Nothing groundbreaking here, but sometimes plain dumb works just fine.
Developer Raven Software initially started hijacking id engines for their own nefarious purposes with Doom. Fast forward a few years and they’ve used all three Quake engines to power their own products (remember Hexen 2, Heretic 2, SOF 2 and Elite Force). In short they’ve been doing this sort of thing for quite awhile, which is probably why id has again partnered with Raven to create Quake 4, a game based on the venerable Doom 3 engine that forwards the action, story and atmosphere of Quake 2 with enough post-Half-Life scripting to give it a new lease on life.
You can even take that extra step and call Quake 4 more Doom-like than Doom 3 itself, which it certainly is – in true retro fashion, you traverse level after level full of vicious alien cyborgs called the Strogg, and proceed to gun them down using all manner of sci-fi weaponry. All of this is part of humanity’s campaign to defeat the aliens on their home turf – a two minute intro cinematic tells all the story you need to know, and subsequent scripting and interaction try to paint some purpose to the carnage. All of it is filler, naturally. Never do you truly care for your companions or why you’re mowing down heaps of Strogg, nor does it truly matter.
The game works within this limited spectrum, and works well it does, with frantic mayhem broken up by the occasional moment of tension or mingling with your Marine buddies onboard the USS Hannibal, the super-destroyer parked on the surface of Stroggos. A few more interesting novelties help further differentiate the action from that of Quake II – there’s a squad element consisting of fairly competent AI soldiers tagging along in some portions, and a few rail shooting bits peppered here and there. The latter feel sort of gimmicky and aren’t extremely fun, partially because the engine sucks at rendering outdoor areas but also because the vehicles themselves come off as oversimplified.
Down the meat-packing factory
The aliens need a lot of human livestock to power their machinery and fuel their army, and it’s sort of cool that you get to witness their ‘Stroggificiation’ process firsthand Around the halfway mark you get captured by the Strogg, wake up fastened to an industrial conveyor and witness your character get hacked, sawed and hammered into a Strogg. It’s an effectively brutal scene, but one that dictates little difference in gameplay after you’re conveniently rescued by a Marine strike force at the very last second of the procedure. You still fight on the human side and merely have the advantage of higher speed, health and armor … yawn.
Many weapons from previous Quake games make a comeback in one form or another. You get the iconic rechargeable Blaster alongside some other standard fare weaponry – the machinegun, shotgun, grenade and rocket launcher to name a few – as well as a reworked Railgun, Hyperblaster, Nailgun and Lightning Gun, all of which get periodically upgraded. The action is decidedly arcade, but is altogether a lot faster and the enemies more disposable than those of Doom 3. Simply having a flashlight mounted on your rifle (which doesn’t require recharging) makes fighting in dark spots a lot less of a hassle.
Multiplayer is probably where Quake 4 is at its weakest, but that’s only when compared to its excellent predecessor – Quake III Arena. On the surface the action is considerably faster than the singleplayer game, with lots of the maps being deathmatch remakes of vintage Quake levels (including DM-Edge). On the downside you get no bot support or really anything approaching the superior quality of multiplayer-only games like BF2 or UT2004. One can easily tell that most of Raven’s time and effort was poured into the solo campaign.
As complex as it is technically, Quake 4 is a damn straightforward throwback to the glory days of the corridor shooter. It makes no pretense at story or character development, but as far as mind-numbing arcade action is concerned, you can’t do much better.
System Requirements: Pentium 4 2 Ghz, 512 MB RAM, 64 MB Video, 2.8 GB HDD, WinXP