A Lively Sequel To Id's Ultraviolent FPS Series
Activision have been a little pathetic with their releases at the Xbox 360 launch, as both Gun and Tony Hawk's American Wastleland are both direct ports of their 128 Bit console equivalents. Although they can at least hold their heads up high for filling the void of the mandatory launch shooter for the console as well. And while it's no Timesplitters or Halo, both of which are known for being landmark launch shooters, it is a sequel to one of id Software's most precious Ips, Quake.
This Quake game, Quake 4, is different though in that it isn't actually developed by id themselves but rather the good folks at Raven Software. Raven are best known for handling the highly violent Soldier of Fortune games and have previously worked with id while developing Heretic and Hexen so they know how to produce a solid FPS. And with the promise of pivotal single player and multi-player modes, Raven must have had a tough job on their hands aside from the added pressure of working on such a famous game franchise anyway.
And that's exactly what we have in the case of Quake 4. It has the brilliance of an engaging and cinematic campaign that fans were acquainted with during Quake 2 along with the exciting arena based multiplayer frenzy Quake 3 was best known for. To smooth it off, the game runs on the id tech 4 engine best known for providing the unified lighting and shadows that beckoned the atmospheric terror of Doom 3,
Quake 4 picks off from where Quake 2 ended. With the big gun destroyed and the Strogg's leader, the Makron, now dead, the marines have taken advantage of the dismayed Strogg remnants by sieging their home world of Stroggos. You are Matthew Kane, a member of the legendary Rhino Squad and it's through his eyes and with the help of your squad members that you discover just what the Strogg are up to. As Kane you'll be destroying key bases, protecting vital weapons and irreversibly becoming a Strogg yourself to rid of them from the inside out.
As an FPS, you have your standard assortment of machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers and even plasma guns, which are typical id weapons, but you can also find rail guns, grenade launchers nail guns and a lightning gun which the Quake games were famous for also featuring. Quake 4 also features a new weapon to replace the BFG called the Dark Matter gun which does close to the same job but with it's own type of ammo rather than digging through the Plasma rounds like in the earlier games.
But the real difference between Quake 4 and it's predecessors lies in it's Squad combat where various other marines will help you out taking down Strogg foes. As well as your friends from Rhino Squad though, you can get help in terms of health and armour regenerates from medics and technicians scattered throughout levels. However they can die and keeping them alive as well as yourself and without them your life gets a whole lot harder.
As for they Strogg themselves, they've been vamped up since we last saw them in Quake 2 and move a lot faster and more disturbingly real than ever before, creeping up from dark metallic corridors and jumping at you from mist filled rooms. And it's a blast ripping them to shreds with each gun, especially when you get upgrades for them as you progress in the game. There are also vehicle sequences in a hover-tank and a robot suit which help vary the action. You also have to man a turret in order to protect your objective.
Quake 4's multiplayer is much a continuation of Quake 3's and reintroduces rocket jumps and the frantic arena based action we're used to. There are remakes of a few Quake 3 maps like the Longest Yard and many of the game modes return too but it's nothing out of the ordinary unlike the previous games. There is also no co-op features for the campaign which feels like a missed opportunity when Quake 2 had it nearly ten years before. No new game modes or gameplay modifiers make Quake 4's multiplayer seem far more shallow than extraordinary
Which is really where Quake 4 falters as it isn't very revolutionary for a game of it's type and while the gameplay is addictive and entertaining it is also short and plays it safe for the kind of game that it is. The story isn't all that exciting and tense, it is also annoying that only Rhino Squad benefits from having a personality for each member in the squad. Every other character feels generic otherwise. Although the voice acting, music and effects are of high quality with voice talents from veteran voice actors like Peter Stormare, Charles Napier and Khary Payton.
The 360 version also benefits from having a bonus disc that features a near-flawless port of the PC Quake 2 as well as various development cycle videos for the game. These are featured on the special edition of Quake 4 on PC as well. Quake 4 on Xbox 360 does also suffer from some load time and frame-rate hiccups but they don't threaten the game's enjoyment value on a major scale.
Otherwise, the game is a visually satisfying experience but Quake 4's dynamic lighting and shadow effects are less dramatic as they were in Doom 3 also, everything else looks crisp. Quake 4 is a lively sequel to id's bar-raising FPS that features an all-round solid experience however it lacks the originality and incredible multiplayer experience that the series has also been famous for too in it's years on the video games market.