Quake 4 Review

If you say the word Quake, gamers immediately get thoughts of Nail Guns, Rocket Jumps, and brown textures – lots of brown textures.  Id, Raven, and Activision would like you to return to the world of Quake, but unlike Quake III, this game is a true sequel to 1997’s Quake II. 

Quake 4 brings a lot of ‘firsts’ to the table.  The first item that is new is that you finally have a name.  You are no longer the nameless, faceless Marine putting it all on the line against the Strogg.  You step into the combat boots of Corporal Matthew Kane, a grunt in the Rhino Squad. 

Another first in this game is that you will pilot vehicles.  You’ll get a chance to ride on the back of a hover truck, pilot a hovertank, and stomp Strogg ass with a small mech. 

Probably the biggest first for the Quake series is the fact that Raven has built this game.  With id providing heavy support, Raven jumped behind the wheel and has brought not only a great multiplayer game like Quake III, but a compelling single player game as well. 

In another divergence from the original, the single player action isn’t just you against the world. You will work with a squad of space Marines to finish what was started in Quake II.  With the death of the Makron, the Marines are tasked with the primary assault on the enemy’s home planet Stroggos.  You’ll have Techs, Medics, and other soldiers by your side.  You’ll embark on actual missions instead of just plowing through the area to find the next door that will lead to the next boss. 

With all of these changes, can Quake 4 bring it to the table like its predecessor did, or are all of these changes too much of a divergence?

Quake 4 is based on the Doom 3 engine.  Don’t let that make you think that this is another crawl through dark corridors with semi-plastic-looking characters and closets full of monsters – Quake 4 represents a step forward with the Doom 3 engine. 

The graphics in Quake 4 represent one of the best looking game engines around.  The characters have lost some of that ‘plastic’ look and some of the rough angles present in Doom 3 are gone.  The characters you’ll interact with seem to be more alive.  The animation, the soft normal mapping, and the incredible lighting system make this game look fantastic.  The weapon models look like they have been painstakingly created.  Each weapon has a HUD on it that shows how many rounds you have left.  All of the weapons have some sort of muzzle flash, with the more exotic Strogg weapons obtained later in the game often having some sort of blue contrail or similar effect.  The screenshots, as it has been for the last few titles this generation, really do not give this game proper credit.  It is simply beautiful.

For a frame of reference, I am running an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor with 2GB of PC3200 Dual Channel RAM.  I also have a PCI-e 7800 GT eVGA video card running the latest drivers.  This has enabled me to run the game at 1280×1024 resolution, with 16x AA and all options set to Ultra.  A word of caution – the Ultra settings use 500mb texture sizes so if you are not running a 256mb graphics card, you may want a more conservative setting.  All of that said, the game ran flawlessly regardless of how much filled the screen.  I can’t quote fill rates or frame rates without more analysis, but I can say that I never saw a hiccup. 

The best thing about the upgrades to the Doom 3 engine is that you will not find as much impermeable darkness.  Id and Raven listened to your feedback and have brightened the game up.  There are outside areas that are well lit, and the corridors are often lit enough for you to see your enemy before they are close enough to share a Coke and a smile.  As you descend into the depths of the Strogg stronghold you’ll find more areas bathed in darkness, but a flashlight (with an infinite battery, thank you very much) attached to your pistol and machine gun will help uncover what lurks in the dark.   The result is that you will have a much less ‘survival horror’ feel to the game, and more of a ‘war’ feeling. 

I find that the fastest way to destroy immersion in a game is to put bad voice acting in it.  There is nothing scary about a guy who sounds like he is half asleep while droning out his lines.  Id and Raven realize this and have spent the time making sure that they have picked out great voice actors.  There aren’t any big name stars here, just hard working voice actors who care about their job.  The end result is that you actually care about some of the team members.  When one of them dies, you realize the loss.   Even Tech Strauss’ incessant whining is a welcome addition to the game.  It presents just the right amount of humor to a very dark and grim situation.  Occasionally there are a few sound glitches where you’ll get some of the same taunts from your team in a short span, but it isn’t overly distracting.

The weapons have a satisfying bass-filled thump to them.  The lightning gun crackles as it sears the flesh of your enemies, crisping their skin under its arc.  It is an improvement over the somewhat weaker weapon sounds occasionally used in Doom 3. 

The original Doom made use of the WASD and mouse configuration, so why mess up a good thing?  Just as with all good FPS titles, you use WASD to move, and you use your mouse to look around.  The right click allows for a zoom or a secondary function, while the left click pulls the trigger.  F activates the flashlight and holding down shift will make you move slower.  C is for crouch.  If you can’t immediately pick up on these controls, you might want to steer clear of First Person Shooters altogether. 

Surprisingly in this age of advanced FPS titles, there is still no lean function in Quake.  I guess Raven and Id wanted to keep the run and gun action moving.

There is a compelling story to Quake 4.  I found myself eagerly anticipating the end of the work day so I could see what would happen next.  It has been a while since I’ve had that sort of feeling about a FPS title. The game plays out in more of a ‘shooter’ style than a survival horror style.  As mentioned above, you follow Corporal Matthew Kane, a member of Rhino Squad.  You are charged to work with the other squads such as Viper and Raven Squad (sporting a very familiar looking squadron patch) to press the fight on Stroggos.  Your objective, now that the Makron has been destroyed, is to take the central communication network of the Strogg offline since it is believed that they use a central communication system to coordinate their attacks.

Since the Marine in Quake II took out “The Big Gun”, you are able to make a landing with your squad.  Like many things in the military, your landing does not go according to plan.  The Strogg grunts you encounter almost immediately are basic machinegun variants who will take cover as they try to stop your assault.  There are larger Strogg enemies with different weapon attachment such as shotgun augmentations, rockets on their shoulders, grenade launchers, and some who make use of a shield and railgun combination. There is even one Juggernaut who will blindly football charge you with mayhem on his mind. No matter what they carry, each Strogg warrior can withstand a great deal of punishment, and can dish it just as easily.  While armor and health can be plentiful (almost too much so), the enemy can still overwhelm you if you are not paying attention.  If you get hurt, you can seek the attention of a medic who can heal you to full health.  Similarly, almost any Tech will repair your armor to full.  You can see why it becomes important that they not die.

The Strogg are not without mechanized infantry.  Later into the game you will have to square off against giant mechanical spiders that carry twin cannons and two missile pods.  They take a great deal of damage to take down, but your tank or mech does not.  The vehicles will regenerate their armor and shields if you wait long enough.  The vehicles provide a welcome distraction and aid in making the game feel more like a war and less like constant one-on-one or squad-based combat.  The urgency of the ammunition limit that is present while on foot is removed as you have unlimited missiles and guns, but the vehicle missions do not last long enough to detract much from the overall experience.

Your weapons will also get an upgrade as you move through your mission.  You can get upgrades such as a clip upgrade to hold more machinegun rounds or a nailgun upgrade which doubles the rate of fire.  The weapon upgrades come at just the right time.  The second you are thinking “This nailgun kinda sucks” you’ll get an alternate fire mode that allows the nails to ‘track’ their target via the right mouse button.   One of the things that perplexed me, however, is that there is no melee attack.  Sometimes you get pretty close to your enemies and it would be nice to introduce them to the stock of your weapons instead of having to just back up and continue firing.

As your firepower grows, you’ll begin to notice the hole in the armor of Quake 4.  The enemy AI makes most enemies simply walk towards you.   With other titles in this genre becoming increasingly tactical, and the AI of these games rivaling human players, it leaves Quake 4 looking like it missed the bus.  Occasionally there are boss battles that may require a bit more thought, but overall the strategy is simply run, heal, reload, rinse/repeat.  Similarly, the gameplay involves finding the right door and pushing through in a linear fashion.  The single player arc runs about 10 hours in total, but it is a fun 10 hours.  Sure, there are some gameplay areas that could use improvement, but if you enjoyed Quake II, you’ll know what you are getting yourself into here.

For many, the value of Quake 4 will be in the multiplayer.  For others, Quake 4 will be all about single player.  I fall into the latter more than the former, so Quake 4 was a great experience, albeit short.  I did get to take advantage of some time with some fellow press, some of them hardcore Quake III players, to try out the Deathmatch and CTF portions of the multiplayer game. 

One of the obvious concessions to this title being multiplatform is that the game is limited to 16 players.  There are 14 maps in the box with the game being divided into Tournament Mode (like a bracket system with eliminations), DeathMatch, Team DeathMatch, CTF, and Arena CTF (CTF, but with powerups).  The game plays at a furious pace, just like Quake III did.  If you enjoyed Quake III, you’ll really enjoy Quake 4’s multiplayer.  There are missions that take place in a confined structure with an open arena in the center, others take place in the depths of space.  I’m not a big fan of the Quake III style of gameplay, but I can see the allure of it.  The levels feel fairly generic, but I’m sure the Quake community will have high-quality maps in our hands in short order.

I’ve included the minimum requirements for those who are unsure:

Minimum System Requirements:

– English version of Microsoft(r) Windows(r) 2000/XP
– Pentium(r) 4 2.0 GHz or Athlon(tm) XP 2000+ processor
– 512MB RAM
– 8x Speed CD-ROM drive and latest drivers
– 2.8GB of uncompressed free hard disk space (plus 400MB for Windows swap file)
– 100% DirectX(r) 9.0c compatible 16-bit sound card and latest drivers
– 100% Windows 2000/XP compatible mouse, keyboard and latest drivers
– DirectX 9.0c (included)
– 3D hardware Accelerator Card Required – 100% DirectX(r) 9.0c compatible 64MB
  Hardware Accelerated video card and the latest drivers.
     – ATI(r) Radeon(r) 9700
     – ATI Radeon 9800
     – ATI Radeon X300 series
     – ATI Radeon X550 series
     – ATI Radeon X600 series
     – ATI Radeon X700 series
     – ATI Radeon X800 series
     – ATI Radeon X850 series
     – Nvidia(r) GeForce(TM) 3/Ti series
     – Nvidia GeForce 4/Ti series
     – Nvidia GeForce FX series
     – Nvidia GeForce 6 series
     – Nvidia GeForce 7 series

Multiplayer Requirements:

– Internet (TCP/IP) and LAN (TCP/IP) play supported
– Internet play requires broadband connection and latest drivers
– LAN play requires network interface card and latest drivers

Copy Protection:

– NOTICE: This game contains technology intended to prevent copying that may
  conflict with some disc and virtual drives.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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