Quake 4

Review

posted 11/30/2005 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: PC
Now I’m not the squeamish type. I like gory games with mature themes, but this scene was just over the top. To put it simply, there aren’t a lot of games that make me lose my appetite for pizza. And after the fact, the whole “assimilation” process doesn’t feel worth the pain that Corp. Cain is subjected to. Cain has a slightly increased capacity for armor and health, he can access Strogg health stations, and interface with a few previously restricted computers. The transformation plays a large part in the story, but only in the sense that Cain can now infiltrate areas that other marines can’t. He’s the obligatory “savior,” but scorned by some fellow troops because of his appearance. I would’ve liked some superhuman abilities, or at least a cool gun built into one of my arms.

Sadly, it’s only at moments like these that Quake 4 really becomes graphically revolutionary. Only when it gets incredibly gory and bizarre does it really stand out from the likes of Soldier of Fortune and Postal. The bad guys are all suitably unnerving to look at, and a few of the boss fights go for the gross-out factor—at one point you kill a boss by overfeeding it and rupturing its stomach. Still, it’s all for shock value, and artistic as it is, it doesn’t feel very much like a sequel to Quake 2.

Unfortunately, another incongruity comes in the form of gameplay. First of all, I don’t have any problems with the way Quake 4 plays. It is a very solid, satisfying first person experience. It has little to no flaws in how it moves, flows and transitions from one story arc to the next. It just doesn’t do anything new. It’s the same shooter you’ve been playing for eight years, just very, very eye-catching.

The weapons are well balanced, but to even them out, a few have been toned down. The nailgun is a shadow of its Quake 1 grandpappy. The Railgun, formerly a one-hit-kill badboy, has been significantly weakened. The Dark Matter Launcher is hardly a worthy replacement for the BFG 5,000, and the double shotgun is totally absent. I could forgive the tweaking and neutering of the arsenal, but the exclusion of my favorite double shotty of all time is unacceptable. The power disparity between the various guns isn’t as garish in multiplayer, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Another much-hyped feature was the ability to pilot tanks and walkers. I was really looking forward to these bruisers, but in reality the vehicle sequences would’ve been better served as rail levels. You pilot each vehicle only once, and the stages themselves are so linear that the free-roaming ability of the walker and tank is almost unused. You can stop, strafe, turn and aim, but I’ve seen it all before. It’s all much bigger than anything I’ve played previously—the battles with the giant spider mechs were jaw-dropping. Squishing tiny Strogg soldiers was also mildly amusing. I just can’t help but feel that GoldenEye’s tank levels did it better, and in 1997 no less. Again it’s a case of been there done that, just with vastly superior graphics.

One significant improvement is the addition of team-based combat. In several levels you’ll be accompanied by other marines, who possess impressive AI and contribute their fair share of firepower. Each marine has a distinct personality and sometimes ethnic background (the arrogant-yet-bumbling technician Strauss is especially entertaining). The troops’ personalities factor into how they fight as well; some will hold back and let you take point, while others will charge in blindly, guns blazing. In addition, medics and techs can replenish health and armor. Keeping them alive is sometimes your best chance for survival, but at other times the bottomless supply of health gets a little cheap. In short, the teammates make Quake 4 feel more like a war than its predecessors, and the one element that makes it really stand apart from Doom 3.
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