Wednesday, June 27, 2007

First review: Quake 4

Game website:

Quake 4, the direct sequel to Quake 2 and the only true sequel in the game series, picks up directly after the events that transpire in Quake 2. After an unknown marine shutdown the "big gun" and defeated the Makron (Strogg leader) the remaining human forces were able to make a full scale attack on the Strogg home planet Stroggos.

The game throws you in the combat boots of marine Matthew Kain and attaches you to Rhino squad. The best of the best and leader squad for most of the big attacks against the strogg. It's up to your squad, more so you, to disable most of the strogg's defenses and ultimately bring down the race. For those who don't know or have not played Quake 2, the Strogg are a brutal and violent alien race that attacks planets, only to harvest the inhabitants. The Strogg use the fallen humans and captured marines to create cyborg soldiers, use left over blood and body parts as fuel and various parts of their machines.
As Kain your often looked upon with awe from your fellow marines, due to an event that takes place long before Q4 begins, but nothing your ever fully made aware of. The dialog of fellow marines hints at the events... but nobody ever fully explains what happened. Leaving you wondering throughout most of the game... what the hell happened?

After the opening cinematic which depicts the Earth forces invasion of Storggos your finally given control and allowed to fully take in the game's atmosphere and visuals. Powered by id software's revolutionary Doom 3 Engine and developed by Raven Software the game looks very impressive. I played the game on my system (specs in My Reasons) a Ultra texture detail, 1280*1024, 4xAA and frame rates where always above 40.
With realistic lighting, detailed textures and level design that never leaves you confused or wondering were you should go, but also gives you enough room to explore. The levels depict the dark, war-torn world of the Strogg very well. The outdoor areas are vast and usually littered with the corpses or fallen marines and various destroyed machines. While the indoor areas are dark, often filled with machines powered by human bodies and blood, and very well detailed. Showing off the various important areas of the Storgg... from their processing chambers, hangers, communications, and even their waste facilities. Raven has done a great job as displaying how brutal and grotesque the Strogg are in their methods.
As their medical facilities floors are covered in a thin layer of blood, with various body parts and other entrails laying in piles in the corners. To their waste tunnels where giant blades run the floors scraping meat and blood from the floors, as failed soldiers crawl about and feast on the left over piles of human flesh.

To even amazing set pieces such as the Strogg's power plant which is actually a giant beating heart. That beats erratically as it is often shocked with electricity to keep it functioning.

Story wise the game is rather lite, with occasional cut-scenes and scripted events to push you forward it's all a setup for the action you find yourself in. And game does convey it's war surrounding well, with radio chatter from random marines that are cutoff or attacked. To the constant sounds of artillery outside.
The game does a good job of making you feel as if you are part of a war... but not completely. While at times you do fight with the rest of Rhino squad... most of the time you tend to be completely alone. And the rare times you are with another soldier it's usually just you and one or two other guys. And at those times the AI for your buddies is very well, they duck for cover, do a good job to stay out of your way and even rush enemies and change weapons. But in the end they are not needed.

About a third of the way through the game you are seperated from your squad and captured at which point you are taken to the Strogg medical center. Not so much a spoiler as it was one of the main points in the games press, you are then converted to Strogg. And in a brutal scene, where you see everything through the eyes of Kain, you watch in horror as you legs are sliced off and they tear your body apart and rebuild you as Strogg.

But as the surgery is almost completed your rescued by your fellow marines, without your mind linked to the Strogg's computer your still a good guy... but with all the abilities of a Strogg soldier. But ultimatly this doesn't really change any of the gameplay. Your able to run faster and jump a bit higher, your health and armor are a bit higher, you can use Strogg health stations, and you can understand the Strogg language... but that's all.
I would have loved to see an infiltration mission for you to sneak into a Strogg facility without getting caught. Or maybe have to fight against a few marines who refuse to trust you.
In the end it comes across as a cheap gimmick as opposed to a strong gameplay or story element.
Just a fare warning, those that felt that Doom 3's gameplay became boring or predictable will have the same feelings here. Though the game is faster paced, and does use vehicles in a few levels, it is a straight forward shooter that sticks to a preset pattern.

Sound wise Quake 4 is a mixed bag, the ambient sound effects of the world around you are great. The machines that make up the Strogg factory clank and grind as you would think they should, the enemies sound frightening and creepy.
But the weapon sounds, explosions... sound weak. Several of the guns, from the machine gun to the hyperblaster lack punch. They sound as if they came from Nerf. But some of the weapons do sound okay, the shotgun has a nice deep blast and the nailgun has a pleasing bass to it as you rattle of rounds.

Multiplayer... I don't play online. I'm a single player gamer so no MP review here. Sorry.

But all in all, Quake 4 is a fun, enjoyable sci-fi shooter with enough action and fun moments to make most shooter fans happy. Just stick with it past the rather average opening levels and accept that a game does not have to revolutionize the genre to be good.

Pros: Graphics, length, enemy and character design is top notch. Game manages to give the player a good sense of power.

Cons: Weapon sounds a rather weak, outdoor areas are not as impressive as they could've been. Some plot setups fail to deliver and feel rather bland afterwards.

Final Verdict: True shooter fans and anyone looking for a fun, action driven sci-fi ride should give Quake 4 a serious look. People looking for the next huge thing can pass.

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