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Quake 4 review: Quake 4

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The Good Looks great. Varied levels, including several vehicle-based missions. Plenty of action and excitement. Interesting plot twists.

The Bad Multiplayer somewhat stale.

The Bottom Line Quake 4 is fun, frantic and a definite step-up from the dour Doom 3. Its multiplayer component may not break any new ground, but as a single player experience Quake 4 is a winner.

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The Quake 4 Special Edition DVD retails for AU$89.95, and contains a bonus DVD with Quake II, Quake II expansions and Quake 4 documentaries.

First up, a confession: I wasn't a big fan of Doom 3. Sure it looked stunning, but I found the whole old-school approach of being ambushed in darkened rooms level after level a bit cheap. Plus it really, really irked me that despite the futuristic sci-fi setting, no-one had figured out how to attach a flashlight to a gun, forcing you to constantly switch from one to another.

The tech boffins in the world of Quake 4 are obviously more savvy than Doom's, as there are not one, but two guns with flashlights attached in this game. And with its straight up action approach, Quake 4 is also a much more fun game than Doom 3. You'll still have the occasional dark passage to traverse, but there's plenty more variety and gun blazing to be had here.

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Quake 4, which uses the same graphics and games engine as Doom 3, is the narrative successor to Quake II (with Quake 1 and Quake III existing in their own little timelines). It follows the Earth invasion of the Strogg home world, an alien race which had invaded our home planet but that had been somehow beaten back around the time of Quake II. Players take the role of space marine Matthew Kane, who in typical first person shooter style, never utters a word throughout the game. As Kane, players will be given plenty of missions to complete in a plot-twisting adventure than should take close to 15 hours to complete.

As opposed to the last two Quake titles which became mainly known for their multiplayer aspects (Quake III particularly), Quake 4's single player campaign is this version's highlight. Worryingly, the game's first few minutes of gameplay are remarkably similar to Doom 3's, with Kane having to travel through darkened corridors to be occasionally jumped by a hiding Strogg. Thankfully, Quake 4 quickly shows you that it's a different beast altogether, throwing you gameplay that is a lot more varied than its Doom cousin.

As well as indoors, Quake 4 sees you fighting in trenches, hangars, wide open desert environments and much more. You'll also get the chance to pilot a number of vehicles during the game such as tanks and mechs. Controls can be a bit floaty for these machines, but they certainly pack a wallop both in terms of firepower and shields. The vehicle sections are a nice change of pace, but can be quite a deal easier than normal gameplay thanks to the fact that your vehicle's shields and armour will automatically recover if left undamaged for a while.

Quake 4 also gives you a great sense of teamplay even in the single player campaign, as several missions require you to fight alongside other marines to achieve your goals. As Kane is a member of Rhino Squad, you'll be involved in plenty of firefights with your team members by your side. And unlike other shooters where non-player allies usually have the killing power of an angry penguin, your squad members in Quake 4 actually do real damage -- they'll even be able to take down some of the bigger enemies given enough time and cover. Some other human team members also act as medics or techs, who can heal you or replenish your armour at any time.

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While the single-player doesn't feel like a throwback, firing up the multiplayer side of the game is like going on an archaeological dig. As you dig, you'll unearth a take on Quake III Arena's multiplayer for up to 16 players. While the goal was clearly to duplicate Quake III Arena's fantastic deathmatch, the feel of the game isn't quite right, which, aside from the inclusion of a few maps from previous Quake games, doesn't manage to pull off the nostalgic feel it was probably going for. Instead, it just sort of feels like a relic, delivering the barebones standard modes of deathmatch, team deathmatch, one-on-one, and two versions of capture the flag. That's not to say that the multiplayer isn't exciting. It's fun, it's fast-moving, and deathmatch is the star of the show, but it's also nothing you haven't seen and played to death already.

The controls in Quake 4 are pretty stock standard -- if you've played other PC first person shooters, you'll be at home here. The weaponry available in Quake 4 is also pretty standard -- as well as the typical machineguns and shotguns, you'll get weapons like nailguns, beam rifles and rocket launchers. To add a bit of variety, Quake 4 has a weapons upgrade path which sees your guns get upgraded at certain points throughout the game. An upgrade could mean a larger magazine or faster firing rounds -- whatever the upgrade is, it usually means more mayhem for your foes.

Just like Doom 3, Quake 4 looks absolutely stunning, displaying a depth and realism that's still impressive to see. The flipside to this, of course, is higher system requirements -- you'll need a ninja PC to run Quake 4 at its best, and even at its lowest settings you'll need a computer that's pretty decent to run it lag-free.

Quake 4 is fun, frantic and a definite step-up from the dour Doom 3. Its multiplayer component may not break any new ground, but as a single player experience Quake 4 is a winner.

Additional reporting by Jeff Gerstmann of Gamespot.com.

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