"A Superb, If Not Very Innovative, Title"

It seems to be increasingly rare to find a game that attempts absolutely nothing new, but instead focuses solely on making the tried and true perfect. Quake IV is exactly this. There isn't even an attempt at innovation through the game, yet the execution of its simple run 'n' gun formula is unbeatable.

Quake IV places you in the body of Corporal Kane, a marine from Rhino squad, in the midst of a war against a gruesome race called the Strogg. These twisted aliens resemble Star Trek's famed Borg, with pieces of metal holding chunks of bloody flesh together. And, like any disgusting race of part monster, part machine creatures, they're out to wipe humanity off the face of the planet. You find yourself on the Strogg home world, attempting to shutdown the center of the Strogg communications: the Nexus.

And graphically, it's astounding. The Doom 3 engine works superbly here, even in the outdoor environments. Textures are superb in most places, models look great, and the lighting is simply dazzling. It all looks cool, from the mutilated flesh of the Strogg to the intricate armor of the marines.

The gameplay consists of going from room to room, laying waste to the Strogg with a delightfully large arsenal, which contains everything from the standard machine gun and shotgun to the brutal Dark Anti Matter Gun and Strogg shredding nail gun. The enemy types also maintain a great variety. The first third of the game contains a laughably small number of enemy types, but from the Medical Facility and onward, there is plenty of variety, from standard Strogg and formerly human marines, to giant alien dogs that summon more of their buddies into the room.

Between the varied guns and varied enemies, firefights are frequent and intense. Unfortunately, Quake IV contains laughable enemy AI. The baddies don't do much of anything to defend themselves. In addition, the game has some other minor flaws. The three boss fights are all horrifyingly easy. Also, the developers saw fit to add squad combat to the game. While it's certainly better than the horrendous squads in Half Life 2, your teammates are still pretty aggravating. I think that in every sequence where I had squad mates, they managed to block me at some point, leaving me wide open for enemy fire. It has potential, as evidenced by some very nice squad combat near the end, but in most instances it was more of a nuisance to have teammates. It also makes the game way too easy, as your teammates can take on hell of a beating, do a lot of damage, and the medics/techs can heal you and repair your armor.

On the whole, Quake IV is also blessed with some superb level designs. Though they can get to be repetitive by the end of the game, there is just enough variety to keep you going at all times. Just when you'll be getting sick of an area, you'll get dropped in some new, gruesome hellhole to deal with. The game also makes great use of light and shadow. The game is incredibly dark, but fills it with small light sources that make superb shadow effects without really obscuring your vision too much.

The game isn't very cinematic, but when it tries, it succeeds wildly. The early part of the game throws a lot of little scares at you, enemies bursting through walls and leaping at you from the ceiling. However, after the creepy "Stroggification" sequence, the scripted events start to die out, and the game loses a lot of its cinematic flair. It's too bad that there weren't more scripted encounters in the later game, because they are fantastic in the beginning.

As for the multiplayer side, Quake IV provides some fantastic deathmatchs and CTF matches, but really lacks the variety to place it ahead of Unreal Tournament. It's basically just Quake III and Quake II mixed. Nothing too special, but fun if you're looking for some high speed fragfests.

Overall, Quake IV succeeds on almost every level, faltering only with its squad combat and easy bosses. With lots of variety and great level design, it's one of the most solid games I've ever played, and is definitely worth a play through if your PC can handle it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/08/05

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