Quake 4 is a greater Quake recreation than you bear in mind
Quake 4 is especially remembered for 2 issues—the scene wherein your character will get changed into a Strogg, and being the worst Quake recreation. Developed by Raven Software program and launched in 2005, Quake 4 wasn’t a pure area shooter like Quakes 1 and three. As a substitute, it was a direct, story-driven sequel to Quake 2, and in telling that story borrowed many post-Millennium FPS traits. Cinematic cutscenes, squad-based gunplay, scripted in-game occasions, car sections, Quake 4 has all of them, the place the earlier video games did not.
This has led to it being accused of not solely being a foul Quake recreation, however not being a Quake recreation in any respect. In his glorious article concerning the historical past of Quake modding, author and recreation developer Robert Yang states “everybody agreed that Quake 4 did not have it.” Yang then cites a quote from John Romero himself, who mentioned that “Quake 4 is the place the model went off the rails” in a 2016 interview.
However here is a query. What precisely is the Quake “model”? Romero departed id after ending the primary recreation, and the sequels that adopted all of it differ wildly. The primary is the poster little one for traditional, fast-paced FPS motion set in gothic halls with rocket-jumps and gibs that bounce like basketballs. The second is an industrial sci-fi shooter with a slower tempo and a better emphasis on storytelling. The third recreation ditches singleplayer completely, focusing solely on multiplayer. Past the very fact they’re all first-person shooters, there’s little connective tissue.
Certainly, there’s an argument to be made that, if Quake has a model in any respect, it is ‘not understanding what Quake is’. With the unique, half of id Software program thought it was making a fantasy RPG for the primary yr of its improvement, which is why that recreation is such a weird infusion of various themes. In the meantime, Quake 2 wasn’t supposed to be a Quake recreation in any respect, going via numerous unique titles earlier than id determined to slap on the Quake branding. Quake 3 undoubtedly has the purest imaginative and prescient inside the sequence, however solely as a result of it cuts away half of its identification to achieve it.
The one ingredient the three video games share is a pressure between concepts, and the way in which every title responds to that pressure is what in the end shapes the sport. The primary Quake in some way managed to reconcile these diffuse ideas into one thing wonderful. The second principally determined it was a Quake recreation no matter its variations to the unique. Quake 3 killed its singleplayer to develop into among the best multiplayer video games of all time. Quake is outlined not by some particular components, however by a chilly and unflinching pragmatism.
On this, Quake 4 is as a lot a Quake recreation as another, seemingly attempting to resolve two conflicting concepts. Quake 4 follows-on instantly from Quake 2, happening instantly after that recreation’s protagonist kills the Makron, overlord of the planet Stroggos and commander of its cyborg troopers. Quake 4 switches to new protagonist Matthew Kane, who joins the Marines’ Rhino Squad as a part of the vanguard drive for securing the planet.
Quake 4 was developed at a time when the FPS was altering. Id’s early shooters had been primarily impressed by the staff’s personal Dungeons and Dragons video games, which explains their mazey maps and ad-hoc storytelling. However Quake 4 emerged within the wake of video games like Half-Life, Halo, and Name of Obligation, which positioned better emphasis on scripted spectacle and telling coherent tales, drawing affect extra from Hollywood than pen-and-paper RPGs.
Because of this Quake 4 initially performs like Name of Obligation in house. The sport begins not by plonking you unceremoniously at the beginning of a map, shotgun already in-hand, however with an elaborate cutscene that sees Kane scrambling to his ft after his dropship crashes, surveying the horror of the wreckage. The opening hour will not be one in every of circle-strafing your foes whereas blasting them with a double-barrelled shotgun, however skulking slowly via flat gunmetal corridors, peppering Strogg with assault rifle fireplace whereas your squadmates again you up. The motion stops each couple of minutes for dialogue between characters, or for a captivating scripted sequence like a Strogg dragging away a screaming marine.
If something separates Quake 4 from the opposite three video games, it’s following traits relatively than setting them. And there is not any query that Quake 4 is at its weakest when it’s most like Name of Obligation. Motion feels painfully sluggish in comparison with the breakneck tempo of the primary recreation. Degree design is deeply uninspired: easy corridors and trenches that include no verticality and no shock. The taking pictures is flatter than a stingray that is been via a pasta curler, and plenty of fight sequences happen together with your avatar standing nonetheless.
There are a few good moments, corresponding to when the huge USS Hannibal descends from orbit onto a close-by plain, a sequence that impresses in its scale even in the present day. And the taking pictures improves as each the weaponry and enemy roster expands. Quake 4’s shotgun is superb, as is the nail-gun, full with rotating bore and twin clips. However the encounter design nonetheless feels uninspired. Bizarrely, the sport is closest in spirit to the unique while you board a hover-tank, the armoured car boasting the nimble, slippery motion Matthew Kane lacks.
But all this modifications after the notorious Stroggification scene, which fifteen years on continues to be harrowing. Strapped to a gurney on an assembly-line from hell, Kane will get stabbed within the chest with a needle like a drainpipe, has his legs sawn-off and changed with cybernetic prosthetics, and usually will get a shrapnel-based makeover, all in an effort to transform him into one of many cyborg grunts he is spent the previous couple of hours combating.
Not solely does all of this horror occur in first individual, however since you’re on a conveyor belt with different marines, you see all the things occur to another person earlier than it occurs to you. Kane would not fairly go Full Strogg, nevertheless, being rescued from the power earlier than the method is full, and retaining his humanity if not a lot else. It is a daring sequence for a mid-2000s FPS. Watching your character be extensively and irrevocably modified will not be one thing that usually occurred in video-games. It was additionally earlier than Name of Obligation 4’s atomic explosion made mid-game twists a regular in big-budget shooters.
From a play perspective, the online impact of your Stroggification is that your fancy new legs double your motion pace—which initially appears underwhelming given the grisly fanfare the sport depicts the Stroggification course of with. However it is not simply Kane that modifications on this second, the entire recreation modifications with him.
For starters, ranges develop into extra intricate, with corridors twisting and overlapping, introducing that lacking verticality. In the meantime, enemies seem extra continuously and in better numbers, forcing you to make use of your newly enhanced motion. Your escape from the “Recomposition centre” feels far more like a basic id FPS, with you darting round rooms and corners, exploding enemy chests together with your shotgun and turning them right into a advantageous crimson mist with the newly acquired Lightning Gun.
Quake 4 improves persistently from right here. Within the subsequent stage, Putrefaction Centre, you get your filthy cyborg palms on the railgun, letting you pop Strogg heads like steel grapes. The sport additionally begins making direct callbacks to the unique Quake, such because the introduction of ‘zombies’ within the Waste-Processing stage, zombies who’ve a tenuous relationship with their very own limbs (although they do not throw lumps of their very own flesh at you, sadly).
Even the newer stuff begins to work higher, filtered extra rigorously via a Quake lens. Arguably the very best mission is the underwhelmingly-named “Knowledge-Storage Terminal”, which commences together with your drop pod descending from the airborne USS Hannibal, earlier than crashing into the eponymous Strogg facility, smashing via bulkheads and splattering Strogg goons. The remainder of the extent blends fast-paced gunplay with quickfire scripted moments, corresponding to one other drop-pod bursting via a wall in entrance of you, the glowing gouge it leaves within the ground creating a brand new pathway. You even get a gun that shoots black holes—it is good!
It is as if Raven is attempting to sneak Quake in via the again door, luring in unsuspecting Name of Obligation followers with its cinematic first act, earlier than hitting them with each barrels publish Stroggification. With its motion amplified and its weapon and enemy roster absolutely unlocked, Quake 4 is genuinely entertaining. Other than a tedious mech sequence, it maintains this tempo and depth via the rest of the sport.
Quake 4 is just the worst Quake recreation when it is pretending to not be one. In full circulation, it is in all probability a greater FPS than Quake 2, and it is positively a greater shooter than Doom 3. Raven Software program, eternally the unsung hero of FPS builders, knew precisely what it was doing with Quake 4, and whereas the sport would profit from attending to the purpose a bit sooner, there may be some good quaint Quaking lurking behind Quake 4’s cinematic exterior.