Quake IV Review

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Graphics: 7.5
Sound : 7.5
Gameplay : 6.5
Multiplayer : 6.5
Overall : 6.8
Review by Andy Levine
The Quake series debuted on the PC almost 10 years ago when it revolutionized the FPS genre. After many years of development, Quake II and III were released, and they also proved to be smash hits amongst PC gamers. This time around, Raven Software is using the Doom 3 engine, developed by id Software, in order to bring us all Quake 4. The PC version didn’t quite live up to its hype, and sadly the Xbox 360 version is even more of a disappointment. Quake 4 is plagued with technical issues that prevent it from reaching its full potential.

Quake 4’s single-player campaign puts the gamer in the boots of Matthew Kane, a new space marine member of the Rhino Squad. Taking place on the planet of their enemy—the Strogg—the marines must battle it out in order to ensure survival, and the Strogg are certainly going to put up a harsh fight. Unfortunately, right from the start, your biggest enemy will actually be the frame rates that constantly bog down the gameplay. Even if you’re just wandering around on the planet’s surface, the game runs a little on the choppy side—but it isn’t a total burden. However, once any serious shooting is involved you can expect the frame rate to drop considerably, and to the point where it just isn’t fun anymore. The lighter firefights only exhibit slight jerkiness, but once three or more enemies engage in combat with your squad, expect everything to play out in slow motion.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Quake 4 becomes downright unplayable during the heavier battle scenes, it wouldn’t be that bad of a game. The arsenal, although it hasn’t evolved much, still contains a great variety of weapons including the shotgun, machine gun, railgun, nailgun, and the almighty dark matter gun. Starting off with a measly blaster—that can be charged up to pack a decent enough punch—new weapons are slowly introduced to accompany various situations. For example, during interior environments, the rocket launcher won’t be of any use, but the nailgun will certainly be effective for pumping multiple close-quarter opponents full of lead. As the game develops, modifications for all of the weapons are discovered. Eventually, the shotgun can quickly be reloaded with a full clip of shells, and the lightning gun can attack multiple targets, making it truly rewarding to try everything out. Xbox Live achievements can be earned by completing levels using only one weapon, which is an added incentive for gamers to explore and exploit their arsenal.

As far as the actual combat goes, Quake 4 could’ve delivered an enthralling experience had it not been for the overriding performance issues. There are a few instances where you’ll be traveling alone, but more likely you’ll be working with the members of your squad to overcome the Strogg forces. All of your teammates will engage in combat and take cover on their own, but there are also special comrades that can give you health and body armor. Instead of rushing out carelessly into open environments, you’ll need to keep a cautious eye open, and not only for yourself but also your teammates, because their deaths will almost always impact the rest of the mission. The death of certain characters will warrant a mission restart, but the death of any of your companions will result in less firepower for the team and possibly one less healing team member. Luckily, all marines can take a substantially large amount of damage without being killed, so this never becomes a major hassle throughout the game.

The mission objectives aren’t all that inspiring, but occasionally you’ll encounter a nice little quirk to help diversify things a little. Generally, the squad will have to kill some Strogg, move on to the next area, and kill some more. There are both indoor and outdoor environments, which tend to get recycled towards the latter part of the game, but the location changes are still appreciated. A few missions incorporate the usage of vehicles, such as hovertanks, mechs, and gunner turrets, and although the controls are a little simplistic, just being able to ride around with vehicles is a breath of fresh air. The entire campaign lasts about 15 hours if you manage to make it all the way to end, and the story is full of surprises to help grab and hold your attention. If you can manage to withstand the frequent frame rate bugs, then you should be able to enjoy Quake 4’s otherwise intense single-player campaign.

As an added bounty, Quake 4 comes with a Quake II bonus disc. The bonus disc includes some films involving development and a lot of behind-the-scenes information, but best of all it includes a playable version of Quake II for the 360! While, sadly, it doesn’t play on Xbox Live, you’ll still be able to try 4-player matches via split screen and 16-player matches via system link. The single-player campaign is also available at a smooth 60 FPS, which is an enjoyable treat.

Unlike its PC counterpart, Quake 4 on Xbox 360 only supports 8 players online, as opposed to 16. Typical game modes are included, such as Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and One-on-One, all of which can be played either as a ranked or unranked match. By winning ranked matches, points will be added to your record, which will boost your rank on the overall leader board. Weapons don’t have to be reloaded when online, and instead you’ll just have a set ammunition supply that will eventually run out. Various armor and health pickups are scattered throughout the maps, as well as speed ramps and teleports. Again, the online play could’ve been a lot of fun if the 8-player fragfests didn’t suffer unbearable frame rates when multiple players are firing on the screen. If you can manage to see past the technical bugs, then you’ll surely be able to enjoy the fast-paced multiplayer action.

Quake 4’s overall presentation doesn’t seem very next-generation-like, which really makes you wonder why the frame rate is lacking. Using the Doom 3 engine, the marines still possess a clay-like appearance, but at least the Strogg look violent. The explosions can be pretty vibrant at times, but it’s at these moments that the gameplay really starts to get choppy. The environments can also look impressive, especially when surface dust off the alien planet is being carried by the wind. The indoor locations have a cold, dark feel that will make you want to cling to your flashlight—which is also a nice touch. Quake 4 uses a lot of constant sound, and this is both good and bad. Whether you’re at the bustling core of the enemy headquarters or being bombarded by an incoming air fleet, you’ll always be surrounding with a lively environment. However, there are also a few quiet scenarios that will abruptly end with the screeching of a monster—and such a sharp contrast is always enjoyably scary. Unfortunately, the consistently loud environments tend to drown out the voices of your fellow squad members, making it difficult to understand orders above all of the chaotic din. A faint soundtrack that is mostly noticeable when navigating through menus doesn’t add much to the game, but instead it merely consists of a few bland instrumental tracks. The overall presentation in Quake 4 won’t leave your jaw on the floor, which is disappointing considering how much of a hardware hog it is on the 360.

In conclusion, Quake 4 is not a successful port to the Xbox 360 by any means. If your computer is decent enough, then it makes a lot more sense to buy the game for the PC—and at $10 less than the 360 version. Considering other great FPS launch titles like Perfect Dark: Zero and Call of Duty 2 clearly hit the mark, Quake 4 should really only appeal to die-hard Quake fans. Unless you absolutely feel the need to play Quake on your 360, its technical issues hinder it from being worthy for most gamers.
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