GRAPEVINE, Texas--Raven studio head Brian Raffel, Activision producer Graham Fuchs, and id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead were on-site at this year's QuakeCon convention to give us an updated look at the single-player game, both on the PC and on the Xbox 360. Much of what we saw (at least on the PC) was previously shown at this year's E3, but Hollenshead took the opportunity to re-brief us on the game's single-player story, which picks up at the end of 1997's Quake II (in which the lone player infiltrated the planet of the invading Strogg aliens and destroyed that race's leader).
Said the id Software executive, "I really feel that Quake 4's going to be a better game than Doom 3 was" thanks to the way the new game will incorporate varied gameplay, along with technical advancements like drivable in-game vehicles and improved artificial intelligence you'll see from the game's enemies, as well as from your allies. As you may remember, in Quake 4, you'll play as a human soldier who is part of a military strike team that's taking on the merciless Strogg aliens on their home planet. Over the course of the game you'll be captured by the aliens and subjected to the brutal process by which the aliens grow their armies: grafting metallic limbs and alien computer systems into their bodies to turn them into subservient slaves.
We began our demonstration with the PC version of the game by watching what appeared to be the game's introductory cinematic sequence, which begins in outer space above the alien planet of Stroggos. Apparently, the war is in full swing, as the stars above the planet are sharing space with shattered chunks of human starships and mangled corpses. Several marines are hustled into a dropship by Sergeant Morris, the commanding officer of your team, Rhino Squad. As they get strapped in, one nods at your character and comments on "the new guy." You play Matthew Kane, a soldier with a mysterious past and an impressive reputation as a soldier. Some of your teammates are respectful, while others aren't. There's no opportunity to retort, since your commanding officer breaks into the hull and reports that the events that took place in Quake II--the destruction of the Strogg leader--have just occurred and that your mission is to stop the burgeoning Strogg war machine, which has unfortunately not been ground to a halt. Even this briefing is cut short, since the dropship has been sighted by a Strogg antiair missile, which the ship tries desperately to dodge before taking a hit and crash-landing.
The next sequences we were shown were essentially the same ones we saw at E3, in which you fade in and out of consciousness in the wreckage of the dropship as your fellow soldiers try unsuccessfully to rouse you, all while a gigantic spiderlike robot walker lumbers off into the distance. We then watched as Kane finally roused himself and rejoined his buddies from Rhino Squad, diving right into an alien compound with a few of his teammates and eventually meeting up with his squad's sergeant, after which he got assigned to take out an antiair gun.
We then jumped ahead to a few of the game's vehicular sequences. You'll be able to drive such vehicles as a futuristic hovertank or a huge "walker" robot. Both vehicles are equipped with flak guns and heavy cannons, with unlimited ammunition, that recharge over time when fired. We watched the tank tear through a gauntlet of flying Strogg fighters that resembled a cross between a biplane and a miniature Harrier jet, as well as floating Strogg soldiers whose upper torsos were apparently grafted to rocket engines. (The hovertank is also apparently able to crush Strogg infantry under its treads.) The walker, on the other hand, is a slow, lumbering mech with a left arm that launches rockets and a right arm that's equipped with a massive, rapid-firing flak cannon that unfortunately obscures the right side of the screen. We watched a walker mission as Kane joined his fellow soldiers, who were driving tanks in the desert. As the small convoy made its way past a desert crater, another of the gigantic spiderlike robots leaped out of the crater, impaling a tank easily on one of its jagged legs and tearing open Kane's walker next.
We then jumped into a demonstration of the Xbox 360 version, which, according to Raven Software's Brian Raffel, has been in development concurrently with the PC version of the game and will feature all the same graphics and textures rather than "watering everything down for the console." The level we watched took place later in the game, after Matthew Kane gets subjected to "stroggification." In a brief cinematic sequence, we saw a squad of the aliens' "tactical transfers" carefully taking position in a warehouse area in preparation for Kane, who, ironically, looked a lot like them at this point. These tough enemies were an elite squad of humanoid Strogg soldiers whose members function like highly trained soldiers and who, like Kane's own space marine buddies, will use move-and-fire tactics and make good use of cover. The 360 version of the game looks slightly rougher around the edges than the PC version--the textures don't seem quite as sharp--but since both versions of the game are being developed at the same time, Raven plans to have the 360 version come out shortly after the PC version. The 360 version of the game will apparently use the Halo/Red Faction-style control scheme that has become a standard setup for console shooters. You'll use the analog sticks to move and aim, and you'll use the D pad to select weapons. Furthermore, in classic Quake fashion, you'll be able to carry every weapon in the game simultaneously (including machine guns, shotguns, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, railguns, nailguns, and the hyperblaster energy weapon).
Quake 4 is scheduled for release later this year on the PC, with the Xbox 360 version planned for release shortly afterward. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more updates on this highly anticipated shooter sequel.