Quake 4

Review

posted 11/30/2005 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: PC
I recall Quake 2 as one of my all time favorite shooters. It was fifteen hours of straight adrenaline, a trip through a cyborg infested hell ripe for the fragging. Every weapon was suitably badass and perfectly balanced against the whole set of guns, and felt solid and satisfying every time you pulled the trigger. The enemies just about lined up to the get the snot smacked out of them, but if you liked, the game could be brutally hard. The multiplayer aspect only made the whole package more incredible; the online community was transformed overnight by the fast-paced gib-fests of the late 90’s. Hardcore and noobs alike crowded the masterfully designed levels eager to splatter each other.

Thus, it was with great enthusiasm that I awaited Quake 4, the true sequel to Quake 2. Whereas the series took a multiplayer-only direction with Quake 3 Arena, Quake 4 would finally continue the story of humanity’s battle with the merciless Strogg. And so I begin this review. Honestly, I have a lot of mixed feelings about Quake 4. What it is, and what it could’ve been.

Right off the bat, the thing that grabbed my attention was how incredibly beautiful this game is. Beautiful, of course, in an H.R. Giger’s nightmare kind of beautiful. The grotesque, oppressive home world of the Strogg is a full step and a half more gorgeous than Doom 3, and that’s saying something. The reason lies in that Quake 4 has so much more visual variety than last year’s groundbreaking Doom remake. Outdoor environments are the biggest difference; Quake 4 isn’t a continual maze of corridors interspersed with a few large reactor rooms. The locales have some honest-to-god variation.

As you progress through the stages of the game, you’ll encounter a bio-processing facility, a power plant, a fetid sewer, and a gruesome “hospital” (more on that later). The amount of effort that went into the textures and modeling is truly amazing. If nothing else, Quake 4 is a work of art. From this masterpiece, though, rise a couple prominent problems. Quake 4 looks almost nothing like its predecessor. The grungy, filthy look and feel of Quake 2 are definitely present, but the actual art style of the game is nowhere to be seen.

Weapons, enemies, even the armor of the marines all look completely different. Chronologically, Quake 4 takes place mere weeks after the events of Quake 2. So, in that span of a couple weeks, the Strogg and Space marines have apparently upgraded and restyled all of their equipment. About the only thing I recognized was the Strogg emblem pasted on walls and floors throughout the environment. I understand there is such a thing as updating a franchise. Metroid did this admirably with the 3D, first-person Prime games. Still, there must be enough of the past game elements to stir a sense of continuity and nostalgia within the player. I had no such feeling while playing Quake 4. To me, it felt like a much prettier Doom 3 that tried desperately to look like Quake.

My only other issue with the visuals is a sequence about halfway through the game. It was known months before the game’s release that your character, Corp. Matthew Cain, would be captured and turned into a Strogg. The concept sounds intriguing at the outset, but the execution is less than stellar. The actual scene is rather disturbing. Immobilized, you are forced to witness the mutilation of Cain through his eyes. What’s worse, there’s another hapless marine on the conveyor belt in front of you, so you see first hand what’s going to happen to you, a few seconds before it does.
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