Saturday, November 27, 2010

Demo Reviews: Quake IV

Today we're pulling one out of the vault, as it were. Quake IV was released in 2005 for PC, and was later ported to the 360 and Mac. But, you can still download the demo on X Box Live, so that's why we're here today. I'm a big Quake fan, having played Quake II on PC back when we first got a home computer, and it was in fact the first PC game I ever finished. But enough about that, let's have a bit of background on the games themselves before we start.
Quake IV is a direct sequel to Quake II. Quakes I and III are not part of this story. The first game follows a similar story to fellow FPS (first-person-shooter) Doom, and the third entry is based heavily in multiplayer with little story. In Quake II, you follow a Marine stranded on the alien world of Stroggos. The Stroggs, a cybernetic race that uses prisoners and enemy dead to replenish and fuel it's massive war machine, have invaded Earth and you are sent as part of a counter-attack. Your character is alone throughout the game, and in the end you manage to destroy the Stroggs' security grid as well as the Strogg leader, the Makron.

Yeah, this guy.

The demo for Quake IV picks up with a human armada coming out of (warp speed/hyperspace/mass relay/etc.) at the planet Stroggos. There's a nice bit of exposition as your squad leader briefs you and outlines what happened in Quake II. Your landing ship is shot down and you spend the rest of the demo reuniting with your squad and heading out on what I assume is the first mission.
I had a lot of fun with this demo, not just because of the nostalgia factor (although familiarity with the story, enemies, etc. didn't hurt I'm sure). The graphics were very nice (for being five years old), while still having that "Quake" feel to them. As such, the enemies also got an update, while still recognizable to someone familiar with the game. Take for example the Strogg Beserker from Quake II (left) and Quake IV (right).

I also really liked how the opening cinematic for the game really sets the tone for what's to come (see it here ). It pulls no punches, and let's you know right away this is an M-rated game and it's going to hold to that rating. It's not going to shy away from all the brutal and gory bits as you wage war on the Strogg. In investigating this game I found another cinematic that shows you in unabashed and graphic detail what happens when someone gets captured by the Strogg. It may not be pretty, but it shows you what your up against and the price that all humans will pay if you fail. That is intense stuff and that's what I like to see. This game is already for adults and I like that it doesn't gloss things over, it shows you what the stakes really are. And keeping it in the first-person-perspective is a nice touch.
A difference, and I don't think it's a bad one, is having other humans in the game (at least for the duration of the demo). In Quake II you are alone, from the time you land till the end of the game. Here there are other soldiers, and medics who can heal you. This is a very interesting difference, and makes for a slightly different gameplay mindset than being a one-man army. I don't know if this persists throughout the game, but having some human interaction for at least part of it is a change I don't mind. The voice acting for the characters seems to be pretty good, especially since it seems a lot of first-person shooters have average-to-bad voice acting* (except you, Bioshock, we love you <3), and I would say Quake IV rates better than something like Turok, which was pretty good but often hit-or-miss.
But what about the weapons, you say? Well, I can only tell you about what was available in the demo, which was the blaster, the machine gun, and the shotgun. The blaster is your usual starting gun, limitless ammo, not terribly powerful, but gets the job done when you need it to. Next you have the shotgun. It fires eight rounds before reload, and is great for close targets (although a bit slow to fire and reload) but sucks at range. Finally, the trusty machine gun. This one has a forty round clip, a flashlight, and ability to use the scope to snipe. It's a jack-of-all-trades weapon that is very effective and my personal choice for early levels. Sadly, I didn't get to try out fun superguns like the hyperblaster, the railgun, or the nailgun, but I remember the hyperblaster and railgun from Quake II and I'm sure they are just as much fun this time around.

So, would I recommend this game, based on the demo? Hells yes! It's nice to have played Quake II first, so you have a better idea of what's going on, but I'm sure you can more or less put it together as you play if you haven't. In fact, there is a Collector's Edition of the game (for PC and 360) that comes with Quake II if you need it. I've read that Quake IV runs badly on the 360, with framrate issues and long load times, but none of that was present in the demo, so I don't know if that was patched or was just because it was the demo. I would still recommend this game on whatever your preferred platform. It's a fun, gory, Strogg-blasting good time, and there's nothing wrong with that. For anything familiar with the story from Quake II, this will give you a nice bit of nostalgia, especially during the opening briefing when you realize "hey, that was ME that did all those things in the last game!". So I say, go give it a try, it's lots of fun. And join me next time on Demo Reviews where I will do a more recent game, I promise. :D

The P.M.S

*I could be wrong about this of course. I don't play the war FPSs like Call of Duty so they might be great for all I know.

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