Quake 4 Review
By the time a series of movies gets up to the fourth installment, you know it's going to be crap. Well, except for Rocky IV - Ivan Drago ruled. Luckily that rule doesn't hold for games, and Quake 4 is the proof. Raven Software and id Software have put together a hell of a game here, and I want to explain what makes this one special.
Quake 4's built on id Software's impressive DOOM 3 engine. It was first thought that the engine was only good at showing dark, indoor areas, but this is the proof that id's engine is actually much more robust. And the amusing part here is that while Quake 4 gives us environments that are every bit as detailed as DOOM 3, it's also got much faster-paced action with both squadmates and half a dozen enemies going at it at once.
In case you haven't heard anything about Quake 4 already, it takes the Strogg aliens from the Quake 2 storyline and makes a sequel out of that. After the Strogg's invasion of Earth, you'll play as Corporal Kane in Earth's counter-attack on the Strogg homeworld. There's a pretty big plot twist partway through the game, and id Software managed to spoil this part quite a while ago - but I won't do the same here. It really is a good move, though, and it makes the game more fun overall.
The single player campaign starts off pretty slow, as you'll be fighting the game's weakest enemies for quite a while, and they're not really much fun to kill. But about an hour into the game, it's made much more interesting by the inclusion of a couple new weapons and the first of the larger enemies. By the time you get halfway through, you will not want to stop playing.
DOOM 3 focused on slower-paced action and plenty of scare moments, but Quake 4 depicts a huge war on the Strogg planet. While you won't see hundreds of combatants killing each other at once, you will get to see some great firefights, tons of explosions, and huge weaponry at the same time. This game does an excellent job of depicting a massive, gruesome war, and your unique abilities will of course become a key part of winning it. And while there are plenty of dark spaces here, the game's not designed to constantly drop monsters on you from "monster closets" like DOOM 3. You'll still have a flashlight, too, which can be used simultaneously with your two starting weapons as well.
Speaking of weapons, let's talk about your arsenal in Quake 4. Just about every weapon from Q2 and Q3 is here and some have been reworked a bit. You've got your useless pistol, the machinegun, a shotgun, the nailgun, hyperblaster, rocket launcher, lightning gun, grenade launcher, and the new BFG replacement, the Dark Matter gun. They're all fun to use, even if those starting weapons need a little beefing up to keep them relevant (more on that later).
Unlike many recent shooters, including Monolith's F.E.A.R., Quake 4 doesn't just tease you with squadmates that constantly send you alone into battle. Apparently, horror elements can only work when you're alone in-game or something, I don't know. But either way, your buddies may have less firepower than you do, but they're still useful and won't do stupid things that get you killed. Some parts of the game will have you protecting a vital technician or medic or something, and they can be killed if you're not fast enough on the trigger. For the most part, though, you will not have to worry about keeping your squad alive. Just keeping yourself alive is challenge enough.
While the single player campaign will last you a good ten to twelve hours or so, Raven has kept it interesting by having your fellow Marines modify your weapons for you to increase their power or add new capabilities. This helps to keep the lesser weapons a bit more useful towards the end, and it also makes them a bit more fun once you go back to them. Since ammo is usually plentiful enough for you to have a couple of favorites, the weapon mods really do make the game that much more engaging as you go through - I started getting excited every time a Marine asked to take a look at one of my weapons.
Boss fights in Quake 4 are a mix of full-on shootouts and gimmick fights (where you've got to dodge the bosses' attacks and do something goofy to win instead of just shooting them in the face), and for the most part I'm quite impressed with how these went. And it's always a good move to have really fun boss fights, because more than anything, that's what players will remember about your game. Good work, Raven and id.
New to the Quake series in this game is the addition of vehicles. You'll get a few segments peppered throughout the campaign that put you in a light armored tank, the turret on a moving transport, or even in the cockpit of a mech. These sequences are generally pretty easy as long as you don't get overrun since you've got both armor and shields that regenerate if you stay out of combat for a few seconds.
If you're looking for a first person shooter that takes the genre to the next level, then Quake 4 might just disappoint you. The experience is largely one founded in gameplay principles from years ago; if you want complex squad-based tactics, recoil, and other more realistic features (which some insist are integral to moving ahead in the FPS genre, and I'd have to disagree there), then Quake 4 might not be for you. This is a game for fans of id Software's previous titles, so if you don't mind full-on action and a warlike atmosphere (and you'd like to kill your enemies without regard to pretty much anything else going on around you), then go right ahead.
Quake 4's not just all about single player, though. The developers have put together a multiplayer mode that feels pretty close to Quake 3, but they've infused everything with that Strogg theme. The end result looks much better than I expected it to, and it certainly has a better and more unified theme overall than the last two Quake games. And the modes supported are Capture the Flag, Deathmatch and Team DM, and a 1-on-1 Tournament mode. It's pretty standard stuff, but the important part is that the dozen or so maps included are well thought-out and fun to play on. Included are remakes of a couple of Quake classics including one of my favorites, The Edge from Q2.
The purists out there that can spend hours arguing over the nuances of strafe jumping are simply going to have to buy Quake 4 and play it to see if they want to consider it the true heir to the Quake crown. I will say that I don't really like having a machine gun as the weapon you get when you spawn, and not all of the physics were quite right to me, but then again I'm no expert. What I can say is that while DOOM 3 had very little in the way of mod support, I'm betting that Q4's going to get much more. It's just a much better multiplayer mode to start off with, and the modders out there will appreciate the solid foundation that Q4 offers and will probably really run with it.
Again, though, I've got to say that if you're looking for a Quake-themed revolution in gameplay, then this is not going to be one of your favorites. The gameplay's simply not much different than what we've seen in past id Software games, so you'll really need to be a fan already to understand why in 2005 people are still essentially playing a game that might have seen its multiplayer peak back in the late 1990s. I don't expect Quake 4's multiplayer to pull over people who are playing Battlefield 2 or Day of Defeat Source, but it is still a blast if you enjoy the original action that the Quake series had to offer.
I had a ton of fun playing Quake 4, and while the game started off kind of slow, it picked up quickly and wound up being a solid, action-packed experience without the dreaded "realistic" limitations on combat that so many recent games put on the player. The online play's fast, furious, and most importantly, plenty of fun as well. I can heartily recommend Quake 4 to pretty much any FPS fan out there who still enjoys the old school of first person gaming.