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Quake 4 (Windows)

78
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  lasttoblame (393)
Written on  :  Jul 11, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars

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Summary

This game puts the “whore” in “war-gasm”, because you can't spell “stupid” without “id”

The Good

Quake IV is the prettiest “ugly game” you can allow your retinas to feast on in recent years besides DOOM3. There are lots of amazing lighting and particle effects. Characters and environments are richly detailed. And I don't know how anyone can get excited over this, but rocks look like… rocks. Yah, so go think about that the next time you're not singing in the shower.

Also, Quake IV is true to its roots as a gore-filled meat-bag red corpuscle buffet that infuses every possible moment with gory, horrifying death. Quake IV knows there's a macabre delight from this spectacle and provides it with giddy aplomb. This game is great that way and never ever shies away. This game isn't just violent, it's enjoyably violent. This is not so much exemplified by the game play (people's brains don't explode out of their body—as they should, like in DOOM3) as it does with the wanton cruelty you witness performed by the Strogg. From the first image you see of a disembodied corpse with a hole in its head (hey, how can that be a spoiler?) to all the medical experiments done on captured humans it's all a regular Rob Zombie flick, straight out of Fangoria. Best of all is the one scene you see from a first person POV that you are helpless to do anything otherwise. (it's the Disney theme park ride you can't get off, so hat's off to id for this level of high game immersion which doesn't hold us back at arms length. I hope further games include such ridiculousness… so break a leg!)

The in-game interface is an amazing piece of design, something seen previously in DOOM3. The weapon crosshair becomes the mouse cursor when put upon an in-game computer, which never detracts you from all the killing you need to do. Such an easy and efficient method will surely be copied in future games.

The Bad

The original DOOM was a watershed moment in videogames; that little game from an upstart developer named id would introduce to teenagers worldwide the dominant genre of videogames for years to come in the West (if not the world): the first person shooter. Besides being influential in other notable areas like shareware and use of graphic violence, DOOM would foist upon us the videogame equivalent of the dumb summer blockbuster; from then onwards gamers would forever flock to the loudest and shiniest new piece of emperor's clothing dangling before them.

While most people enjoyed the exciting game play of being Heaven's custodian cleaning up Hell's minions with a double-barreled mop, what is more memorable are the graphics: the way the game allowed the player to enjoy the visceral experience of snuffing out life from a first person view just as though you are really there, sleeves rolled up, mopping away, something that hadn't been widely seen before (oh, stop it with the Wolfenstein howling) This type of POV also added to the thrill ride by properly setting up a dark and suspenseful atmosphere that made it a truly frightening experience, allowing said teenagers to test their manhood whilst squeal with that high annoying pre-pubescent yelp.

Two whole paragraphs written about the amazing ability of DOOM to blend game play and technology to create a product whose sum is more than it's parts, and what does a game developer hear? Graphics!! Screw the game play and story!! People only want to see the latest in geek special effects. After Luke's successful Death Star trench run in Star Wars (1977), the rise of the movie blockbuster encouraged movie makers to focus on this formula: a pretty spectacle that will wow eyeballs and fill seats with bums and make profit.

And that's how it is with Quake IV, a game made by the same company that started this trend. However, id is not the same company of misfits who set out to change the world; id is only interested in maintaining the status quo by giving us yet another empty game of wonderful bump mapping and dynamic lighting effects. A great game great graphics does not make. I don't care if the Strogg I'm fragging has beads of sweat that fall off his Strogg nose using highly developed sweat physics rendered individually in real time as influenced by the randomly generated nose hairs which are generated according to each specific Stroggs gene pool, if the game doesn't tell a good story with good game play then what's the point?

This complete adherence to the dogma of consistently striving for cutting edge graphics is wrong. Completely wrong. Folks, this is the same cup and ball game you've been playing for about twenty years, only now you're playing with a nicer cup (or for you ladies, a nicer ball). The AI in Quake IV really hasn't improved; you play this game as you would Quake II, which again plays a lot like the first DOOM. Enemies don't flank you or work together as a squad or take cover as though it would actually save their life, usually you have the FPS standard kamikaze death run (and see how well that worked back in WWII?). You use the same tactics—like move close to some guy, have him use his melee move on you, back away and use your shotgun, rinse and repeat.

Hey, you multimillion dollar fat-cat game makers: how about giving us gamers an AI enemy who can actually outsmart us? Stop overwhelming us with sheer numbers and program an enemy who actually wants to win. I don't care if the next id game has us battling that blocky tank from Atari 2600's “Combat” just so long as it wants to fight me and will do everything it can to succeed. If the new millennia can't give us cars that can fly well then just give me that, will ya?

This old “one hero against a million” has gotten very old over the years. This premise of a plot damages any credence the story tries to establish if you don't acknowledge it as other good games have managed to do. This untalkative grunt is the one person who will succeed (cause it's the story of Quake IV), but why should we care? Why does he do it? Yes, he's solider following orders, but why does he succeed? Why him and not the other guy not named “Cain” who actually speaks? Why don’t we ever know his side of the story? If your protagonist doesn't talk, then why give him a name and a face? And won't you game designers stop calling bad mofo's “Cain”; if this guy is so bad ass well then you can hire one more voice actor so the character can tell me himself, right?

I remember clearly this story from some id hotshot when Quake came out. Some Guy Lombardo flush with pride from the success of DOOM was being asked what the story of Quake is, to which he scoffed. Guy said something along the lines of, “Story? We don't need a (stinkin') story. Did Pac-Man have a story? No!” Of course, the next Quake would have the Strogg storyline, and then of course the next Quake 3 Arena would not. This return of the Quake series to the Strogg-Earth storyline is not a good move unless you have a story to tell. A new story. Why is there a war? The Strogg leaders may want human body parts to arm their war effort, but what does the common Strogg want? How does planet Earth go about invading the Strogg homeworld when Earth finally runs out of resources? What happened to the guy in Quake II (which, of course, is you again). How is this game Quake IV besides the title and the trademark? You might say this type of questioning is irrelevant in a FPS, but if you’re going to spend 20 some-odd hours in a campaign it should interest you for the whole of that time. Furthermore, id really does away with the story by completely negating the story from the previous Quake II. Remember how you slogged your way through it, hour after hour and level after level, until your final confrontation with that damned Makron when you put a smackdown on that bitch, his being armed with BFG’s in his armpits notwithstanding? Well, *SPOILER ALERT* it doesn't mean a cold witch's teat because they just made a new Makron! What kind of story is that? It's like saying you didn't save humanity when you beat Quake II, it was all a dream! That means whatever you hope to accomplish in Quake IV doesn’t amount to a thimble of mouse piss because it will all be negated in time for Quake V, which by then will feature all enemy grunts who all look different from one another with band-aids, gangsta tats, and customized Afros who slowly slid leather gloves onto their seven-fingered hands as they perform a kamikaze death rush at you.

As a lowly grunt you continually receive orders as what to accomplish next. However, the game's inclusion of letting you see your mission objective with a mapped key is a complete sham. It doesn't matter if your next goal is to turn on the coolant rod if you have no map to see where you are going. This game is completely linear; all you have to do is go to a new area and throw some switches. Barring that you should backtrack to a area with monsters, do your trick with your gun and they way will be made clear. This is the game’s trick to masquerade itself as something more complex, like as though you need good navigational skills or if the decisions you make have an outcome on the game. This is DOOM I all over again, hunting down the yellow key or whatnot.

This constant mention of DOOM is well deserved because Quake IV is the exact same game as DOOM3. You heard me. You take the latter and put it outside with vehicles and bad team combat and it's the same. They may have different objectives however (DOOM3 tries to scare you witless and Quake IV tries to shock you with gore, the former being very unsuccessful to us po-mo know-it-alls). You know, it was cute when that has-been Scorsese ripped himself off by making “Casino” (1995) after he did “Goodfellas” (1990), but how can you blame him? At the time he hadn't won an Academy Award yet. Scorsese was desperate for praise and acceptance, and would later get it with that timewaster “The Departed” (2006) (go see the original “Internal Affairs” (2002) with Andy Lau and Tony Leung).

Scorsese had a reason. You, id, are just turning a fast buck, you filthy hawkers you. So, two games, released a year apart, same graphics engine, same premise: silent but named marine/grunt is given orders by higher command to take on the impossible odds of a unquestioning evil horde and win, all the while not knowing what his own motives are, all the while with using amazing graphics and predicable AI.

Just like DOOM3 before it, Quake IV is all the same thing, over and over again. It’s a war-gasm that stretches out as long as your hand can handle it. It that frag high you just wish would keep going on and on and on. The pacing is handled poorly where it’s either intense firefights or drudging through pointless exposition to do something you don't understand. (Nexus wha?) The game play is of the uber-macho type: Quake IV (like DOOM3) punishes the player over and over again. It isn't challenging your wits, it's asking you if you have “dem mad skillz” to withstand this onslaught. The game is directly asking you, “Are you macho enough to endure me?” This questioning of your sexual orientation goes right down to the high system requirements required to handle this resource pig. Well, if you’re going to punish me, what about a reward? (my dom is always sure to reward me or I don’t pay!) The game never acknowledges this; Quake IV says the tough punishing game play is it’s own reward, as though playing it is a good and just deed. I'm going to save the Earth, am I? Well how about a cool rendered cut-scene with the half-naked female Strogg leader, or a funny scene that is somewhat funny? (that Russian character is cool, natch).

Also, what's up with the future being so ugly? Before the humans invaded, wasn't the planet a nice place to live? Don't Strogg families go out a walk pushing the tram along the boulevard? Okay, maybe Strogg aren't born as much they are assembled out a pile of ass and elbows, but what do they do there except build ugly space stations? Strogg architects have all the sensibility of a hack who has only seen movie “Aliens” (1986) over and over again. Game environments shouldn't be just made so that you can have cool battles in them, they should exist on their own with their own reasons for existing. Hey, before you bust up this tea house with your kung fu, what do Strogg do here? What do they think of the war? Who do they think the hottest chick on “Sex and the City” is? The Quake IV game world isn't an immersive one despite how well rendered it is; it isn't a place you'd like to go and hang out and think about what they do in that building, or what did it look like 100 years ago. It's just a construct to do your murdering in.

I don't hate this game, I'd like you to know, but if you've read my entire review up to now well I guess I have to at this point.

The Bottom Line

Game makers will only make games as bad as consumers will let them. Quake IV is not a positive step forward if all future games have the same emphasis on graphics but not game play or story or even fun.

Quake V will not buck this trend because next year consumers will still be the same. The id company will still be making millions upon millions of dollars. And you will shell out whatever they are asking for in order to play the finest eye candy money can buy.

By the way, Pac-Man does have a story: our intrepid hero is searching for fulfillment. He can only attain this enlightenment by consuming, eating pill after pill, cleansing . At the start of each maze, Mr. Man is as complete and satisfied as he possibly be (symbolized by his being a full round yellow circle that starts out right below the ghost home). However, as he is being chased by a mortal threat he is forced to abandon this higher state and seek the next time he can achieve this state, which is at the beginning of the next stage after he clears the current stage.

Everything has a subtext, everything has a story. So frag you, Guy Lombardo.