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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.6    CPU: G4 @ 1600 MHz    RAM: 512 MB    Hard Disk: 3000 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 64 MB VRAM


Quake 4
May 30, 2006 | Bryan Clodfelter
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Gameplay
Playing Quake 4 reminded me of two things: first, how many games I've played, and second, how distinctive Raven games really are. If you recall, Raven Software is known for developing such enjoyable titles as Soldier of Fortune, Star Wars Jedi Knight II, and Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force (with their respective sequels). If you've ever had the opportunity to play several of those games, you have probably already noticed that they all have a similar feel (which is a good thing). As I progressed through Quake 4, I was constantly being reminded of other games, drawing certain parallels that were too strong to be tossed aside. Certain previously used conventions—like the way that defeated Borg were re-assimilated in Elite Force—have made it into Quake 4. Also, while Quake 4's weapon set is drawn directly from Quake 3: Arena, Quake 4's weapons feel more like a combination between Elite Force and Jedi Outcast's combined cache. Although you receive the obligatory pistol, machine gun, shotgun, and so on, many of them should exude a clear sense of déjà vu as you acquaint yourself with their individual characteristics. In an interesting twist, your progress through the game eventually leads you to soldiers that can upgrade your weapons in many interesting ways. For example, the shotgun, which normally reloads very slowly, gets a clip feed system that makes the weapon thrice as deadly, while the nailgun, which has a long windup period and fires slowly receives a series of upgrades that turn it into a deadly steel-spewing version of the needler from Halo. There are upgrades for nearly every weapon that give the player new ways to hurt the enemy, which makes these "leveling up" events some of the most anticipated moments throughout the game.

One of the primary criticisms of Doom III (whose engine Quake 4 borrows) was that it was essentially a "closet jumper": in other words, the game felt like a B-grade horror flick, where monsters jump out at the protagonist from everywhere: dark corners, vents, closed doors, false walls, and so forth. Thankfully, despite the visual similarities to Doom III, Quake 4 is an entirely different game. Most of the time, you'll be moving from point to point with your squad, watching for traps and trying to anticipate the enemy's next move. Fights are usually fairly tactical—both your friends and your foes can make good use of cover, although the Strogg will often attempt to charge you down and either impale or flatten you (which is not necessarily the kamikaze run it sounds like). Survival necessitates smart tactics, such as sweeping a room like the minute hand on a clock, keeping an eye (or better yet, a large weapon) trained on blind corners, and most of all spotting the enemy early. Furthermore, ammo is limited, making intelligent management of this important resource critical. In a practical sense, this means that you'll have to learn how to dispatch enemies with a variety of weapons in order to have enough ammo left to make it to the next checkpoint. Your contribution to the squad, or lack thereof, can easily mean the difference between the life and the death of your friends, most of whom have the potential to remain an integral part of Rhino Squad throughout the entire game. While losing an occasional soldier here and there is unlikely to affect the odds as you battle the Strogg, there are a few special soldiers that you'll want to protect at all costs. These soldiers, designated with red or blue-striped armor, can heal you or repair your armor in the field to full strength as often as you'd like, which is essential as you face torrents upon torrents of enemy fire. In my opinion, this seems like a good move for a genre too-heavily reliant on health packs (you'll still see health packs in Quake 4, just not as many of them); not only does it feel more realistic, but it gives you a chance to interact with your fellow marines just a little bit more. On a related note, what with Quake 4's "M" rating and the quasi-Reaver like persona (Firefly/Serenity fans should get that one) of the Strogg, it's a wonder that the amount of blood and gore displayed is low as it is. Given the nature of the enemy you're fighting, I would think that a GHOUL 2-esque location-based damage system would greatly enhance the horrific encounters that you face, but maybe that's just me. Either way, there is one scene (briefly referred to in the beginning of this article) that should have even the most hardened gamers squirming in their seats, so if you like nasty encounters, Quake 4 is for you.

There are a few rough edges in Quake 4's gameplay that should to be mentioned before we leave this segment of the review. First of all, weapon balance feels off. While the first three-quarters of your armament feels finely tuned relative to itself, the three supposedly most powerful weapons feel quite weak, even when compared to your trusty machine gun. The most glaringly obvious discrepancy lies with Quake 4's version of the railgun. In Quake 3: Arena, I was used to racking up one (or possibly two) shot kills against bots and other humans on a steady basis. In Quake 4, the railgun not only fires more slowly than its predecessor, it's weaker, nearly to the point of being useless in single-player. Many of the deadlier Strogg abominations can absorb more than five rails to the head, at which point you've already been spitted, shot, or smashed into oblivion. Moving onward, the friendly AI-driven characters do an excellent job of eliminating enemy targets, but they tend to get in your way and do not move out of your path when they should. As a final note, feedback when you're hurting the enemy seems lackluster (also a problem in Elite Force and Doom III). Unless you physically blow an adversary out of your way with a grenade or a rocket, enemies seem to be doing almost perfectly fine right until the moment that they die.



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