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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


 Quake 4 (Activision for PC)

By Jim McHugh

The gaming series that helped define the First-Person Shooter as the dominant PC gaming genre is back with a vengeance. Quake IV expands the franchise with updated graphics, character models, and maps. But is it enough to live up to the expectations that come with such a popular gaming franchise? The Laser's Jim McHugh drops into battle to find out.

I'll be completely honest with you. I've been purposely putting off my review for the Activision released shooter, Quake IV for months. I know, I know…the game has been out for some time now, so I should have absolutely no excuse for not finishing up everything in an orderly fashion. However, I do have one, and it's a goody. Simply stated, I'm lazy. Now I'm not talking about your typical slothful behavior that has plagued all game reviewers at one time or another. You know, when you get that god awful game thrown onto your desk by that unforgiving editor: the game that no-one in the office wants to review at all. So, you just put it off for as long as humanly possible.

Quake IV in no way fell into that disparaging category, thankfully. Conversely, it was a game that I completely looked forward to playing. As a matter of fact, the day that I received my review copy of the game, I eagerly loaded it up onto my lowly PC gaming rig and jumped into the action as quickly as possible. After about 5 minutes of playing, I came to the unmistakable conclusion…my video card had finally hit its limit of usefulness. The slow graphics processing aspect of the game should have been my first clue. But the real kicker came when I realized that all of the games visuals were not supposed to be lime green. The backgrounds, the character model faces, etc. I hadn't taken my own advice given to gamers when QIV's predecessor Doom III was released (both games utilizes roughly the same graphics engine) and thought I could muddle through the game without having to drop down the hardware cash. So, I sadly uninstalled my game, jumped onto the Internet, and started my research/quest to find a new video card. Four long weeks later, I was the proud owner of a brand new nVidia GeForce 6800 APT video card for my gaming rig (not to mention an added 1gig of memory just for the hell of it), and my plethora of excuses for not playing the game disappeared along with my slothful ways.

With my newly installed graphics card and RAM, I reloaded my copy of Quake IV and hungrily jumped into the first-person fray. After all of the hassles and pains that it took to get my rig up and running again (not to mention the withdrawals I went through for a month without my cherished PC games) what I found in QIV really wasn't that much of a surprise. To be honest, a shooter is a shooter no matter how you look at it. You take a virtual gun, run around a hallway (or something similar) and take pop shots at bad guys. It's the FPS mold that iD helped create, and they stick to what works in their latest release in the long running Quake franchise. So, fans really shouldn't be surprised with this. It's like ordering a hamburger: you're getting ground meat served on a bun, and shouldn't be too shocked when you take your first bite. However, QIV isn't your typical grungy fast food cheeseburger: it's more like fresh, gourmet burger from a well-to-do tavern. And I hungrily dug into what the game had to offer.

In this latest version of Quake, players get to tackle the enemy headfirst on one of the Strogg's own planets, taking on the bio-mechanic bad guys on their own turf. This gives the creators of the game the license to design some very cool levels, allowing fans of the game series to finally take a peak into the before unseen background of the alien menace. Through 10+ hours of gameplay, players get the chance to fight along side their space marine brethren (with AI controlled 'squad' abilities) as they storm through various Strogg held facilities, landscapes, and strongholds. An added bonus comes halfway through the game (POTENTIAL SPOILER…maybe not) when you get the chance to actually witness the 'Stroggification' process firsthand. An event not intended for the weak stomached.

As I stated before, Quake IV is a solid FPS that stands on its own merit without any problem whatsoever. The action is fast paced, the backstory and plot interesting enough to keep the players attention, and the level designs are not only incredibly detailed, but also varied enough to keep the 'cookie-cutter' maps found in other games at a minimum. A variety of weapons can be found in the game as well that add to the diversity of carnage of destruction you can dish out to the Strogg, including some older favorites from the series (the Rail gun) and newer additions to the arsenal (the Gravity/Black Hole Gun). While the enemies AI isn't the best I've run into this past year in the FPS world, the sheer diversity of the types of bad guys you run into is definitely noteworthy. Also of note are the levels where vehicles can be used (by both the Strogg and the Marines) giving us a nice change of pace from the game's typical fight or flight FPS gameplay elements, as well as allowing us a glimpse into what we might be able to expect from the upcoming QuakeWars: Enemy Territory, slated for release later this year.

While the game has its highlights, Quake IV definitely had some low moments as well. The before mentioned AI is just one example where we would have liked a little bit more tactical and strategic actions from not only the enemy units, but also the marine squad members. Also, it would have been a lot more fun to get a little more time with the vehicle aspects of the game: instead, we just get a quick glimpse into what could have been a grand adventure that is being saved for upcoming releases. Beyond that, the two major letdowns I came away with after playing Quake IV lied within the Strogg and multiplayer portions of the game. The 'Stroggifcation' that players go through later in the game didn't really add to the overall gaming experience. While it was fun to view the grisly cutscenes, the gameplay changed very little beyond added armor and health (from that of the space marine) and a little more comprehension of the Strogg datastreams, signs, and monitors posted throughout the later levels. Still, the most dissapointing aspect of the game hands down goes to the multiplayer portion of QIV. I mean, this franchise of gamine helped define modern multiplayer gaming as we know it (Team Fortress, anyone?), so you'd think that iD would spend just a little more time getting this part of the game right. The QIV servers with decent amount of players, low pings, and team styled gameplay (my personal choice) were just few and far between. Not to mention my sheer boredom with your typical CTF, DM, and TDM styles of games which make up the choices for Mulitplayer. . After spending about an hour trying to find some decent cooperative matches online, I just gave up and went back to my beloved Call of Duty 2 servers. In my opinion, the ball was seriously dropped here.

Even with the flaws found within the game, I still have to give the creative team and iD a hearty slap on the back for developing a hearty and fun shooter that passes the torch of the Quake franchise in a new and very cool direction. Those that are fans of the previous editions of the game will no doubt jump into this one with a big smile on their faces. While, newcomers to the series will enjoy the hardcore FPS gaming that Quake IV has to offer.

Grade: B+

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