Quake 4 is the latest release from the legendary game creators at id. id is, of course, known for giving the world Wolfenstein 3D, the Doom series, and the Quake series. Each of these games has introduced their own revolutions. Hot on the heels of Doom 3 comes this addition to the Quake series, looking to generate its own spin.
Or is it?
id's creative efforts with Quake 4 may be as much—or even more—about publishing a game engine upon which to earn licensing fees as it is a stand-alone game. Think of Quake 4 as a skunkworks for said engine, a long demo for the engine that id is likely hoping will bring in some bucks.
A little history might be in order here: Wolfenstein 3D was nothing less than a revolution on the Mac. I can personally testify to spending many an hour lost in the hallways of that venerable castle, blasting well-trained but otherwise troublesome German shepherd dogs, lock-step truncheon-wielding Nazis, and even the Fuhrer himself in a metal armor suit. And then there was Quake, an arguably bigger revolution in gaming, what with the visuals, the eeriness, the online multiplayer, and Trent Reznor's slick soundtrack to provide an aural backdrop.
Quake 2 was somewhat less exciting, although it advanced upon the genre by setting new heights for graphics and their ever-costly hardware requirements. Quake 3 changed the rules of what a first-person shooter was to be, offering multiplayer-only action in competition with the Unreal Tournament series. Games these days, though, are likely to offer both multiplayer and stand-alone entertainment. Quake 4 does this, although the value of the series seems to be lessened by a lack of anything truly groundbreaking.
Games are also more likely to attempt to craft a solid narrative that gives the hours you spend gaming some level of interaction beyond blowing things and people to gibs. Quake 4 attempts to infuse a bit more story into this shooter romp than previous Quakes, if only because gamers expect it. The action picks up where Quake 2 left off: you once again assume the machine gun of Matthew Kane, bad-ass loner space marine of mythic status who single-handedly disrupted the evil Strogg (in Quake 2) and their Big Gun. You and your fellow Rhino Squadron troops are being dropped back into the middle of Strogg territory, because they're working on recreating a new Makron, their leader.
Compared to the little red-text communications you received on your PDA in Quake 2, you get plenty of face time with NPCs in Quake 4 to provide background and mission objectives. This advances the story line as you make your way down dark corridors to meet up with yet another sergeant barking profanity at you over your headset. Interaction pretty much ends there, though; you don't actively respond to the NPCs, and your route, while sometimes confused by darkness and twisting hallways, is not open for exploration.
There's little time for talk, though, when there are so many Strogg to blast, machine gun, nail gun, grenade, rail, and incinerate. This is a shooter, right? Indeed it is. Quake 4 introduces an ever-present armor system to help beef up your defenses, which you recharge with armor you find laying around the levels. In addition to medical and armor pickups, NPCs that join Kane on missions, such as medics and techs, provide both medical care and armor repair in the field. Well, until they've been killed by the Strogg, of course.