Review by Shurikane

"Old-school, massive, arcade, imperfect."

WHO?
You are Matthew Kane, skilled member of the Marines and known to have endured more punishment than your team could ever take in their lifetime.

WHAT?
You are engaging in a battle against the Stroggs, a race of biomech monsters that has assimilated even some of your comrades.

WHY?
Because if you don't exterminate them, they'll exterminate you.

HOW?
By gearing up in your armor and guns, shooting any Strogg that dares block your way, and disabling the mainframe that organizes and directs the Stroggs.

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GRAPHICS
Quake 4 follows in the same style (and engine) of Doom III by rendering heavily detailed buildings and objects. Some outdoor scenarios allow for a good variety of environments as well. However, much like Doom III, this game suffers from an almost constant darkness, requiring use of a flashlight at all times (a flashlight is attached to the player's two weakest guns.) The characters themselves are nicely rendered, though there seemingly hasn't been any improvements made from Doom III. This is also in comparison to Half Life 2, which featured much more realistic-looking people. While the graphics are excellent for their time and the immersion is great, it's a mystery as to why the developers haven't spent some time refining the looks and environments.

SOUNDS & MUSIC
This is where the game begins to show its arcade style, by delivering a musical score about 35% of the time and providing loud, massive sounds that are guaranteed to make your subwoofer work. The alien grunts, the explosions, and machines, everything is there, and you will find it a good strategy to sometimes wait beside a door and listen for any enemy troops that might be present in the next room. The music doesn't particularly stand out, but is appropriate to the situation and theme of the game.

NAVIGATION
The menus are fast, functional, and are gifted with big buttons with big labels. The in-game displays are equally large, allowing for an easy and quick glance to all relevant info without much trouble. Unfortunately, the menus often lack key options such as control of the different types of sounds (i.e.: it is impossible to disable the music, or raise the volume of your teammates' voices) or the graphical enhancements, which are reduced to a mere six different options (games like Half-Life and Serious Sam broke the graphics options down into over a dozen sub-options for much better control over how the computer should display things.) The in-game menu screens you can operate are simple and serve only to advance the plot (in other words, it's impossible to wrongly operate a menu inside the game)

GAMEPLAY
The game is playable with no brain. The enemies charge at you, fire from cover, lob grenades or try to hack you away with short swords, and the battlefield is all about speed and precision with the trigger. Most of the stronger enemies are upfront and will run directly for you, while weaker ones will tend to hide behind cover in-between salvos. Boss fights are few, short, and often quite easy, requiring little more than brute force and a full magazine. This is great for the no-brainer style of Quake 4 but a little bit of strategy wouldn't have hurt (ironically, strategy is only called upon during the very late stages of the game.) The game also allows for the piloting of vehicles (namely a hovertank and a walker) and operation of a turret during some rides. While those rides are fun to play with, they definitely could have used more screen time, as the levels they are involved in are usually completed in 5 minutes.

DIFFICULTY
The game offers four difficulty levels to choose from, which will mostly affect the damage the player can endure. The AI is mostly absent from the game seeing as most of the monsters are programmed to simply chase the player and fire or hack away until dead. Thus, in essence, raising the level of difficulty simply reduces the number of mistakes the player can make in a battle.

REPLAY VALUE
Due to the linearity of the game, there isn't much else to do after completion aside from trying once again on a harder difficulty level. A first run through the game was completed in a bit less than 10 hours of play. Much of the appeal of the game is lost during the last third of the game, in which the player essentially goes through the same level three times...

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GOOD
-Very deep immersion.
-Excellent sound effects.
-Old school, no-brainer gameplay.

BAD
-The dreaded "too-dark" problem.
-Lack of overall variety in level design.
-No-brainer, brute force gameplay doesn't allow for much depth in terms of AI and strategy.

SO WHY A SIX?
I consider Quake 4 to be paving the way to a next level of first-person shooting games, based both on shooting and survival-horror games. While Doom III was the mainstream starter of this new breed, I expected Quake 4 to set a solid foot in the genre, rather than take cautious steps as it did. It is also a shame as to why they haven't addressed crucial problems stemming from Doom III's design. I expect developers to learn from both Doom III and Quake 4, figure out what was good and what was bad, and finally deliver a decisive, near-flawless shooter. This should normally have only required Doom III, but it seems it wasn't enough...


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/14/05


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