It seems lately that games have taken on the role played by movies in the mid to late 80’s, that being of course that sequels are where it’s at. Creating a new franchise is a big financial risk, but that doesn’t mean that eventually it won’t pay off, just look at Splinter Cell. With that said you can clearly see the trend, three out of the four titles that Activision has released for the launch of the Xbox 360 are follow-ups to popular franchises. Granted they are all fantastic franchises all deserving of sequels this tends to beg the question of how many versions of said game do we honestly need? Well if they all turn out like Quake 4 then keep them coming, it has been a long time since I played such a visceral straight action shooter, and it’s nice to finally see the id boys return to form.
Quake 4 is the direct follow-up to 1997’s Quake 2, the storyline picks up directly where the aforementioned title leaves off. Some of you may be wondering where this places Quake 3 in the picture, well we all know that Arena was simply a multi-player frag fest that really had no place in the Quake storyline. You play the role of Matthew Kane, an elite member of the Rhino Squad as you invade the enemy planet of Stroggos. Throughout the game you will work together with your team mates and infiltrate their main headquarters and eventually become one of the enemies as you are captured and transformed into half man, half machine. Luckily you manage to retain your human senses and now it’s time to fight fire with fire.
While the Quake franchise has been going strong since the mid 90’s most gamers have really missed the seemingly perfect blend of great single-player and fast paced online action of Quake 2, well fear not my friends part four returns to true form with an engrossing single-player campaign and some intense online battles. The meat of the one-player story will run you through the gamut of the Strogg base, along the way you will be re-introduced to some of your favorite weaponry such as the trusty shotgun, the hole inducing nail gun, and my personal favorite the obliterating rail gun. About half way through the story you will go through some changes as you are captured by the Strogg, who remind me a lot of the Borg from Star Trek, and eventually go through one of the coolest sequences in a game ever where you become one of them. The whole process consists of you riding on a conveyor belt, having your legs sawed off, and eventually having mechanical attire attached to your entire body, needless to say it is awesome.
While the single-player will entertain you for a dozen or so hours it’s really the multi-player that keeps the fans coming back for more. While Quake 4 only supports up to eight players online the maps were certainly designed for this. Small tight quarters perfect for fragging at speeds that most games today simply could not handle. The first time you split someone’s head open with the rail gun while flying across the level via a jumpad you will come to realize the thrill of quick-trigger online gaming of old. The intensity is immeasurable and will certainly appease all fans of fast pace gaming.
If all of this wasn’t reason enough to own id’s latest masterpiece they have also thrown in a perfect port of the 97 classic Quake 2 for good measure. Unfortunately we did not get a graphics upgrade to the new engine, but damn this game has aged well and still looks good even by today’s standard. You can also frag out old-school via split-screen or system link, unfortunately Xbox Live support was not added to the classic, but hey it was free so I am not complaining.
For those curious about the power of the Xbox 360, Quake 4 is a good example of how much you can do with the system. Differentiating the PC and 360 version of this game is very hard. Every single detail and lighting effect has been implemented in the console version, and unlike its previous Xbox outing the game remains exactly the same as its PC brother. The one minor gripe I have is that at times the game can stutter, this is obviously because of the direct port from PC, but I expect once the developers get used to this hardware their next game will run smooth as ice. The lighting in the levels is also worth noting, using a modified version of the Doom 3 engine has really shown how flexible and beautiful this engine truly is.
While casual FPS fans and the new school of Halo aficionados will probably scoff at this classic change of pace, I welcome it with open arms. It has been a while since I enjoyed fragging online just for the fun of it. You can literally jump into a game for fifteen minutes and find satisfaction. If Halo is the smart shooter Quake would be the one with ADD and sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered. With sensational visuals, a free pack-in copy of the classic Quake 2, and some of the fastest online play currently available on the 360, Quake 4 is a game not to be missed by fans of the series.