Quake 4 Hands-On Preview
By: Neil Sloan and Stevie Smith

Quake is one of those titles that every gamer knows, and even those who aren’t gamers tend to know what it is, or at least they’ve heard the name before. The Quake series occupies a genre niche that anyone can get into and have fun with, whether it be through single player or multiplayer. The upcoming Quake 4 for both PC and Xbox 360 is no exception.

I went to San Francisco recently to preview Quake 4 for GamersHell and was not disappointed by what I found. Moreover, as I entered the presentation room, I was amazed to see two Xbox 360s set up as well. Needless to say, this got my heart racing before even turning my attention to Quake 4. But, the moment of truth was finally here, and it was likely to bowl me over considering the ten or so PCs lining the walls with accompanying Logitech mice and a connected sound system designed to blow out eardrums. Those in attendance were given the opportunity to play four single-player maps, then four multiplayer maps.

To put it simply, the single-player experience was awe-inspiring. The opening cinematic sequence was like watching a movie, and after you are shot down during it, you get to take control of the central character. Note: I didn’t initially notice I had control of in-game proceedings because I thought I was still watching the cinematic. That alone should tell you just how pretty this game is and how seamless the final product promises to be. Your character is a little hurt after being shot down, but you soon locate a medic and are swiftly healthy again. Then it’s off to find your squad. Navigating the game’s indoor environments was very reminiscent of Doom 3—though perhaps not quite as dark. Monsters inevitably burst out of confines as you walk through corridors and such, but you and your squad are more than capable of blowing them straight to hell. Eventually, you’ll come across a machine gun and, when you operate the zoom function, it handily doubles as a sniper rifle, which is always cool. Personally speaking, there was one particular section of the opening map that scared the pants off me. While running down a tight hallway with pipes running along one side, a screaming monster suddenly rammed its head through an adjoining wall and struggled and fought like a mad man to get at me—almost fell of my damn chair as a result. Blowing its head off made me feel a little better, though. Whilst progressing and talking to squad members, it dawned that they were all betting on how long I’d stay alive. Nice bunch. Now, after this lovely level, I was treated to some trench fighting, which included running around and trying to find a way out.

The preview presentation also offered two single-player maps with vehicles. The first was a hover-tank, which proved to be one seriously powerful toy. From a control standpoint, it was intuitive to see that by aiming the turret the tank itself would automatically turn in that desired direction too. This made the hover-tank nice and easy to control. In this individual level there were enemies aplenty to run over, as well as flying rocket ships to blow from the sky. And it’s no exaggeration to say that, when these things blow, it truly is a sight to behold. The next vehicle was a walker-type contraption, which emerged as a favorite and led to multiple plays of this particular level. After walking a few feet within the walker, enemies begin blasting relentlessly, but they’re soon taken out with the machine gun. Walk a little further and the flying rocket ships start strafing. Taking out flying adversaries with six rotating rockets proved to be quite a hoot. As the attacking ships are destroyed, their pilots falling toward the ground, swift switching to the machine gun means adding insult to injury by peppering their bodies with hot lead. You’ve really got to love those rag-doll physics. At certain points, there were so many bad guys on screen that it was hard not to just sit there and admire how good they all looked; this leads to a rather quick death, of course. Then there was the appearance of the level boss: a gigantic and impressive mechanical spider. I won't reveal how to beat him, because why spoil it for you?

Multiplayer was next on the preview agenda. Those attending played through various modes including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. The overall experience was fantastic. However, and just as with Quake 3 there won’t be any vehicles attached to the multiplayer facet. Not that it necessarily suffers without them, though. As it was, things were fast and furious and GamersHell was well represented across the sample modes. All the previewed maps were of a good size and well balanced throughout.

The Xbox 360 version was exceptional as well—that's right boys and girls, the Xbox 360 version. Now, to be fair, it wasn’t quite as far along the development chain as its PC counterpart but it was still beautiful. The preview build wasn’t optimized on the 360, so the zoom didn’t work and it took a while to load up. However, the 360’s visuals did appear exactly like those seen on the PC, so none of the console masses will miss anything where porting is concerned. Honestly, no lies, it was just as pretty.

It has to be said that Quake 4 is only going to get better as it approaches release. It was amazing to see how well it played at such an early stage, in both terms of core mechanics and aesthetic quality. Quake 4 could well emerge as a seriously badass game when it arrives on PC and Xbox 360, and anyone who loves Quake and/or Unreal would be well advised to snap it up when it hits retail. This drooling preview writer can't wait to get his filthy paws on the finished version.