Come online and let me quake your booty. by Colin Thames
November 18, 2005 – Quake 4 returns the series to a continuation of the story started in Quake II which is still well-respected among FPS fans and thankfully it’s been included as bonus in this Xbox 360 release.
It’s easy to get Quake and Doom mixed up for those unfamiliar with the differences as most will see them as mindless shooting games. Both are sci-fi shooters with a sprinkling of survival horror elements, but we can sit here and pigeonhole and stereotype until the cows come home. Most importantly both series are considered classics. This is probably why developers id Software didn’t take any chances with the series. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.
Quake 4 is still a great shooter but this is more of an enhancement of the series than anything else. The story is basically the same, the enemy is still the Strogg and there’s a whole lot of shooting going on. Hey, I know better than to complain but I have to tell you that this game doesn’t have anything over the PC version, with the exception of some cleaner graphics especially if you’ve played Quake 4 on anything but a monster PC. Not all of the graphics are better however. There are jaggies that outline some of the characters (actually the HDTV enhances some of the grit, while players on regular TV’s may not notice as much) and virtually all of the backgrounds are static or composed of recycled textures. There are some breathtaking moments to be sure.
While not renowned for its stories, Quake 4 digs a little deeper to offer us some dramatic depth. I’ve seen movies made on lesser premises; most of them starring Chuck Norris.
After the last ass-whopping that the Strogg received, they may be down but they’re not out. Once word reaches Earth that the Strogg are in the beginning stages of resurrection a squad of highly-trained space marines are sent to the planet to take care of the situation before it worsens. Matt Kane is the principal character but he’s not the squad boss. There are no commands to issue or co-op play in this single-player story mode. As part of a squad the developers want to bring you closer to the other non-playable characters in your squad. These guys have individual names and distinct personalities. There’s a reason for this that I’ll explain later.
Matt and his squad have a large arsenal of weaponry, armor and vehicles on hand to battle the Strogg. New weapons, gadgets, upgrades and other goodies can be found by looking in dark corners and other secret areas located throughout the planet of the Strogg. Even though there are all kinds of futuristic weapons such as the railgun, minigun, rocket launcher and hyperblaster you will still have to give the lowly flashlight its due when encountering darkened rooms and corridors. The flashlight attaches to your gun and displays realistic illumination. Not all of the graphics show off the 360’s potential but you can see that these subtle lighting effects even surpass those on top shelf PC games. Fortunately not all of the levels take place indoors.
Some new weapons are awarded after completing various missions but for the most part you will be able to upgrade your main weapons such as the ability to control a missile in flight after you’ve launched it. The further you get into the realm of the Strogg the more powerful and flexible weapons systems you will need. The Strogg are a race of bio-mechanical aliens and you will get to know them a lot better in the second half of the game.
Vehicles such as hover tank and a mech will assist you in your missions which include search and rescue, escort and kill-everything-that-moves campaigns. The mech is very maneuverable in that you walk with it in such a way that terrain isn’t much of an obstacle. It can take a lot of punishment and it’s equipped with various weapons that let you take on hordes of enemies. The hover tank lets you do battle with other enemy vehicles. It’s a great excuse to get outdoors and away from those stuffy offices and corridors.
The Strogg are a very brutal race and are not just satisfied in shooting their enemies. They actually torture them and force their bio-mechanical composition onto and into living human beings, permanently transforming them into hybrid creatures. It’s this knowledge that makes the Strogg a very frightening foe. This terror is further reinforced when your squad mates, the ones you have developed a relationship with, are caught and destroyed by these mutations. Your teammates do tend to hold their own in battle so you don’t want to see any of them captured. It’s bad for morale. But more than that they also help with replenishing your health by offering you injections when you need it.
Quake is gruesome, bloody, violent and psychologically disturbing. You will have a first-hand account of how it feels to be transformed into one of these creatures as you are captured and put through the transformation process, piece by piece. It’s not a pleasant situation made all the more sickening by graphic graphics and the sounds of excruciating pain. The benefit to this transformation is that your abilities increase substantially. You could never hope to finish the game without the aid of these powers. Although squad members are somewhat suspicious of you after the operation, you will get the backup you need with other humans that have also been assimilated.
The first part of the game where you play as a marine is a little on the slow side. The attacks are few and far between, but don’t worry, it’s just building momentum. After you become part-Strogg, things start to move quickly. There are more enemies onscreen, and larger ones at that. They aren’t the most intelligent beasts ever controlled by an AI, but that’s good news if you just want to mow them down without much competition. With so much action onscreen and so many characters I experienced some slowdown of the framerate which made me raise my eyebrow more than a few times. This is more than likely the result of having to rush the product to retail in time for the launch and since this is Ravensoft’s first port to an entirely new system, I think we can geniunely cut them slack. It’s nothing that impedes gameplay but I’m just being honest when I say that expectations run exceedingly high when you’re playing one of the hottest PC titles on one of the hottest new game systems.
Expect much the same from the multi-player modes – and less, as these modes will only accommodate eight players. It’s claimed that this will kick up the pace. Modes still include the requisite Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Tournament. There are 13 maps including ones from the second the third title of the series. As an added bonus Quake II is included. The best part about this game is the four-player co-op mode. It’s not an online mode but it’s great for micro-parties. Fortunately you can save your progress at any time.
While I still have a soft spot in my heart for Quake II which may never be replaced, Quake 4 is still an excellent good old colledge try and a fun fast-paced shooter which looks pretty hot to boot. The PC version and the Xbox 360 are so similar it’s not even funny but if you’re like most console gamers, you probably have a lot better sound system hooked up to your TV than your computer. So sit back, crank it up and prepare to immerse yourself in the final battle. (We’ll see about that).
By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer