Besides the visual choppiness whenever you turn, it's hard to isolate specific problems with Quake 4--because there aren't any. The controls are solid; the enemy A.I. is fine; the gameplay is varied and competent. But maybe words like "solid," "competent," and "fine" tell you why it's also hard to recommend Quake 4: It's exactly what you've come to expect from a modern first-person shooter, and nothing else. A space marine blasting his way through a military base full of halfman half-machines is not the most exciting setting for a first-person shooter anymore; a short sequence where you're captured and transformed into the enemy is the only time Quake 4 even attempts to tweak the formula. It doesn't help that so much of the game, including all the enemies and most environments, looks straight out of Doom 3, right down to the ever-present, giant Rube Goldberg machines pumping away at god knows what in the backgrounds. Likewise, multiplayer is basically Quake III warmed over with new levels: still a great, arcadey deathmatch experience, but nothing new. Even single-player's limited squad combat bits and vehicle sections feel by the numbers. Quake 4 is far from terrible, but this series deserves better.
All the FPS cliches are here: You've got your sewer level, you can't climb anything without a ladder, the most direct route is always blocked (but you'll find another way around involving a vent or a hole torn in a wall by an explosion, but one that you couldn't make with the rocket cannon in your back pocket), and you know when you're about to face a big baddie by the scads of health packs and ordnance lying around. Enjoy all of this while suppressing both frustration and epileptic fits due to the unforgivable slowdown problems. The multiplayer is totally decent (and lacks the graphical glitches, strangely), but $60 is steep for a game that I feel like I've played before.
If you only play Quake 4 single-player you might be underwhelmed, particularly if you're expecting the A.I. from Halo and/or truly epic outdoor battles with alien forces. But if you can stomach the mediocre art direction, repetitive sci-fi environments, and occasional choppiness in the action, you'll find a fun solo campaign with a decent amount of gameplay. Quake 4's main attraction, of course, is its mad-dash multiplayer deathmatch, which to this day remains the fastest, most intuitive, and most skillful game around. So if you're not into the slower-paced Perfect Dark Zero, pick this up to satisfy your 360 twitch-shooter needs.
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It's a bit of a shame that there will no doubt be comparisons between Quake 4 and Doom 3, but it's not a comparison without warrant: the two are similar in many ways. Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is an atmospheric FPS with dark, moody environments that hide plenty of things to shoot at and, likewise, gives you plenty of things to shoot with. But, unlike past iD associated titles, Quake 4 breaks little ground in terms of evolving the FPS genre; instead it's a pretty straightforward shooter through and through.
That's not to say it's a bad one, however. The production values are high in Quake 4, with an engrossing story and tightly scripted events that make for an absolute thrilling time. The AI isn't the brightest - they're mostly of the run straight towards you while shooting variety - but the scripted events and level layouts help counter this problem, largely ensuring that this isn't an issue that's constantly at the forefront of your mind while playing. Plus, there are some light tactical elements and vehicles, which helps break up the monotony of the constant run and gun nature of the game. Unfortunately, neither are executed with any great expertise.
But, if there's one thing both Doom 3 and Quake 4 share in common, it's the lackluster multiplayer component. The Quake series helped usher in the age of deathmatches and frags, but Quake 4 shows up in this day and age with barely a whimper. Again, that's not to say that the multiplayer modes are bad or anything, but they'll really fail to wow you like you'd think they would.
Because, see, the big problem here is that Quake 4 is that it's old-school FPS fun with a modern face lift. Nothing has been innovated or renovated. The single-player game, though polished, feels like it could play fine with sprites and a Voodoo card, and the multiplayer modes offered up in Quake 4 will remind you of deathmatches of yesteryear played over 56k.
Is that necessarily bad? Not really. If you can appreciate that classic run and gun gameplay, Quake 4 will fit you just fine. If you're looking for a FPS that takes bold and challenging new steps in the genre, well, you'll be in for a disappointment.
Fortunately, the visuals will do little to disappoint from a technical standpoint. Quake 4 uses a modified Doom 3 engine and it's able to pull off a lot more than its predecessor. This time it relies less on shadow and lighting effects and more on just flat out technical prowess. But is it a nice looking game aesthetically? Well' let's just say that I've never seen more beautiful grime-filled, warehouse inspired hallways than I have with Quake 4, but that said, I have seen them many, many times before.
Put in simplest terms, Quake 4 is fun. It's not the evolutionary or revolutionary kind of fun, but it's kind of old school FPS fun that the Quake series helped usher into the gaming world. It might not move and shake your world like you'd expect the Quake franchise to do, but it's on solid enough ground to provide for an entertaining time.
After a relatively disappointing (in hindsight) experience with Perfect Dark Zero, my mood improved substantially after launching Quake 4 for the first time. Led with a small nugget of narrative gold, I followed the game storyline deep into the bowels of the Strogg homeworld to obliterate the threat to Earth. The game, set mere hours after the events portrayed in Quake 2, Quake 4 is a title that's been expected for a long time.
In gameplay terms, this is boiler plate standard run and gun. Supported by a simple, and yet effective, narrative, I found it easy to dive through the 10 or so hours of gameplay necessary to beat the game's single player storyline. This is the Quake that I loved playing, enjoyable and simple, updated for a next-gen console. The complement of weapons offered in the game are pretty standard, but there's a nice feature in that you'll get weapon upgrades as you go through the game, adding some of the alt-fire functionality we've gotten used to. This game is fun, but I can't say much beyond that, as it's really a plain jane. Unfortunately, there are a few framerate problems, but you'll rarely see them crop up without using cheat codes. Finally, it does seem like this version of the game isn't quite what you'll get on the PC version, but none the less it looks really nice.
The true travesty in Quake 4 is the multiplayer functionality. Almost regressing, Quake 4 only supports 8 player multiplayer games, doesn't support game browsing, and generally takes forever to get you into a ranked game match. Why these choices were made, I've no idea, but I would speculate that with a focus on a stronger single player storyline than most, the multiplayer features in the game obviously suffered.
As one last comment, in terms of audio, while this game is packed with good voice acting, I ran into a whole load of problems with positional audio, making it hard to hear dialogue and other audio elements at various points through the game.
All of these things taken into account, I really enjoyed playing this game through once, but unfortunately, I just don't think it's worth full price.