Quake IV Xbox 360 Review

id Software is well known around the PC community and now wants to make a presence on the Xbox 360. id Software is among the elite FPS developers in the industry and have a long list of creditability to their fame. Working on franchises such as DOOM, Wolfenstein and Quake, they are respectable and no one can deny their success with the FPS genre. They recently developed 2004’s DOOM 3 (released in 2005 for the Xbox) and worked on the expansion, DOOM 3: Resurrection of Evil with Nerve Software. Now it’s finally time for their third FPS franchise, Quake, to be revived once again for the next-generation of consoles.

Raven Software is the ‘actual’ developer of Quake IV. What I mean is that id Software has taken the executive developer position watching over development while Raven took the seat as the developer. Raven and id have worked together in several instances in the past with both Heretic games and Hexen. Raven’s latest title they released happens to be the sequel to their highly praised X-Men Legend series.

Quake IV is among Raven’s best storylines they have dished out. That isn’t saying much though as Raven just recently focused on fleshing out the storylines in their games (X-Men Legends series) and always focused on the core gameplay. Playing as Matthew Kane, you’re of course pitted in the role of the typical marine that can be found in any other Quake and DOOM game. The villains in this story you ask? None other than a nightmarish alien race called the Strogg. The Strogg will decimate your squad one by one and you’ll begin to hate them.

Immediately when the game begins, the leader of the Strogg is killed in battle. Though you don’t see any type of portrayal of his death, you’ll hear it through the dialogue. Following those events (the events are actually from Quake II) the Strogg are now trying to rebuild a new leader/Makron. With the new leader down, you’ll be sent in an invasion of the Strogg planet that proves to be successful yet deadly. Kane is captured during a firefight and taken to the Strogg laboratories for the transformation process. The transformation process you ask? The Strogg intend on turning you, Michael Kane, into one of them. Before they insert the brain implants and finish their wild experiment, your Marine squad comes busting in to save the day.

Compared to DOOM 3, Quake IV is leaps and bounds ahead of it storyline wise. I enjoyed the storyline much more than the slaughter that I endured while playing DOOM 3. There are several enemies you’ll encounter in Quake which is much more diversified than DOOM’s. There are grunts, harvesters, gunners, gladiators, berserkers, scientists and many other different variations of Strogg. I liked the variety of enemies more so than DOOM’s but it pales in comparison to games like Half-Life 2, Chronicles of Riddick and even Halo 2. Quake IV has nothing on those three games in terms of story but everyone should know that Quake is usually a multiplayer oriented title.

The level design is similar to DOOM 3. What has changed a bit is that not all the levels are dark corridors that repeat themselves. You’ll be thrown into small trench warfare, gigantic outside worlds to battle in and even some lighted scientist labs to duke it out in. You’ll recognise the armor and health system that is reused in Quake IV from DOOM 3. I hate comparing the two but Quake IV is essentially what I expected from DOOM 3.

It will take an estimated twelve hours to complete which is one beefy single-player experience. Normally, FPSs as of late range from 6-10 hours and Quake IV antes it up a little. While not amazingly hard, you may want to increase the difficulty to Lieutenant right away. There is health packs scattered all throughout the levels along with armor to keep your health bar rejuvenated at all moments. If that isn’t enough, just make sure to have your squad mates still alive and the medic will inject you with some serum to help you recover.

That’s right, the squad based action is superb. They’ll die without you ever noticing at times. When they die, you’ll be praying for more to come to your aide later on in the mission as they do provide cover fire, medics to give you health, and even demolitions groups help out. What is lacking though is the ability to give your squad any commands. If they could have used the microphone to give voice commands or simple ‘D-pad button’ commands, that would have given the game much more depth it direly needed by the last few levels.

After your ‘Stroggifaction’ or whatever the transformation process is called, you will be able to gain access to Strogg health machines. Another addition to being all ‘Strogged’ up is the ability to run a little faster and the health bar actually increases too. The Stroggifaction of Kane is the best thing to happen for the Marines whether they know it or not. It makes the game more intriguing to play and fun to see the Marine’s reactions to your “beautification” if you want to call it that.

The AI in Quake IV isn’t up to par. When they come in numbers, it will be difficult as so much gunfire will be taking place. When it’s one on one with the Strogg, they are hardly a match. They’ll try to surprise you at times with cheap “Hollywood” scare tactics such as jumping down from the rafters and running out from corners. It’s not something that’s far removed from the creators of DOOM 3.

Some may be wondering about the vehicle sections of Quake and if they live up to the high standards of a Quake game. Jumping in a Mech Walker is satisfying but doesn’t compare to the real mech games that were enjoyed on the original Xbox. Sitting turret for a tram is nothing brand new but does deliver a few thrills. The hover tank/Gav is exciting the first time you drive it but driving it a few more times will not leave the same impressions. What about the enemy vehicles? You may have seen videos on those giant spiders that you’ll eventually go toe to toe with. Those giant spiders are the Harvesters and are pushovers.

The best thing about Quake is that as you progress through the game, you’ll begin to like it more. The game becomes less tactical and more in your face like past Quake games were. No more nonsensical DOOM slow pace action but straight up fragging like Quake is supposed to be. If you can play all the way through the first half, you’ll find pleasure playing through the second half. Whether you can withstand the slow DOOM 3 style at the beginning may be the difference whether you like the game or not.

Quake IV obviously uses the DOOM engine and takes some advantages of the Xbox 360’s power. The lighting and environments look great but the framerates do stutter a few times. Characters will watch you as you move around in the levels. Of course the characters do look similar to the style that DOOM 3 presented and the plastic look is becoming less of an attraction. id Software and Raven learned from their mistake of making players either use a weapon or a flashlight. This time around, you are able to strap on the flashlight to a few of your weapons (no shotguns though  shucks!).

Compared to the PC version, I can say that I believe the Xbox 360 version runs better and looks better. I experienced more frame rate problems with my PC version rather than my Xbox 360 version so far. The HD difference does give the 360 an additional advantage but not by much. Is Quake IV next-gen? No. Does it compare to games currently released on both the 360 and PC? Pretty darn close. Quake is better looking than a few of the 360 games already released such as Tony Hawk, GUN, Amped 3, Need for Speed. It doesn’t live up to comparisons to games such as Condemned, Project Gotham Racing, Perfect Dark Zero, King Kong or NBA 2k6 in my own opinion.

The sound quality isn’t top notch but it gets the job done. Dialogue is intelligent opposed to DOOM 3’s macho tendencies. If you walk away from a character, you’ll hear their voice fade from the draw distance of where you are standing. Each marine I passed in the first few levels had things to say even if it was just small talk. The sound effects are aptly done well but they do have some flaws. When a grunt hit me, it sounded like someone was playing with putty and threw it on me. The melee hits don’t sound like complete and effective hits, rather the ‘smushing’ sound you would think playing with mashed potatoes would sound like. In the end though, Quake IV is one of the games you will thank the lord that you have a surround sound system. It sounds great and blares through the speakers providing chills along the way.

The multiplayer has been reduced from 16 players to only 8. Are 8 players enough to justify past iterations in the Quake franchise? No way Jose! Quake is among the top multiplayer games to ever be released on the PC. On the 360, when you actually find seven other players to play with, it runs fine. There are 13 multiplayer maps available. If you have never played a Quake game, think something along the lines of Unreal Tournament. It’s fast, swift, agile and just plain fun. It would have been more enjoyable with 12-16 players available online but Raven didn’t want to sacrifice the online function in case it didn’t turn out properly.

Another let down is that there is no split screen for players who don’t have Xbox Live. Players who want to play with someone on Quake IV will have to either play through Xbox Live or system link. The biggest omission I can’t stand to live without since DOOM 3 did it so great on Xbox Live is co-op. Quake 2 is fortunately added with the package when you buy Quake IV. Quake 2 supports four-player co-op, split-screen action and System Link. Regretfully there is no Xbox Live to go along with it. Plus it would have been incredible if they would have redone the whole game with the new DOOM engine but that is just a wish that is quite farfetched. Maybe one day id will revisit their old franchises and give them remakes.

Is Quake IV a must buy? I wouldn’t go that far. I had high expectations for a franchise full of luscious history. First reviews weren’t so kind for the game for the PC and the 360 reviews I have read diminished the franchise even more. The game is better than most give it credit for but it’s clearly not a killer app for the 360. FPS fans will love it and so will Quake Fans. Quake IV could have been better if more multiplayer options were actually included in the 360 version.

8 out of 10
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