Quake4 is a good purchase for a fiver, but don't pay any more!
The good first. This game like all of the Dooms and Quakes (Bar quake 3 which was multi-player only), before it gives you exactly what you expect from it. With Doom and Quake you expect to spend a lot of time wandering around and getting shot at by increasingly gross and tough monsters. Unfortunately for Quake 4 it doesn't try to give you anything new on top of that, and that is where the bad starts.
Now bearing in mind that this game was released in 2005, and this is 2010 you would expect it to be lacking some of the features that we have come to know and love in the time between.
However failing to put in a melee attack, and in fact giving you no melee weapons at all, (outside of the online multi-player), is unforgivable, particularly as the majority of the earlier enemies seem to want to get in your face and give you a point blank smacking! In 2002 Halo had given us the ability to smack a grunt in the head, and in Doom you could at least switch weapon to the chainsaw to prevent some serious abuse of your health bar, no such luck with quake.
Another problem is the torch mechanic. This was introduced to great effect in Doom3. If you wanted to see you had to have your pistol out as it had an under barrel torch attached, and it was literally a case of wander around with the pistol out to see where you were going, switch as fast as you can to a better weapon when something came to kill you. Unfortunately they have used the same idea in quake, however the torch illuminates only a small circle up to about 10 feet away and some of the areas are so dark you can actually find yourself lost or tripping over objects in your path. Add to this the fact that there are stages in the game where the torch doesn't actually seem to work at all and you have to wonder where it all went wrong.
This minor problem soon leads you to the biggest problem this game has, and that is despite the fact that during much of the game between 50% and 90% of the screen is black, and that at no time will you face more than 10 opponents who are not particularly well animated, the game suffers from chronic slowdown. There will be times when not only does it slow down but you will be inexplicably catapulted around areas as you are hit by certain attacks causing terrific juddering and the worst culprit of all? The Hyper-blaster, you will spend many moments facing a particularly nasty Strogg and wondering where your "bullets" are with this one; particularly once you get it upgraded and the projectiles now have the ability to deflect off surfaces. The projectiles literally do not appear on the screen at points and of course there is the accompanying slowdown along with it.
Doom3 was ported to the original Xbox and had no real issues with slowdown; it boggles the mind that they managed to port this to the much more powerful 360 but also managed to get it to slow so much! Graphically it is not very impressive, detail and texture are missing all over the place as well as the glitches I mentioned.
The story of Quake4 is the only real addition worth anything. Quake and Q2 were not that big on story really, giving you a Doom-esque challenge, run from one end of the game to the other with a bit of background in the manual to keep you going. This incarnation of quake at least tells a story from start to finish. As the original marine from Quake2 now called corporal Cain you join Rhino company, a bunch of hard as nails marines who go into the worst areas and get the worst jobs in the war against the Strogg. You are thrown in at the deep end from the start as your drop-ship gets shot down on your way to the first objective and you then must join up with your squad and move on to complete that objective. From then on your objectives get bigger and harder as you attempt to bring the war to an end, no surprises there then. This is where this game does well, the story unfolds as you would expect from any tactical shooter, you join up with other marine squads, run the odd errand and listen to all the waffling that the fellow marines around you spout. It adds to the atmosphere of the game and gives you little insights into the Strogg war, the characters around you as well as what is happening in the war around you, baring in mind you are usually deep inside some Strogg fortification and can't actually see any of the war. The characters are by no means Dom and the others from Gears of War, in that if they get killed it is just another level fail and a bit of an irritation. Even the Rhino squad members pass you by as they get bumped off, or not, but it lifts the experience up until the later levels when you are mostly alone anyway. Even then you will get the odd radio signal coming over your comm, to let you know that this isn't JUST your war.
Overall then Quake4 is a good purchase for a fiver, but don't pay any more!