If someone were to put together a gaming time capsule and bury it for future generations to find, we’d definitely recommend it hold a copy of Quake 4. The game plays like a greatest hits of the last decade, regurgitating practically every “exciting new feature” we’ve seen in single-player first-person shooters over the past few years, while also recycling the definitive deathmatch title—Quake III.
Though several recent FPS games have moved the goalposts, with new innovations and different takes on the FPS experience, Quake 4 lacks such freshness. Instead, it’s an action-packed, but very straightforward, and even derivative shooter that still manages to be fairly entertaining at times.
The story is unimportant, and you’ll be hard-pressed to recall what you were fighting for the second the credits roll, but the gist is that you are a space marine and you have to take down the Strogg—the evil race of human/machine hybrids from Quake 2 who are bent on galactic domination. Gameplay is FPS 101: You’ll stroll through corridors shooting everything that moves. There are a few vehicles to mix things up, along with a handful of simple puzzles, but the meat of the game is the shooting, and there’s lots of it, including several very well done, epic multi-stage boss fights.
We wondered if playing as a Strogg—the most heavily marketed aspect of the game—would be the secret sauce we so longed for. Sadly, it’s not. Your weapons as a Strogg are exactly the same, and you’re still part of your Marine squad. In fact, being a Strogg is no different from not being a Strogg, with one small exception: You can read signs written in Stroggese on elevators and doors. This ability allows you, as a Strogg, to wander alone for certain key segments of the game’s surprisingly short eight-to-10 hour single-player campaign.
The good news is that the action is nonstop from the get-go. The fighting gets frantic towards the end of the game, where the AI ratchets up to “good” levels (as opposed to the “cannon fodder” simplicity in the early parts of the game), and you are swarmed by multiple enemies. Your squad mates’ AI kicks ass. They never get in your way, but they know how to follow properly, and they do what they’re supposed to at all times without being stupid or pissing you off.
Graphics are excellent, but the game bears more than a passing resemblance to Doom 3. Quake 4 boasts several large, albeit barren, outdoor environments. Luckily these areas pass by quickly, because you’re usually traversing them in a vehicle (possibly a too-slow mech or a peppy, entertaining hover tank).
Multiplayer is surprisingly fun. Straight-up twichfest deathmatch aficionados will love it, as it seems to be ported directly from Quake III. There are even two Q3 maps that have been redone, and the most popular Quake 2 map—the Edge—is included as well. Some of the maps include powerups, such as haste and regeneration, but the only game modes are DM and CTF. Though it’s exactly like Quake III—which we already played years ago—we can’t deny it’s fun.
Most people will finish Quake 4’s single-player campaign in a few hours and never pick it up again, but the multiplayer component could conceivably revive the long-dead Quake deathmatch scene. Despite a dearth of innovation, Quake 4 stays true to the series’ roots and delivers what people expect from a Quake game—lots of action and killer multiplayer.
-- Josh Norem
Month Reviewed: Holiday 2005
+ BFG: Tons of action, excellent graphics, and awesome deathmatch.
- LFG: Derivative gameplay, and short single-player component.
ESRB Rating: M