Game Review - Quake 4

4091
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Format: DVD
Developer: Raven Software
Mac Developer: Aspyr Media, Inc.
Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.3.9, 1.67GHz G4/G5 or Intel chipset, 512MB RAM, 3.0GB free hard disk space, ATI Radeon 9600 or NVidia GeForce 6600 with 64MB VRAM, DVD drive, broadband Internet connection for Internet multiplayer
Review Computer: 2GHz 20" iMac, 1GB RAM, 128MB ATI Radeon 9600
Network Feature: Internet (TCP/IP) and LAN (TCP/IP)
Price: $49.95
ESRB Rating: M (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)
Availability: Now
Official Website: www.quake4game.com

A couple quick admissions before I start this review:

  1. I've never played the Quakes I, II or III: Team Arena
  2. I'm bored of bio-mutant zombie Nazi alien first-person shooters
  3. I would probably vote for Hillary Clinton for President

I know that last admission isn't relevant, but I still thought you should know.

Anyway, the first two items considered, I wasn't really looking forward to reviewing Quake 4. In fact, when it arrived, I tried to shop it off to all of our other staff reviewers. Guess what? None of their computers could handle it. And so, seeing that mine barely does, the duty to fight off the Strogg fell into my lap.

Or, Matthew Kane's. He's the marine you'll play while participating in the invasion of the Strogg planet. Having not played Quake or Quake II, I don't know why we're so angry with the Strogg that we're compelled to invade their planet. Perhaps they're hiding weapons of mass destruction. There's also some nonsense about Kane having been captured by the Strogg, but he was rescued just before he was about to be "Stroggified," or converted into a Strogg. I guess this means the Stroggs are already hurting for soldiers if they have to convert their enemies instead of recruiting new soldiers. There may be some kind of sociopolitical commentary in there, but I'm too old and too detached to try fleshing it out.

Quake 4

It's all smoke and mirrors, anyway, to hide us from the fact that Quake 4 is yet another first-person shooter in which one super-soldier with a fairly cool name (or at least until the wrestler with same moniker forever tarnished it by appearing in the hideously awful See No Evil...as if slamming Pete Rose dressed as the San Diego Chicken wasn't already enough) has to fight an entire planet of bio-mutant zombie Nazi aliens, right? Sorry, but no. You'll have to find another reason to dislike this game.

The bio-mutants are simply aliens here, first of all, so that's kind of refreshing. And even better, although you have to do the majority of the fighting on your own, there any many elements during which you're either aided by other soldiers, or you're aiding them (keeping them alive while they turn on the air conditioning and stuff). I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the levels, which consistently changed up your missions to keep the game moving along. In fact, most of the times where it is you fighting the Strogg on your own take place as you run between squadrons to find out what your next team assignment is.

The game is much more linear than many first-person shooter fans prefer these days, but I'm happier this way. Non-linear games end up relying too much on the action to carry it, and I'm of the belief that a good story will pull the gamer in faster and keep him there. The story in Quake 4 may consist of nothing more than a series of missions building up to something big, but sometimes that's all it takes. Say what you like about linear gameplay, but it drives things along quite well here.

Quake 4

Aside from the variety of missions, you're also presented with a variety of vehicles and equipment. In that manner, Quake 4 actually plays more like a Call of Duty game than like its predecessors or something from the Doom series. Just when you're starting to get the hang of fighting as a foot soldier, you'll find yourself in the back of a troop transport repelling an attack or driving some kind of tank while giant spider-like creatures attempt to end your invasion.

The Strogg planet doesn't look too much different from your typical alien planet in such a game; a lot of barren, rock-filled wastelands connected by bulky, dimly lit buildings and hallways that could've only been built for military purposes. Again, perhaps the Strogg wouldn't be so hostile if someone had built them a community center or a miniature golf course/go-kart track. I mean, why is it that only the developers of Halo believe that vegetation exists outside of the Earth. I used to believe it was because they had hostile sounding names, like the Strogg (and seriously, if the Strogg family moved in next door, you'd think twice about baking them a "welcome to the neighborhood" pie), but maybe it's because they never got to see the simple beauty of a cherry tree blossoming in the spring or of a geranium purchased from the Lions Club to raise money for children in need of glasses. And come to think of it, why do alien races in video games (or movies, for that matter) never have to wear glasses?

Quake 4

Of course, I could go on with this line of questioning all day. Better instead to consider the disconnect in the interiors of the Strogg buildings, as some are dingy, dark and bulky, while others brightly lit and brimming with technology. I feel this brings a bit of realism to the proceedings, but, more importantly, it's one more method of keeping the game fresh. A good change of scenery can often make you feel like you're playing a completely different game (and seriously, scenery is sometimes all that separates games of this sort from the first-person shooter you just finished).

The action is Quake 4 is quite intense in most parts, but this mostly stems from being up against one or two really strong opponents as opposed to many weaker opponents. You'll often find yourself locked in a hallway or room with a single giant robot bio-mutant alien creature, with only you or him coming out alive. Again, though, because the game is constantly changing up, I didn't roll my eyes when faced with another "boss," I just wanted to hurry up and defeat him so I could move on to something better.

There's a multiplayer component, but you'll rarely get me talking about multiplayer components. I don't care about them, and it bugs me to no end that developers feel they have to tack them on to their releases lest the gaming world burn down their office and curses their first born. If you want multiplayer action, buy Quake III: Team Arena. Let the rest of us have some fun on our own.

The graphics in Quake 4 are solid, and—unlike in Doom 3—you can see them. Although it has its share of dark corridors, too, they seem to be so because that's the way the buildings were constructed, not because the developers wanted to hide enemies in them. Also, you'll have a flashlight throughout the game, but you don't have to worry about draining energy while using it. Instead, you only need to worry about being seen when your flashlight is on, and that frees you up to worry about more important things...like getting killed.

Quake 4

Although my Macintosh is towards the low end of the minimum system requirements, Quake 4 performed quite well at settings recommended by the game. It slowed down quite a bit during some of the more intense action sequences, but this didn't happen often, and I found the game playable even during these moments. It wasn't as pretty as it could've been, but it looked good enough for me enjoy what I was seeing.

Quake 4 doesn't advance the first-person shooter in any way, but that's fine; I believe that part of the continuing popularity in first-person shooters is their familiarity—gamers can install them and start playing without reading a manual or bothering to learn new controls. What Quake 4 does do is take most of the important elements in games of this type and polish them all up to a nice shine. The game is simply well developed, and it plays as if the developers at Raven had gripes about other first-person shooters and set to create one that corrected them. I mean, if they created a bio-mutant zombie Nazi alien first-person shooter that I can enjoy, then I can only imagine what genre fans will think of it.

And although she'd never admit it, I bet even Hillary Clinton would enjoy fragging herself some Strogg ass now and again...you know, in between launching morality wars against us.

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