Xbox 360 Review: Quake 4

Back in 1996, Quake 4 would have been an incredible experience. Given that most of its mechanics feel like they did back in Quake 2 (which the story continues from), that's no surprise. This is an all-out frag fest, where more weapons, big explosions, and plenty of gore rule the gameplay. This might have worked on a basic level if the game was technically adept, but it's not.

Even those looking to get from point A to point B will be frustrated through this long, drawn out adventure. Mission objectives may seem varied, yet never deviate from finding a button to push so you can activate a door, machine, or other various objects. A major plot twist halfway through doesn't do anything to the game, whether through gameplay (aside from offering some extended life and shields) or the story. It's introduced and then forgotten in the Strogg's muzzle flashes. The latter will provide the majority of the light too since only two of the player's guns have flashlights.

Running around and shooting things provides enough entertainment for most games. Quake 4 does a fine job of giving the player a sense of power. The variety of guns in Quake has always been one its brightest assets, making a rocket launcher one of the main weapons you'll use regularly. You'll need to avoid blasting NPC characters, some of which can replenish health and shields. Keeping them alive becomes a secondary priority after ducking shells being tossed at you. Their AI is smart enough to take down foes by themselves, giving battles an extra level of chaos.

Sadly, all of that is diminished by technical aggravations and frustrations. The frame rate takes the biggest hit, and immediate sign of a rushed product. At first, it's not an issue that hinders gameplay (in fact, it oddly feels more like lag when playing online), but later things hit the single digits. Entire memorable moments are ruined because the game's engine can't keep up with the action on screen. This is inexcusable.

The second biggest gripe is the checkpoint, saving, and loading system. Given how spread out the auto-saving checkpoints are, you'll need to save through the menu system often. While the option to save anywhere is wonderful, doing it often kills the pacing of the game more than the Dark Matter gun wipes out entire squads of Strogg forces. Forgetting to do so is enough to push the player to stop playing.

Load times are worse yet. When you die (and you'll do so often), it kicks the player back to the menu to load the previous save. That takes around 10 seconds. After that, the real loading screen pops up and you'll watch this screen for around 20 seconds, even if you're only re-spawning close to where you died. This is not how Quake should play, and its intensity and pacing are ripped right out of the game because of it.

Xbox Live fans will be thoroughly disappointed. While the insane speed of these few modes (deathmatch, team, flag capture, tournament) is a shocking change of pace when switching over from single player, the ability to only have eight people in a room is in stark contrast to every other FPS as launch. The extra bonus of an emulated Quake II inside the case (on a separate disc) allows four players, just not over Xbox Live.

For fans of the franchise, they'll make their way through Raven's latest entry hoping for something, anything special to happen. The deeper you travel, the higher the aggravation levels go. Dealing with the myriad of issues pertaining to pushing the release to coincide the launch of the console show. The competition with Call of Duty 2 and Perfect Dark doesn't help either.

(** out of *****)

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