Dark and bleak sometimes never gets old.
There is a vast amount of games that explore the realms of the future and a large percentage of them usually fancy themselves as dark and bleak. While the WWII and Star Wars pile of games showcase their superiority in numbers, they show no signs of stopping nor people discussing the tiresome monotony of it all.
The atmosphere I'm talking about specifically is featured in the game Quake 4. Its apocalyptic, its war torn, its full of death, and most of all it's damn fun. Despite this morbid representation of our future somehow being re-created for the hundredth time, Quake 4 somehow still manages to come off as an exciting and immersed experience for such a straightforward first person shooter.
Quake 4 is obviously the 4th running in an ongoing and popular series of first person shooters by one of the masters of the genre, Id software. Since Quake 3 is the only member of the lot that didn't include much of a single player entree, Quake 4 begins where the 2nd one left off. However Raven software is doing the storytelling this time around. Instead of playing a no-named warrior, you play a well... named warrior, Matthew Kain. Basically the man who's gonna get things done, but not without a mass foray of guns. With many destructive packing weapons in hand, you will use them to take down strogg minions, a race of half-machine half-organic flesh melded beings. Their only purpose is making you and about the rest of the human race a form of fuel for their war effort to conquer everything by... using your flesh. Yeah, if that wasn't cool enough, you end up becoming one of them, sort of. From there your mission boils down to killing various Strogg abominations until you reach the sequential "boss" and save earth, your race, and pretty much the universe. It doesn't get much more complicated then that.
Offering its single player campaign as the main course, Raven delivers a well-paced shoot fest with some nice atmospheric touch ups. From the moment the game starts, Kain takes ticket on a careening transport in which he barely survives on the impact. You are then greeted by marines as destruction reigns all around you.Various scripted conversations are littered throughout your confrontations with fellow troops. This much is clear, the game's presentation is great. There are many moments, especially on the intro, where the player can't help but feel the unwelcome of the battle-ridden landscape. Up through and beyond many strogg firefights there is always a sense of lingering death and chaos, a prerequisite for where war always looms. Its times like these where a nerd doesn't need to be an athlete to feel the rush of adrenaline. It doesn't take long to let it dawn on you that killing Strogg is frighteningly more enjoyable than what other atmospheric experiences of the genre have thrown at us, very well done.
Accompanying with the havoc ensuing battleground there exists some beautiful, if not grim and dark environments. Quake 4 may look similar to another Id game you might have played, Doom 3. Well that's because they run on the same engine, go figure. Luckily, Q4 takes us to slightly more varied level design than it's all-too-similar cousin. If not running frantically down halls of blood stained machinery full of pluming, wires, and whoa... is that a human torso strapped into the ceiling? Then its through some dark hangar corridor or factory platform, otherwise its back to looking at more fleshy torso decorated walls. The environments don't stray too far away from the typical futuristic military locales like deserts and metallic corridors, but the textures and bump-mapping give a realistic touch to the glorified bloodbaths. The strogg are just as impressive looking especially in the varieties of robotic fused fleshiness they come in. I would always find myself wondering at what amounts of pain did that marine have to go through to become that... thing. There are many boss fights, but they mostly draw out to a strafing and shooting contest. They do give the game that twist of challenge that all FPS vets hanker for, and like the rest of the strogg, the enemy creations are a treat. Plus all the surgeon chatter surrounding the strogg biopsies were just plain creepy and cool to listen to. Dually noted is how well the guns feel in game and using them to redecorate their plants and bases into something more gore littered than the strogg created it to be... if thats even possible. The sounds of gunfire do most of the job of giving the firearms backbone, but I also can't do it justice if I don't mention the pretty purple implosion of the dark matter gun. Like all freaks of nature, or I should say freaks of artificial life, the strogg give nice soothing growls and evil robo talk gibberish that will sure to cause pure panic and insomnia... well they at least make the atmosphere more robust. Seriously though, this is a game to really see and hear to appreciate.
Alright so I gushed about the games strong single player component enough, so what else is there? To be honest, a hope for some really great mods because the multiplayer is the same thing as sliding Quake 3 back into the optical drive for some old thrills that look pretty. The multiplayer for Quake 3 is very solid don't get me wrong, but deathmatch and the usual variations it comes with has been played more times than Star Trek spin-offs. I mean come on, if Raven can still make the ordinary first person shooter refreshing to play, why couldn't they do something here?
The campaign is fun as all get out, its what the single-player offers that makes Quake 4 shine along with the looks. Its nothing revolutionary by any means, its just another reiteration of many other games done down this line of the genre, but its solid back story, immersed atmosphere, and high production values at your standard finishing time length of around 10 hours proves that refining something old doesn't always mean shiny crap, that award gets handed to the multiplayer.