Zone’s that I bought. (Zone being our official favourite gaming mag on this site). I though to myself, this should be my kind of game. 90s shooters are comfortable territory for me; it’s a genre I’ve played extensively, from Wolfenstein 3D to Half Life.

Unfortunately, I sucked at this game from the very start. I careened down the streets, barely in control of the cab, repeatedly smashing into buildings and passing cars. I was utterly hopeless at combat, spraying bullets haphazardly while enemies rammed me off the road, or I just drove headlong into a wall. I also totally failed to successfully carry more than a couple of passengers. I grew increasingly frustrated, cursing this god-damned game, and my own incompetence, until I finally ragequitted.

A screenshot taken by Rik. I didn’t get far enough to buy a minigun.

Perhaps it was a mistake to treat this as a first person shooter and gloss over the “driving” part of the formula. While it’s hardly a realistic vehicle simulator, the basic controls are obviously different to a shooter; for a start there’s no strafing. I think I might have gotten to grips with it eventually, if the controls weren’t so damn slippery. Every touch of the controls seemed to send me either hurtling forward too fast, or veering off the road to crash into the nearest solid object.

I suppose the floaty, twitchy driving model could be partially rationalised with these being hover-cars. Still, I found it intensely frustrating. Also, wait, if it’s a floating car, why can’t it go sideways?

Another problem was the time limits when carrying passengers. I don’t do well with that sort of pressure. The ticking clock caused me to make rash decisions, panic, and not pay enough attention to the map. The end result being, I frequently got lost. Add to this my inability to drive the damn car, and I rarely got the people to their destinations on time. That meant I wasn’t getting paid.

I could mention also how without money, you can’t repair or re-arm your car. This is bad news when everyone is shooting at you, enemy cars are smashing into you, and you’re causing plenty of damage to your cab all by yourself.

Perhaps the biggest issue though is my own impatience. When I’m immediately failing at a game, I lack the willpower to keep practicing until I see greater success. I need a gentler learning curve, and a game that feels like it wants me to keep playing, at least in its early stages. (this is why I will never play Dark Souls). I could say that there’s no point fighting a game that I’m not enjoying, when there are so many others out there. Still, I sometimes wonder if I’ve my propensity to give up has caused me to miss out on some worthwhile experiences.

Anyway, if this had been a solo effort, my disaster wouldn’t have bothered me greatly. Not the first game I’m bad at, after all. However, I do feel a bit guilty about letting Rik down. My dropping out meant he had to do all the hard work of writing a review by himself. Moreover, for a later discussion piece, he happily played a jRPG at my suggestion. Okay, it was a highly action-oriented one, not too beardy. Still, it wasn’t his his usual area of interest and his willingness to give it a fair try leaves me quite ashamed.

Not something I can undo now – even if I find time to play, and write a second opinion, I still didn’t help with his own review. I just hope that I don’t repeat this debacle in any further discussions.