Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Quake 4 (PC)

Today, at last, I'm taking a quick look at the first few hours of Quake 4. Though it should really be called Quake II-2, as it breaks the series' long tradition of each game having basically nothing to do with each other, and instead continues the tale of Quake II.

The game came out a year after Doom 3 and is built on the same engine, but it was actually developed by id's sidekick Raven Software, who've used id's tech in the past to bring the world first person shooters like Heretic, Soldier of Fortune and Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force. But not Return to Castle Wolfenstein, that was actually someone else (though Raven did make the next Wolfenstein game... called Wolfenstein.)

Anyway I've played (and finished) the game once before, but thanks to my superpower of being able to completely forget pretty much anything and everything (aside from bad pop songs and 16-bit game tunes), it'll be just like I'm seeing it all for the first time!

(Click the images to view them in a larger resolution.)

Quake 4 USS Patton
The game starts off much the same as Quake II does: dramatic music as a human fleet approaches planet Stroggos, home of the evil Strogg. But this time around our fleet isn't screwing around with tiny drop pods: this is the full scale assault. We've got spaceships shaped like trains and at least one of them has the name of a WWII general on the front, so you know we're taking this seriously now.

Hey that's a point, why don't any of the other ships have a name on the front?

Quake 4 fleet around StroggosDamn... I suddenly have an inexplicable urge to watch Starship Troopers.

Meanwhile, on board one of the carriers, things are becoming very 'Aliens' as Rhino Squad prepares to drop to the surface; after running through the dialogue cliché checklist to make certain that everything's in order.

I think that guy at the back on the right is who I'll be playing as: Corporal Matthew Kane. It's kind of hard to tell though. No one here's really standing out to me so far except Strauss; a miserable tech specialist with a German accent who thinks that having someone called Kane on their ship is asking for disaster.

Disaster! Our dropship was shot out of the sky and everything's very much gone to shit! Much like in Quake II now that I think about it... though my guy's walking speed is straight out of Doom 3. He's in no rush at the best of times, though they've thoughtfully given me a 'walk' button in case I ever wanted to go slower.

But on the plus side it seems that other marines survived the drop with limbs and sanity intact this time around, lots of other marines. Even better, the 'New Objective' notifications are far less irritating now; instead of constantly trying to get my attention they just give me the information I need on screen and then get out of my way.

Well the picture says go into the fortress and meet with my friends, so I should go get on with that.

Looks like the Strogg haven't gotten around to clearing up all the drop pods from the first game yet, though they've at least had the decency to drag the wounded marine away to perform... surgery.

One thing that's changed since I was last here is that they've added railings everywhere. I bet this improvement was based on stolen human fence technology, which they've only now begun to implement. I can imagine the Strogg researchers looking through video streams intercepted from a human mainframe and saying "Observe as the human named James Bond runs behind these thin barriers, entirely unaffected by the gunfire around him. A base defended by such fortifications would be entirely unassailable!"

Oh here's one of those Stroggs now, doing little side hops and spraying machine gun fire all over the place. He looks a little different to how I remember them though.

Fortunately I have a different machine gun this time as well; one that doesn't pull upwards when I'm trying to aim it at someone. A single satisfying spray of fully automatic fire from this thing is enough to put my attacker down, and I'm not sure but I think shooting the head might actually make them drop faster.

Hey, I've ran into the rest of Rhino Squad at last! Oh hang on, this is Badger Squad. My squad is apparently in another castle.

Before I can carry on with my mission though, the Badger Squad commander has a job for me. He needs someone to go back outside to where we crashed and bring a Medic back for this wounded marine, and despite being surrounded by soldiers from his own team, he feels that I'm the only man for the job.

So I guess I'm walking back to the entrance then. Hey wait a minute, don't these people have radios for this kind of thing?


After carrying out my backtracking duties I finally met up with Rhino Squad further along, and together we walked through some trenches outside and found a different Strogg facility to shoot up! I would've shown some screenshots of it of my epic journey, but honestly they all came out looking like that one where I shot the guy earlier. This is a game where monsters love to pop out of the walls and floors in scripted events, and if I enter a room chances are something in there's going to end up shooting something else.

It's been mostly first person up to this point, but they just couldn't resist kicking me out of Kane's head to show off this Strogg model in a short cutscene. It doesn't seem right somehow to me to keep the protagonist mute when it's going to be cutting to third person cutscenes like this.

Despite being released in late 2005 the game doesn't have iron sights. I am actually totally okay with this, but I'm glad they at least added a scope to the assault rifle. It even switches the firing mode to semi auto so it's more like a underpowered sniper rifle.

No regenerating health in this either by the way, which is something else I'm very much able to live with in this case. It doesn't feel remotely awkward to have to go off searching for health instead of it coming back by itself after each encounter.

It'd be fair to say that the game isn't entirely unlike Doom 3, and it even shares the game's love of dark rooms, but c'mon with this engine it'd be a crime not to turn the lights out every now and again.

There's two big changes though to how it handles the dark though:
  1. I have flashlights mounted directly on my pistol and rifle so I can both shoot and see what I'm shooting at the same time.
  2. I have a full squad with me (Star Trek: Elite Force style) and they've got gun torches too. So if a monster jumps out from the ceiling (and they often do), chances are that they won't be in the dark for long.
This particular structure we're in now is actually an aircraft hangar which I've been sent to blow up. Well okay some other guy's responsible for the blowing shit up part of the operation, I'm just here to escort him. It's funny how escort missions are much more bearable when the escortee is a highly trained marine with an assault rifle who understands the concept of taking cover even better than I do.

And this particular screenshot is just here because this room looks awesome. I don't just mean 'awesome for a game released in 2005', I mean I want to have it printed and frame it.

Anyway, we shot the dudes and he planted the bombs and then we all went back downstairs for tea and biscuits.

Oh hey, it's my miserable friend Strauss, hanging around with Raven Squad. I think I've figured out why I like this guy so much now: it's because he's voiced by Peter Stormare. I didn't realise it until I looked at the cast list, but now when I hear him talk it's so obviously him.

Another reason why I like him is because he's a tech and these guys will top up my armour for free if I go over to them. Medics do the same with health.

Wait a second... Raven Squad? Something about the name and badge seems really familiar somehow, but I can't quite...

Oh right.

I remember in Star Trek: Elite Force that half the game's cast seemed to be named after Raven staff, and that seems to be the case for Raven Squad here too. Could always be a coincidence though, as I'm sure they must have had about a hundred million people working for them at this point.

After a taking a minute to catch our breath, we headed right back out into the trenches again to blow something else up. This big anti-aircraft gun hopefully.

Man look at this guy, he look like he's wandered in from the mid-nineties. He's like some kind of cross between Megabyte from the Reboot cartoon and that gorilla bot from Rise of the Robots maybe. The whole game's got a less... realistic style to it than Doom 3. Granted Doom 3 is a game where skulls fly around trying to kill you, but the corridors they flew around in looked a little more like something a human might build.

Aww we're not blowing the gun up? Well what am I supposed to be 'firing away' at then? The 'New Objective' window shows a spaceship landing ramp, but all I've got here is a chair.

Oh hang on, I think I've just figured out what the chair's for.

HAHA! MY GUN NOW! Oh damn, I hope those three dudes down there weren't on my side.

At least that door's open now (plus half of the wall). If this is the game's equivalent to having to go find the red key before I can move on, then I approve of their ingenuity.

Well so long giant anti-aircraft cannon, but I must go on without you now. We had some good times though. 

Giant anti-aircraft gun NOOOOOOOO! You maniacs, you blew it up!

Still, that's a pretty cool background behind the smoking ruins. It looks obviously painted, which really shouldn't work but somehow kinda does. It's definitely a big step up from the skyline in Quake II anyway.

Quake II (PC)
We came a long way in 8 years.

Anyway, the door's open now, so I'm moving on.

Whoa, that's a big ship... and it's flying a little low there.

Wait, is this thing actually coming in to land right in front of me? Well at least now I know what the new objective window image was about earlier. Blowing up the anti-aircraft gun has let our spacecraft come in.

Crap, I misjudged the scale. It's even bigger than I thought and it's coming to land on top of me. I need to get my ass out of the landing zone fast... so that I can get into a good position to take more screenshots.

There's two types of spaceships in video games: there's the Normandy/Ebon Hawk style where everything is laid out sensibly like a real ship, and you're able to explore it. And then there's ships like the USS Hannibal here, which is laid out like a linear first person shooter level and nothing makes any sense.

The only path here for me to take brings me on a tour past engineers struggling to keep the ageing ship functioning, scientists trying to examine Strogg corpses, and marines off duty in the mess hall telling the tale of how Kane is actually famous for being the sole survivor of a Strogg assault on Space Station Armstrong (which sounds like it should have taken place in an earlier game, but didn't.)

Quake 4  (2005)                                   |                                    Doom 3 (2004)
Here's a direct comparison between the marines in Doom 3 and the ones in Quake 4, because everyone likes comparing things with other things.

I had assumed the games were practically identical in visual quality, but it seems that Corporal Brandt here has sharper, more realistic textures than Sergeant Kelly does over in Mars City. I like the shine on the bare metal where the paint has worn away, it makes the Doom 3 armour look kind of plasticy by comparison.


Alright, now mission one (get the big ship onto the ground) has been completed, we can finally begin mission two: drive the Death Convoy into an enemy communication nexus and set off a big EMP to wreck the place, sending the Strogg into chaos.

Unfortunately the entire plan hinges on my ability to protect an engineer as he disarms land mines in front of the convoy and I'm pretty useless at defending anything. Especially when I'm stuck on top of a truck shooting at waves of enemies with a turret.

Crap, I just got my first game over. It wasn't my fault, a Strogg crept in from the other side of the road and stabbed him! You'd think the guy driving this truck would've shouted something out to me at least, give me a heads up.


Agh, drop turrets and incoming missile threats everywhere! I've only been out here a few seconds and I'm already down to the last fifth of my health left. So frustrating.

I've never liked rail shooting levels much. Take my ability to dodge and hide away and I'm left relying on my aiming skills alone, which apparently aren't quite up to the task as I just got my truck blown up.

Oh hang on, I can destroy the tiny mounted missile turrets too? Ah, well that kind of changes everything. No wonder I was getting my ass kicked if I was only taking out a third of the things shooting me. Plus my weapon has infinite ammo and never overheats and the truck's health even regenerates when I'm not being shot at, so cancel all of my complaints.

Gratuitous spaceship screenshot as one of our carriers comes down to clean up anything that survived my turret mounted mayhem.

I love how the thing is continually shooting off death rays in all directions from its turrets, but the turrets aren't actually animated so the beam just flies out of the barrel sideways.

Huh, did we get bored of the Death convoy or something? Oh right we're shutting down a laser barrier blocking the road.

This task once again requires my very particular set of skills: specifically my ability to go into a place, find a dude, then go all the way back again. Apparently techs and medics are the new red key cards. By the way, check out the size of this room I'm in; you could fit an entire Doom 3 level in this place. Well, all the dark corners anyway.

Alright I've brought the tech to where he needs to be, so let's move already. Uh, you appear to have your arm in my way mate, I can't get through.

OH, this must be another one of those scripted ally death set pieces. Sucks to be that guy out there I guess, sacrificed by Raven's level designers to make sure I realise that this particular map is meant to be a scary horror level.

There we go, the Defence Grid is now deactivated and we can get back on the trucks. I turned around here to see another scripted ally death out of the window, this time caused by my hero's inability to shout "CHECK YOUR SIX YOU FUCKWIT!" Seriously stretching that mute protagonist thing here guys.

But never mind that pointless death, check out this cool computer monitor. Quake 4 shares the same GUI surface magic as Doom 3 that can put functional high resolution computer screens into the game world, with my crosshair turning into a mouse pointer when I'm close enough and facing the screen.

It doesn't get anywhere near as much use out of them out of Doom 3 though, as the all the code locked cabinets are gone. There's no PDA or audio diaries for that matter either. The game's even dropped Quake II's inventory, so all that's left is just me and my guns.

There's no auto-map either. Not that any Quake game has ever had a map, I just felt that it needed to be said.

Alright the path is now cleared, so we're back in the Death convoy trucks and... wait, this isn't my truck! It seems that I've accidentally climbed into a tank instead and I have full control over the steering this time. Oh well.

I've gotta say, incoming missiles are a lot more fun when I can get out of the way, especially as this is a hover tank with the ability to strafe sideways. I feel like I should be comparing it to the Mako in Mass Effect, but annoyingly I've totally forgotten how that thing controls, so I can't. There's no massive hills here for me to fall off though so I don't suppose it matters.

Oh no, giant spider bosses with less than 8 legs! Isn't that more of a Doom thing? Or maybe a Half-Life 2 thing, considering their resemblance to the game's Striders. Either way that's the nexus building we're trying to reach behind them, so my only option here is excessive heroism.

They blew me up in less than a minute.

Well if they're going to be boring bosses and just spit out missiles at me, I'm going to be a boring player and hide behind a rock. The game's so built around staying mobile and diving into action, that using cover practically feels like cheating sometimes. Especially when it means they can't even get a hit on me... poor spiderbots.


It's a dude with a railgun at last! Well okay that looks more like a glowy orange particle stream than a blue spiral smoke trail, but fuck it I'm still calling it a railgun. Shame I can't tear the thing off its shoulder and use it myself though, as enemies turn green and disappear after being killed... in much the same way as the Borg do in Elite Force now that I think about it.

I can't even pick up ammo from them annoyingly, so I get all my resupplies from scavenging instead.

Crap, looks like the Strogg got into humanity's video feeds again. Mistaking Teletubbies for a advanced cybernetics project, they tried to replicate the creatures with horrific consequences.

I suppose it could've been worse: they could've found a kids TV show from the 80s. The nightmares they would've unleashed...

Alright, we're finally at the center of this nexus now so we can set off the bomb and stride out of here like big damn heroes. Right after we kill these last few dudes.

The combat in this is really straightforward: enemies appear in the distance or drop down nearby, I align my crosshairs with their head and depress the trigger, and my bullets handle the rest. But somehow it's just not getting boring for me and I think a lot of that's down to just how satisfying the weapons are. The Strogg tend to take just enough bullets to put down, their shots are just easy enough to avoid if I'm paying attention, and the sound of my gunfire is a joyful thing.

Plus they often show some reaction to getting hit, which is important as it demonstrates that whatever I'm doing is working and it interrupts their own attacks on me. It's another thing that stops it from being a straight Doom 3 clone.

Oh well that's just great, a giant spider just came down the tunnel and wrecked the bomb our convoy spent so much time trying to get down here. That's the entire mission ruined that is, total bloody disaster.



Nope, my other plan didn't work out so well either. Though at least I can finally see my legs... for a little while longer.

HOW WILL MATTHEW KANE ESCAPE THIS NEFARIOUS STROGG DEATH TRAP? Well I guess you'll have to play it for yourself to find out as I'm turning this off now. Or I suppose there's always youtube if you want to go and spoil it all.


Quake 4 has always been a little overshadowed by Doom 3 I reckon, but to be fair that game is legendary for its over-shadowing. Not that Quake 4 isn't fond of the dark itself, the two games look very similar and they both like their scripted events. But this is more of a straightforward military shooter than a horror game; it's about shoot-outs rather than jump scares.

This came out the same month as Call of Duty 2 so I can imagine that it felt a little bit retro even at the time; it's a good solid first person shooter with a traditional weapon set and old school gameplay, but nothing spectacular. The story is basically just one step up from the mission updates in Quake II, with characters telling me to go to the place and do the thing in person this time, but there was more variety in the things I was asked to do at least. And by that I mean I got to drive a tank for a bit.

Visually I think it still looks fantastic, but then I'm used to DOS games so I'm easy to impress. Musically... well it doesn't have a rock soundtrack by Sonic Mayhem or Nine Inch Nails so it's letting the whole franchise down really, but it gets the job done. It contains an respectable number of crates, minimal amounts of bullshit and absolutely no clowns, and I can honestly say I enjoyed it for what it was. I'm predisposed to adore first person shooters though, so your mileage may vary.


I've said enough words about Quake 4 I reckon, but there's plenty of room underneath for you to share your own thoughts on the game or my opinions. Or even the site in general I suppose. Feedback is good.


  1. I must say I am not impressed; just looks like a pretty standard "soldier fantasy" to me.

    But this somehow reminded me that I would really appreciate it if sometime you could review the first Unreal videogame. I remember when it was released everyone was telling me it was quite good, but in the end I never saw it.

    1. Yeah Quake 4 really is exactly what it seems, it's not really something to play for the story. You'd think the trip on Doctor Strogg's Wild Sawblade Ride would lead to a twist in the tale (it's certainly not the kind of thing most people would fantasize about), but things don't really change all that much afterwards.

      Unreal should be coming up in a couple of months if everything goes to plan. Unless I come across a whole lot of amazing 'U' games that I can't resist playing that is.

  2. Sooo, what did you like more, Quake 4 or DooM 3? Gameplay dynamics of DooM 3 never clicked right for me. Maybe it was the bullet sponge enemies or lackluster shotgun? And the final encounter with cyberdemon was such a big letdown. DooM 3 was nice for first time, to get amazed with such revolutionary awe-inspiring graphics, but there is nothing motivating me to play it again. So Quake 4 all the way for me. :)

    Those cutscenes introducing new enemies were inspired by DooM 3 too. I dont mind them, just as silent protagonist dont bother me in any way. And I am pretty sure there is no fps game ever made by iD Soft. or Raven that ever featured talkative protagonist. BTW do you prefer when heroes qoute during gameplay, or if they talk in cutscenes only?

    [rant]And I think Half-Life gets lot of undeserved flak for "popularizing silent protagonists in FPS games", which I honestly think is bullsh*t. Trend of including talkative heroes emerged mainly to popularity of Duke3D in end of 90s (and was unheard of before), but never got that much wide spread and pretty much sticked to only games with over-the-top macho action-film-inspired heroes.)[/rant]

    Unreal coming ahead for "U" letter? Yay! :)

    1. I think Quake 4 has more satisfying combat (because the enemies actually show some reaction to all those bullets coming their way), but I like Doom 3 more overall as a game. I suppose on the surface both games come down to running around metal hallways occasionally getting shouted at by soldiers as enemies spawn out of the walls to make you jump, but Doom 3 wants you to care more about it. Audio diaries were an old trick even at that point, but they also had things like the videos explaining what the latest giant deathtrap machinery I was running around was actually for, and I loved that.

      Soldier of Fortune and Elite Force, there's two Raven games where the hero as something to say occasionally... I think (it's been a while). I think if a character talks in cutscenes, then it probably makes more sense to have them speak during gameplay too. Doom 3's cutscenes portray a hero who communicates in disapproving stares, so he can be as silent as he likes. Duke Nukem on the other hand, I can't imagine that guy ever staying quiet about anything, so his silence would take me out of the game. I think the problem I have with Quake 4's silent protagonist, is that there's no reason for him to be silent. Gordon Freeman is silent because he's your avatar, you only ever see from his eyes, but Quake 4 guy is established as a character in third person before you play as him, so it's a little strange that he never says anything. I was only really bothered by it though when he didn't yell out to save another soldier, as it broke the illusion.

      I think it's funny if Half-Life's gotten that rep, because it came out around the same time as GoldenEye, Quake 2 and Unreal, so it wasn't exactly going against the grain. Though I guess you could argue that it popularised the idea of sticking with a silent protagonist, even when they're interacting with other fully voiced characters as part of story. It came out at a point where they could've jumped onto the 3D Realms bandwagon and had a wise-cracking Bruce Willis style hero, or gone with Jedi Knight style FMV cutscenes, and they made a choice not to.


Semi-Random Game Box