In the early 90?s, PC gaming was a much simpler pastime. Regular hardware upgrading wasn?t a commonplace need, and cutting edge graphics weren?t an integral part of a gaming experience. Then, along came id Software and changed everything. On May 5th 1991, id unleashed the shareware version of Castle Wolfenstein upon the gaming world. While Wolfenstein has been acknowledged as the original FPS, id have never rested on their laurels as pushers of the gaming envelope. Throughout the 90?s they pounded gamers with various franchises that have forever changed the face of gaming, and among them was the Quake series. Although many gamers today mainly think of Quake as a primarily death-match driven tour de force, older gamers remember the more story oriented roots of the series (before Quake III Arena). Quake II followed a lone marine on a virtually suicidal mission into the heart of Stroggos ? a planet whose warring borg-like inhabitants, the predictably named Strogg, were busy trying to obliterate mankind from the face of the universe. Ultimately they failed. Fast forward from 1997 to 2005, and we have a new entry in the Quake franchise ?Quake 4. While the developmental duties were not handled by id themselves, the programmers at Raven Software have updated the series with an entry that has the unmistakable Quake feel.
First impressions of the X360 version of Quake IV are quite favorable. The intro movie provides a bleak (and rather gory) look at man?s continuing battle with the fearsome Strogg. Players assume the role of Matthew Kane, a new addition to Rhino Squad, a crack Special Forces unit imbued with the task of thinning out the ranks of the Strogg war machine. The gameplay of Quake IV consists of a lengthy single player campaign, and the obligatory Quake brand death-match courtesy of split screen multiplayer and Xbox Live. The fact that Quake IV is also a launch title for a new generation of hardware affords it some luxuries as far as first impressions go. There are few that will be able to ignore the copious amounts of eye candy and see straight through to the flaws that are present, though we here at MyGamer will take a look.
The single player portion of the game throws the player straight into the action at the end of the introductory movie, and there is little time to take a breath before it seems you are fighting for your life on an inhospitable alien planet. Quake IV does an admirable job of keeping the action fast and furious, while also making time for some Doom like scares. Unfortunately though, the tension is not woven adequately throughout the game, and sooner rather than later, a wide variety of guns and assorted ammo with which to decimate the enemy will replace all sense of dread that Raven Software tried to imbue the game with during its slower initial paces. While the single player aspect of the game is fairly lengthy, it is easy to lose much sense of the story, instead finding that during dramatic lulls, a trigger finger becomes increasingly heavy, waiting desperately for the next wave of Strogg to blow away. Over the course of the game, there are also a couple of forced vehicular sections which attempt to mix up the tried and true run and gun formula a little, but this also gives the game a chance to revel in its biggest flaw ? slowdown. Though none of the vehicle riding sections should be particularly taxing, slowdown can be prevalent (even during some of the more crazy on foot sections). There should be no reason why the game suffers as much as it does other than poor optimization, but the problem, irrespective of basis, exists all the same, which is a shame, because this could have been a killer app for Activision to have in the 360 launch, rather than a flawed piece of software. The multiplayer component should be familiar to anybody who has ever played one of the Quake III: Arena mods or maps. The onus is definitely on fire first, ask questions later. Offering a decent selection of maps, the multiplayer here offers up some good twitch based shooting with all the weapon selections and jump pads a gamer could ask for, as well as some new and old maps, drawn from past Quake games for those players who appreciate a little nostalgia among their death dealing.
Graphically, the game is sumptuous ? or at least as beautifully detailed as a game about war on a decrepit and decaying planet can be. Character models are significantly different from each other to give a good sense of selection, while the enemy is a little repetitive ? though a new enemy type will get introduced periodically throughout the game, usually via a nice little cut scene which should be familiar to all the Doom III players out there. Environments are well detailed, though the texture work tends to become murkier under close examination, which is a shame. Though with the speed of the action, it is debatable whether many will actually have the time or the inclination to stop and look around. The animation exhibited by the AI characters is all smooth and realistic looking, and the rag-doll physics, though somewhat exaggerated, are well implemented. All in all, Quake IV certainly looks the part. Of course, this would all be wasted were the soundtrack to provide weak accompaniment to the on screen proceedings. Luckily, this is not the case, as the game is full of decent voice acting, meaty sounding weaponry, big explosions, and all the screams and pained shrieks you would expect from a warlike situation. For an action title such as this, the music is generally subdued, but ramps up a lot during scenes of intense action.
Replay value for Quake IV will rely heavily on the likes/dislikes of the individual gamer. The solo campaign is fun despite some technical issues that probably shouldn?t exist and multiplayer might be a little too quick paced to appeal to the Halo crowd who seem to like their shooting action a little slower and more methodically paced. While the game represents an interesting glimpse at an interesting next generation console shooter, comparisons with the PC iteration are unavoidable. If you have a respectable gaming level PC, the frame-rate hiccups and certain bland textures may make the PC version more desirable. However, in the absence of a gaming rig, the X360 version will provide some launch title fps fun.