The game came out a year after Doom 3 and is built on the same engine, but it was actually developed by id's sidekick Raven Software, who've used id's tech in the past to bring the world first person shooters like Heretic, Soldier of Fortune and Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force. But not Return to Castle Wolfenstein, that was actually someone else (though Raven did make the next Wolfenstein game... called Wolfenstein.)
Anyway I've played (and finished) the game once before, but thanks to my superpower of being able to completely forget pretty much anything and everything (aside from bad pop songs and 16-bit game tunes), it'll be just like I'm seeing it all for the first time!
(Click the images to view them in a larger resolution.)
Hey that's a point, why don't any of the other ships have a name on the front?
Damn... I suddenly have an inexplicable urge to watch Starship Troopers.
I think that guy at the back on the right is who I'll be playing as: Corporal Matthew Kane. It's kind of hard to tell though. No one here's really standing out to me so far except Strauss; a miserable tech specialist with a German accent who thinks that having someone called Kane on their ship is asking for disaster.
But on the plus side it seems that other marines survived the drop with limbs and sanity intact this time around, lots of other marines. Even better, the 'New Objective' notifications are far less irritating now; instead of constantly trying to get my attention they just give me the information I need on screen and then get out of my way.
Well the picture says go into the fortress and meet with my friends, so I should go get on with that.
One thing that's changed since I was last here is that they've added railings everywhere. I bet this improvement was based on stolen human fence technology, which they've only now begun to implement. I can imagine the Strogg researchers looking through video streams intercepted from a human mainframe and saying "Observe as the human named James Bond runs behind these thin barriers, entirely unaffected by the gunfire around him. A base defended by such fortifications would be entirely unassailable!"
Fortunately I have a different machine gun this time as well; one that doesn't pull upwards when I'm trying to aim it at someone. A single satisfying spray of fully automatic fire from this thing is enough to put my attacker down, and I'm not sure but I think shooting the head might actually make them drop faster.
Before I can carry on with my mission though, the Badger Squad commander has a job for me. He needs someone to go back outside to where we crashed and bring a Medic back for this wounded marine, and despite being surrounded by soldiers from his own team, he feels that I'm the only man for the job.
So I guess I'm walking back to the entrance then. Hey wait a minute, don't these people have radios for this kind of thing?
It's been mostly first person up to this point, but they just couldn't resist kicking me out of Kane's head to show off this Strogg model in a short cutscene. It doesn't seem right somehow to me to keep the protagonist mute when it's going to be cutting to third person cutscenes like this.
No regenerating health in this either by the way, which is something else I'm very much able to live with in this case. It doesn't feel remotely awkward to have to go off searching for health instead of it coming back by itself after each encounter.
There's two big changes though to how it handles the dark though:
- I have flashlights mounted directly on my pistol and rifle so I can both shoot and see what I'm shooting at the same time.
- I have a full squad with me (Star Trek: Elite Force style) and they've got gun torches too. So if a monster jumps out from the ceiling (and they often do), chances are that they won't be in the dark for long.
And this particular screenshot is just here because this room looks awesome. I don't just mean 'awesome for a game released in 2005', I mean I want to have it printed and frame it.
Anyway, we shot the dudes and he planted the bombs and then we all went back downstairs for tea and biscuits.
Another reason why I like him is because he's a tech and these guys will top up my armour for free if I go over to them. Medics do the same with health.
I remember in Star Trek: Elite Force that half the game's cast seemed to be named after Raven staff, and that seems to be the case for Raven Squad here too. Could always be a coincidence though, as I'm sure they must have had about a hundred million people working for them at this point.
Man look at this guy, he look like he's wandered in from the mid-nineties. He's like some kind of cross between Megabyte from the Reboot cartoon and that gorilla bot from Rise of the Robots maybe. The whole game's got a less... realistic style to it than Doom 3. Granted Doom 3 is a game where skulls fly around trying to kill you, but the corridors they flew around in looked a little more like something a human might build.
Oh hang on, I think I've just figured out what the chair's for.
At least that door's open now (plus half of the wall). If this is the game's equivalent to having to go find the red key before I can move on, then I approve of their ingenuity.
Well so long giant anti-aircraft cannon, but I must go on without you now. We had some good times though.
Still, that's a pretty cool background behind the smoking ruins. It looks obviously painted, which really shouldn't work but somehow kinda does. It's definitely a big step up from the skyline in Quake II anyway.
|Quake II (PC)|
Anyway, the door's open now, so I'm moving on.
Wait, is this thing actually coming in to land right in front of me? Well at least now I know what the new objective window image was about earlier. Blowing up the anti-aircraft gun has let our spacecraft come in.
Crap, I misjudged the scale. It's even bigger than I thought and it's coming to land on top of me. I need to get my ass out of the landing zone fast... so that I can get into a good position to take more screenshots.
The only path here for me to take brings me on a tour past engineers struggling to keep the ageing ship functioning, scientists trying to examine Strogg corpses, and marines off duty in the mess hall telling the tale of how Kane is actually famous for being the sole survivor of a Strogg assault on Space Station Armstrong (which sounds like it should have taken place in an earlier game, but didn't.)
|Quake 4 (2005) | Doom 3 (2004)|
I had assumed the games were practically identical in visual quality, but it seems that Corporal Brandt here has sharper, more realistic textures than Sergeant Kelly does over in Mars City. I like the shine on the bare metal where the paint has worn away, it makes the Doom 3 armour look kind of plasticy by comparison.
MISSION TWO: RIDE OF THE DEATH CONVOY.
Unfortunately the entire plan hinges on my ability to protect an engineer as he disarms land mines in front of the convoy and I'm pretty useless at defending anything. Especially when I'm stuck on top of a truck shooting at waves of enemies with a turret.
Crap, I just got my first game over. It wasn't my fault, a Strogg crept in from the other side of the road and stabbed him! You'd think the guy driving this truck would've shouted something out to me at least, give me a heads up.
TWO MINUTES LATER.
I've never liked rail shooting levels much. Take my ability to dodge and hide away and I'm left relying on my aiming skills alone, which apparently aren't quite up to the task as I just got my truck blown up.
Oh hang on, I can destroy the tiny mounted missile turrets too? Ah, well that kind of changes everything. No wonder I was getting my ass kicked if I was only taking out a third of the things shooting me. Plus my weapon has infinite ammo and never overheats and the truck's health even regenerates when I'm not being shot at, so cancel all of my complaints.
I love how the thing is continually shooting off death rays in all directions from its turrets, but the turrets aren't actually animated so the beam just flies out of the barrel sideways.
This task once again requires my very particular set of skills: specifically my ability to go into a place, find a dude, then go all the way back again. Apparently techs and medics are the new red key cards. By the way, check out the size of this room I'm in; you could fit an entire Doom 3 level in this place. Well, all the dark corners anyway.
OH, this must be another one of those scripted ally death set pieces. Sucks to be that guy out there I guess, sacrificed by Raven's level designers to make sure I realise that this particular map is meant to be a scary horror level.
But never mind that pointless death, check out this cool computer monitor. Quake 4 shares the same GUI surface magic as Doom 3 that can put functional high resolution computer screens into the game world, with my crosshair turning into a mouse pointer when I'm close enough and facing the screen.
It doesn't get anywhere near as much use out of them out of Doom 3 though, as the all the code locked cabinets are gone. There's no PDA or audio diaries for that matter either. The game's even dropped Quake II's inventory, so all that's left is just me and my guns.
There's no auto-map either. Not that any Quake game has ever had a map, I just felt that it needed to be said.
I've gotta say, incoming missiles are a lot more fun when I can get out of the way, especially as this is a hover tank with the ability to strafe sideways. I feel like I should be comparing it to the Mako in Mass Effect, but annoyingly I've totally forgotten how that thing controls, so I can't. There's no massive hills here for me to fall off though so I don't suppose it matters.
They blew me up in less than a minute.
Well if they're going to be boring bosses and just spit out missiles at me, I'm going to be a boring player and hide behind a rock. The game's so built around staying mobile and diving into action, that using cover practically feels like cheating sometimes. Especially when it means they can't even get a hit on me... poor spiderbots.
SOON, INSIDE THE NEXUS.
I can't even pick up ammo from them annoyingly, so I get all my resupplies from scavenging instead.
I suppose it could've been worse: they could've found a kids TV show from the 80s. The nightmares they would've unleashed...
The combat in this is really straightforward: enemies appear in the distance or drop down nearby, I align my crosshairs with their head and depress the trigger, and my bullets handle the rest. But somehow it's just not getting boring for me and I think a lot of that's down to just how satisfying the weapons are. The Strogg tend to take just enough bullets to put down, their shots are just easy enough to avoid if I'm paying attention, and the sound of my gunfire is a joyful thing.
Plus they often show some reaction to getting hit, which is important as it demonstrates that whatever I'm doing is working and it interrupts their own attacks on me. It's another thing that stops it from being a straight Doom 3 clone.
TWENTY MINUTES LATER.
HOW WILL MATTHEW KANE ESCAPE THIS NEFARIOUS STROGG DEATH TRAP? Well I guess you'll have to play it for yourself to find out as I'm turning this off now. Or I suppose there's always youtube if you want to go and spoil it all.
Quake 4 has always been a little overshadowed by Doom 3 I reckon, but to be fair that game is legendary for its over-shadowing. Not that Quake 4 isn't fond of the dark itself, the two games look very similar and they both like their scripted events. But this is more of a straightforward military shooter than a horror game; it's about shoot-outs rather than jump scares.
This came out the same month as Call of Duty 2 so I can imagine that it felt a little bit retro even at the time; it's a good solid first person shooter with a traditional weapon set and old school gameplay, but nothing spectacular. The story is basically just one step up from the mission updates in Quake II, with characters telling me to go to the place and do the thing in person this time, but there was more variety in the things I was asked to do at least. And by that I mean I got to drive a tank for a bit.
Visually I think it still looks fantastic, but then I'm used to DOS games so I'm easy to impress. Musically... well it doesn't have a rock soundtrack by Sonic Mayhem or Nine Inch Nails so it's letting the whole franchise down really, but it gets the job done. It contains an respectable number of crates, minimal amounts of bullshit and absolutely no clowns, and I can honestly say I enjoyed it for what it was. I'm predisposed to adore first person shooters though, so your mileage may vary.