Quake 4 Sammy 4 Eva
Sun, 13 November 2005
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I was one of those whinging bastards who thought Doom 3 wasn't all it was cracked up to be. While I wouldn't go as far as the deluded few who claim it sucks, I do feel the game's state of the art looks were let down by gameplay that was a bit of a backwards step for the First Person Shooter genre. Well, now the latest instalment of id's other blockbuster FPS franchise has arrived and I'm a happy little vegemite, because Quake 4 is the kind of game I really wanted Doom 3 to be.
I'll get the obvious out of the way first and talk about the graphics. Since it is using the Doom 3 engine, Quake 4 is a stunning looking piece of software. That also makes it very resource hungry. If you want to see the game running with all the settings fully cranked you'll need...well, you'll need a shitload of money. Good luck with that. I ended up turning most of the settings down a tad (or several 'tads'), to ensure a steady frame rate. Even then Quake 4 still looks better than anything else I've been playing lately (and as good as some of the next gen games I've seen).
Of course, since it uses the same engine, the game's looks are quite similar to Doom 3's- mainly due to the superb character models and lighting effects both games share. But that's not a bad thing at all. Quake 4 has somehow managed to improve on its predecessor (there's more variety to the environments for one thing) and, despite those similarities I mentioned, it is no visual clone. The Quake series has a distinct aesthetic of its own and that is represented here magnificently. It is no great shock that Quake 4 is visually astounding, but that doesn't make it any less impressive.
|He can't decide whether to sit or stand |
I'd have to say the enemies you face are some of the best (or worst, if you catch my drift) looking baddies I've yet seen in a game. The Strogg (as they are called) are a truly excellent bunch of horrific nasties, which makes it all the more enjoyable to blast them into red chunks
The game's audio quality is strong too, featuring very good voice work and highly satisfying sound effects for the weapons.
The game's story follows on from that of Quake 2, but don't stress if you're unfamiliar with that. While it is told well enough, the plot is never going to be of much concern to the majority of gamers. Still, for those who do want to get stuck into it, Quake's story is entertaining in a fairly generic sort of way. The presentation really gives the game a strong sense of atmosphere (which was my favourite aspect of Doom 3 as well). Quake's setting is more sci-fi in nature and it works well. Some areas in the game are reminiscent of movies like Total Recall, Aliens and Starship Troopers. Basically, it's pretty cool.
Whereas Doom 3 was very stripped back and simplistic (to be fair I'll say perhaps that was done intentionally, in an attempt to stay true to its roots) Quake 4 brings the gameplay (almost) back up to date for a single player FPS. This game has more diversity with things like controllable vehicles, a far higher level of interaction with the environments and NPCs (non-player characters, who you often team up with for various missions) and all those kinds of things we've come to expect from modern games of this type. The weapons are interesting, varied and fun to use. They're also upgradeable, in a manner similar to those in Pariah. Most of these updated gameplay elements are really quite minor, but when you add them all together it makes a big difference and keeps the game interesting for a longer amount of time.
Doom 3 felt like one big dark corridor at times (again, to be fair, that was probably done intentionally to create a claustrophobic sense of tension), but that isn't the case here. There are large indoor sections with some allies following your lead and helping you to take down the Strogg hoards. A few times you take control of vehicles, or a hop in a huge mech-like exoskeleton and stomp around for a bit, blowing away everything in your path. There are also tighter sections of paths filled with numerous obstacles, some open outdoor levels and more.
On the downside, Quake 4 still feels much less cutting edge to play than it does to look at. There's nothing really wrong with the gameplay, it is just that it's mostly the same kind of stuff that's been done numerous times before. Unlike other recent games of its kind, this one doesn't have anything unique to offer. That's no big deal though, the action is mostly fast, furious and fun.
It is a bit of a shame that the levels are still extremely linear, you're mostly forced to follow a very set path to get from A to B. However, there are many more hidden areas this time around, so at least some rewards are offered for exploration, as limited as it may be. Also, the majority of the vehicle action is not especially thrilling (there are a couple of exceptions but I won't spoil those for you) it feels rather slow paced and monotonous. But those sections are kept brief enough to still be a sufficient way of mixing things up a bit.
Another bummer might be the multi-player side of the game. At least so I hear, I've not tried it yet myself. I have a bunch of other games waiting to be reviewed and I wanted to get this one done fairly promptly. Besides, I'm actually not that into multi-player gaming, believe it or not (which probably makes me something of a dying breed).
Anyway, I figured people would be keen to know about that, particularly since Quake III was such a hit in that regard. So I took a quick look at some other reviews to see what they thought of the multi-player action. Of the three I checked one of them said it was the weakest aspect of the game, while the two others liked it. I'll just say that I am pleased that the 4th instalment of Quake has at least attempted to provide both single and multi player modes. I might give the multi-player battles a go later if I get some time, I did enjoy playing Quake III with/against my mates.
|Strogg eye for the marine guy |
Speaking of past games in the series, the special DVD edition of Quake 4 comes with Quake 2 (and its expansion packs The Reckoning and Ground Zero). An excellent bonus treat and the game holds up very well too. Nice one Activision, I wish more publishers would do that kind of thing.
Quake 4's single player campaign is worth going through more than once, as there are some wonderful touches to it here and there. For instance, the highly publicised sequence which sees your character get partially transformed into a Strogg was so cool that it instantly joined my list of all time classic videogame moments (or it would've, if I had such a list).
It is pretty well established that many gamers were a touch concerned upon hearing that Raven was going to develop Quake 4, rather than id themselves. Fret no longer I say! In my opinion they've done an outstanding job. For all intents and purposes it is pretty standard stuff (aside from the visuals) but parts of it are just so superbly done that I reckon Quake 4 is one title every avid gamer ought to play.
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A great sci-fi setting, packed with action, thrills and visual splendor; Quake 4 kicks arse. Let's just hope they don't make a movie out of this one.