Review by Ofisil
"Low in the Richter scale"
Quake 4 is an FPS developed by Raven and released by Activision. Id Software, (who created the Quake franchise), supervised the development of the game and provided the wonderful Id Tech 4 graphic engine. Like Doom 3, Quake 4 plays more like a Survival Horror game, something quite popular in most modern FPS games. Although a fan of the old school fast paced FPS games I don't have a problem with that concept, in fact I wanted Doom 3 to be different from the first two Doom games, but the final product disappointed me. Quake 4 is certainly more action packed than Doom 3 but is too a game that relies more in its movie like atmosphere rather than a trigger-happy gameplay, so while better than Doom 3, Quake 4 could surely be much, much better
The story starts exactly where Quake 2 ended. After the defeat of the Stroggs's, (a race of alien cyborgs), leader the earth military force managed to turn the tides of war to their advantage. You, a human marine land, or I should say crash, in a Mars looking planet named Stroggos with the mission to destroy one of the enemy's critical facilities. Typical action story like all ID games that doesn't try anything sophisticated, deep or at least more original. Quake 4, being the pure action game it is doesn't actually need a better plot but it wouldn't hurt either if it had one! Nevertheless the story is ok, just a typical war game and since the game successfully creates a very good war atmosphere there is no problem with the plot. Nothing spectacular, just ok!
Something that becomes quite clear after playing for about an hour is that Quake doesn't reinvent the wheel. It is just another action packed FPS, so don't expect complex riddles, stealth tactics, innovative gameplay or something like that. The game does a decent job just with a used and successful formula without even trying something new. Things you'll need to do in order to complete this game are: kill enemies, turn on switches in order to open doors, lower platforms and things like that, avoid simple traps\obstacles and defeat bosses. There is a nice variety of weapons, with some of them being quite innovative, but also a bit unbalanced. Grenade, Rocket and Railgun-type weapons for example are meant to be extra powerful but here you need 2-3 shots to kill a medium sized enemy something very bad since you can use the shotgun or other weapons to do so more easily, (without hurting yourself). Finally no special enhancing items\ power-ups whatsoever, only ammo, armor and health packs.
In many parts of the game you'll have the opportunity of being escorted by a group of marines. They make battles more exciting and sometimes have the ability of healing you or repairing your armor. In some parts of the game you'll receive weapon mods that improve a specific weapon, (increase rate of fire, make bullets follow enemy etc). After some time you'll be captured by the Stroggs and converted to a Strogg Cyborg, but before the operation is completed, (making you a Strogg slave), you'll be rescued, but now half human half Strogg. This has very little impact on the gameplay itself. You can understand the Strogg language, 25 more points are added to your health and that's it! No enhanced superpowers, no nothing! Finally you'll have to drive vehicles like hover tanks, biped tanks and stuff like that, something that was clearly added to the game only to spent some more of you time since all vehicle levels are quite easy and boring.
AI for a modern FPS like Quake 4 is very bad. Yes, enemies dodge your fire, hide behind objects in order to protect themselves and things like that but they don't follow a specific strategy, they just make some moves and then blindly attack you. They don't make formations, they don't run away and in general they are very easy for you to kill them if you only know where they'll pop up from and what weapon you've got to use. Simple enemies can be more dangerous from a boss and that in a bad way. Quake 4 isn't exactly a hard game but it can be quite irritating at times due to some flawed mechanics of the game. I've already mentioned the weaponry balance issues but another problem is the way enemies behave. For example we have the sentry, a flying Cyborg that shoots at you at the exact moment it sees you, without a single pause. You can't hit him without it hitting you forcing you to either use some specific weapons or just kill him fast. The various grunts, although easy to kill need a lot of firework something that can make the game a bit irritating when you fight with enemies whose ammo you cannot dodge, like Stroggs that carry machine guns.
A thing that decreases the replay value of this game is that it is extremely linear. For example many times in the game some doors will be automatically locked leaving only one which isn't, obviously forcing you to follow a specific path. Another bad thing is that although the game surprises you with some sudden attacks or voices and creates a rather good atmosphere, after a while everything in the game becomes very predictable. You will able, by just observing an area or listening to the music, to predict what will happen next. Also the game is quite scripted, making the second time you play the game very boring since you'll now know when and where the enemies will pop out. The multiplayer section, as I've said before was completely based in Quake 3. Don't expect something new at all. Some maps, Deathmatch, CTF and generally the usual. One thing that raises replayability though is that, like all ID Soft games you'll be able to find or even create Mods that can be equally, if not more entertaining than the original, but for this review I won't include that in the final score.
Usually this is the part where all modern FPS games excel, the graphic quality. Quake 4 uses an enhanced version of Doom 3's graphic engine and by enhanced I mean that now you will have the opportunity of playing both in indoor, dark facilities and large outdoor areas. The outdoor areas are of average, your typical mars-like planet environment. There are only 3 things to see when not inside a building, large single textured fields, some facilities that all look the same and finally the only thing that look's good, the background image, (referred by many as skybox). Especially in later missions where you observe the surrounding Stroggos landscape from a higher altitude everything looks very good. The background image gives a great feeling of distance and scale and is quite detailed. The indoor areas are much better. Great textured objects like doors and walls, complex mechanisms with great details like animated parts or sci-fi monitors, etc. Great work with lighting too, although nothing truly impressive. Everything is still a bit dark like in Doom 3 but not so much.
All characters look great and have very good and smooth animations. Enemies are quite detailed and have very impressive design. Special effects like fire or lightning beams look just fine but again nothing new or exciting. What this game lacks is level design variety. Most areas look the same. Some have a more rugged-used look and others look more shiny and sci-fi, but other than that nothing too great.
Great work in the sound section. Each gun has a unique sound, each one making you feel you are using something lethal and not just an average pistol. Enemies make very good sounds too. From the typical grunt's growl to the chilling and eerie scream of the Iron Maiden everything sounds very good and appropriate for each creature. Voice acting for human characters is good too. The game is full of times where you hear radio transmitted signals from your commander, your fellow marines and many more that help create the right war atmosphere. Music fits well to each situation by creating the right mood in the right time but doesn't use any kind of catchy music themes.
-A solid FPS experience the first time you play
-Excellent graphic and sound quality
-Very low replay value
-Although good, weaponry is a bit unbalanced
-A bit flawed battle mechanics
-Simple level design
-Mediocre multiplayer mode
All in all Quake 4 is one of these games that you enjoy them a lot the first time you play. The plot isn't deep, but the overall presentation draws you into the game with its warlike atmosphere, making you feel as if you are truly fighting a war to defend humanity. However Quake 4 has the same problems with Doom 3 and many other modern FPS games. It has a great graphic engine and is generally and enjoyable game but unfortunately has a very repetitive level design and is too short and way too linear. It will captivate you the first time you play but you will forget about it afterwards.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/29/07, Updated 12/22/09
Game Release: Quake 4 (US, 10/18/05)
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