Whilst there's nothing innovative about Quake 4 as a shooter, it's still a good romp regardless.
Graphics: 10 (lighting / shadows / animations / design all delicious if your PC can handle it)
Sounds: 7 (a little too tinny as it needs more grunt)
Value: 9 (a decent length single player campaign however no secret levels)
Tilt: 6 (wasn't exactly inspired overall)
Out of the frying pan and into the fire - I guess that's the motto for those space marines whose ongoing battle with the Stroggs still wages on. Heck, the humans fought the Covenant (Halo), Aliens (AvP), bugs (Starship Troopers), The Reapers (Mass Effect) and the forces of Hell (Doom), it's any wonder how we survive all this onslaught and yet Planet Earth still stands. Nevertheless, Quake 4 burst into the scene back in 2005, utilising the ever so resource demanding Doom 3 engine. Did it serve its purpose? Not exactly marine…read on.
Quake 4 takes off exactly where Quake 2 ends. And before you go on yes I know the entire saga is confusing to say the least as Quake 1 has nothing to do with Quake 2 / 3 and Quake 3 has very little ties with Quake 2. Now putting that adore, the no-name hero from Quake 2 (however arguably people thinks his name is Ranger – see Quake 3) destroyed the Makron and knocked out the tower's defence. In Quake 4, you play a 'I have no friends' marine called Matthew Kane. Your goal is obviously to take out the Stroggs once and for all. Other words shoot anything that resembles the Stroggs and then ask questions later.
Basing on that, Quake 4 is a FPS. Quite aggressive in some parts and like many FPS, you'll eventually get a great selection of arsenal and upgrades. And do pay attention to those upgrades as it's a hint of what's to come. In addition, the entire game is more of a linear, corridor based shooter where your next objective usually is in the style of destroy this / unlock that etc. So it plays on the old school shooter philosophy used in a modern day gaming world.
However this is where it falls down quite often. Considering the game can be broken down into three parts, the first two are quite enjoyable and even includes a cool twist that I won't spoil it for you; however I got this feeling you already know what it is. Yet the final third of the game is pretty much quite uninteresting. Yes, the Stroggs then in full force and ditches out in more ways than one however it becomes more of a chore than playing. It's almost like stating to my fellow marines 'yes I know I need to find a switch or unlock a computer to move on'. I was hoping more of the non-playing characters chatting about the Stroggs existence or even locate items that enrich the background – similar to what Doom 3 did with the PDA.
But the first two thirds of the game are quite entertaining. You will be shooting up Stroggs likes there's no tomorrow and it's good to see some old faces like the gladiator and the brute. Yet there were some changes made that I wasn't a big fan of. For example: you don't hear much of that familiar lock-and-load sounds from the brute as now he simply runs towards you; or the gladiator's uncanny speed as now he's slow yet heavily defended with a massive glowing shield.
Some critters improved since their 'last outing'. The iron maiden for instance is now a floating 'woman' that can teleport or scream when you get real close; or the strogg enforcer with their chitterling does sound unnerving (in a good way). What's missing from the Strogg arsenal though is there's no battle tank (shame on you) as I missed that thumping sound it makes when walking then it goes for the final kill on you.
Yet a decent change made was the idea of fighting along your fellow marines. That was a sour point in the early Quake games as how badass are you when tackling the entire Strogg forces all by yourself! Anyways, in Quake 4 your marines (when you get some during those set pieces) normally consists of a grunt / medic and tech. These guys can take cover / aim and kill however you want to assist your medic / tech as they can provide you unlimited healing for your armour / health. And before you go on about how easy it is, these fellows can die quite quickly and their assistance don't usually last long because of your next objective.
Visually it's a very pretty game courteously from the Doom 3 engine. Even though at the time of release it's a year old, it still a very sexy looking game as the entire set feels mechanical infused with human flesh. That is every machine has been meticulously designed and it seems it serves a specific purpose. For example: if you press a control panel to release a bridge, the construction is a spectacle to see with all its moving parts before the final creation. So there will be times that I just gawked at the machine behind a window just wondering what purpose it holds; or standing on a ledge watching the machinery do its thing for the Strogg forces. Yet strangely enough, most happens in very small confines than in the vast open areas.
Speaking of which, the Doom 3 engine was well known for being unable to render outdoor environs. Quake 4 has some outdoor events however they all look like cardboard cut outs instead of vast mountain ranges. Even the skies look heavily pixelated – basically a complete mess. Yet the corridors is what you come to expect with plenty of flashing lights, sparks from loose wires and so forth. I guess you win some and loose some.
I praised Quake 2 for its sounds as it really felt mechanical and boomingly loud. It was noisy, aggressive with a great sound track to boot. Sadly in Quake 4 the sounds are quite tinny for my liking as nothing felt powerful. For example, there's no 'boom' from the shotgun and the machine gun sounds like someone fired from a BB gun. Even there's no battle yell from the enemies like 'trespasser' or whatever the sound that the gladiator made. Yet the voice acting is passable even though it's the same couple of guys doing the entire voice acting.
Raven Software designed this game specifically for the single player experience as they wanted the player to experience an intense ride. Granted the single player campaign is quite lengthy (for me it took 18hrs to complete) yet and as mentioned before, the final third of the game was quite tedious as they should have made the game a little more interesting like adding more lore. As far as multiplayer goes, I briefly touched this as the maps I played are the rehashed ones from Quake 2. So go figure.
Therefore Quake 4 is more of a missed opportunity as it didn't really improve gameplaywise from Quake 2. Raven Software is known for their brutal, intense FPS however this one missed the mark just a little off the target. Granted that it used what made Quake 2 successful and incorporate it into a modern game however that's my point: yesterday successes can be today's failure. Doom 3 moved on with its storytelling idea and Half Life 2 with the innovative gravity gun however there's nothing innovative about Quake 4; yet it was a good romp regardless.