Quake 4 Multiplayer Hands-On - Rocket-Fueled Mayhem

Quake 4's multiplayer mode is finally playable at QuakeCon 2005. And we got our hands on it.

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GRAPEVINE, Texas--Quake 4 is here in Grapevine, Texas, at this year's QuakeCon conference, the official fan convention for all things pertaining to Quake and Doom. Quake is the long-running first-person shooter series from developer id Software and publisher Activision. The PC version of Quake 4 is playable in multiplayer form, and we got our hands on it to see how it's shaping up.

As you may know from checking our previous coverage, id Software is attempting to create Quake 4 with what it considers to be the best parts of the Quake series so far. Since the single-player component of 1997's Quake II, which pitted players against an alien invasion, seemed the strongest, this setting is being revisited for Quake 4. And id has decided to model the new game's multiplayer component after 1999's Quake III: Arena, a deathmatch-focused game that still enjoys a substantial fan following to this day.

Quake 4 deathmatch is proving to be just as fast and fun as that of Quake III.
Quake 4 deathmatch is proving to be just as fast and fun as that of Quake III.

As far as we can tell, Quake 4's multiplayer does indeed go after the speed and feel of Quake III's multiplayer, and it seems to do a pretty good job of re-creating it. The map that was available for play was a very open-ended one that resembled nothing so much as a smaller version of the classic free-for-all map Q3DM12 (aka "The Dredwerkz"). True to Quake 4's single-player game, the multiplayer map's decor was highly industrial and lined with wall-to-wall rusted metal, while the default player models were all human space marines. In fact, the most cynical critic would have to admit that even if the gameplay seems very similar to that of Quake III's deathmatch, Quake 4 looks great. The texture work on both the rusted metals of the corridors and the uniforms on player models seems highly detailed, and despite that the game was pushing normal-mapped character models and whizzing sparks and gunfire every which way, the game seemed to run at an extremely fast and smooth frame rate (though to be fair, the game was running on an insanely high-end PC).

The map seemed to feature just about every one of Quake 4's weapons, including the machine gun (a much more powerful version of the Quake III default weapon), the shotgun (which seemed much more like Doom III's kick-heavy shotgun than Quake III's faster-firing weapon), the grenade launcher (which, thankfully, seems closer to the Quake I grenade launcher as it spits out flechettes with good forward momentum rather than the floating-projectile-tossing Quake III version), the rocket launcher (which is also much faster and harder-hitting than the Quake III version, though it's still not quite as insanely fast as the Quake I version), the nailgun (which seems to fire a bit more slowly than the Quake II version), the hyperblaster (a souped-up version of the Quake III plasma rifle with a slightly higher rate of fire but apparently little to no "splash damage" with each discharge), and the lightning gun and railgun (both of which seem to handle pretty similarly to their Quake III counterparts).

Even though the game will be based on Quake II's setting and world, the actual layout of the map also recalled some of Quake III's best arcade-style gameplay. Yes, there are vertical jump pads (that glow an obvious red color), horizontal jump pads (that have animated arrows that indicate their direction), and, yes, there are teleporters (that appear on the map as glowing green portals). You can also expect to see the return of your favorite deathmatch tricks, such as rocket jumping, grenade jumping, and strafe jumping (also known as "bunny hopping"). The map itself, much like Q3DM12, featured an open courtyard surrounded by enclosed indoor hallways. The courtyard housed a few lower-power weapons, such as the shotgun, as well as heavier suits of body armor. Meanwhile, the interior areas housed the heavier weapons and scattered rows of armor shards (which, just like in Quake III, provide you with a small armor bonus when picked up). It even featured every lucky beginner's favorite item, the quad damage, which, just like in other Quake games, greatly increases how much damage you do with every shot. The version of the game we played also featured a Quake III-style announcer (who utters such familiar phrases as "You are tied for the lead" and the much more commonly heard "You have lost the lead"), as well as Quake III-style icons for various weapons and match occurences (a streak of repeated kills was indicated by the same series of yellow winged skulls, while repeated railgun hits were indicated by the same series of railgun slug icons, for instance).

The game uses the Doom 3 graphics engine, and as you can tell, it looks amazing.
The game uses the Doom 3 graphics engine, and as you can tell, it looks amazing.

From what we can tell, you'll be well served in Quake 4 by classic deathmatch skills such as keeping an eye on important items and weapons and controlling them by snatching them up at respawn, anticipating opponents' movements and shot placement. And, of course, you'll be well served by having good aim. Like in Quake III, Quake 4 has a quick-zoom feature on every weapon (mapped to the right mouse button by default), and like in Quake III, the zoom seems most useful on the railgun, which overlays a translucent, diamond-shaped gunsight over your view to make sniping at least somewhat challenging. Then again, since we ended up playing in some chaotic pickup games with Quake experts, beginners, and basically anyone who was walking the QuakeCon floor, there didn't seem to be as many people focusing on core Quake skills. As a result, the multiplayer frag count (the ongoing tally to keep score of which player has logged the most kills) seemed to fluctuate wildly, though considering how tight the control feels (and how tightly the multiplayer map seemed to be designed) we have no doubt at all that the game will eventually lend itself very well to serious competitive play.

Quake 4 is scheduled for release on the PC and the Xbox360 later this year. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more updates on Quake 4 and on the QuakeCon event.

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