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Quake 4

Score: 98%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 (2 - 8 Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

One of the most anticipated launch titles of the Xbox 360 is the graphical powerhouse from id Studios, Quake 4. Does it live up to the hype?

Graphically, this game doesn't leave you wanting. The environments, character models and lighting effects all show off the 360's prowess and make the game a sheer joy to look at. The environments have all been updated, but still fit the rugged, technological feel that was set in the previous games. The amount of detail and objects displayed on the screen at one time is just amazing, especially since there never seems to be a frame rate hit.

One of the graphical treatments that really helped to convey the game's feel is the lighting. You will encounter everything from the harsh, bright daylight outside on a desert-like world to the technologically advanced, cool blue rooms of Strogg bases and of course, the mostly-dark rooms and hallways that you will have to run through when the shit hits the fan. Everything from your flashlight to the light generated by weapons fire to the environmental lights just helps to add to the game's graphical beauty.

Quake 4 isn't lacking in the sound department either. Everything from the weapons' fire to the background music helped to sell the game's dark and oppressive feel. When not in the middle of a fire fight, the game's background music was low and brooding, thus adding to the weight of the game as you slink your way through half-lit corridors and rooms with flashing lights.

One issue I had with the audio isn't really with the game itself, or even necessarily the 360. My entertainment setup does not have surround sound, so I am currently stuck with the two speakers built into my TV. It seems that the default setting for the 360 is for full 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. Having seen what the 360 can do with surround sound -- this is great. If someone is talking to you and you move around, that voice transfers from one speaker to the next. Unfortunately, if you don't have surround sound and you haven't explicitly gone into your 360's setup to change that, what you will experience is conversations fading in and out as the voices move to non-existent speakers. Like I said, I can't fault the system or the game for this. It's just something to note if you don't yet have a surround sound system hooked up to your TV and you haven't changed the system's default audio settings.


Quake 4 is the next step in one of the video game industry's longest standing series. When the original Quake game came out almost 10 years ago, it helped to revolutionize and better define the FPS genre. With a fairly balanced blend of standard FPS and squad-based gameplay, Quake 4 seems to be trying to reshape the genre once again.

Unlike most FPS games, you can't just shoot anything that moves across the screen. Throughout the game's various missions, you will be accompanied by Rhino Squad. This band of Space Marines will not only heal your health and armor, but actually does a fairly good job of laying down cover fire or even taking down enemies without your help. Unlike most squad-based shooters, you have no actual control over the team. This usually spells doom (no pun intended) for most squad-based games since your team's A.I. is rarely any good. But that isn't the case here. I was really surprised at how well the other characters actually responded in a fight. I was expecting my team members to be very defensive and I would still have to jump out and clean up the enemies, but more times than not, the other members of Rhino Squad were able to pick off enemy forces that I couldn't get.

That's not to say that the entire game has you falling in formation. There is still a lot of on-your-own time. In fact, I would say that even though the squad-based aspect is very heavy in this game, you will still be making your way through the various enemy compounds on your own more times than not. Typically you will meet up with a squad (be it yours or some other group) and be ordered to go across the compound to get a medic or meet up with some other character. So you will have to wind you way through the arenas all by your lonesome. Other missions will have you protecting a tech or other character as they perform some task. Other missions include protecting convoys and piloting tanks.

The game is divided into three acts. As it progresses, you are captured by the Strogg, made into one of them and broken out before the enemy programming can be completed. Now as a Strogg with all of your memories and experience, you will help the human race destroy the invading force once and for all. Of course, that's just the single-player campaign. What people really want to know about in a Quake game is its multiplayer capabilities.

When online, up to eight players can get together in many of the hallmark online FPS modes like Capture the Flag and Deathmatch. There is also a Tournament mode where players go after each other in a one-on-one single-elimination tourney to see who is the best.

There were a few issues that I noticed in the online play that made some aspects less than desirable. Every now and then, a match would start off and the participating players would have very little control over their characters. During these matches, my character would suddenly jump to one side or the other as I moved down the hall (or worse, near the edge of a cliff). It almost felt like a lag problem except for the fact that it wasn't just me. This had to be some issue with the server or multiplayer service because the issues weren't confined to my personal system or connection alone. With the use of the headset, it was easy to hear that the other people in the game were experiencing similar jumping issues. I haven't experienced these problems in the past couple of days, but it was very prevalent for quite a while. Hopefully the issue has been ironed out.

On a side note, Quake 4 also comes with a copy of the classic Quake II. Being able to load up the older FPS and blast my way through the many enemy outposts and reminisce over the pixelated blocky graphics really helped me realize just how far the game and its visuals have progressed over the past decade.


Quake 4's single player campaign has four difficulty settings and in general, these settings were pretty dead on. The lower settings allowed me to plow through most enemies, while the tougher selections were painfully hard. I couldn't tell if the enemies were dumber and got in the way of my bullets more, or if they simply couldn't take as many hits. Either way, there was a definite difference in difficulty with each setting.

As for multiplayer, when facing opponents that aren't controlled by the computer, how well you do depends not only on your own personal skill, but who you are going up against as well. Quake 4's integration into Xbox Live makes it easy to add people into your Live friend list, so when you find a person that seems to be on the same skill level as you, you can just add them in and challenge them whenever you see them online at the same time as you.

An interesting dynamic that affected the game's difficulty is the flashlight feature. Unlike Doom 3, the flashlight is not a separate object and is attached to your weapons, or at least some of them. Weapons like the machine gun and the blaster have a built-in light that can help you in the darker areas of the game, but if you want to use something with a bit more firepower like the rail-gun or grenade launcher, you will have to forgo the added illuminiation. This was an interesting balancing feature that made you really think about which weapons to use in which situations.

Game Mechanics:

The biggest new mechanic in Quake 4 that really helps it stand out is the game's squad-based action. Even though you will mostly be running and gunning your way alone -- when you have your squad with you, you will find yourself frequently talking to the medic for a health boost or asking the technician to fix your armor. This is an interesting new mechanic that wasn't present in the previous games.

Why this is interesting is because, although that means you technically have unlimited health while your medic is around -- you still have to take time out of a fire fight to get a shot of whatever magical elixir he is using on you. The other interesting dynamic about this is the fact that your team members can die. At one point, I turned around to find that my medic had been ambushed and was dead on the ground. Until I rejoined the mother ship and my entire squad was safely in orbit again, my team was without a medic. It wasn't until we got back on the ground that I could take advantage of the "infinite health". Because of that, I started making sure I protected my squad mates a lot more.

Quake 4 is an awesome game. Though it doesn't have a huge selection of multiplayer games (options like King of the Hill are noticeably missing), the game's superb feel and heart-pounding single player campaign are worth the investment, both in time and money.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Sony PlayStation 2 RPG Maker 3 Microsoft Xbox Crime Life: Gang Wars

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated