Quake 4 is actually the sequel to Quake 2. If you’re feeling a little confused, let us explain. Revisionist videogame historians have completely struck Quake 3 from the records, mainly because of the infernally annoying noise the game made to denote a player being hit. You know, the sound like Noddy getting stuck in a particularly bad Toytown traffic jam and tooting his little horn at 180 beats-per-minute. If you don’t know, just be thankful.
The real reason for the jump in the Quake time-line is that the third game didn’t have a single-player mode at all, whereas this incarnation picks up the story of the Strogg where Quake 2 left off. The Strogg, a race of ghoulish cybernetic aliens, are once again kicking the snot out of poor old humanity and it’s your job to stop them.
However, this time you’re not alone in the traditional ‘one marine versus hordes of beasts’ scenario (at least, not all of the time). From the very off you’re running around with computer controlled squad members who battle at your shoulder, as well as medics who can patch you up and tech guys who repair your armour. Just think of it as Barney and his mates from Half Life 2 visiting Quake world.
To be fair, Quake 4 does give you a good sense that you’re involved in a full-on war, scurrying up and down with these squads on a plethora of missions, facing bombardment from Strogg bombers, artillery and kitchen sinks. Some of the gigantic battle scenes are definite visual treats, as is the simple stuff, like watching a vast starship land, then wandering around on board listening to the other marines banging on about invasion plans and last night’s corn-beef hash. This all builds the atmosphere up adroitly, but it’s hardly revolutionary.
What is more radical, at least for the Quake series, is the introduction of futuristic vehicles you can jump into and blast away with. This adds a good smattering of variety to the proceedings, plus there are on-rails arcade shooter style sections, which again are a welcome diversion from the usual sneaking around in the dark and waiting for monsters to spring out at you.
Herein lies the rub with Quake 4, though: it’s very much like Doom 3. Admittedly, it doesn’t try to do the supernatural freaky stuff, but it’s still all about dark claustrophobic corridors, torches and big ugly monsters that leap out and make some guttural and cybernetic noise which roughly translates to “Boo!”. As glorious-looking as the Doom 3 engine is – and Quake 4 undoubtedly makes good use of it – there’s a nagging sense of over-familiarity here.
It’s also disappointing that Quake 4 treads a similarly linear path in its level design, with only one route to follow and a load of locked doors that gradually open as you progress through a particular mission. Quite simply, the first-person shooter has evolved beyond this now.
The multi-player mode harks back to the old school of Quake 3, with duel and ‘capture the flag’ play modes as well as vanilla deathmatch. It’s a fast paced and fun game of deathmatch with a decent map selection, but it’s very much no frills. Quake 3 fans will enjoy the return of readily recognisable features such as jump-pads, although there aren’t any bots this time around, so those who enjoy offline DM practice against the computer are out of luck.