X05: Quake 4 Updated Console Hands-On

The PC game is almost on store shelves, but we tried out the 360 version of Raven's anticipated shooter at X05 anyway.

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AMSTERDAM--The PC version of Quake 4, it was recently announced, will be available to eager fans of the venerable shooter series in just a few weeks. But those hoping to play the game on their shiny new Xbox 360s will have to wait till at least November 22 to do it, because, hey, that's when the Xbox 360 comes out. Activision isn't yet committing to a specific release date for the console version, saying only that the game will be out sometime this year. To see how it's coming along, we took the reins at Microsoft's recent X05 event.

In terms of content, Quake 4 on the 360 will be identical to the PC version. Again it will cast you as the member of a squad taking on the Stroggs, those biomechanical alien nightmares that haunted the tight corridors of Quake II back in 1997. We got to check out several levels from the game, trying out the latest incarnations of all those classic Quake II weapons and even taking one hefty set of powered armor for a spin.

The on-foot missions we tried were both set indoors and featured specific objectives that had to be completed. In one mission, our team was stymied by a door that wouldn't open, so we had to circumnavigate the area and reach a control panel that would activate a large flame-emitting device of some kind to burn a hole right through the door. Of course, there were a lot of soon-to-be-deceased Strogg involved in this operation. We also played part of a mission, later in the game, in which we navigated a complex both in and outdoors as we fought off some tougher Strogg soldiers--such as a brute wielding a railgun and an energy shield--as we tried to reach our objective further in.

As longtime Quake fans, we were anxious to check out the new weapons in Quake 4 and see how they stack up against their reputed forebears. Everything we got to see--the shotgun, the assault rifle, the grenade launcher, the hyperblaster, the rocket launcher, and the railgun--behaved basically like you'd expect if you've played Quake II at all, though in some cases the feel of the weapon is a little different due to updated sound design or animation. We're happy to report that the railgun is definitely as you remember it, though. Interestingly, the original Quake's gothic nailgun has apparently been adapted by the extraterrestrial military force, since it's making an appearance here too.

The vehicle level we got to play is one we've seen previously, in which you pilot a massive bipedal tank against hordes of Strogg, many of whom are flying. You've got a basic machine gun and, later, a rocket launcher that can fire six rounds before reloading. This is basically a shooting gallery, where you trundle through open canyons and small corridors, blasting everything in sight. The handling on the mech isn't particularly forgiving--you certainly aren't going to circle-strafe around any enemies--so it's nice to see some variety in the gameplay aside from the on-foot running and gunning.

The developers of the 360 version of Quake 4 have done an admirable job of bringing the original game's assets over nearly unchanged--we couldn't tell much difference between one game or the other, from a visual quality standpoint. But the console version's frame rate has suffered in the transition somewhat, so we hope the team will continue to optimize it, now that the final Xbox hardware is freely available.

The development team behind Quake 4 has stated that it hopes to make the game's multiplayer just as important as its single-player game, so it was a little disappointing to find that we couldn't try out the competitive aspect at X05. However, Activision was kind enough to confirm that the game will support eight players on Xbox Live. We also got a juicy tidbit about the special editions of both the PC and Xbox games, each of which will retail for roughly 10 bones more. The 360 special edition will contain the full game of Quake II, so you can go back and see how the story began, and this version of the game is said to be graphically enhanced to some degree (though specifics weren't available). The PC special edition won't dress up any old classics, but it will have something potentially much nicer: every Quake game and expansion pack ever released, along with the new game, all on one DVD. Quake nerds, try not to salivate onto your keyboards too much (and if you do, at least try to keep the drool off your W, A, S, and D keys). Look for a full review of Quake 4 PC when it ships and more news on the Xbox 360 game in the coming weeks.

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