For the ages that have passed, there have always been two lines of games from one company that have remained legendary in the minds of gamers everywhere.
With the release of Doom, id became the harbinger of PC gaming, the legend known to bring a genre to life and hold supremacy unquestioned within the genre.
Doom was essentially one of those points in gaming history – one of those times that after playing five minutes into the game, the only thing on your mind was “this changes everything.” Now, even though it would be a great success, id essentially left the franchise dormant after the 1994 release of Doom II, id would again pick up the developing torch with the release of Quake.
With the same wild success as doom carried, Quake enjoyed a healthy market share, carving out a fair deal of sequels, as well as providing a game engine that was widely used in its day. Even now, Quake titles remain popular amongst the masses, after all, how many of us still put in a round of good ole Quake III on occasion?
Lessons of history and lore aside, there’s one thing that needs to be said before we can examine this game. First and foremost, to the gamers who started off running and gunning in the days of Doom, a storyline wasn’t an item of paramount importance. Even after the early days of gaming, title after title which relied solely on Gameplay to mask the poor storyline (titles such as Quake 2 & 3, and Unreal Tournament (along with 2003 and 2004), yet this is 2005. Times have changed – Gameplay, while important, takes a backseat to the experience gaming can give.
No longer is gaming only for the hardcore geeks and gamers of the niche, but rather it’s become an open-ended spectrum, with the market appeal of an interactive movie, that is, when it’s done right. While there are, in fact, quite a few movies out there today that have a lack of storyline, yet, we all know that they meet the same fate as two-dimensional games. With that in mind, let’s get on to the game itself, and actually see if id has just banked on a franchise and left things as they’ve always been, or if they’ve actually stepped up, beefing up the Gameplay into something legendary.
The entire potential of Quake 4 to be something special as opposed to just another game hinges around its storyline, something which probably isn’t good. Why is that you may say? Well, maybe my reasoning lies in the fact that the storyline of Quake 4 isn’t exactly the epitome of creativity, originality or delivery. If you want to find out what the storyline is, your best bet is to read the box “take the war to the heart of the strong homeworld” – and that’s about it. No, there’s no strong delivery or surprises along the way, it’s really and truly just a set of missions loosely grouped together with returns to a comfortable place in between. We’ve been there, we’ve done that and this isn’t a retro storyline, it’s a pathetic one. This is 2005.
Yet, what is it that can save a game when a pitiful storyline is at hand? After all, Doom 3 received rave reviews, and I personally loved its Resurrection of Evil expansion – yet just what did it? What made these titles so hot with the critics? The extras. With things like surprise, suspense, and terror in its repertoire, Doom 3 captivated and terrorized its players, keeping them hooked. The resurrection of Evil took it a step further by flicking up the dimmer a notch, and giving you the ability to see your foes… for a split second while the lights flashed. Couple these high suspense moments into a storyline filled with unique opportunities, interesting mini games and a lovely little two barreled weapon we missed so much, and by golly, a title that’s near-transparent in the story department comes shining through. With the thin and frail storyline in mind, let’s move on to see if the visuals of this title can at least save its skin.
Graphics & Sound
With such a sub-par, stale storyline, Quake 4 is essentially left with the prospects of amazing graphics and incredible Gameplay for its salvation. Now, considering that Quake 4 is based on the Doom 3 engine, the expectations for visuals are pretty high. Things such as the interactive screens are still there, maintaining their simplistic beauty. Beyond that, perhaps the best of the game’s visual department comes in the very well textured, well modeled creatures. Beyond the scope of the creatures, weapon modeling is also above the usual par, complimented by the sprays of blood coming off the exit wounds of bullets and the wavering, superheated air around explosions. Yet, when the flecks of eye candy wear off, a devastating reality sets in with a realization – when I can see these textures, they look horrible!
To many of us, Doom 3 was a spectacular looker of a game – and that’s because we could only ever see bits of the world with our muzzle flashes, or a distorted, yellowed out circle with our flashlights on the frantic dashes away from vastly overpowering enemies. To those of you looking at me and wondering just what I’m on about, it’s rather simple – apart from the characters, I could honestly pass this game off as Quake 3 on the graphical front. Texturing is at such a poor degree that it really begins to detract from Gameplay due to the distractions it causes the player. It gets even worse at a point in the game when you’re to board a massive ship – one whose texture could pass for being done in Microsoft’s Paint. With the disappointing textures aside, at least the title’s visuals for smoke and flame was impressive, drawing on the distortion of view that the extreme heat can provide to intensify the normally ordinary appearance of these destructive elements.
With such a mixed visual bag leaving a bad taste in our mouths, we’re happy to report that the audible aspect of the game is nothing short of spectacular. Even with the Realtek based onboard audio on our motherboard, positional audio came across stunningly, and backed by a high tension, fast flowing heavy soundtrack backing the audible tapestry woven of explosions and whizzing shells, there’s really nothing more to ask in the audio division. With that in mind, character voices also came across quite well, whether they’re orders being screamed down at you by those above you, the groans of wounded marines or the chuckles of groups of marines standing around aboard the ship, everybody sounds as if they should, with voices well suited to the moods within the situations, and emotions being just clearly enough defined to provide a window for interpretation. Perhaps the only thing to wonder is, why would id put such little effort into the textures of this title, when they clearly poured volumes of time and effort into the modeling and audible landscape? While this is a question that will likely remain unanswered for the time to come, it still would have been nice to see a consistent effort. Mediocracy and superiority aside, let’s see if the Gameplay can at least make this title salvageable shall we?
Gameplay & Control
Now, in the past, some titles have been saved by the crippling handicaps of a poor storyline and weak graphics, often done through solid, fun Gameplay. Considering that this is Quake 4’s last gasp at greatness, let’s see if id stepped up and chose to redefine the genre, or just stuck with tried and true methodology.
Now, to the astute readers who have followed my thread through this review, it’s really not much of a toss up as to which way id chose to go down the gaming road. Rather than take the genre and re-shape it, an action similar to the creation of a genre which they accomplished with Doom, id simply chose to make another title just like all the others it’s made over time. While it has been touted as “retro” gaming by other sites, it falls vastly short. While it may be “retro” gaming in the sense of painfully linear levels, a two dimensional storyline so thin that it blows in the breeze, and weak graphics, it fails totally and utterly to capture the rush and excitement that those titles that came long before it could provide. Quite honestly, the things intended to be surprising really left no response, as strogg rushing in from every angle might have been intense in the days before Doom 3 (and the subsequent heart rate fluctuations associated with monsters coming at you from the front and rear) but isn’t anything special now. To that end, Gameplay takes on two modes – single and multiplayer.
While it might be better than titles that split single and multiplayer up (Unreal and It’s Tournaments), the lack of a co-operative mode leaves us feeling rather empty, especially when the ability to play Doom over a network made the game that much better. As to the single player Gameplay, I honestly expected a whole lot more from “lead squads deep into strogg territory, take command of vehicles” a statement which, in reality, just brings a bunch of expendable decoys who are terrible shots along for the ride (although they do give you medpacks and armour fragments), and standing on top of a poorly textured hover truck, gunning down droves of strogg. Yawn. Been there, done that guys. With the monotony of the linear single player levels left unbroken, all there really is left is the option for a superb set of multiplayer modes. A superb set that would never come. Quake 4’s multiplayer modes are essentially the standard fare, essentially equating to playing Quake 3 on a better engine with more harsh performance demands. While this sort of multiplayer Gameplay is perfect for LAN parties, Quake 4 may end up vetoed by quite a few of your participants, mostly due to the fact that it’s just so bloody hard to run at decent frame rates during heated firefights. With the unfortunately disappointing Gameplay in mind, let’s get on to the simple, familiar and effective controls. Movement is controlled, as always by the WASD keys. Along with movement, firing can be accomplished with a left click or tapping the ctrl key, while crouching is, as ever, on the c key. Weapon selection can be accomplished by the use of the numeric keys on your keyboard, or by scrolling through with your scroll wheel, while reloading is sensibly mapped to the R key. Beyond this, the only complication to controlling Quake 4 will be your amount of skills, which might just be shown to be painfully lacking or dangerously present when you take your Gameplay online. The disappointments of such a simply controlled game aside, let’s get on to the conclusion shall we?
Minimum System Requirements:
– English version of Microsoft(r) Windows(r) 2000/XP
– Pentium(r) 4 2.0 GHz or Athlon(tm) XP 2000+ processor
– 512MB RAM (2GB Recommended!)
– 8x Speed CD-ROM drive and latest drivers
– 100% DirectX(r) 9.0c compatible 16-bit sound card and latest drivers
– 100% Windows 2000/XP compatible mouse, keyboard and latest drivers
– DirectX 9.0c (included)
Hardware Accelerated video card and the latest drivers
– ATI(r) Radeon(r) 9700
– ATI Radeon 9800
– ATI Radeon X300 series
– ATI Radeon X550 series
– ATI Radeon X600 series
– ATI Radeon X700 series
– ATI Radeon X800 series
– ATI Radeon X850 series
– NVIDIA(r) GeForce(TM) 3/Ti series
– NVIDIA GeForce 4/Ti series
– NVIDIA GeForce FX series
– NVIDIA GeForce 6 series
– NVIDIA GeForce 7 series
What We Tested With:
Intel Pentium 4 530J @ 3.5 (244*15)
ASUS P5AD2-E Premium
2 GB PC2-5300/6400 Crucial Ballistix Memory
NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT @ 400/1000
Direct X 9.0c
Average Framerate: 50FPS (1280*1024)
Note: Partway through the testing we did a bit of system work, which resulted in the removal of a Gigabyte of finicky memory. Upon re-opening Quake 4 (this was in the Ultra Quality mode), frame rates sat around the 5-10FPS mark, down from 50-55FPS. Wow.
In the end, I honestly fail to see what makes this title so special. There have been so many titles over the years that do the exact same thing that it’s not even funny. Now, while id may have been trying to stay true to the legacy, and would be touted as “retro gamers” on that part, a title like this honestly can’t stand on it’s own in 2005. The lack of storyline coupled with the stale Gameplay sprinkled with the archaic and poor texturing leaves much to be desired, and while the soundtrack might try to pump you up and get you going, the rest of the game just does a better job dragging you down. In essence, this is the same game as Doom 1-3 and Quake 1-3 with a few visual tweaks and new toys to play with – nothing has changed and it’s nothing special. All in all, Quake 4 isn’t worth the price, let alone the space on your hard drive it can consume. So, to all you gamers out there looking for an amazing experience, look elsewhere, as there’s been a rash of superb titles lately, and sadly, this title brings to shame a legacy by just not being one of them.