Sunday, July 16, 2006

Quake 4 (PC) Review

Quake 4 was released on the PC last October, and is the second game to feature the Doom 3 Engine. Quake 4 also happens to be the game I decided to use to really test my new PC out and see what it can do. After completing Quake 4 yesterday, not only can I say that I'm happy with my new PC, but that Quake 4 is one hell of a ride.

Visually, Quake 4 is one of the most beautiful PC games that I've ever played. It's not as dark as Doom 3, however there are plenty of dark areas to move through, but at least you have a Flashlight on two of your weapons. Quake 4 is an action game, and not a horror game, so you'll rarely have enemies that simply pop out and go "boo," however there certainly are some creepy, pulse racing moments.

The game is very fast paced, and features excellent indoor and outdoor areas to wage war in, and in both situations, you'll often fight alongside other soldiers, medics, and engineers. Your allies don't feature the best AI I've seen, but they're not useless either, and I saw many a team mate put the hurt on the Strogg while I was busy elsewhere. Quake 4 also sports some very nice character models, and while facial expressions aren't up to Source Engine quality yet, the overall look of the characters in Quake 4 was more pleasing to me than in Half-Life 2.

Sound wise, the game has both excellent effects and voice acting. The only problem is the two will often conflict, and many of the game's sound effects will drown out communications you may be getting, however the game is straightforward enough that you're never left wondering where to go or what to do should you not hear what an ally is trying to tell you. The game's music is also very well done, adding an extra bit of rush to a charge against Strogg forces, or hightening a tense moment when everything goes to hell.

Gameplay wise, Quake 4 doesn't offer anything you haven't done before, however what it does do is done very well. The game is one intense battle after another with a lot of scripted sequences thrown in to add to the life of the game world. While the story isn't exactly an epic masterpiece, it is a nice B-style sci-fi plot that is engaging so long as you don't take it too seriously. What does happen in the game makes sense within the world's own context, and there are even a few surprise moments that may take some players off guard. Sadly, one of the best of these was revealed with the ad campaign, and you can't help but be disappointed with what could have been a great surprise moment.

The Strogg themselves have average intelligence but pack a punch to make up for their lack of brains, and you'll have several weapons at your disposal to deal with them. The Machine Gun is arguably the most versatile in the game (similar to Halo 2's Battle Rifle), and the Shotgun's a traditional close-quarters winner. As the game went on, I found myself really appreciating the Grenade Launcher as well as the Lightning Gun, however I must say that Quake 4 lacks an effective non-explosive room clearer, such as Doom 3's Chaingun. The Nailgun was supposed to fill this role, but I found it too slow and not powerful enough, which resulted in some of the later levels close quarters battles being very frustrating. As the game goes on, however, most of your weapons will get an upgrade of some kind, such as increased clip size, increased damage, or other cool effects like target tracking or bounce shots. Once all is said and done, you'll rely mainly on a few weapons, but your entire aresenal will come into play and be useful.

To break up the non-stop action, the game has several "shooting gallery" sequences where you get to man a turret or hop in a vehicle and move from point A to B and blow the snot out of anything in your way. These sequences are by no means challenging, however the arcade nature of them is very, very fun.

It should also be noted that the Doom 3 Engine's physics have been vastly improved over Doom 3. They're still not Half-Life 2 quality, but they get the job done and don't scream "fake" like the Grenades in Doom 3 did. It was after this really clicked for me that I started using and loving the Grenade Launcher; so handy for making things that hide around corners go "boom."

Seeing as how Quake 4 is only $29.99 now, there's no reason not to snag it if you're looking for a fun, engaging, and somewhat older-school shooter to pass some time. I got about 15 hours to 17 hours of gameplay from it on Normal, and I'll be playing through the game again on Hard to see how much more of a challenge the war against the Strogg can offer.

No comments: